El Sereno has been trying to turn a homeless encampment into a park for about six months - but somehow, nothing ever moved along.
The LA-32 Neighborhood Council met with residents and a representative from the office of 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar. They voted to rezone the Huntington Drive median so the encampment could be removed. They turned in the paperwork to City Hall.
And then ... nothing.
"The paperwork got stuck someone and I don’t know where," said Johnny Gurski, the vice president of the board and the chair of Public Safety for the neighborhood council.
There are many possible sources for the delay. But one thing certainly didn't help: Huizar, who represents El Sereno and half dozen other neighborhoods, has not attended City Council meetings in more than a month amid a City Hall corruption probe. Now, he has been placed under arrest and has been suspended by his fellow by council members.
"I think the consensus," said Jesse Saucedo, president over at the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, "is that our neighborhood does not have a voice in the City Council right now, given that we have no vote during a time we're facing several crises." Saucedo made his remarks before Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested this morning.
Huizar has been charged with a single count of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. He allegedly conspired to accept roughly $1.5 million in bribes from developers.
He already hadn't been attending meetings since mid-May. Council President Nury Martinez asked him to step back from attending after May 13, when real estate development consultant George Chiang agreed to plead guilty in a bribery scheme to advance large-scale development projects. Documents in that plea pointed toward Huizar.
While Huizar has been suspended from his City Council duties, he cannot unilaterally be remove from office because he has not yet been convicted of a crime, according to the City Attorney's Office.
Meanwhile, there has been no one at council meetings representing some 250,000 people throughout Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Monterey Hills and Downtown. Unless Huizar can be removed, that situation is set to continue until December 13, when Huizar’s term in office finally runs out.
Greg Merideth, president of the Eagle Rock Association, added that the district started losing representation even before Huizar stopped attending meetings.
"Eagle Rock, and the other constituents of Council District 14, have lacked full representation on the Council for over a year and a half since our councilmember was stripped of his committee assignments," Merideth said. "This has resulted in our constituents having restricted input into the crafting of critical city actions and legislation that directly impact us."
Huizar lost all his committee assignments November 2018, when his home and offices were searched by the FBI. The councilman's assignments were removed shortly afterwards by then-Council President Herb Wesson.
Merideth said the District 14 office staff themselves have been helpful in other areas such as local COVID relief, homelessness, transportation, and livability issues.
However, "I would say that Eagle Rock’s access to the City Council has been dramatically diminished."
Huizar’s office has not responded to questions from The Eastsider on this story.
If Huizar is suspended, it's not clear who would end up representing the district.
Former state legislator Kevin de Leon, won the primary election in March to replace Huizar, who is termed out of office. But de Leon is not scheduled to officially take over until the end of the year.