In a strongly worded rebuke, Mayor Tom Bradley on Thursday warned embattled city housing director Leila Gonzalez-Correa to stop any efforts to silence activist tenants in city projects.
In a letter made public by the mayor, Bradley said he was “concerned” about an incident in which Housing Authority officials questioned Margarito Gutierrez, a tenant leader at the Estrada Courts project in East Los Angeles, about his activities.
“It is imperative that, from your office on down, the Housing Authority does everything it can to encourage, not discourage, tenant participation in the management of their communities,” the mayor told Gonzalez-Correa.
“Only when residents are permitted to have a vested interest in their homes can we achieve the type of progress we are striving for at our Housing Authority projects.”
The mayor concluded by saying, “I hope that this incident was an aberration of Housing Authority policy and steps will be taken to ensure that it does not occur in the future.”
The mayor’s letter followed an effort by City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky earlier in the week to stop Gonzalez-Correa from formally banning public comment by housing agency employees.
Yaroslavsky introduced a motion Wednesday recommending that Housing Authority commissioners reject the proposed policy.
An attorney representing Gutierrez said the questioning of his client was an effort to intimidate the tenant leader.
Last month, Gutierrez came back from a housing conference in Washington and warned tenants of Estrada Courts that the project could be sold to a private developer.
In the incident that concerned Bradley, Gutierrez was summoned to the manager’s office at Estrada Courts and questioned during a 20-minute meeting with Leonard Karter, the agency’s group operations manager for Eastside projects, and Georgina Garcia, the manager of Estrada Courts.
Legal Aid attorney David Etezadi said that he was impressed by the mayor’s quick action concerning the incident but that it is not enough. His client is still seeking an apology and a reprimand of housing authority officials.