Members of all 99 Los Angeles Neighborhoods Councils at the annual Congress of Neighborhoods with Mayor Eric Garcetti and other City officials. Photo by Scott Bogunia.
Find your Neighborhood Council: enter your address in the search bar at: http://tiny.cc/FindMyNC
WHAT ARE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS?
LA’s 99 Neighborhood Councils together form the grassroots level of the Los Angeles City government. The system was created to connect LA’s diverse communities to City Hall, and was established in 1999 by an amendment to the City Charter. While Neighborhood Council board members are volunteers, they are public officials elected to office by the members of their community.
The Neighborhood Council system tailors LA’s municipal government to the City’s communities, ensuring that recognition and accommodation of these communities’ diversity is built into City governance.
As a result, each Council is unique. Though every Neighborhood Council is held to the local, state, and federal standards that other City officials and agencies must observe, each Council has its own board structure, with seats representing the particular type of stakeholders which that Council serves. For example, some Councils have seats for renters, while some have seats for equestrians. Others have seats that represent internal districts. Boards range in size from 7 to 35 members. Most board members serve two-year terms; a few Councils have four-year terms, staggered so that half the board is elected every two years.
Neighborhood Councils advocate on issues like homelessness, housing, land use, emergency preparedness, public safety, parks, transportation, and sustainability. They also provide local expertise and a local voice on the delivery of City services to their communities.
Each Council holds monthly meetings of their full board, in addition to monthly Committee meetings with a more targeted focus on key issues or projects, like public safety, transportation, homelessness, or land use. All meetings are open to the public.
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE?
Another unique feature of LA’s Neighborhood Council system is its broad, inclusive definition of stakeholdership. Unlike other government officials, who are elected by residential stakeholders of the area they serve, Neighborhood Councils are open to participation by anyone who is part of the fabric of daily life in a community. This includes those who live, work, or own property or a business there.
Also included are “community interest stakeholders,” who have some type of ongoing, substantial involvement within a Council’s boundaries, such as students of a local school, or the congregation of a local church.
Board members – and candidates, and voters – need not be US citizens or legal US residents to qualify. Participation is also open to the formerly incarcerated.
WHAT DO NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS DO & HOW ARE THEY FUNDED?
Since Neighborhood Councils hold their meetings in the communities they serve, they are an important avenue for public participation in the City of Los Angeles, and give the members of a community the chance to have input on decisions that affect their quality of life, and the services they receive from the City.
Neighborhood Councils play an advisory role in the Los Angeles municipal government. They gather, vet, debate, and come to a consensus on matters that impact City life and policy, and deliver their official stance on these issues in letters called “Community Impact Statements” (CIS), which are shared with City decision-makers, such as the Mayor, City Council, or City Departments such as City Planning. The Neighborhood Council may also attend meetings of these decision-making officials in person, to advocate for their board’s position on a matter. Neighborhood Councils members take action as a board, and not as individuals, so they do not take an official position without a majority vote first.
Neighborhood Councils receive public funds of about $42,000 each year to support their activities. Each member takes state-mandated training on the ethical management of public funds, and the funds must be allocated by board consensus. The funds may be used to create events and programs that respond to community needs, or spent to advocate for issues that the board cares about such as crime prevention, better roads and streets, safe spaces for children, help for the homeless, arts, or local economic development.
Some recent Neighborhood Council success stories are highlighted at EmpowerLA.org/art-exhibit. Click the graphics to learn details about successful projects and programs for land use, parks and public spaces, green living, town halls, seniors, youth, and more.
WHAT IS THE DEPARTMENT OF NEIGHBORHOOD EMPOWERMENT?
The City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is the support agency for LA’s Neighborhood Council system citywide. The Department is sometimes called “EmpowerLA” because of its stated mission to empower Angelenos through civic engagement and community advocacy, via the Neighborhood Council system and other outreach programs and initiatives.
Neighborhood Empowerment is not the only City department providing support for LA’s Neighborhood Councils, though we serve as the primary coordinator of these services. The Office of the City Attorney has a dedicated Neighborhood Council Advice Division that advises Councils and board members on legal issues, and the City Clerk is in charge of administering both Funding and Elections for the Neighborhood Council system. In addition, the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners serves as the official oversight body for the Neighborhood Council system. Commissioners are drawn from different areas of the City and are appointed by the Mayor.
GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL
Subscribe to get Neighborhood Council agendas by email:
See upcoming Neighborhood Council meetings
To see when your local Neighborhood Council holds its monthly board meeting, select your Council from the list at EmpowerLA.org/councils to open our Department webpage for that Council. Details for their monthly board meeting are in the top right corner, as is a link to that Council’s website. The Council’s own website will have further details about when and where their Committees meet. (Don’t know which Neighborhood Council you belong to? Enter your address in the search bar at http://tiny.cc/FindMyNC to find out.)
To see all Neighborhood Council board and committee meetings across the City by date, visit this page: LAcity.org/government/meeting-calendars/neighborhood-council-meetings.
Click the meeting title to view meeting address, time, and agenda.
See what position Neighborhood Councils are taking on issues before the City Council
The Community Impact Statements (CIS) issued by Neighborhood Councils are official letters stating the position that board has voted to take on City issues. CIS are one of the primary means by which LA’s Neighborhood Councils fulfill their advisory role in the City government. CIS letters get added to the file that the City maintains on each issue, and are considered by the City Council as part of their discussion of an issue.
CIS can be viewed by the public on the City Clerk’s Council File Management System (CFMS) – a comprehensive index of all matters that are or have been considered and acted upon by the Los Angeles City Council. This index can be searched by keyword or Council File number – view it at CityClerk.LACity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm. CFMS also gives you an option to subscribe to get email notices whenever a file you’re interested in is updated.
GOVERNING DOCUMENTS OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL SYSTEM
Because Neighborhood Councils are created by the Los Angeles City Charter, they are subject to many of the federal, state and local laws that govern other City departments and government entities. Every Neighborhood Council also has its own set of bylaws and standing (aka procedural) rules they follow, too. In addition, Neighborhood Councils must abide by laws preventing workplace violence, sexual harassment and discrimination.
The laws that apply to all Neighborhood Councils include the following:
Americans with Disabilities Act – A federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to the operations of state and local governments.
Brown Act – The Ralph M. Brown Act is a state law requiring open meetings from government agencies and applies to Neighborhood Council meetings.
Conflict of Interest Laws – Various state and city laws to ensure that government officials are free from bias caused by their own financial interest so they may act in an impartial manner.
Los Angeles City Charter – In 1999, the City Charter established the Neighborhood Council System and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment which supports the Neighborhood Councils “to promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs…” Charter Section 900.
The Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils – This Plan details the workings of the Neighborhood Council system.
Public Records Act – A state law providing the public access to government records. Neighborhood Councils must abide by a strict time line to respond to Public Records Act (PRA) requests.
Various local ordinances have also been enacted to establish the Neighborhood Council system.
Ordinance 172728 – Created the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment following the passage of the City Charter.
Ordinance 176704 – Established regulations to implement the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils.
Ordinance 173184 – Created the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment Fund.
Ordinance 175937 – Transferred the responsibility for leasing and renting office and meeting space for Neighborhood Councils from the Department of General Services to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, thereby streamlining the acquisition of space for Neighborhood Councils.
Ordinance 176477 – Exempts Neighborhood Councils from adopting a conflict of interest code and filing the Form 700 financial disclosure statements.