Updated January 27
Councilmember Kevin de León’s proposal to rename a short stretch of Bailey Street near Mariachi Plaza to honor the late Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernández is not sitting well with some members of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council.
After a lengthy public discussion that included strong arguments in favor and against the renaming, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council voted Wednesday to send a Community Impact Statement back to its Planning and Land Use committee. Some members of the council felt the statement –a letter addressed to de León– needed to be reworded and emphasize the perceived lack of community input in de León’s proposal.
The original statement, approved the week before by the committee cites “concerning” news reports that quote homophobic and misogynistic statements attributed to Fernández, who died in December. It also states that the councilman did not consult with the Neighborhood Council before deciding to honor the so-called King of Ranchera and complains that its members learned of the decision through news media.
Because of these concerns, the document reads, “the Neighborhood Council does not feel it is appropriate to rename a street within the community after Vicente Fernández, nor any other civic memorialization.”
“Additionally, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council requests that any memorialization or naming of streets or public squares be for non-living, historic figures who have had tangible and direct ties to the community of Boyle Heights,” the document concludes. “There are many uncelebrated local heroes that deserve this honor.”
Public comments over the renaming issue were also mixed during Thursday’s virtual meeting. A Boyle Heights resident who identified as a gay male said that he was offended by the statements attributed to Fernández, and Neighborhood Council president David Pugo –who is not a member of the committee– called the decision a “missed opportunity from [De León’s office] to reach out to the community.”
But community activist Carlos Montes –who is also a board member of the Neighborhood Council not on the committee– said that he had informally polled a number of musicians who work at Mariachi Plaza and found no one who opposed the renaming. Montes said that if the full Neighborhood Council were to approve the statement it would be an embarrassment for the neighborhood.
De León’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but last week a spokesperson for the Councilmember told The Eastsider that his staff sensed “an overwhelming level of support” for the renaming.
It wasn’t clear on Wednesday if the Neighborhood Council’s committee would schedule a special meeting to consider a new draft of the statement or when the full group would get to vote on it. Regardless of how it votes, the decision would be non-binding. While the city’s neighborhood councils were created to give residents some say in city governance, they don’t have the power to create laws or establish policy.
Final decision on the street renaming would fall on the Los Angeles City Council, but no vote on the matter is currently scheduled.
This post was updated Jan 27 to add details from the Neighborhood Council Meeting on Jan. 26.
Have a Boyle Heights or East LA event? Post it on our free community calendar. Just click here and fill out the online form.