Kevin de Leon is Dubbed Bigoted and Anti-Diversity after Attack on L.A. Neighborhood Councils

In City Hall, News by Ileana Wachtel

A broad mix of Angelenos struck back Monday at Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon after he told KNBC that elected volunteers serving on L.A.’s Neighborhood Councils have “strangled” and “handcuffed” and issued “threats” against the Los Angeles City Council over housing development in L.A.

In a stunning attack on Sunday, De Leon, the most powerful leader in Sacramento aside from Gov. Jerry Brown, told television journalist Conan Nolan that he was privately informed by L.A. City Council members: “We have been strangled, we have been handcuffed by NIMBYism and the threats from Neighborhood Councils.” (see KNBC video at 4.15 timestamp)

Reaction from Neighborhood Council members, who comprise 2,000 elected volunteers, was swift. Xochitl Gonzalez, who served for six years on the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, said, “I did so because I cared desperately about keeping Los Angeles a diverse city, both economically and ethnically. To characterize that as NIMBYism is part of the double-speak that politicians use against community activists who care about diversity. Kevin De Leon’s comments are an attack on democracy and Trumpian in their very nature.”

Laura Velkei, a board member of the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council representing highly diverse Little Tokyo, Chinatown and the Arts District, said she has “literally spent hundreds of volunteer hours on land-use issues for my Neighborhood Council as chair of the Land Use Committee. I am appalled and deeply disappointed to hear this being uttered by Mr. DeLeon. … This comment demonstrates the total and complete disconnect from the communities our politicians were elected to represent. … As a longtime supporter, you just lost my vote.”

Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, said “My respect for him has taken a sharp dive. It is shortsighted and flat-out ignorant of De Leon.” Mann noted that the city’s dozens of Neighborhood Councils promote and provide transparency in local government, and to depict that as “NIMBYS and declare them as enemies is to call De Leon uninformed, bigoted, and afraid of the voice of the people. To do this on a network television interview while the city is purportedly trying to build community participation is unconscionable.”

Barbara Broide, a land-use expert speaking as a member of the Westside Neighborhood Council, said of the complaints De Leon aired, “For any City Council member to attempt to blame Neighborhood Councils for the housing crisis is so crazy it is nearly funny.” Referencing the City Council’s heavy focus on approving luxury housing — which has created a vacancy glut from Hollywood to Downtown — Broide added, “Whoever said that should do some deep soul-searching and think harder about the root causes of the crisis which they, themselves, have had a hand in.”

Jill Stewart, executive director of the non-profit Coalition to Preserve LA, said the Coalition has attended more than 80 Neighborhood Council meetings of diverse Neighborhood Council committees, boards and alliances. “From the Eastside to the West Valley, these volunteers selflessly conducted careful discussions, consistently offering thoughtful ideas to City Hall. The name-calling in Sacramento against people who care about their communities as ‘NIMBYs’ is out of control when President Pro Tem De Leon — a man with a huge staff, big office budget, and extensive research at his fingertips — has no idea what the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils do.”