Tom LaBonge Dies: Councilman Dubbed ‘Mr. Los Angeles’ Served City For 39 Years, Was 67

Bruce Haring
·2 min read

Tom LaBonge, an ebullient city councilman who served a district spanning Hollywood, the Universal City area, and the Greek Theater in Los Feliz from 2001 to 2015, died Thursday of unknown causes at his Silver Lake home. He was 67 and was known as “Mr. Los Angeles” for his vast knowledge of the city and its history.

A 39-year veteran of Los Angeles politics, LaBonge was a huge supporter of Griffith Park, working to expand its size by hundreds of acres and protect its wilder parts from development. He had a passion for constituent events, often handing out loaves of pumpkin bread baked by local nuns.

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Among LaBonge’s background was time spent as the chairman of the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging committee

“He was such an irrepressible cheerleader for Los Angeles — a walking encyclopedia of all the amazing things and spots and neighborhoods and institutions in L.A.,” said Councilman Mike Bonin to the Los Angeles Times. “He was the Huell Howser of L.A. politics, a spirit that was always optimistic and in love with the city.”

Born in Los Angeles on Oct. 6, 1953, LaBonge grew up in Silver Lake as the seventh of eight boys. He was a graduate of John Marshall High School and Cal State Los Angeles,

In 1978, LaBonge began a 15-year stint with Councilman John Ferraro, whose district he went on to represent decades later. He later became an aide to Mayor Richard Riordan, and also worked for a time at the Department of Water and Power.

LaBonge was a key to the development of the Sister Cities program, which connected Los Angeles with cities around the world, and the restoration of the Griffith Observatory. He was also a major supporter of the Los Angeles Public Library and its photo collection and an advocate for the deals that returned NFL football to the city after a long hiatus.

LaBonge is survived by his wife, Brigid Manning, daughter Mary-Cate LaBonge and son Charles LaBonge, both of Los Angeles; as well as brothers Brian LaBonge of Glendale, Dennis LaBonge of Newport Beach, Robert LaBonge of Malibu, Timothy LaBonge of Desert Hot Springs and Mark LaBonge of Los Angeles.

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