Los Angeles Business Owner Sets Out to Reform the City’s Charter

By Jamie Joseph
Jamie Joseph
Jamie Joseph
Jamie is a California-based reporter covering issues in Los Angeles and state policies for The Epoch Times. In her free time, she enjoys reading nonfiction and thrillers, going to the beach, studying Christian theology, and writing poetry. You can always find Jamie writing breaking news with a cup of tea in hand.
January 25, 2022Updated: February 1, 2022

When Roozbeh Farahanipour was granted political asylum in the United States after being imprisoned by Islamic militants in Iran for his activism against the regime in 1999, he devoted himself to building the American dream for the next 20 years.

And he did.

Farahanipour became a prominent business leader and now sits as president and member of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. He’s owned the Los Angeles-based Delphi Greek restaurant since 2009 and holds a number of other investments in the city. He also said he never goes to bed before 2:00 am and wakes up every day at 7:00 am.

“I love to be a taxpayer, working and contributing to the community rather than it being taken,” Farahinpour told The Epoch Times. “Still, I care about the people [on the] other side of the globe, anyway I can support them, and make changes locally. Everything is so local, and I want to make sure that I make L.A. a better place to live and work.”

Before moving to the United States, Farahinpour led a grassroots resistance movement against the Islamic regime in Tehran. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement for 36 days and repeatedly tortured at the hands of the Islamic milita, and his testimony is now included in the United Nations’ Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

When Farahinpour arrived in Los Angeles, he had no money, he said. He borrowed a few hundred dollars, his father gave him a jar of pennies, and he rented an office. He remembers at one point he took exactly 99 pennies out of the jar to pay for a cup of coffee at 7-Eleven.

Epoch Times Photo
Restaurateur and member of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Roozbeh Farahanipour at stands in his restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 18, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Now a successful businessman, Farahanipour is working to get a measure on the 2024 ballot to reform Los Angeles’s city charter. After 20 years living in Westwood, Farahanipour believes he can activate members in the community to overturn the city’s inefficient bureaucratic politics. He points to the increase in crime, homelessness, business regulations, and the cost of housing as reasons to reshape the city’s government.

Farahinpour said he wants to see Los Angeles thrive again in freer conditions, by enacting reforms such as suspending the city’s policy of allocating only one trash company for each resident and barring them from choosing their own utility company, to redistributing power among the city council seats.

“It’s like a third world country—LA is not anymore part of the leading of the world,” he said. “In the last decade, I can say, day by day, I can see even from the collecting of the trash to quality of the asphalt on the street, to graffiti on the wall, or things that maybe [are] not covered by the news.”

And the regulations to start a business require a rigorous permit application process that can take months—even years—to obtain. Farahinpour said he wants to see these regulations relaxed to make it easier for small mom and pop shops to succeed.

“Everybody knows that California’s the most un-business-friendly state in the nation. But most of them may not know that L.A. is the most un-business-friendly city in the nation,” he said.

He added that minimum wage increases in the state will directly impact the small businesses in Los Angeles who already deal with heavy regulations and high rent prices. They won’t be able to keep up with the cost of their employees, so they will have to reduce staff and downsize their budget.

These issues are on the minds of Angeleno voters this November, as city council candidates go head-to-head for a seat at the table and new propositions will be brought forth. In the last two years, there have also been three indictments against Los Angeles city councilmembers for alleged corruption.

Epoch Times Photo
Torn open boxes line train tracks outside of downtown Los Angeles after recurring railway robberies, on Jan. 14, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Homelessness is also a top issue for voters, as the city saw a 12 percent increase in homelessness in 2020 with 66,000 unhoused individuals countywide and 41,000 within the city alone.

In a recent press conference, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters that violent crime increased in 2021, with a 94 percent increase in homicides over the last two years and an increase in grand theft auto by 59 percent. Other crimes decreased, which the sheriff attributed to more people being at home during the pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also addressed the issue of crime in Los Angeles last week by helping clean up littered railroad tracks in the downtown area, comparing the conditions to a third world country. The Union Pacific railroad tracks were spotted with opened boxes and other garbage after thieves, including some homeless individuals, stole goods from cargo containers aboard the trains in the last few months.

“I don’t remember seeing this much homeless on the street,” Farahinpour said. “I don’t think even when I have my first car, we were worried about locking the car, or you used to just close the door and leave—now you need to have an alarm you need to make sure you’re going to be protected.”

Part of his plan to reform the city is to increase the number of city council seats to somewhere between 50 and 100 seats. Currently, Los Angeles is represented by 15 city council officials split into separate districts. These districts span across 114 neighborhoods in the city.

His proposal is similar to one of the redistricting commission’s report findings last October, which noted: “Expanding the number of council districts is necessary to better create council district boundaries that reflect the city’s 99 neighborhood councils and 114 neighborhoods.”

If the council expands, proponents argue it would more evenly distribute oversight to each differing neighborhood, which has its own unique community issues.

Epoch Times Photo
Restaurateur and member of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Roozbeh Farahanipour at stands in his restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 18, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

“If we consolidate city council and neighborhood council together and become a small local assembly for the city, with lower pay, lower staffers, and lower budgeting, they’re going to help the people to raise their voice to the city or city hall,” he said.

His proposal also includes allowing the public to vote for the LAPD commissioner instead of the mayor appointing the position, which would “protect democracy and give more power and flexibility to the next chief of the police.”

The Board of Police Commissioners is the head of the city’s police department and acts as liaison between the Board of Supervisors and the chief of police. It functions as “corporate board of directors,” according to its website.

Farahinpour’s proposal won’t make it onto this year’s ballot, but he said his goal is to get it on the 2024 ticket.

“If you can change your neighborhood, you can change your nation,” he said.