By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"All you've got to tell this district that deals with gan gs is that Antonio Villa-raigosa is against gang injunctions," Pacheco says. "That he voted against electronically monitoring child molesters. That he voted against informing the community when a felon was released. I oppose those personal mailers. I already told everyone since day one that we don't need to talk about Antonio's personal life when his public record on crime is so horrendous. Let's just focus on that."
IT IS SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE TO WALK or to drive from one end of the 14th Council District to the other without passing through other districts or even cities. Redistricting has created a collection of precincts divided into three distinct chunks, barely linked by slivers of territory.
The traditional heart of the area is Boyle Heights, a storied neighborhood of commercial districts, industry, housing projects and tidy residential streets on the far side of the Los Angeles River. Part of the original pueblo, Boyle Heights lacked the strict zoning and restrictive covenants of the suburbs to the west, so it became the gateway for immigrants from Eastern Europe, Japan and Mexico.
Jewish socialists organized here, and founders of the United Farm Workers strategized. The Japanese were forcibly removed during World War II, and most of the Jews moved west shortly after, leaving Boyle Heights an integral part of the Latino Eastside.
Villaraigosa's childhood friend James Aguirre, now house counsel for the Automobile Club of Southern California, recalls participating in church activities and, later, car-club rallies in Boyle Heights with young Tony Villar (Villaraigosa and his wife combined their last names when they married).
"We had after-school programs," Aguirre says. "We had a teen club. A church where they organized events. You would recognize him — imagine the smile you see on the campaign brochures, but on a 10-year-old boy."
Although Villaraigosa went to school and participated in activities in Boyle Heights, Pacheco supporters make much of the fact that he actually lived in nearby unincorporated City Terrace.
"I've always thought that if you're running for something you should live in that neighborhood," upholstery cutter Richard Romero says. "It seems like since Nick is from Boyle Heights, now everyone wants to be from Boyle Heights. We see him here."
The neighborhood long has been a dumping ground for Los Angeles. It has more square miles of freeway running through it than any area of comparable size. For all of Pacheco's efforts at street paving, sidewalk repair and traffic control, the neighborhood can still appear rough and gritty.
Connected to Boyle Heights are a knob of the 14th Council District that crosses the river to take in the historic Plaza and Olvera Street, and a finger that reaches into the garment-and-jewelry district.
Last year, during redistricting, Pacheco sought a larger piece of downtown to boost his power base, but he overplayed his hand and sparked anger and resentment from colleagues and downtown businesses. It was not the first time he had overreached — he also made a play for the council presidency, but backed down in the wake of critical news reports about his pressure on city lobbyists to donate to Cal Inc., a charity he set up.
North of Boyle Heights lies El Sereno, a largely Latino community near Alhambra and Cal State Los Angeles. The area long has been plagued by crime and neglect.
Farther north and to the west is newly trendy Eagle Rock. Traditionally the most Republican portion of the district, filled with family pizza restaurants and real estate offices, Eagle Rock has begun to sprout coffeehouses and is attracting young professionals in the entertainment industry.
In the process, politics here has gotten more eclectic, continuing an eastward move of Los Angeles liberalism from the Westside into Hollywood and now into the formerly conservative Northeast.
Pacheco continues to tout his Boyle Heights roots. But he now lives with his fiancée, Marisela Alvarez, in a home in Eagle Rock, just a few blocks from the house of his friend Congressman Becerra.
Next to Eagle Rock are Highland Park and Glassell Park, two regions struggling for definition. Highland Park includes tattered shacks and historic Craftsman homes, and a heritage of arts and crafts that still lives in scattered galleries and workshops. A handful of communities, like Garvanza and Hermon, have re-asserted their identities as distinct from Highland Park's.
Glassell Park, with a large Filipino community and a thriving commercial section, has become energized by dynamic neighborhood leadership.
South of Highland Park is Mount Washington, a woodsy residential hill in some ways more reminiscent of Brentwood than Northeast L.A. Environmental activists here have organized against developers to protect native walnut groves and priceless views.
It is here that Villaraigosa lived for a decade, not far from county Supervisor Molina, in the 1st Council District. But while Pacheco was losing his play for downtown, the independent Redistricting Commission drew lines through Mount Washington that put much of it — but not Villaraigosa's house — in the 14th.
Pacheco opponents said the councilman, who appointed a member to the panel and sat on the council's oversight committee, engineered the move to keep Villaraigosa from running. Commission members deny it.