The Dirty Politics That Saved the Santa Monica Mountains

Grassroots Organizing, Race, Nepotism and, Yes, Environmentalism, Collided in a Colorful 1971 L.A. Election

At the time, it seemed just another political dirty trick—a phony newspaper mailed to residents of the San Fernando Valley. But that newspaper, called the Record, turned out to have a longer-lasting impact. Unremembered today, it played a small, colorful part in one of Los Angeles’ greatest environmental fights: saving the Santa Monica Mountains from subdivision developers.

In spring 1971, much of the mountains had been zoned for subdivisions by the developer-friendly Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Sam Yorty. The Los County Board of Supervisors did the same with the …