September 25,2017: Kevin de Leon is Called Bigoted and Anti-Diversity after He Attacks L.A. Neighborhood Councils

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 his 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 NIMBY-ism and the threats from Neighborhood Councils.”

De Leon can be seen unleashing his slam at 4:15 minutes into the Sept. 24 show News Conference (Go to timestamp 4:15):

Jill Stewart, executive director of the Coalition to Preserve LA, said the Coalition has this year attended more than 80 Neighborhood Council board, committee, and alliance meetings, “and from the Eastside to the Valley to the Westside, 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,” Stewart said.

Reaction from Neighborhood Council members, who comprise 2,000 elected volunteers, was swift.

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.”

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 NIMBY-ism 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. De Leon. 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.”

Barbara Broide, a land-use expert speaking as a member of the Westside Neighborhood Council, said, “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 — a City Hall policy that has created a glut of vacant unaffordable units 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.”

Mark F. Mauceri, administration vice president of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, said, “De Leon’s time would be better spent urging his Sacramento colleagues to focus on repealing The Ellis Act, the single most insidious assault on affordable housing in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the State of California.”

Eliot Cohen, Planning and Land Use chairman of the Encino Neighborhood Council, said, “Sacramento’s attempts to regulate housing degrades all existing housing and creates more problems than it solves.”

The Coalition has spent much of 2017 attending meetings of Neighborhood Councils. Stewart noted that, “These boards of volunteers have selflessly conducted careful, detailed discussions about proposed developments, creating thoughtful suggestions about how to make projects and communities better. These volunteers spent thousands of hours on this work in 2017, and showed fairness and interest in projects proposed by developers. NCs, in fact, are distinctly not acting as NIMBYs and work well with developers and concerned residents.”

Stewart characterized De Leon’s unprovoked attack on L.A. Neighborhood Councils as “calibrated political spin designed to blame these NCs for somehow hurting his housing policies in Sacramento.”