Oral Histories

Interview of Harold M. Bernson

Los Angeles City Council member for the12th District from 1979 to 2002.
Interviews not in a series, part two
Politics and Government
Biographical Note:
Los Angeles City Council member for the12th District from 1979 to 2002.
Parker, Caitlin
Bernson, Harold M.
Persons Present:
Bernson and Parker.
Place Conducted:
Bernson’s home in Chatsworth, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Caitlin Parker, interviewer, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; C.Phil, U.S. history, UCLA; lecturer, Department of History, California State University, Long Beach. Parker’s dissertation focuses on urban policy in Los Angeles during Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. The interviewee did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names may remain unverified.
6 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Birth in South Gate--Moving to Boyle Heights--Parents’ occupations--Racial and ethnic communities of Boyle Heights--Involvement in the Breed Street Shul--Attending Roosevelt High School--Working at Jim Dandy Market--Joining the navy--Memories of World War II--Moving to Bakersfield and entering business with cousin--Working for Joe Rudnick in Beverly Hills--Naval service--Returning to Los Angeles--Working in discount clothing in Las Vegas--Going into business in the San Fernando Valley--Service in Merchants Association in Reseda--Helping to elect Robert Wilkinson to the 12th District Los Angeles City Council seat--Description of the San Fernando Valley--Moving to different neighborhoods in the Valley--Jewish population in the Valley--Discrimination against Jews in Los Angeles--Political orientation of parents--Switch from Democratic to Republican Party--Memories of Watts Riots--Relationship to Mayor Sam Yorty--Meeting his wife at the Gaslight Club--Involvement in the Chamber of Commerce--Founding of the San Fernando Breakfast Forum--Cooperation across party lines in the city council--Endorsing and fundraising for candidates in the Breakfast Forum--Involvement in school board races--Origins of Committee Investigating Independent City/County (CIVVIC)--Opposition to downtown redevelopment--Working with Howard Jarvis on Proposition 13--Decision to challenge Barbara Klein in the council district race--Working a precinct campaign in the San Fernando Valley.
Involvement with Proposition 13 organizing--Opposition to mandatory school busing program--Recall of Los Angeles Unified School District Board President Howard Miller--Overcoming low name recognition in council race--Endorsing Edward Davis over Robert Cline in 1980 California State Senate race--Receiving Ronald Reagan’s support in the city council race--Supporting Alan Robbins’ Proposition 1 to overturn an amendment requiring mandatory school busing--Transition into elected office--Relationships with other council members--Clashing with Mayor Tom Bradley over the Bryant-Vanalden district--Reflections on Bradley and Yorty as mayors--Implementing Proposition 13 cutbacks--Support for privatizing the sanitation department--Support for the 1984 Olympics--Allowing commercial development in the San Fernando Valley--Creating new community plans for the thirty-five city planning areas and a new master plan for the city--Creating a Citizens Advisory Council--Stance on downtown redevelopment--General opposition to rent control and addressing affordable housing--Legislation for seismic retrofitting of buildings--Developing an earthquake awareness program--Holding an international earthquake conference at the University of Southern California--Impact of gas shut-off valve in minimizing 1994 Northridge earthquake damage--Getting Stoney Point and Chatsworth Reservoir declared a historical site--Porter Ranch plan.
Relationship with Ronald Reagan and George Deukmejian--Position on development of subway system--Backing Councilman John Ferraro in 1985 mayor race--Changing demographics of the 12th District--Opposition to Los Angeles City Council’s sanctuary resolution--Bryant-Vanalden redevelopment--Closing Sunshine Canyon Landfill--1987 reelection to the city council--Porter Ranch development--1991 reelection to the city council--Limiting development in Chatsworth and Topanga--Rise of partisanship in government--Impact of the revised Los Angeles City Charter--Reaction to Rodney King verdict and riots--Confrontation with Jesse Jackson--Testifying in trial of police officers involved in Rodney King beating--Relationship with Police Chief Daryl Gates--Support for Richard Riordan in the 1993 mayoral election.
Responding to the Northridge Earthquake--San Fernando Valley secession movement--Serving on the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)--Charter reform--Bernson compares the three mayors of Los Angeles whom he worked with--Serving on the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)--Supporting his chief deputy, Greig Smith, to succeed him--Reflections on current politics--Reflections on city council tenure--Changes in the San Fernando Valley.