El Centro del Pueblo supporters at City Hall

The supporters of El Centro del Pueblo, wearing red t-shirts, filled the City Council chamber

Echo Park -- The City Council today voted to go forward with a controversial proposal to build affordable housing on a recreation area now used by low-income and troubled youth.

The proposal by Councilman Mitch O'Farrell has been opposed by El Centro del Pueblo, a social service agency that runs the recreation yard. El Centro and its supporters say the project would undermine its programs for at-risk youth and have urged officials to look at alternative sites.

Numerous Latino political leaders, some of whom have described the proposal as anti-Latino and have used the term "Trumpian" over the issue, have also urged the city to look elsewhere to build the project. 

O’Farrell has favored the recreation area  one block north of Echo Park Lake for housing because it is centrally located near major bus lines. He has noted that zoning of the city-owned site allows for high-density development and can include space for recreational activities.

In advance of this morning's vote, supporters of El Centro del Pueblo wearing red t-shirts filled the council chamber and cheered as fellow supporters -- including former council members Gloria Molina and Mike Hernandez -- addressed the council. 

Perhaps among the most vocal supporter of El Centro has been current Councilmember Gil Cedillo, whose 1st District represents the eastern edge of Echo Park.  

While Cedillo claimed he and O'Farrell were on friendly terms, both councilmen made indirect references to each other that seemed less than collegial.

At one point, Cedillo said that O'Farrell had "showed bad faith" in dealings with El Centro over the years. A few moments later, O'Farrell shot back, saying "I won't take the bait to being referred to as Trumpian ... that's silly."

The council's 10-2 vote today means the city now can seek proposals from developers to build between 54 and nearly 100 units of affordable housing with social services on an outdoor recreation area. Formerly homeless persons and other low-income tenants could end up living in the project.

Moments before the council vote, Cedillo vowed to continue his challenge.

"This is our future and we will continue to fight for it," he said.

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