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Endorsement: Eunisses Hernandez for City Council District 1

Eunisses Hernandez is running for L.A. City Council District 1.
(Eric Kelly)

This year, perhaps motivated by voters’ decision to move Los Angeles’ municipal elections to coincide with the gubernatorial election or by Nithya Raman’s win in 2020 (when a newcomer ousted an incumbent), there are several well-funded, well-organized progressive candidates challenging council members, who have traditionally coasted to reelection.

That’s the case in City Council District 1, where policy advocate and community organizer Eunisses Hernandez is running against Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who is seeking a third term.

Hernandez has been a leader in one of the most significant criminal justice system reforms in the country — first persuading county leaders to scrap plans to build new jails and instead invest in community-based mental health treatment and rehabilitation services, and then persuading voters to pass Measure J, which directed the county to budget at least 10% of its locally generated revenue for youth programs, affordable housing, restorative justice, job training and similar programs.

Here are the L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, LAUSD, superior court, statewide offices, the state legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.

Her consistent, collaborative efforts helped change hearts, minds and bureaucracies in one of the most complex areas of public policy. Through that work, Hernandez has developed a reputation as both a visionary and pragmatic organizer, steeped in the details and committed to making change over the long haul. And it’s that kind of leadership Los Angeles needs on its City Council, when the city is struggling to ease homelessness, make housing affordable, build environmentally sustainable communities and make public safety more just. We recommend Hernandez for Council District 1.

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District 1 stretches from Highland Park and Glassell Park in the north through Elysian Park and Chinatown to Westlake and Pico Union. Elected in 2013, Cedillo has had plenty of time to make big, impactful change on both the district and the city level — particularly because he’s chair of the City Council’s Housing Committee. But his record is mixed.

The district has added more affordable housing since 2009 than any other council district. That’s good. But advocates say Cedillo hasn’t used his position to make it easier and less expensive to build more affordable housing throughout the city.

Karen Bass is an extraordinarily qualified, battle-tested, mission-driven leader, and should be L.A.'s next mayor.

Cedillo prides himself on negotiating with developers to set a certain number of affordable units — at least 20%, he said — in market-rate projects. (Not all — Cedillo stripped low-income units from a 725-unit project in Chinatown, saying the area had enough affordable housing.) But the decision on whether private developments should have affordable units shouldn’t be left to the whims of the council member. That case-by-case decision making breeds corruption and it has often resulted in less affordable housing. Cedillo should have been using his leadership on the committee to more aggressively push systemic housing reforms.

Cedillo has received praise for his office’s pandemic response. He and his team got food distributed to needy residents, and COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the community quickly. On other issues, his office has been called unresponsive and aloof, with some constituents complaining that Cedillo is unwilling to engage with residents and groups that he disagrees with.

The council member has also been a barrier to building bike infrastructure and street projects designed to make it safer and easier for people to travel without a car. Council District 1 has some of L.A.’s most deadly streets, yet he voted against the city’s Mobility Plan to make the car-dominated streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit. He blocked bike lanes, including directing city staff to remove bike lanes from the widened Spring Street bridge.

Community organizer and entrepreneur Danielle Sandoval is a grass-roots politician who would bring a fresh perspective to City Hall.

Hernandez, on the other hand, has made transportation and street safety top priorities within her larger environmental justice and climate change agenda. She said she would launch community reviews of the most dangerous intersections, and advocate for bike lanes, bus benches and shelters, redesigned streets and pedestrian plazas, so it’s easier for people to get around without cars.

She’s also focused on affordable housing production and tenant protections. That’s important because the median household income in the district is around $35,000, well below the city average, and gentrification and displacement are huge issues as rising home prices and rents have priced out longtime residents. Yes, L.A. needs more housing at all income levels, including market-rate construction, but the harder work is developing the policies and funding to build housing that’s affordable to the working poor who are especially vulnerable in the current real estate market.

Hernandez has spent years working to transform the criminal justice system, and she wants to curb the responsibilities and power of the Los Angeles Police Department. She wouldn’t vote to hire additional police officers and would instead fund mental health clinicians, crisis responders, gang interventionists and other non-law enforcement workers to focus on preventing crime and responding to community disputes. We agree that L.A. should divert officers away from jobs that are unsuited to their skills. But we also believe Los Angeles, like most of the U.S., needs a professional police force and if it takes more money or manpower to have fair, protective community policing, that is a worthy investment.

There is a value to having contrary opinions in City Hall, where so many processes and policies haven’t been reconsidered for decades and the status quo isn’t serving vast numbers of Angelenos. Hernandez would be a powerful voice for change, and she has the track record of making it happen.

Read more endorsements at: latimes.com/endorsements.


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