In an unusual move, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson announced Thursday that he is appointing himself to oversee the seventh district of Los Angeles, an area in the San Fernando Valley that has been without council representation.
Last month, the district's councilman, Felipe Fuentes, announced he was leaving, prompting concerns from some community members who worried about the fate of the district without a voting representative.
Wesson represents District 10, which includes the L.A. neighborhoods of Koreatown and Mid-City. While he will continue to vote on behalf of that district, he cannot cast a second vote for District 7. So, the 250,000 people living in the Valley communities of North Hills, Sylmar, Shadow Hills and Pacoima will be without voting representation until at least March.
"There are a lot of similarities in the district and a lot of shared needs," Wesson said in an interview with KPCC, explaining that as he votes, he will "factor in" what's good for District 7 as well as his own District 10.
Wesson said he met with community members after learning of Fuentes' planned departure. They discussed a few different options for finding a replacement. The city could have held a special election, or the council could have appointed a council member with voting power. Wesson said there was no clear consensus from community members.
"At this point, I thought that I might be the one person that would create the least amount of pushback," he said.
Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State Los Angeles, said the news means the council's most powerful member will now control the district, leaving residents without the voting power they deserve.
"It's highly unusual," he said. "I think it's going to leave most of the residents to feel like they really don't have a true representative heading their district."
Brian Schneider, a community leader and resident in the district, welcomed the news and said he was hopeful that Wesson would show up for the district.
"I’m not going to say this is preferable to anything, but it’s better than nothing," he said.
Schneider was prompted to start a Facebook group after a burglary at his home last year. He said rising crime rates and challenges with the area's homeless population have caused serious safety and quality of life issues in the district, and have become so bad they're impacting local businesses.
Schneider said numerous requests for help to Fuentes' office were not responded to.
"He just completely abandoned us," he said.