Meet the District 6 candidates: Rose Grigoryan

Small business owner, and former journalist, Grigoryan runs a campaign based on mental health response and small business support.

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Los Angeles District 6 City Council candidates must deal with more than just a special election. On top of issues like homelessness, the environment and public safety, whoever wins the seat at the table will face the social and political tensions that former Council President Nury Martinez’s racist remarks left.

But Rose Grigoryan thinks she is up for the challenge.

Grigoryan, who is originally from Armenia but has spent the last 10 years in the U.S., is a small business owner and former journalist at a local T.V. station, and now she is one of the candidates running in the April 4 special election for the seat left vacant by Martinez’s resignation last year.

“I decided to put all my efforts because I have been (helping my community) for years,” said Grigoryan. “I can do anything I want to do on a higher level, to be able to help people and to resolve very important issues in the community.”

Before coming to the US, Grigoryan grew up in Artashat, a provincial manufacturing city near the Turkish border, and her mother was a teacher, and her father had a small furniture business, although he passed away when she was just 7 months old. With a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and psychology and a master’s degree in social philosophy, Grigoryan was about to complete her final examinations to receive her Ph.D. from Yerevan State University when she got into the Green Card lottery to come to the U.S.

The lottery afforded her a rare opportunity that few people got, so Grigoryan pushed all her plans aside and came to Los Angeles.

She arrived in September of 213, and by the time December came, she didn’t even have anyone to say “Merry Christmas” to. She was all alone.

Before she was a candidate and owned her own business, Grigoryan’s first job in the U.S. was at a bridal shop, carrying dresses to the fitting rooms. She would later spend seven years at the Southern California T.V. network, the Armenian Television Network, the first and largest Armenian T.V. network in Los Angeles. Today, she owns her business, specializing in marketing and financial investment for other businesses.

Outside of that, she enjoys baking in her free time, making things from scratch, including making her yeast. Her favorite dish is a pesto roll with salmon and sour cream inside.

For those who follow her on her social media, Grigoryan sometimes shares available city services for those who need them. But her plans for the City Council go beyond that.

Grigoryan was motivated to run for City Council when she heard the recording where Martinez and two fellow Council members discussed carving up Black and Latino political power at City Hall while making racist remarks against a Black child and Indigenous people.

Martinez resigned in October of 2022, three days after the Los Angeles Times published the leaked audio of a year-old conversation between Martinez and former City Councilman Gil Cedillo, current City Councilman Kevin de León and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera.

“I heard it. And I felt like we need somebody here who will share for the community, who knows the community, who will care for the community and who is not running for a paycheck or position or political career,” said Grigoryan.

District 6, which includes Sun Valley, Arleta, Panorama City, Lake Balboa and Van Nuys, hasn’t had a full-time representative since the leak. The district comprises predominantly Hispanic people, representing 72% of the population; Asian people represent 9%, while Black people conform for 3% of the population. The median household income is a little over $40,000, and around 17% of the population lives in poverty.

Grigoryan says her top priorities are affordable housing, public safety and small businesses. She plans to support small businesses and improve housing affordability in a partnership-like plan. While in public safety, she wants to alleviate the 911 emergency line and work with personnel specializing in mental health instead of policing.

For affordable housing, she believes that focusing on small businesses is the way to go as Grigoryan says, “They are the center part of (the) development of the community.” She plans to create incentives for developers and build temporary housing to fill the gap.

In regards to public safety, Grigoryan does believe that when there is a violent case, police officers are needed, but she is also interested in creating a non-emergency line in which mental health experts can act when appropriate.

“If there is no violence there, social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists, somebody from, of course, not the law enforcement should be the responder,” said Grigoryan, adding that she plans to educate the community on when this type of response will be appropriate.

Grigoryan mentioned several examples of where the funds could be allocated: “We can get the funding from the homeless services departments, (and other) associations, nonprofits. We can ask (for) money from the state and the federal government.”

Grigoryan has a similar approach to homelessness, opting for a mental health experts approach.

Her website states, “Anti-camp ordinances must come with caseworker services to provide rehabilitation. Merely using police to remove campers is not effective. Instead, police and social workers should collaborate to allocate caseworker services to help individuals access resources and become productive members of society.”

Another of her priorities relies on the environment, and she wants to address the pollution in factories and the Van Nuys Airport.

The Van Nuys airport is well known among private jet owners, however, Van Nuys residents, which is located in District 6, have long been discontented with the environmental and health consequences that they have to live with.

District 6 residents and community organizers agreed this is one of their top priorities.

Lionel Mares, a Board Member at the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council, says that air pollution “is a pressing matter,” but he isn’t picking Grigoryan to be the one to face that challenge at District 6.

“I don’t think she’s well-rounded enough or she doesn’t have the experience or knowledge of what’s going on because she’s new, so her lack of public sector or nonprofit sector experience,” said Mares.

At a different District 6 Neighborhood Council, Grigoryan was not favored to be elected, although for different reasons.

Raymond Duran, president of the Arleta Neighborhood Council, says he prefers to have an older representative of young candidates in general, he said, “(The) issue I have with (young candidates) is that a lot of times these young people, they’re trying to look for a career. And a lot of times in politics, you’ve got to bend different ways to stay in that career,” said Duran.

Duran says that if you have a career to fall back to, you will stay in politics because you want to make a change, not because you need the income.

But Grigoryan has a business to fall back to, which she says pays better than the City Council.

“I’m not running for a position for a political career because, through my business, I can get at least two times more than when I am at the city council,” said Grigoryan. “But I do feel that we need somebody who will put the brains, the drive, the heart in the community to rebuild the trust and to make that change.”

But Grigoryan faces a challenge ahead.

Traditionally, candidates with the biggest name recognition, the most funds and the better endorsements have the biggest advantage to win, and Grigoryan has none of this.

With $43,000 funds gathered and then matched from the city, Grigoryan finds herself in the middle of the race, with candidates like Isaac Kim or Douglas Sierra having fewer funds than her and others having a lot more funds, like Marisa Alcaraz, who has gathered almost $156,000.

Other candidates have more public roles, such as Alcaraz, who currently works as Deputy Chief of Staff for Councilman Curren Price, or Marco Santana, Director of Engagement at L.A. Family Housing.

Lastly, Grigoryan lacks enough endorsements to say a victory is possible safely. Her website lists no endorsements, and big endorsements have gone to other candidates, such as The Los Angeles Times endorsing Santana.

But with one week left for the election, Grigoryan’s campaign is not lost.

Per the Los Angeles election system, the new District 6 Council Member will need at least 50% of the votes this April 4. If no one gets those votes, there will be a runoff in June.

District 6 is predominantly Latinx, but Los Angeles has a significant Armenian population. One might think the latter could give Grigoryan an advantage, but Grigoryan rejects this, saying this shouldn’t matter.

“I run for the community itself,” said Grigoryan. “I have always told my friends that you shouldn’t vote for (Armenians) just because he or she is an Armenian. You should vote for a candidate who is willing to support his or her drive, energy, their brain, their heart in doing something.”

To not do this, she says, is a mistake.

“I don’t want anybody to walk the path of Nury Martinez. I want the new leader to take the path of humanity,” said Grigoryan.