By Matthew Reagan
Kevin De León was sworn in on Thursday morning as Los Angeles City Councilmember for Council District 14, representing downtown L.A. and many eastside communities, including Eagle Rock and parts of Glassell Park and Highland Park.
Shortly after the swearing in, De León told the Boulevard Sentinel that even amid multiple crises facing the district, he is “wildly and greatly optimistic” about working with constituents to create a better, more inclusive city.
“We are all in this together,” he said during the Sentinel interview. He called for an all-hands-on-deck response to the district- and citywide crisis of homelessness, while also pledging to address issues specific to the Northeast L.A., including Scholl Canyon and Metro’s proposal for bus rapid transit through Eagle Rock.
De León called homelessness “a humanitarian crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen before,” adding, “It’s shocking. It’s shameful. That in itself, you know, is plenty of work.”
Among his proposals to address homelessness, De León has said he will push the city and county to add 200 shelter beds in downtown L.A. and create transitional housing in the district. He has also called for streamlining the process to build housing for the homeless.
Speaking of the Scholl Canyon landfill above Eagle Rock, De León said that he is staunchly opposed to Glendale’s proposal to build a biogas power plant at the site, calling the proposal “backwards thinking” in the quest to attain clean energy goals.
A better approach, he said, is for L.A. and Glendale to collaborate on green energy initiatives. To that end, he plans to reach out to Glendale Mayor Vrej Agajanian as well as Glendale’s councilmembers.
In the meantime, De León has submitted a public comment letter on the proposal to Glendale officials detailing his opposition to the power plant proposal.
On Metro’s proposal for bus rapid transit (BRT) on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, De León said he did not want to take an official position at this time.
He called himself an advocate for dedicated bus lines and electric buses, though he stressed that care must be taken to ensure public transit options make sense locally. With regard to the BRT on Colorado Boulevard, he said he wanted to learn more about potential BRT ridership and ways to mitigate “any type of potential havoc” from having a BRT on the boulevard.
De León cited the effect on local restaurants and possible traffic congestion on Yosemite Drive and Hill Drive as issues that need to be clarified before he takes a firm position on a Colorado Boulevard BRT. He also said that waiting to take a stand puts him in a better position to negotiate terms. “You sit and you negotiate, and you see what they have to offer and if you don’t like it, then you say, ‘No, we’re gonna go back to the negotiating table,” he said.
De León’s swearing in is not only a new beginning for him. It’s also a fresh start for CD 14, which has been without effective representation since scandal enveloped the previous councilmember, José Huizar, nearly two years ago. Huizar recently pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges and is awaiting trial.
De León ended the Sentinel interview with advice on the first step for moving forward together: Vote in the November 3 election. “November 3rd is a real, consequential, concrete, proactive platform to legally decide the direction of our city and country,” he said. “So let’s get out there and vote. And once we do that, our work is just beginning.”