Councilman Kevin de Leon was sworn into office today for the Los Angeles City Council District 14 vacant seat, and he outlined a few of his plans for the city.
"Even though the pandemic continues to keep us from celebrating together, it was an honor to be sworn in today as your council member," de Leon said. "More than anything else, I'm glad that we're in this together because this unprecedented moment in our city's history requires us to collaborate with each other, support one another and be there for each other."
De Leon was sworn in by Superior Court Judge Lucy Armendariz, and the two of them wore masks while conducting the ceremony in the Council Chamber at City Hall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The newly minted councilman said he would first introduce a resolution for the city to partner with the county to add 200 beds of transitional housing for homeless people in to downtown Los Angeles.
He said he will also work to add transitional housing to his district, which includes portions of downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, El Sereno and North East Los Angeles.
"What we're seeing today in Los Angeles is a modern-day human catastrophe, a dystopian nightmare unlike anything we've ever seen before," de Leon said. "It's shocking. It's shameful. We have a moral and human obligation to do better to improve our quality of life, ensuring that everyone can afford to keep a roof over their head, and we must act now."
De Leon told City News Service that in order to reduce the cost of building permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles with money approved by voters, he would like the city to implement a spending cap on such projects.
"I think we can have a huge positive impact in getting people off the streets," de Leon said. "But we need value for the volume. I think we have to be innovative."
De Leon said he wants to overhaul the entirety of the city's planning process, which he said is using mid-century rules to build 21st-century affordable housing. He said he wants to trim the voluminous planning code that he said hasn't been updated in decades.
The new councilman said projects for supportive housing also must be prioritized and sent to the front of the line for approval.
During the virtual ceremony, Mayor Eric Garcetti provided a prerecorded congratulatory video and spoke about his professional relationship with de Leon, calling him a "champion."
"...What makes him such a welcome addition to our City Council is his fierce advocacy for justice," Garcetti said. "I've seen in every facet of his remarkable career as a teacher, community organizer, union leader, the first Latino to lead the state senate in more than a century, and through it all, Kevin de Leon has never forgotten why he got to the work of government in the first place -- to lift up the (less fortunate) among us."
Council President Nury Martinez welcomed de Leon, but she also let him know that there is a lot of work ahead of him and the city with the pandemic, homelessness, environmental justice and more.
"I know that (de Leon) has already been hard at work," Martinez said. "Kevin and his team have been out in the community, rolling up their sleeves and hitting the ground running. I appreciate that, and I know the residents of the 14th district appreciate it too."
De Leon was appointed Tuesday to the office, which has been vacant since Jose Huizar was suspended by the council in June.
Huizar, 51, is accused of accepting $1.5 million in bribes from developers in exchange for his support of downtown building projects. He has pleaded not guilty to charges in a 34-count racketeering indictment and faces trial next June.
Huizar was stripped of all his committee assignments in November 2018 following FBI searches of his home and offices.
"I think voters have every right to be outraged at the state of government as a whole,'' de Leon said, adding that the stress of the pandemic has added to that sentiment.
De Leon is a former California Senate president pro tem.
"We have an opportunity to close one chapter and make a new one, and I'm bringing my 12 years of honest government and experience as the author of 100% clean, renewable energy and sanctuary state (laws) and bringing my values to City Hall," de Leon said. "I'm for transparency and honesty in government, and this provides us a real opportunity to write a brand-new chapter."
Huizar never gave up the District 14 seat, but he termed out after the Nov. 3 general election.