Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, the first openly gay man elected to the council and one of the city’s most exuberant boosters, died Wednesday following a four-year battle with cancer.

Rosendahl died around dawn at age 70, said Councilmember Mike Bonin, who succeeded Rosendahl on the council.

Phyllis Hayashibara of the VJAMM committee and former Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl with a full-scale model of the monument on April 23, 2015.
Phyllis Hayashibara of the VJAMM committee and former Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl with a full-scale model of the monument on April 23, 2015.

The former cable television executive and public affairs broadcaster served on the council from 2005 to 2013, when he retired to fight stage-four cancer that he was diagnosed with in the summer of 2012. Toward the end of his tenure in office, Rosendahl was an ardent supporter of medical marijuana, which he used to fight the side effects of his cancer treatments.

Rosendahl was also an early supporter of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker, donating $5,000 in 2011.

Speaking at the dedication in April 2011 for the monument on the corner of Venice and Lincoln boulevards, Rosendahl stated, “The marker will remind us of this dark moment in history and why we need to shine a light on injustices when it comes to our civil rights.”

Phyllis Hayashibara of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Monument Committee paid tribute to Rosendahl:

“As Los Angeles city councilmember for the 11th District, Bill championed the cause of the VJAMM, inviting New Media Academy students from Venice High School to make their presentation for a permanent memorial in front of the entire Los Angeles City Council at City Hall in Downtown L.A. in May 2009. Bill continued his active support for the VJAMM by appearing at community meetings, at VJAMM fundraisers at Hama Sushi, and by bequeathing his enthusiasm and passion for the VJAMM to his successor, L.A. Councilmember Mike Bonin.

“The VJAMM Committee sends sympathy and condolences to Bill’s family and friends. We hope that Bill’s smile did indeed indicate that he understood the memorial monument has now been ordered and will be installed in late 2016 or early 2017. ‘Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, Los Angeles City Council’ will be engraved on the VJAMM as permanent acknowledgement of Bill as a major donor.”

Rosendahl was also a supporter of the Venice Japanese Community Center during his time in office.

Randy Tamura, former VJCC board member, said, “Bill Rosendahl was a regular attendee at the Venice Japanese Community Center’s Shinnen Enkai New Year’s celebration and usually always had more than a few words to say. I appreciated his support of the VJCC in some of our dealings with L.A. City, and he was always friendly and outgoing. He will be missed by the community.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Rosendahl — often called the “conscience of the City Council” — was an outspoken advocate of the underdog, despite the fact that he represented portions of the city’s west side that contain some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.

“Our city and world lost a great friend and giant of social justice, Bill Rosendahl,” Garcetti said. “He had the biggest heart I know and I will miss him deeply.”

In July 2012, after collapsing suddenly, Rosendahl was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the ureter, a tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. He was told he did not have long to live.

He said that for several months, he would suffer from delirium and underwent numerous chemotherapy treatments, which reduced him from a hale 225 pounds to 170.

It was only after his doctor suggested he use marijuana to help him ease the pain and get more sleep that he began to recover. The extra rest helped save his life, Rosendahl said in 2013.

He resumed his City Council duties in September 2012, throwing himself into getting a medical marijuana law passed and becoming the only council member to oppose a plan to expand an LAX runway closer to some of his constituents. In April 2013, Rosendahl announced he was in remission.

“The amount of love I’ve gotten has been phenomenal,” he told his colleagues on his first day back from medical leave. “People have brought food to the house. People have prayed with me, people have sung with me. They put all kinds of positive energy toward me.”

He is survived by his partner, Hedi El-Kholti; brother Thomas and sister-in-law Sheila, and their sons, Robbie-Paul, Ricky-Luke and Arthur; brother Steven; sister Mary LeMothe; sister Helen Davoren; and nephew Christopher.

A Catholic Mass is set for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5, at St. Monica’s Church, 725 California Ave., according to Bonin.

Another event honoring Rosendahl, “GREAT GREAT GREAT: A Celebration of Life,” will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, at Mar Vista Park, Bonin said.

The public is welcome to RSVP for the services at www.11thdistrict.com/remembering_bill.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to organizations helping the homeless, Safe Place for Youth, New Directions for Veterans and the Jeff Griffith Youth Center at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.

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