Andrew Rodriguez was elected to the Walnut, California City Council on April 12, 2016, making him one of the youngest City Council members to be elected out of Los Angeles County’s 88 communities. With a background in land use and city planning, Rodriguez took the opportunity to make changes in Walnut and currently hopes to expand his reach by running for the California State Assembly.
At 26, Rodriguez recently graduated from USC with a Master’s degree in Real Estate Development. He currently serves as Mayor Pro Tempore. Traditionally, Mayor Pro Tem assumes mayoral duties in the event of a mayor’s absence. However, in the City of Walnut, if his council members choose him, he will be elected as mayor next month on June 10 for a year.
“It’s really humbling. It’s quite a rewarding experience. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to make an impact on my community that I grew up in,” Rodriguez said, in an interview outside of Walnut City Hall. “I always think, ‘What do I want to see this city look like in 30 years?’”
As most cities divide land with Euclidean zoning, where the city separate places by use (i.e. an area to work, an area to eat, an area to shop, etc.), Rodriguez decided that he wanted to create a community where neighborhoods were within walking distance of amenities.
“It’s environmentally more sustainable, [and] an old downtown provides a lot more economic revenue for cities than suburban big boxes. You’re maximizing that land,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been fortunate to travel around the world. I’ve seen some really amazing places. Why not bring those cool places here? I feel that I can contribute to that because I have the creativity and the vision for it.”
In addition to horse trails, the greenbelts, and the parks, Walnut also has a strong education system. However, the District of Choice (DoC) Bill became a huge issue in early 2017, as it became set to expire in July. The bill allows students to attend schools in the school district of their choice, giving students a freedom of choice for their education. However, it was extended to 2022. Rodriguez worries that if the bill is not extended after its expiration and Walnut’s high cost of living remains, our number of younger families may decrease in the next decade.
“I’d like to see the city build a more diverse set of housing products, whether that’s townhomes, condominiums, mixed-use buildings, I think that would provide a lot of opportunity for younger families to move into the city,” Rodriguez said. “We need to find ways to attract younger families. I want to provide them with more of a selection for places to live.”
The 55thState Assembly District of California is made up of three counties, with seven cities and parts of City of Industry and West Covina. Not only does he want to enact change on our city, Rodriguez hopes to highlight three major concepts as an assemblyman, if elected.
“I have three public policy priorities. Passion about housing…public education, and…providing excellent constituent services. I call it Smart Growth, Smart Schools, and Smart Government,” Rodriguez said. “It’s about listening to what people hear or what they want. I pledge to go to as many places as possible and really get to know all parts of the district as much as I can.”
For the future, Rodriguez hopes to start his own business related to land use. On CNN Money, Walnut has been listed in the top 100 of America’s best small cities to live in.
“There’s a negative connotation with the word developer, but I do want to be a developer, and more importantly, I want to be a place maker. I want to develop and create places that people love,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not in it to make the most amount of money. I want to create something where people are like ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful neighborhood.’”
As the interview came to a close, Rodriguez gave advice to the youth of Los Angeles who want to become involved in the world of politics, especially with the major elections in our future.
“Register to vote or preregister to vote. Make sure to stay involved and listen to the news. Don’t listen to fake news,” Rodriguez said. “Be educated about stuff; make sure you read as much as you can. Get involved with your local campaign, whether it’s your city council or presidential. It’s really important.”