Seventeen Boyle Heights residents and business and property owners won an election to represent their neighborhood’s priorities to Los Angeles policymakers, the city announced Tuesday.
Biennial elections for the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, which advises the city government on policies relating to the neighborhood,were held on Saturday.
Neighborhood councils serve an advisory role in the city, meeting with the mayor to give input on the annual budget and voicing their opinions about development projects and policies that affect their neighborhoods.
Los Angeles has 98 neighborhood councils, each representing an average of 38,000 people, according to the city’s civic engagement project Empower LA. These councils each receive $37,000 a year from the city to fund their activities, including events for advocacy efforts for issues they care about.
Carlos Cerdán, a teacher at Breed Street Elementary School, was elected to the Community Interest Seat, his first time holding political office. Cerdán said he decided to run for the position because he wanted to bring the issues he cared about — particularly the fight against charter school construction in Boyle Heights — to the attention of the city government.
Cerdán participated in the teachers’ strike in January and has been a leading figure in the opposition to the KIPP Promesa Prep charter school, which announced earlier in April that it would no longer seek to occupy the former Promise Hospital at 443 S. Soto Street. As a member of the Neighborhood Council, he hopes to come up with other ideas for what can be done with that space, being replaced with a parkto affordable housing.
“It’s nice for my students to see that I can continue to give back to the community,” Cerdán said. “This is activism in action.”
Elections were also held for 14 Community Seats (though only 12 were filled) and four Area Seats to represent different parts of Boyle Heights. BHNC President Veronica Polanco was re-elected to a Community Seat, along with Carlos Montes — a longtime Boyle Heights resident and activist who sued the city over the KIPP construction.
Neighborhood Councils can present their comments to the city before final decisions are made, but their recommendations are not binding. The city can choose to move forward despite a council’s opposition — which is what happened with the KIPP Promesa Prep project.
Marisol Márquez, who was also re-elected to a BHNC Community Seat, said that among her goals is to convince the city to take the council’s recommendations more seriously. She also hopes to spur faster cleanup efforts around the former Exide battery plant, where thousands of residents have spent years waiting for toxic lead in the soil around their homes to be removed.
“I want to make Boyle Heights a safer, cleaner place to live in,” Márquez said.
The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council holds public meetings on the fourth Wednesday of every month, as well as separate committee meetings throughout each month. Márquez said the council would hold an open call for Community Seat applicants to fill the two vacant spots at the next BHNC meeting on April 24.
The full list of BHNC representatives can be found here.
Photo: Boyle Heights resident Norma Briseno addresses the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council in 2017. By Gus Ugalde.