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Anne-Marie Johnson – Silver Lake’s lifer on the neighborhood council and the TV screen

Ann-Marie Johnson | Sasha Shemirani.

By BARRY LANK

SILVER LAKE — Anne-Marie Johnson is a familiar face on the neighborhood scene as well as the TV screen. In Silver Lake, where she was raised and has lived for nearly her entire life, Johnson is known for her activism, serving on the neighborhood council for most of this decade, and is now co-chair of its governing board.. “I’ve been a renter, a landlord and a home owner, all in Silver Lake,” she notes in her election biography.

Outside of the neighborhood, Johnson, who has been a working actress since 1983 and has appeared in numerous TV roles,  is probably best known as the character of Althea Tibbs in the TV series In the Heat of the Night.  While she has continued picking up roles as recently as the current TV series Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later,  Johnson, who according to Wikipedia is 57,  now has an eye fixed on politics.

When asked whether she has political ambitions beyond the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, she answered merely, “Yes.”

Here are a few questions we sent her, with her responses on topics ranging from development and traffic to whether Silver Lake is part of the Eastside:

When did you start getting involved in politics?

My family got me started when I was really little. I helped fill envelopes for the first Tom Bradley mayoral election. My father and Tom worked together on the LAPD, so he was like family. That was my first “official” involvement with L.A. politics.

What has been your greatest satisfaction on the neighborhood council?

There have been a few. Being the first African-American women elected as co-chairperson. Providing my parliamentarian experience to the board since 2010. Working with fellow board members to streamline our Standing Rules and Bylaws. Memorializing in our Standing Rules that Silver Lake is two words and not located in the “East side of L.A.” That was especially important because there is a real east side in L.A. that has an extremely important history in this country. Culturally, racially, ethnically, politically… We thought incorrectly taking on that history was an insult to actual neighborhoods in the east side and ignored the rich history Silver Lake has.

What’s been your greatest frustration on the council?

There was a period of over a year (2014-2015) when the board was populated by some individuals who may not have believed in the health and well being of the neighborhood council process and tried to “disrupt” a system they knew very little about nor bothered to understand. It was extremely frustrating and nothing got done. The monthly meetings were disorganized, with agendas uncompleted. Our reputation as a functional neighborhood council was ruined. (In 2013 we had been named by the L.A. City Council as one of the top five neighborhood councils out of 95.) Fortunately the board has rebounded beautifully. Since May 2016, all of our agendas have been completed and our meetings run smoothly, we have a list of achievements and community outreach that is incredible, and we don’t waste a penny of our budgets. I’m proud of the work we do and what we continue to accomplish as a functional and respectful board.

How has Silver Lake changed in your lifetime?

Well … it’s over-built. Losing its diversity. Crowded. Exciting. Convenient. Rude. Visually stunning. Entitled. Fun. Over-priced. Self-consumed. Blessed. But these are all typical growing pains. Silver Lake has gone through all of the changes every desirable neighborhoods in the country has experienced. That’s what change is all about. We just need do a better job acknowledging and respecting the history, diversity (culturally, racially, ethnically, economically, etc…) of Silver Lake and treat it more kindly.

What would you like to see change in Silver Lake?

I’d like to see a moratorium on luxury, high priced developments. I’d like to see an enforceable prohibition on developers who purchase rent stabilized dwellings and convert them to non stabilized units and/or short term rentals. I’d like to see a real dedication from our city council representatives to affordable and low income housing developments. I’d like to see Rowena Avenue returned to what it was prior to 2013 with the addition of traffic lights, street lighting, a bike lane, better timed traffic signals, and more LAPD patrol to enforces traffic laws. This can really be achieved. There just has to be dedication and bravery from city agencies to get it done. I’d like everyone who drives on our residential streets (stranger and resident) to slow the f*&$ down!!

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14 comments

  1. I commend you Counsel Woman on both your native intellect and your recognition of the “real housing crisis”…Over development and exploitation of our neighborhoods by special interest.

    • yes, thanks. lived/worked there before all the changes and in the state, generally. (20+ yrs. back, and believe we met at vons). knew there could be possibilities–but, it went too far, in my opinion. yeah, let’s try not to forget the very rich histories of that and other areas of the city of angels. often wonder where all the workers in silver lake live now. AFFORDABLE HOUSING NOW! take care and thanks again.

  2. With Anne-Marie, what you see is what you get. She’s smart, articulate, thoughtful and energetic. We in Silver Lake are fortunate to have her on the SLNC. She’s no-nonsense ….. just witness her control of and contributions to a meeting! As a S-L ‘lifer, she truly cares about our neighborhood and gives an incredible amount of time and energy to making it a better place. I would love to see her run for a higher public office!

  3. Anne-Marie listens to the neighbors and the hood! I always see her out and about, and it feels good to know someone that can pass along your concerns. Such an inspiration to us all!

  4. She fights simple beer and wine licensing for small restaurants.
    🙁

  5. You can’t be both anti-development and pro-affordable-housing. If you want to reduce costs, you must increase supply. Making statements such as hers to the contrary are either ignorant or false.

    • Bingo. She’s transparently a NIMBY, but it’s out of fashion now so she’s making word salads to distract. What real accomplishment she can point to?

    • Telling people to slow down, yet at the same time asking for more speeding on Rowena with an elementary school and pre-school. It’s obvious that she doesn’t have school-aged kids and want a safe place for children to walk across the street. Bringing Rowena back to its freeway style street would cause more deaths. You can’t have freeway style streets with speeding cars and then complain about speeding in the neighborhood.

  6. So, let me get this straight… She’s a NIMBY because she’d rather see older, rent controlled, more affordable and more attractive cottage style, Spanish style homes that have a patch of a yard and that don’t look like those pieces of shit dorms built all around Glendale and Santa Clarita maintained and protected for a more diverse group of folks to be able to actually afford to live here. And she’s against these freaking mini castles with roof top decks, going up all over the place, being bought by foreign investors and used as AirBNB’s or stay empty? Or is it because she likes people to respect our neighborhood by driving more respectfully and allowing for walkers and bicycle folks to be safe. Or is it because she’s from this hood and she loves it and walks the walk and talks the talk? If that’s being a nimby, sign me up. I haven’t lived here all that long but even I can see the decline of this neighborhood. I moved here from Bellington and i’m witnessing here what I escaped up there. At least she’s giving back to her hood. Buster, what the fuck are you doing? And there was once a real chill cafe down the street from my house. but it was taken over by some freaking micro wine/beer bar place and my neighbors and i are now dealing with folks driving home who really should be taking UBER, our cars getting dented by drunk drivers, cig butts everywhere, puke here and there left in the early mornings and noise. Nothing we ever had to deal with before. So, I kind of she her point if she’s against all of these new bars. we have way too many in SL. Would like to see a butcher or bagel place or more small fresh food food stores instead. Keep up the good work Johnson.

    • Maybe NIMBY is the wrong word. What do you call someone whose statements and the effects of their actions are exactly opposite one another?

  7. On Residential traffic issues: as a Silverlake (yes, I’m using the one-word iteration bc I refuse to comply with accuracy!) resident I’ve read a shit-ton of nextdoor.com complaints of local residents suffering through gridlock and speeders on their narrow, one-lane. Last night several couldn’t even drive into or out of their houses it was so bad! But aside from everyone’s well thought-out mini-solutions, we need a more visionary approach. We need an upper-level “fly-way” (similar to a freeway but smaller) for commuters to use that’d go from Sunset & Fountain on the South West, connecting to the 5 and 2 freeways on the North East. Ya hear that, Mayor Garcetti???? Then you can have your Rowena road-diet and we can get Hyperion & Griffith Park Blvd. back!

    • As long as we’re talking pie in the sky, I think we can dream bigger than more freeways. How about teleportation portals at local bus stops? Or maybe jetpack share stations?

  8. Rowenatownhallblewupinyourfaces

    The years 2014-2015 saw an uprising that the SLNC nor herself have been able to recover from or probably ever will. During that time AMJ’s reputation was sullied as city officials turned their backs on her along with her collection of NIMBYS and attendance at the meetings hit a historical low. The apex of her descent came during the Rowena Town Hall when she and anti-road dieters saw their own carefully constructed kangaroo assemblage completely blow up in their faces as a 11-year old boy spoke out against them in such an articulate manner as to garner wide media coverage from the LA and NY Times to ABC News.
    Since then those that she refers to as “disrupters” have gone on to found real grassroots organizations that directly help people, sidestepping a nominal fraternal organization that is the SLNC that acts as a glorified homeowners association.
    Just look at that picture, what else is she capable of doing but to run for office.

    Signed
    archenemy

  9. Sergio Lamborghini

    She is the queen of low stakes political intrigue. She literally has nothing else going on in her life but to keep busy dominating a neighborhood council, which is an advisory body of impotence.

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