Richard Close, leader of Valley secession efforts, dies aged 77

Richard Close, President of the influential Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. for more than 40 years and who led the unsuccessful secession effort to separate the San Fernando Valley from Los Angeles, died Monday. He was 77.

Close died Monday of natural causes at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, a family representative said.

Close, who lived in Sherman Oaks, ran the group known as the Valley VOTE, counting on disgruntled voters who would support a secession effort because they believed the Valley was not getting its fair share of city services.

The movement culminated in a 2002 ballot measure that would have allowed the Valley to leave LA and form a city of its own. While the measure received a slim majority in the Valley, it failed by a wide margin citywide, sending them into defeat.

From 1977, under the leadership of Close, the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. became one of the most influential homeowner groups in Los Angeles, driving anti-tax and anti-population initiatives that helped preserve the suburban character of the Valley’s neighborhoods.

The group meddles in local and state affairs, most recently campaigning for the Valley to gain more political power on the city council.

During the city’s redeployment process, the group successfully pushed for Council District 4 – represented by Councilwoman Nithya Raman – to expand its reach in the valley.

Richard Close

Richard Close, featured above in 1998, was “one of the most consistent citizen advocates in Los Angeles for nearly half a century,” according to former LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

(Brian Vander Brug/Los Angeles Times)

The Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Group is a necessary resource for politicians and candidates. In the forums, members ask politicians about potholes and pension reforms. A complimentary dinner, perhaps spaghetti, also comes with the questions.

“It’s the old-fashioned way of building relationships,” said Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who appeared on the forums. “He understood that – that’s the core of who he was. Tell me, who else has been doing this for 40 years?”

Many homeowners’ associations in Los Angeles were “aging,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, a former LA County Supervisor, although the San Fernando Valley group remained active. Yaroslavsky called Close “one of the most consistent citizen advocates in Los Angeles in nearly half a century.”

US Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said on Twitter Monday that she first met Close in the early 1990s when they were campaigning against land use policies in their respective communities.

“He helped me understand how both of our communities (the Valley and South LA) felt left out and marginalized, and we supported each other in our efforts,” said Bass, who is now a mayoral candidate.

Close is survived by his wife Sally; a son, Matthew Close, and his wife Tristan; a daughter, Abby Emdur, and her husband Josh; and four grandchildren.

“While he is totally dedicated to his community and clients, he has always made it clear through his words and actions that his family comes first and we will deeply miss his love, kindness and sense of humor,” said the family in a statement.

Born and raised in Andover, Massachusetts, Close attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Boston University’s School of Law.

He moved to Southern California with his wife in 1971 and pursued a career in law. Most recently he worked at the international law firm Cozen O’Connor.

Tall and humble, Close wasn’t afraid to speak openly about the shortcomings of an LA politician, either to a newspaper reporter or at the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. Newsletter.

Some longtime friends said they never knew whether Close was a registered Democrat or Republican. “Party affiliation is not important to me,” Close told the Jewish Journal in 2015. “These are issues that are important to me. And I have never been involved in political parties.”

After joining the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. In the 1970s, Close worked to get Proposition 13 passed. The ballot initiative to limit property tax increases began in the Valley after Howard Jarvis, the initiative’s main sponsor, attended a meeting of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association.

Close also supported Proposition U, a voting measure passed in 1986 that slowed development and specifically targeted commercial boulevards in the southern San Fernando Valley and Westside.

“Proposition 13 and the effort to create a city came from the same place,” Close told The Times in 1999. “There is a problem. The government is not ready to respond. People are turning to initiative to fix it themselves.” Richard Close, leader of Valley secession efforts, dies aged 77

Caroline Bleakley

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