James B. Potter Jr.

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James B. Potter Jr. (born 1931) was a Los Angeles, California, City Council member between 1963 and 1971. A sales manager for a tool company, when elected to the City Council he became its youngest member at age 31. He was defeated in 1971 amid controversy over development of a housing tract in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Potter was born on October 21, 1931, in Humansville, Missouri, the son of Mr. and Mrs. James B. Potter Sr. He was brought up in Buffalo, Missouri, where he was high school senior class president and also president of the student council. He attended Central Missouri State College on a basketball scholarship before enlisting in the Air Force. Potter served 13 months in Korea between 1952 and 1956; he rose to the rank of a staff sergeant. He earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial relations and personnel management from the University of Missouri in 1958. Potter married Norma Teague, the daughter of Representative Charles Teague of Ventura, California, in 1952, and they had three children, Alan, Susan and Bruce. They lived in North Hollywood and then moved to Studio City.[1][2]

He was sales manager for Shearcut Tool Company of Encino, when he ran for the City Council in 1963, and in 1966 he was a director in the Surety National Bank of the same San Fernando Valley community. He was also a partner in James Associates, representatives of electronic manufacturers.[1][2]

City Council[edit]


See also List of Los Angeles municipal election returns, 1963 and after.

In the 1970s, Los Angeles City Council District 2 covered parts of the Santa Monica Mountains and extended into Sherman Oaks and Studio City.[3] It ranged from Universal City on the east to roughly the San Diego Freeway on the west. In 1971 it had "the highest educational and economic level of the 15 council districts. The residents, mostly white, range[d] from Mayor Sam Yorty to rich theatrical folk in the mountains to blue collar workers in the flatlands."[4]

Potter was a candidate against C. Lemoine Blanchard in the 2nd District race in 1963 and beat him in the final vote. Potter said later that Blanchard's claim to be "running against Sam Yorty" instead of against Potter "was a vital factor in the election result." When Potter was seated in July 1963, he became the City Council's youngest member at age 31, replacing Rosalind Wiener Wyman, who was 32 that year.[2]

The councilman was easily elected to another four-year term in 1967.

Early in 1971, Potter appeared headed for a clash with Mayor Sam Yorty when fourteen candidates jumped into the race; Potter claimed that Yorty had "loaded" the field with candidates. Yorty denied the charge, but "Because of Beverly Ridge (below) and a lot of other things, they think he's vulnerable," the mayor said.[3] Yorty later endorsed Potter over opponent Joel Wachs because the mayor was not satisfied with Wachs' less-than-equivocal response to the question of whether the city should pay for the defense of police officers accused of civil-rights violations.[5]

Potter lost in the final election to Wachs, 27,704 to 14,898.[6]


Zoo recording. Potter "bristled with indignation" over a 1968 project of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association by which patrons who dialed M0NKEYS on a telephone would be greeted with "monkey sounds, followed by the breathless tape recording of 'Ana Conda the squeezy snake' and 'Paco Parrot' " "This thing insults the intelligence of your younger generation," Potter said. "Kids today are more sophisticated than that. . . . What juvenile drivel."[7]

Bribe attempt. Two men were found guilty in 1969 of offering a $6,000 bribe to Potter to obtain his support for a zone change to allow a Russian Orthodox Church to be constructed in a Sherman Oaks area restricted to residential use.[8][9]

Beverly Ridge. In 1969, the state attorney-general petitioned a court to obtain the bank records concerning Potter, his sister and a field deputy in a dispute involving the construction of a 300-acre subdivision and golf course called Beverly Ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains north of Beverly Hills. The attorney-general was probing "possible conflict of interest, malfeasance and bribery . . . including city councilmen and city commissioners."[10]

The investigation has involved a $9.7 million plan to realign Beverly Drive from Beverly Hills [north] to Studio City—a project that would benefit the Beverly Ridge Estates development. . . . At first, the developer was required to build the road but later the city decided to convert it to a secondary highway and to finance it from gas tax revemies. The project has produced vigorous opposition. Both Beverly Hills and hillside residents charge public construction of the road would be an improper use of funds.[10]

Potter's sister had been employed by the developer, Beverly Ridge Estates, and he cast votes in favor of the project.[11] The project was reduced in size by 1980 and had its name changed to Beverly Park Estates.[12]

Laurel Canyon. He and Council Member Robert Stevenson took the lead in successfully opposing a proposed freeway (State Route 160) through Laurel Canyon that would have linked Slauson Avenue in Ladera Heights with the San Fernando Valley. They said the idea was a "scheme to bury huge areas of Hollywood, the mountains and Studio City under a blanket of concrete."[13][14]

Financial disclosure. Opposing a proposed financial disclosure law being considered by the City Council in 1970, Potter said he might have to resign from the council if it were passed because he had agreed never to disclose his wife's assets. He suggested that newspaper and radio stations receiving city tax exemptions should also be included in the ordinance to prevent "distortions" in "articles, editorials and news."[15]

Police defense. In his 1971 election campaign, he recalled how he had "led the council fight for the city to pay for the defense of policemen indicted by the federal government in the 'mistake' shooting of Mexican nationals."[16]


Access to some Los Angeles Times links may require the use of a library card.

  1. ^ a b Los Angeles Public Library reference file
  2. ^ a b c Charles E. Davis, Jr., "Potter Becomes Youngest Council Member After His Upset Victory," Los Angeles Times, May 30, 1963, page A-1
  3. ^ a b Bill Boyarsky, "Yorty-Potter Clash Seen as Filings Close," Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1971, page A-1
  4. ^ Bill Boyarsky, "Potter Facing Tough Battle for Reelection," Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1971, page A-1
  5. ^ Bill Boyarsky, "Yorty Endorses Potter in 2nd District Race," Los Angeles Times, May 20, 1971, page 3
  6. ^ Bill Boyarsky, "The Dirty Politics That Saved the Santa Monica Mountains," Jewish Journal, May 23, 2014 [1]
  7. ^ Charles Hillinger, "Councilman Dials MONKEYS—Hackles Rise," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1968, page 3
  8. ^ "Two Found Guilty of Offering $6,000 Bribe to Potter," Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1969, page C-1
  9. ^ "2 Senteneced for Trying to Bribe Potter," Los Angeles Times, September 19, 1969, page B-2
  10. ^ a b John Kendall, "Stae Petitions for Bank Records of Councilman Potter," Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1969, page B-1
  11. ^ George Reasons, "State Inquiry Links Potter, Overseas Firm," Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1969, page B-2
  12. ^ Jean Merl, "New Salvos Fired in Fight Over Tract," Los Angeles Times, June 15, 1980, page 1
  13. ^ Irv Burleigh, "Councilmen Issue Warning," Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1970, page 10-A
  14. ^ "Freeway Studies," Los Angeles Times, December 20, 1970, page CS-2
  15. ^ Richard West, "Potter Says He Might Resign If Disclosure Law Is Adopted," Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1970, page B-1
  16. ^ Bill Boyarsky, "Potter Sharply Assailed in 2nd District Debate," Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1971, page B-2

Preceded by
C. Lemoine Blanchard
Los Angeles City Council
2nd District

Succeeded by
Joel Wachs