Racist chat leads Martinez to resign as LA Council head
Scandal prompts calls for Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo to resign from City Council; real estate impact could be coming
Racist comments made by Latino council members during a private huddle about redistricting could transform the political and real estate landscape in the City of Los Angeles.
News of the audio tape led L.A. City Council Present Nury Martinez to step down from her leadership role and prompted calls for the resignation of Martinez and Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I take responsibility for what I said and there are no excuses for those comments. I’m so sorry,” Martinez said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize to the people I hurt with my words.”
Real estate experts said that the scandal, and Martinez’s resignation as president, is unlikely to bring immediate industry impact — although that could change significantly if Martinez ends up resigning from the City Council, as her critics are already calling for.
“If and when she resigns, pending projects would need to be supported by her successor,” UCLA real estate professor Eric Sussman told TRD by text message.
The impact of any one councilmember’s resignation is magnified in L.A, because of the unusual amount of influence members have over projects within their respective districts.
Martinez, who won her council seat in 2013, has served as president since 2020 and represents District 6, which encompasses much of the central and eastern part of the San Fernando Valley, including the neighborhoods of North Hollywood, Lake Balboa and Panorama City.
It’s a part of the city that has seen a flurry of multifamily residential projects. Martinez has received support from industry groups and developers, who contributed more than $90,000 to her first reelection campaign to the outrage of some community members.
“Anybody who is conscious of how things appear to the public would be ashamed to be anywhere near that,’’ one Lake Balboa resident told the L.A. Times in 2015, referencing a controversial apartment project in Panorama City. “But she doesn’t seem too concerned.”
The outrage that led to Martinez’s resignation as president on Monday was triggered by a surreptitiously recorded chat last October, during which Martinez spoke with de León, Cedillo and Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
The conversation included racist remarks and insults about various elected officials. Martinez focused in particular on Councilman Mike Bonin, who is white, and Bonin’s young son, who is Black, according to a recording that has drawn national attention.
At one point, Martinez called Bonin a “little bitch” and said his son “parece changuito,” or “looks like a monkey.” She also said Bonin’s son had misbehaved on a parade float and needed a “beatdown.” Remarks were also made about “little short dark people” from Oaxaca, Mexico.
The resignation by Martinez from the powerful president’s seat comes at a key moment for City Hall. As many as five council members could leave by the end of the year, depending on the Nov. 8 election.
Four council members are stepping down while a fifth, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, is in a tough reelection fight.
Three council members — Bonin, Paul Koretz and Nithya Raman — called for Martinez to resign. Others said de León and Cedillo, and union leader Herrera should follow suit.
Martinez reiterated her apologies, saying she was “truly ashamed.” De León, Cedillo and Herrera also released mea culpas for not speaking up about the racist remarks.
Much of the secretly recorded conversation focused on maps that had been proposed by the city’s redistricting commission, and how to draw council districts to give more power to Latinos.
“It serves us to not give her all of K-Town,” Martinez said, referring to Raman. “Because if you do, that solidifies her renters’ district and that is not a good thing for any of us. You have to keep her on the fence.”
– Dana Bartholomew & Trevor Bach