LOS ANGELES (CNS) — City Councilman Gil Cedillo faced criticism from several members of the public during Friday’s council meeting over how he conducted Wednesday’s Housing Committee meeting, during which the committee took up recommendations to end the COVID-19 eviction moratorium in Los Angeles.
Several members from the tenants’ rights group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) attended the council meeting and accused Cedillo — the committee chair — of silencing Latino voices, claiming that the Spanish translation during the meeting was poor. During Wednesday’s meeting, many Spanish-speaking tenants called for the city to extend the eviction moratorium, while landlords sought an end to the pandemic-era protections.
Cedillo defended himself at Friday’s meeting.
“We had the public comment,” Cedillo said. “And then we had the debate. Everybody was allowed to make their presentation. And then we had our votes. And the votes were as they were. For those who suggest that we didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear the public comment, we did.”
The Housing Committee approved an amendment to the Los Angeles Housing Department’s report that would extend eviction protections due to COVID-19 hardship until Feb. 1, an extension from LAHD’s recommendation of Dec. 31. But the committee did not recommend approval of the full LAHD report to the council, deadlocking 2-2.
Keep LA Housed, a coalition of housing advocate groups, posted on Twitter following Wednesday’s meeting that the Spanish interpretation was “highly inaccurate.”
“Gil Cedillo basically screwed over tenants in Los Angeles,” Sergio Vargas, an ACCE member, told the council. “There was no discussion on any of the issues and there was no translation for any of the Latino voices. So basically it was squashing the Latino voices in the meeting.”
Cedillo was also criticized for his behavior toward Councilwoman Nithya Raman, who repeatedly tried to initiate discussions on the issue, but Cedillo appeared set on moving the meeting ahead quickly.
Raman thanked Council President Nury Martinez for allowing tenants to speak at the council meeting.
“Many of these speakers were on the call on Wednesday’s committee meeting, but didn’t get a chance to speak,” Raman said. “I’m very grateful that they had the chance to testify today on something that is so important for so many tenants and landlords across the city.”
Raman added that she hoped for a “detailed and rigorous and vigorous discussion about policy changes that are going to impact the lives of so many in LA.” Martinez then committed to having a “vigorous” discussion on the eviction moratorium on the council floor at a future date.
Cedillo said he had announced that there would be an hour of public comment ahead of Wednesday’s meeting. He claimed “we fulfilled that hour” and the positions of the 30 to 40 speakers who spoke “were clear” despite another 70 speakers waiting in the queue. Cedillo added he had an evening appointment, or he would have been happy to stay for two or three hours.
“I don’t know if it would have changed the nature of the discussion,” Cedillo said. “In managing the meeting and having some deference to other members of the committee who had other schedules, I stood to the announcement.”
Eviction protections for non-payment of rent due to the economic impact of COVID-19 are currently in effect through August 2023, or up to 12 months following the end of the declaration of the local emergency. But several council members have signaled that there needs to be adjustments to the moratorium.
Raman appeared to grow increasingly frustrated with Cedillo as the meeting progressed. Cedillo did not call on housing department officials to make a verbal report ahead of the item, despite officials being at the meeting and slides prepared in the council file.
Cedillo moved the amendments up for votes quickly without discussion, and Raman interrupted several times to ask if the committee might be able to talk through the item in more detail.
“You can vote no,” Cedillo told Raman, when she asked to bifurcate Cedillo’s amendments because of the date conflict with her amendment.
Raman responded that she wanted to have a discussion on the amendments, noting the 70 people left in the queue.
“It just feels like this is a pretty important issue,” Raman said. “It’s worthy of at least some discussion of one day versus another.”
Later, when Raman asked Cedillo to explain why he voted against her amendment, Cedillo said: “We’re in the middle of a roll call, Ms. Raman. That’s inappropriate.”
Raman responded: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was the one being inappropriate here.”