East L.A. Denied Cityhood Once Again

Neighborhood has been seeking incorporation for decades, but is turned down over financial concerns.

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cityhoodforeastla.org

East Los Angeles is a hotbed of Mexican and Latin American culture and the heart of the Chicano movement. Despite having a recognizable name and a deep history, East L.A. is not actually its own city, but rather an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County. Locals have been rallying for years to garner the neighborhood its own city status, but that effort has once again been stymied. A commission recently voted against allowing East Los Angeles to incorporate as its own city.

The panel, which voted down the plan 8 votes to 1, said East L.A. couldn’t prove that it would be financially viable, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The East Los Angeles Residents Association, which represents the neighborhood’s roughly 126,000 residents, has been aggressively pursuing cityhood for decades. The group has been after local control of funding and policymaking. They argue that local needs are unmet and under-heard, as its current representation consists of one county supervisor who also represents 2 million other county residents. This is the fourth official attempt to incorporate East L.A. since 1960.

Bad timing may ultimately be to blame for this latest setback. The financial feasibility of an incorporated East L.A. has been a major concern, one not helped by the current economic climate. It’s likely that East L.A. wouldn’t be able to sustain itself financially after its first three years as a city, according to a report issued to the Local Agency Formation Commission last month. That report [PDF] officially recommended not endorsing incorporation.

In a letter [PDF] to the commission, East Los Angeles Residents Association President Benjamin Cardenas argues that a financial plan could be worked out. Among proposals to make the prospective city financially feasible, Cardenas recommends steps like leaving administration of one of the area’s parks to the county, cutting funds to a local library and even asking voters to approve a utility user tax increase. Despite these suggestions, the commission felt the proposed city would not be able to afford to stay in business.

The Times reports that the association has no plans to give up. It's currently considering whether to seek a formal reconsideration by the Local Agency Formation Commission, or to challenge the decision in court.

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.