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New Faces To Occupy Nearly Half The Seats On LA City Council

A collage of five new members of the L.A. City Council.  Clockwise: Katy Young-Yaroslavsky in purple shirt standing in a park; Hugo Soto-Martinez wearing a blue button-down shirt, photographed against a white background; Tim McOsker in a suit on a city street; Eunisses Hernandez wearing a striped white and gray shirt standing in front of tree branches and downtown in the background, Traci Park in a red shirt standing on a street with buildings in the background.
Five newcomers will be sworn in as L.A.'s newest city council members next month. Clockwise from top left: Katy Young-Yaroslavsky, Hugo Soto-Martinez, Tim McOsker, Eunisses Hernandez, Traci Park.
(Josie Huang
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Los Angeles’ City Council is undergoing one of its biggest upheavals in recent decades.

One council member has been suspended. Two council members were defeated in re-election bids. Two others left the council to make bids for other office that ultimately failed. Another resigned after the leaked audio scandal broke.

When new members are sworn-in next month, nearly half of the 15-member council will be different people from just a year ago.

And six members will be women, the most the council has ever had.

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“This is clearly one of the most turnover-heavy moments in L.A. city council history,” said Raphe Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

Why It's Ideologically Diverse

It is also poised to be one of the most ideologically-diverse councils, with the addition of self-described "middle-of-the-road" lawyer Traci Park, as well as progressives Eunisses Hernandez, a community activist, and Hugo Soto-Martinez, a labor organizer.

All three represent a break from a tradition that saw councils dominated by members who'd served in government before, having held elected office or having worked for other politicians.

“I believe that this wave of new faces represent an engaged electorate that is tired of business as usual,” Hernandez, who will be serving Highland Park and Chinatown in District 10, said in an email. “Even though not every progressive won in this cycle, I think broadly the outcome reflects a boiling point on housing, homelessness, public safety, and a clear mandate for action.”

Soto-Martinez, who will be representing District 13 neighborhoods such as Echo Park and Hollywood, predicted newcomers will bring fresh ideas.

"I think that with new leadership in so much of the city, this is an opportunity for bold solutions that in previous years were blocked by special interest," Soto-Martinez said in an email.

The tightness of some council races meant that some were not decided until this week.

Last Call: Park Beats Darling In CD11

On Thursday, District 11 became the last one to be called.

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"We have a very short runway between getting our election results into when we all get sworn in," said Park, who defeated Erin Darling to represent neighborhoods such as Venice and Westchester. "And so the world already feels like it's moving a million miles an hour around me."

At least one more newcomer will join the council in the coming months. Next April, the city will hold a special election to replace former council President Nury Martinez, who stepped down last month after audio was leaked of her taking part in a racist and homophobic conversation.

Then there is the uncertainty swirling around council member Kevin de Leon, who was also part of the leaked conversation. De Leon, who is resisting pressure to resign, is facing a recall effort.

Here’s a rundown of all the districts undergoing changes in leadership:

District 1: Eunisses Hernandez defeated Council member Gil Cedillo (who also participated in the leaked conversation with Martinez and de Leon) in the CD 10 primary in June.

District 5: Katy Young Yaroslavsky replaces Council member Paul Koretz, who opted not to seek re-election to make a failed bid for City Controller.

District 6: A special election will be held next April to replace Council member Nury Martinez after she resigned for her role in the leaked conversation.

District 10: Heather Hutt was appointed in September to be a temporary replacement for Council member Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is fighting federal corruption charges and was suspended from the council in Oct. 2021. If he is convicted, the council will decide whether to call a special election or keep Hutt on.

District 11: Traci Park replaces Council member Mike Bonin, who opted not to seek re-election.  

District 13: Hugo Soto-Martinez defeated Council member Mitch O’Farrell in the general election.

District 15: Tim McOsker replaces Council member Joe Buscaino, who opted not to seek re-election to make an unsuccessful bid for mayor.

Read more about the districts and whats next: LA City Council In 2023: Your Guide To Who's Who (And What They Do)

Possible New Voting Blocks

The newly-configured council could create new voting blocks. Council member Nithya Raman could ally with fellow progressives such as Hernandez and Soto-Martinez, said Melina Abdullah, a leader in the Black Lives Matters movement and professor of Pan-African Studies at Cal State-LA.

“I think that you have a city council that's not like what I've ever seen before,” Abdullah said. “For them to be joining people like Nithya, and others, I think that you'll see, hopefully, more courage come from [other members of] the city council as well.”

Zev Yarovslavsky, who used to serve on the council (and the Board of Supervisors) and now teaches public policy at UCLA, said past councils were dominated by former state legislators and council staffers. Yarovslavsky, who is the father-in-law of the councilmember-elect Katy Young Yarovslavsky, praised the range of life backgrounds brought by the newcomers on the council.

“It is not good for the city council to be a homogenous entity where everybody has the same career and life experiences,” Yarovslavsky said. “That's not been healthy. And I think it's part of the reason that there's a malaise in City Hall.”

Have a question about Southern California's Asian American communities?
Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.