Dupont-Walker, Community Press Metro on Surprising Changes Slated for Mariachi Plaza, Demand More Outreach

Recognize this place? Me, neither. But it's a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)
Recognize this place? Me, neither. But, according to Metro, it’s a rendering of what Mariachi Plaza could look like a few short years from now. (Source: Metro)

How can we ensure stakeholder input has value and is incorporated into planning? And, in so doing, help the community feel comfortable in trusting Metro to make sure that happens?

The queries, posed by Metro Board Member Jacqueline Dupont-Walker to Metro CEO Art Leahy during Tuesday’s Planning Committee meeting were in response to Boyle Heights residents’ complaints that Metro had failed to seek adequate community input on a potential development at Mariachi Plaza that would fundamentally transform the area.

She was right to ask.

Despite promises made in 2012 that, “prior to seeking Metro Board approval [for projects at Mariachi Plaza and other area sites], staff will be conducting a meeting to update the community regarding th[ese] development site[s],” no notice seems to have been given — either to the community or the advisory committee for the Eastside Access project — about Tuesday’s motion to allow Metro to enter into an 18-month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement and Planning Document (ENA) with Primestor Development.

An ENA grants Primestor — one of four applicants who submitted proposals for Metro’s RFP to develop the Mariachi Plaza parcels — the space to further develop their plans, work out the terms of a Joint Development Agreement (JDA), work out ground leases with Metro, and pull together the appropriate construction documents.

According to Metro, Primestor won out over the other applicants because of their track record with financing, commitment to job creation, “well-conceived proposal,” “attractive, transit-oriented design,” and expanded development footprint, made possible by their decision to “partner” with a neighboring property owner.

The new footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro
The expanded footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro

Specifically, that means that the buildings now housing J&F Ice Cream, Santa Cecilia restaurant, and Libros Schmibros (in green, above) will be turned into “retail and commercial office space that could provide a combination of food and beverage retail opportunities [and] a fitness center.”

The vacant lot at Bailey (the grey square below, at right) will be converted into an 8-story office building with 6 floors (528 spaces) of parking and 2 floors of medical offices, helping address the spillover demand for medical services from White Memorial Hospital (which sits across the street from the lot).

Together, the two buildings would provide 120,570 square feet of commercial space and be called “La Plaza del Mariachi.”

Mariachi Plaza, is that you? An 8-story structure at Bailey (the grey square) will boast 6 floors of parking and 2 of medical offices. A 3-story fitness center and retail space could crowd the western end of the plaza. (Source: Metro presentation)
Mariachi Plaza, is that you? An 8-story structure at Bailey (the grey square) will boast 6 floors of parking and 2 of medical offices. A 3-story fitness center and retail space could crowd the western end of the plaza. (Source: Metro presentation)

If that design comes as a surprise to you, either because of the notion that six stories’ worth of parking falls under the definition of “transit-oriented design,” because retail space appears to be built on the plaza itself, or because the murals that speak to the culture and history of the area and help define the space would be forever lost, you are not alone.

When Metro held meetings on the future plans for several properties along the Gold Line corridor in December of 2012 (see background here) and February of 2013, much of the community’s attention had been focused on fighting A Community of Friends’ (ACOF) plan to put affordable housing at 1st and Lorena. Residents believed they had been promised a pocket park there by Metro and objected to the added congestion and chaos 53 units could invite into the area.

Proposed developments at Metro-owned lots in Boyle Heights. Most are affordable housing projects. Source: Metro
Proposed developments at Metro-owned lots in Boyle Heights. Most are affordable housing projects. Source: Metro

Discussions about what to do with the Mariachi Plaza parcels were notably absent.

“That’s what was amazing tonight,” Greg Angelo, Metro’s Director of Real Property Management and Development had told SBLA writer Kris Fortin after the December 2012 meeting, “The bulk of the conversation was about [the] Lorena [and 1st site]. And nobody said anything about Mariachi [Plaza], which shocked me.”

My best guess for why that might have been the case was that the plans being tossed around at the time were quite vague and did not have anywhere near the scope (or footprint) that they appear to have now.

Behold:

How Metro presented plans for Mariachi Plaza to the community in early 2013. Source: Metro
How Metro presented plans for Mariachi Plaza to the community in early 2013. Source: Metro

Even as of January, 2013, the footprint seen above indicated only the plaza, the Bailey lot, and the small parcel across from the plaza as being eyed for development. (Not pictured is the southwest corner of 1st and Boyle, where Metro has planned ~80 one-, two-, and three-bedroom affordable units and ~4000 square feet of retail space.)

The Conceptual Development Guidelines Metro set forth for the Mariachi Plaza parcels were oriented toward promoting transit use, enhancing and maintaining the existing residential neighborhood, creating a sense of place, providing a secure environment, providing spaces for the community to come together, and supporting the goal of the community to make the area a cultural hub.

The poster board presented at that meeting (above) described the potential for the spaces to be turned into a mixed-use project combining housing and retail and/or having a use compatible with the plaza and the neighborhood.

Not a massive parking structure.

And not a plan that included the razing of buildings that are home to both businesses and murals which reflect the culture and character of the community, including Juan Solis’ 1994 mural, Castellanos (which can be found on the west side of the bldg. pictured below).

The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. The inside also has a lovely mural depicting some of their family members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA
The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. The inside also has a lovely mural depicting some of their family members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Such a massive transformation of the space into something that no one seemed to have been asking for had residents worried Tuesday.

Arturo Ramirez, a mariachi musician who finds work at the plaza and relaxes there with other musicians after gigs, told Metro in Spanish that he feared they would lose the small businesses that had always supported the mariachis. Worse still, he was afraid it would change the character of community altogether.

The plaza is a center of community where neighbors can come together…the developments would take away that vision of the plaza and its culture, Ramirez said. We are not in agreement with the destruction of the culture…The mariachis are integral to the plaza and we want to continue to be a part of it…It gets its name from us.

Carlos Ortez, whose restaurant Un Solo Sol stands directly across the street from Mariachi Plaza, asked that any businesses displaced by the development of the area be assisted both during the construction period and with setting up shop in the new site or in a comparable site nearby.

“We represent the community, historically, for over 50 years or more,” he said describing the long ties many of the owners have to the area and the relationships they’ve built up with the community. “It would be very shameful to destroy [all] that.

And being forced to move or pay a higher rent in a new site could be a terrible blow to a small business like J&F Ice Cream. Owner and long-time resident Minerva Villa had chosen to set up shop at the plaza just as the Gold Line opened five years ago, anticipating a massive influx of customers that never really came. When her husband lost a fingertip in a workplace incident three years ago and was subsequently fired from his job, making the business work took on a new urgency.

My life, my home now depend on this business,” she told me once, while describing the rhythm of the 13-hour days she works, six days a week.

Other residents commenting on the plans questioned the need for six stories’ worth of parking.

“Who is it for?” they wanted to know.

There wasn’t going to be any housing attached to the project, and the parking “rascacielos” (skyscraper), as one commenter called it, wouldn’t necessarily be for the public (a long-standing request of local business owners). It thus appeared to some of the speakers that it was a ploy to bring in “outsiders” while effectively dismantling the most important cultural symbol and gathering place in the community.

“Please develop a community advisory board so that we can be informed,” said Teresa Marquez, president of the Boyle Heights stakeholders association and long-time community member. “Think about us.”

La Abuelita de Boyle Heights is not pleased by the idea of an 8-story parking structure at Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/ Streetsblog LA
La Abuelita de Boyle Heights is not pleased by the idea of an 8-story parking structure at Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/ Streetsblog LA

“We are thinking about you,” seemed to be the message that Vanessa Delgado, the Director of Development at Primestor, wanted to convey to the residents.

Saying she had been born at White Memorial and gone to school in Boyle Heights, she reiterated the commitment of Primestor — a developer with extensive experience working in lower-income Latino communities — to finding ways to foster small business development and give qualifying non-profits or entrepreneurs spaces in the new sites.

They had done it in six past projects, she said, and she understood the importance of bringing hundreds of jobs into the community.

Moreover, they hoped that their design of the space would provide a kind of “amphitheater, protecting and enhancing the plaza,” creating even more space for the mariachis. Although how exactly this was supposed to happen was not made clear.

Jenna Hornstock, Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development at Metro, who gave brief presentations about the Mariachi Plaza project and plans for 2 other sites, spoke favorably about Primestor’s plans. But, she said, Metro felt that 528 parking spaces was excessive.

Primestor had anticipated that 140 of those spaces would be handed over for use by Metro (at a cost of $3 million). For its part, Metro didn’t want them and asked that Primestor work on downsizing its parking plans accordingly.

The timeline over which proposals were submitted and approved for the Mariachi Plaza project. Source: Metro
The timeline over which proposals were submitted and approved for the Mariachi Plaza project. Source: Metro

Hornstock also said that they hadn’t done much in the way of outreach prior to the Planning Committee meeting because they had been in a “blackout” period until very recently, reviewing proposals and interviewing prospective developers (above). But that they had apparently shared the plans for the plaza with 18 people prior to the meeting and would work diligently to form an advisory group going forward.

CEO Leahy went on to reassure both Dupont-Walker — who was asking more questions about community engagement — and those present that there would be extensive community outreach and an intensive design charrette process for the project. Saying that they were committed as a staff to making that happen (and also that they really had no choice, as the projects were joint developments and they would therefore have to follow city planning dept. procedures), Leahy asked that people give Metro a chance to prove they would do this one right.

Seemingly unconvinced, Dupont-Walker pressed him on the matter of small business displacement, asking whether there was a willingness to help protect and support small businesses in the area, too.

“There has not been a policy to include [disadvantaged businesses] and small business aid in our projects,” he said finally, trailing off into an awkward silence.

Concerns aside, the motion to grant Primestor an ENA was approved by the committee and will be sent to the full Board for approval next week Thursday at 9 a.m.

Mariachi Plaza serves as an important gathering space for the community. Here, students participate in discussions about displacement at the Activarte event this past September. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA
Mariachi Plaza serves as an important gathering space for the community. Here, students participate in discussions about displacement at the Activarte event this past September. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Affordable Housing Projects: Cesar Chavez/Soto, 1st/Soto, 1st/Lorena

The other projects up for approval were somewhat less controversial, both because affordable housing is in high demand in Boyle Heights and because the interested parties had brought supporters to stand up and call for more affordable housing at the meeting.

Comments on these projects were therefore more geared toward making sure local people would have access to the housing, that it would be truly affordable, that small businesses would be protected, that new businesses would be things the community needed (theaters, healthy markets, etc.), and that adequate parking would be provided (even at Metro station projects) so that surrounding residential streets didn’t get overly impacted by the increased density.

The development planned for Cesar Chavez/Soto. Source: Metro
The development planned for Cesar Chavez/Soto. Source: Metro

The development at Cesar Chavez and Soto (above), to be built as part of a JDA between Metro and Abode Communities, will have 77 family-oriented units (54 2-bedroom/1-bath units and 23 3-bedroom/2-bath units) and 8000 sq. ft. of commercial space divvied up between two four-story buildings that will be connected by a skybridge. Another Metro-owned parcel across the street (in light yellow, at right) is slated to be the home to a new grocery store. (See more specifics here and here).

Rendering of the final product at Cesar Chavez and Soto. Source: Metro
Rendering of the final product at Cesar Chavez and Soto. Source: Metro

The development at 1st and Soto (below) will include two buildings and be a joint project between the East L.A. Community Corporation (ELACC) and Bridge Housing Corporation. The developments will be joining a third affordable housing project on the block currently being built by ELACC (listed below as “not a Metro project”).

The two yellow sites south of 1st St. are slated for affordable and senior housing. Source: Metro
The two yellow sites south of 1st St. are slated for affordable and senior housing. Source: Metro

The building adjacent to the Metro station will feature 49 affordable units in a 4-6 story structure with 12,500 sq. ft. of commercial space. The building across the street from the plaza will house seniors in a two-story structure with 39 units and 3900 sq. ft. of commercial space (more about the projects can be found here and here).

Affordable housing at the Soto station. Source: Metro.
Affordable housing at the Soto station. Source: Metro.
Rendering of senior housing planned for 1st and Soto. Source: Metro
Rendering of senior housing planned for 1st and Soto. Source: Metro

Both motions to grant ENAs on these projects were approved easily, and will also be put before the full Board next week for approval.

The last of the housing motions — to grant the request for an extension of ACOF’s ENA at the 1st and Lorena site — generated much more discussion, including a heated exchange between the committee members and an agitated young woman.

The project has long been controversial for a number of reasons, one of many being the fear that ACOF had not planned to have the proper resources and safeguards on site to assist the “special needs” residents (the mentally ill, chronically homeless, etc.) they hoped to house there.

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org
The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org

But there were other reasons, too.

Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office opposed it once again, directing Planning Deputy Kevin Ocubillo to cite ACOF’s previous changes to the plans (reducing retail space from 6000 to 5000 sq. ft. and eliminating some parking while adding 10 housing units) as failing to adequately address the community’s housing or economic development needs.

Residents, still hoping for a park instead, cited the congestion on the weekends — the site sits next to El Mercadito — and argued adequate parking was key to minimizing the impact on the community.

CEO Dora Leong Gallo acknowledged they had struggled to get the ratios right, explaining that a change in the constraints on the site had forced them to adjust their plans. And that they hoped to be able to offer up to 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and 49 units, with some of those being specifically reserved for homeless veterans instead of a wider range of people with special needs.

They would hold another meeting to talk with the community if they got the extension, she promised.

They got it.

The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

So what’s next?

These motions must still be approved by the full Board, which will meet Thursday, November 13, at 9 a.m. (details here)

Also, during her presentation, the Primestor representative seemed to indicate that community meetings on the Mariachi Plaza design would be held sooner rather than later. No dates were given, but I’ll be sure to post that information here when it is made public.

  • David Bell

    So long Boyle Heights. The residents want a park? They want to preserve their culture? Good luck. The money has its eye on this neighborhood — and I’m not talking about hipsters on bicycles. I’m talking about real money. There’s no money in parks. No money in culture. You want my advice? Go to Mariachi Plaza as often as you can while it’s still here. Have an ice cream cone. Look at the murals. Listen to the music. By the time the developers and the City Council get through with this place, it will look like the Quad at the University of Western Kansas.

  • calwatch

    More affordable housing could be built if they just dropped parking. Condition residents to forbid them from storing automobiles near the property (on penalty of eviction), and create overnight parking restrictions within a quarter mile of the development, with existing residents able to obtain permits to park their own vehicles. Problem solved.

  • Jim Sarratori

    I live across the street from here and I’m torn. Most residents have been here for generations. I would hate to see the plaza lose its sense of identity. The two empty lots that will receive the affordable housing and offices are certainly good ideas for TOD, but tearing down the building that houses J&F, Santa Cecilia, and Libros Schmibros is totally unnecessary. Just another way to make more money. Filling in empty lots is enough.

  • Joe Linton

    Stepping away from my journalistic semi-objectivity: I think it’s really important for people to encourage the Metro board to not approve this next Thursday. I think it’s insane that the board would approve 6 stories of parking, even when Metro has stated it doesn’t want the 150 spaces the developer approved for Metro use. I’d like to personally encourage people to email the Metro board including Mayor Garcetti – http://www.lamayor.org/contact

  • Joe Linton

    Has anyone heard any plans for the SW corner of 1st and Boyle? Am curious what that parcel didn’t show up with all the others here.

  • sahra

    Yes, those plans have been set for about 80 units of 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms. There is a link to that info up top under the 2012 slide on Mariachi Plaza/Bailey.

  • GlobalLA

    Everyone wants their desires met. This is ridiculous and everyone will not get everything they want.

    Local interest must balance regional needs.

    This is TOD territory and I want to make sure the taxes I spend is used effectively to utilize the billions we are spending on light rail. Actually, there should be denser towers here and less parking. I’m sick of all the traffic on the freeways. Placing more housing near mass transit should be the priority while preserving the cultural heritage of these places. We can have both if people compromise.

  • GlobalLA

    Get over it. Your life will still go on and many future lives will have more access to mass transit and walkable communities by these projects. Yes, they are somewhat flawed, but that’s because more energy by the public is spent criticizing than constructive support for change.

  • sahra

    There is no housing slated for the Mariachi Plaza site described above. There is some slated for the southwest corner, but I only link to it here, as that has already been decided upon.

  • NG

    Let the Private Business that are there stay! Santa Cecila and Libros Schmibros deserve to stay on that property! Let them develop around them as well as on the opposing corner which is an empty lot.

  • GlobalLA

    That is even a bigger mistake. But of course anyone who doesn’t like this current plan probably won’t even notice or care.

    This is an opportunity to effectively utilize our mass transit stations. This should be considered prime real estate while we still have the infill space to build.

    Instead, Angelenos resistant to change is only going to suppress the potential the future holds for these places.

  • sahra

    I’d read the piece before lambasting people for “suppressing the potential” of the space. I’m just sayin’.

  • GlobalLA

    The “potential”‘is to utilize this area as a mass transit node between primary and secondary uses. Complaining about things like “adequate parking” is a totally different paradigm counterintuitive for what TODs stand for. NIMBYs will complain only for their interests without providing constructive alternatives – mainly because such people aren’t even concerned about the regional rammifications of their demands.

  • La Union de Vecinos

    The MTA should not make these decisions, it should be the people of Boyle Heights who lost their homes and the supermarket to this plan . http://wordpress.uniondevecinos.org/index.php/2014/11/06/declaration-for-use-of-public-land-in-boyle-heights/

  • sahra

    In theory, yes. TOD sites are built with a certain set of expectations in place. But one-size-fits-all development doesn’t work in all communities. Take a community like BH where bus transit is more frequently used than rail, putting housing — which is a desperate need — near a rail station that the potential inhabitants may not actually use also defeats the purpose. There are a lot of other considerations at that site at Lorena, too. El Mercado de Los Angeles is also right there, and people generally do not use rail transit to get to it, so the congestion in the area can be intense on the weekends, particularly for the residents trying to get around their own neighborhood (hence concerns about “adequate parking”). Planning seems to assume if you put something in place it will automatically change behavior. But if the rest of the infrastructure isn’t in place to make that happen, or no other plans are made to help people transition from A to B, I think it makes it less likely for TOD sites to actually accomplish their objectives. As I said, the community objections to the Lorena site in particular are numerous, not just congestion/parking, but it does seem to be that they don’t necessarily have confidence that a TOD site will actually encourage more transit use. And if that’s the case, and the city is bent on making TOD work, it would seem like a good moment to see what else they need to do to make for a successful project.

  • GlobalLA

    I admire your pragmatical assessment of TODs. I agree one size does not fit but as I said before, local demand must balance regional needs. Our regional need now is to provide multi-modal access to transportation and help mitigate future freeway congestion. When LA County tax voters agree to spend billions of dollars for regional mass transit, then yes – expectations are set. This has not much to do with theory than prudent planning to incentive future growth and housing towards mass transit. You and I have the freedom to take any transportation we want – but the responsibilities of planning must be with our elected/appointed officials who must ensure that they consider the interest of everybody, not just the NIMBYs.

    Future BH housing is not necessarily meant current residents, but to accommodate future housing. It’s called RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment). Google it. Every city must take the responsibility to allow the ability to build future housing. It’s state law. LA, if it is to build smarter while meeting RHNA requirements, must build more TODs. This is a force multiplier as it meets multiple needs at once – provides more housing, walkability, all while ensuring stronger effective use of mass transit. This shouldn’t be just a choice for local NIMBYs to make, it must be a serious consideration as well that will have major regional impacts for
    everybody.

    Just because you think not everybody will use rail doesn’t mean it will defeat its purpose. People behave generationally, meaning they act based on their environment and take on habits they are accustomed to while growing up. Today’s Los Angelenos are still dependent on cars. TODs will change the infrastructural lay-out, and with mixed-uses elsewhere, will slowly change the segregated land-use policies we have already implemented in our cities. Rail and TODs are about our future children, not only for you and me. This is needed because if NIMBYs suppress growth vertically, expect more lateral sprawl elsewhere with more people driving everywhere.

  • sahra

    Again, in theory, everything you’re saying makes sense. But applied to communities, they don’t always pan out in the ways intended. For one, the idea that there is some tremendous regional demand for TOD in BH is not exactly true. BH just happens to be an easier place to build and so its become a repository for housing projects for the city — it has more than its fair share. And labeling people who are concerned about such projects as NIMBYs isn’t fair, because that it assumes they don’t want progress, don’t want modernization, think rail and housing are great for other people, etc… none of which is really true. What you have in this community is a glut of affordable housing projects, most of which are paid for with federal dollars, ensuring that the applicant pool for the housing is not just local. That grates on people, as they need housing and services… they feel they are unable to assist their own community while others are benefiting from all of these ugly, generic projects are popping up in the name of developing the area. It is also an area where housing policies (redlining) infrastructure — the imposition of the freeways, the disruption of vital bus lines in favor of a rail line and “Eastside Access project” that many feel seems designed to aid everyone but the actual residents, and so forth. There is also great distrust for some of the housing non-profits — in the case of the Boyle Hotel, the renovation (while much needed) managed to result in apartments that cost $400 more a month than the mariachis had originally been told, making it impossible for many of them to return. When working in a community that’s been treated so poorly and that struggles so much economically, a lot more groundwork has to be done to help the community feel like they are a partner in the process and that such major changes will benefit them. And to put in the safeguards — such as assistance for existing small businesses and local entrepreneurs, local hiring, etc — to make sure that these projects do bring actual benefits. I don’t think any of that is so strange…and I don’t think any of that thwarts a longer-term transit-oriented strategy. It just helps ensure that the projects are actually beneficial for the residents that are there now, too.

  • GlobalLA

    This is not about theory. This is about making real changes and building for the future. Disagree with you and I will push for more rail and TODs in the future.

    Communities can be partners but they must educate themselves on REGIONAL NEEDS as well. Many people I have seen at planning commission and city council meetings who bitch about overdevelopment don’t have a clue about sustainability, VMT, LOS, and FARs. All they care about is what THEY WANT based on emotions/fears and not what’s balanced for the region.

    We live on this earth for a very short time. The sense of place is always fluid. Cities aren’t museums. We adapt as time moves forward.

  • sahra

    But it IS about the application of theory. There are a certain set of expectations around TOD that privilege a particular way of moving forward and that do not, as I mentioned above and in the article, necessarily take into account the conditions and aspirations within a community nor are they geared in such a way so that those existing residents also benefit from any development (instead of hastening gentrification, for example). It’s frustrating to keep hearing these sorts of arguments from advocates, as if working with communities — particularly those that have historically been shafted, for lack of a better term — is somehow incompatible with development. It’s just silly. There are many ways to move forward and different ways to reach the same goal — some just happen to be more inclusive than others. The one detailed above has been nowhere near inclusive. Housing, transit — it’s all about creating space and mobility for actual living, breathing people. Yet it is the people – particularly those on the margins who have the least power but whom are most likely to be affected by these changes – who seem to be an afterthought in the process. It makes very little sense to me.

  • Elbatmanuel

    As 1st street continues to develop and multi unit residences built you’ll start to see that the demand for parking will increase and in the long run this move makes sense.
    I’m a tax paying homeowner I support these MTA improvements, the only one I do not is ELACC’s proposal to demolish a historic Victorian (it’s older than mariachi hotel) in order to build housing that will only increase the density problems in BH (6 units to 49 units). I know they’re suppose to be “affordable housing” but I no longer trust ELACC when they say that. Remember mariachi hotel, people where promised $600 rents and then the rents were over $1000, and all they said was oops we used the wrong calculation.
    Demolish a historic victorian (BH’s has very few remaining) in order to put dense housing in is not OK in my book. BH honestly has very few historic buildings that can be restored (most have been modified/altered beyond repair, or flat out bull dozed). If we want to talk about preserving “culture” in our neighborhood we have to realize that culture is not the exclusive one group, or that only one culture worth preserving. The culture of this neighborhood is a collection of 130+ yrs of life. I’m kinda offended that you mentioned culture and referred only to the destruction of 2 mural but neglected to even mention that a building that leads back to the 1880’s is going to be demolished.

  • sahra

    You are very welcome to be offended, but if you’re referring to ELACC’s site at 1st where they are demolishing two homes, I didn’t include that one because that’s not part of the slate of projects that were up for approval by Metro’s Planning Committee last Tue and will be voted on by the full board next week.

  • Elbatmanuel

    so why mention it at all?

  • sahra

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand? It’s only on the map Metro provided and is listed as a non-Metro property. This story is about Metro-owned property projects that are up for approval for development right now. That one (again, if I’m thinking of the right one) is just awaiting funding, if I remember right.

  • GlobalLA

    Sahra, are you serious? Do you know how many TODs are in existence now around the world? It maybe theory to you but it’s practical applications are alive around the world! I’ve travelled to hundred of cities around the world and yes, not all of them are like Mariachi Plaza. But LA communities carry the same urban charactistics as anywhere else, in different shape and form. The fact is we are sprawled out and have reached the point where freeway congestion is hurting us with wasted hours in traffic. You can thank this to your advocacy of low-density infrastructure because you only want local communities to make their own self-interested decisions instead of looking at the regional picture. That’s why today, thanks to NIMBYs, LA housing is very unaffordable and millions of hours of lost productivity is wasted on our freeways and streets every year by millions of commuters! You and I can’see it directly because lost time is not tangible. But it’s evident by congested freeways, unaffordable rents/mortgages, and the destruction of our environment. Look at Newhall Ranch development Santa Clara, perfect invasion of more natural land because some people in Boyle Heights, along with others in other cities, says “NOT IN MY BACKYARD”! The effect is no regional planning and outright housing growth elsewhere, called MORE SPRAWL!!!

  • GlobalLA

    People with the least power are NOT treated as an after thought. It is about the effects of past decisions, both at the regional level AND the individual level. No one forced anyone to live anywhere. How one decides to live where and to make of their life is up to that individual. There are no shackles on anyone’s ankle. You need to stop imagining things and respect people of their power of free will.

  • sahra

    Yikes. You’re making assumptions about me and my argument that I find strange… When I get into conversations with advocates about these sorts of things, community input always seems to be pitted against progress: either we have community input or we have TOD–there is no in-between, no potential for TOD to be community-centric or community-enhancing, and no potential for unique communities to contribute to the development of an urban environment that reflects their unique character. Of course there are cases of pure NIMBYism out there, and they can pose tremendous obstacles to the greater good — there is no question. I would not consider Boyle Heights one of those cases. I must say it is really hard to have a dialogue when someone insists on arguing that community vs. TOD/progress/development must be the framework regardless, and assumes that because I ask about the potential for a different approach to the planning of density and development, that I therefore am responsible for the plundering of Santa Clara. So, I’ll just leave it there. But I appreciate your input.

  • sahra

    *Actually, redlining policies and racial covenants beg to differ… people were indeed forced to live in places or not allowed in others. And those policies have had an important role in shaping the levels of investment and development (or lack thereof) in lower-income communities of color like Boyle Heights today.

  • GlobalLA

    You’re not looking at the consequences from a regional level and yes, Santa Clara is a real life effect of supporters pushing for lower density. If you want to continue to bury your head under the sand as we sprawl and invade more of our environment (even out in Santa Clara), be my guest.

    A community’s “unique character” is in constant flux. It’s not just a sense of place, but its existence is formed by its shifting demographic and the time era involved. This is not just a black and white issue – keep in mind stakeholders aren’t just the next door residents – but elected leaders (voted by thousands of people) and tax payers as well. Stakeholders are also FUTURE residents who will have more or less opportunities based on today’s decision.

  • GlobalLA

    Calwatch, have you been to city council and planning commission meetings? Local residents will raise a storm if they feel threatened that on-street parking will get worse – because they feel they will be competing with visitors/tenants of the new project.

    This is the public perception if you tell them to drop off-street parking requirements. This doesn’t even include the complaints of more traffic that the new project will generate, even if it is near mass transit (look at the West LA Casden project and Bergamont Station – all downsized from original proposals, even if they are next to mass transit stations).

    I agree with you that parking requirements are making housing expensive. But please get your feet out there and see the real issues – that’s why Im not very fond of NIMBYs.

    As a side note, the 6-story parking at the Mariachi Plaza is reflective of the SEGREGATED LAND-USE policies ingrained in the surrounding areas. This tells us this is still a DRIVE TO place rather than a WALK TO place. This is very sad and we must create better designed TODs that include housing.

  • GlobalLA

    Agree with you on local assistance of helping small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    Do you know what economies of agglomeration is? Businesses benefit by locating near each other. Also, businesses thrive when foot traffic and density is higher.

    TODs will help in all of this much more than the low-density infrastructure there now.

  • hunkenstein

    idiots and their parking dreams.

  • GlobalLA

    Restrictive Covenants are one of many factors that shaped our communities. You’re also ignoring illegal immigration, poverty levels, and the quality of education from both legal and illegal immigrants. You’re only filtering what you want to see to paint your political social agenda.

  • Jose Huizar

    Bottom line: Metro has not gotten public input on the mariachi Plaza site. They tried to skirt around community input on the first and Lorena site and even then when we forced their hand on that one, they were less than honest on the actual proposal.

  • David Bell

    All this talk about transit-oriented development and infill and walkable projects always seems to leave out one thing: parks and green space. You want a constructive suggestion? If the future of the city is to cram as much development as possible into every available square inch, then someone needs to come up with a plan for green space as a necessary component of “walkability.” But don’t count on that, because our corporate overlords can’t make any money on green space.

  • sahra

    First you rail angrily without having read the piece, then you continue to assign arguments to me I did not make (I said nothing about low density), you blame the arguments I did not make for destroying our natural environment, and then you upvote your own comments to pat yourself on the back for having stuck it to me. I would find this sort of thing highly amusing if I weren’t aware of how loud the voices of those wearing blinders like yours can be when it comes to policy-making and thwarting inclusive dialogue on the future of our communities and our city.

  • GlobalLA

    Agree. Six stories of parking is ridiculous.

  • GlobalLA

    You want green space? How about we build taller. It’s called Floor Area Ratios. We have tons of green space in the LA region. Many of them aren’t just the typical parks and greenbelts, but made up of the front yards, backyards, and setbacks of thousands of single family homes and buildings. Just because they aren’t scalable for your eyes to spatially conceive doesn’t mean green space doesn’t or can’t exists in high density environments.

    They exists. Now is the time to build smarter and taller. Stop complaining about lack green space without considering the sprawl and housing shortage issues we have. We are mostly doing infill projects now – land to develop is becoming more scarce. It’s no wonder planners can’t seem to get it right – RATIONAL planning has been completely thrown out the window and ADVOCACY planning seems to be only method to plan our communities.

    When people say “there goes the neighborhood” or “where’s the open space” developers and planners face an uphill battle because they are surrounded by obstacles on both sides. On one side they build to what’s only allowed (zoning, policy, etc.) and on the other side they really can’t if it doesn’t pass the public muster.

    The result? Diluted compromised projects that doesn’t satisfy no one. That’s why this project has an open plaza but six stories of parking! Thank you NIMBYs!

  • GlobalLA

    Ha, it’s not arguments YOU made but what the article alludes to and prescribes. But of course it’s clear your own political agenda doesn’t let you understand what Im trying to say – and it’s not just about you.

  • Patrick O’Neill

    Our community deserves both our culture of Mariachi, and a clean peaceful environment for our children. Streets full of drug dealers and graffiti are not what we are about. My family has been at the core of Boyle heights since 1930’s. Our mexican heriatge is about family values. We deserve a better and brighter day for our next generations. Our taxes dollars are spent to revitalize others areas of the city, but we get very little to help us in boyle heights. Let’s be honest and fair with this discussion. We are under privileged in our community. We set many of our own barriers to allow positive change from happening. I ask why do we not have a local market or drug store? Why do we not have a local movie theater? A local gym? Why no Mariachi museum? No local bank? Why do we try to stop positive progress for our families and kids? I approve a project that will let us grow as a community, more important a family community. Primestor, latino owned developer, has a proving track record in creating this. South gate and Pacomia projects to name a few.

  • Patrick O’Neill

    Had the pleasure of meeting you before. I agree MTA process is flawed. However I believe even yourself would agree this community deserves more resources, more prideful community locations to enjoy and away to share the culture together. We should be working with MTA on building plans to what our community needs.

  • Jose Huizar

    Agree with you Patrick. We should be working WITH Mta to bring more resources and a great project to this site. However, mta is not working working WITH community when they vote and approve project then go to community and say “here, take a look look at this. This is what we will build”.

  • Patrick O’Neill

    We know MTA process is flawed and needs to change. However the more we push away good developers in our community, our community loses. These MTA properties sitting there with no progress hurts our community. Primestor has done amazing work in lower income areas. They seem to understand the latino culture and heritage. Our community and local politicians, like you, should work with them to encourage encomical growth, help build our community and strenghen our culture.

  • sahra

    Yes, how on earth could little ol’ me possibly comprehend comments about the article I wrote all by my very own self? It does indeed boggle the mind.

  • GlobalLA

    It would help to show you weren’t a “guest”. You expect people to know you on a first name basis only. John Smith writes an article and John responds. So this is the same John and not John Doe. And your sarcasm will only fuel more from me. Your rants move all over the place and seems to focus only on your political social agendas.

    It’s interesting, Im learning more about you from your responses than your own article. Mind boggling!

  • sahra

    Or one could read, as I suggested might be a good strategy earlier on, and be more respectful/less condescending of the person engaging them, regardless of who they are. I’m just sayin’… We’re all looking to move towards a better, healthier city and environment and the more thoughtful dialogue we can have toward that end, the better for us all.

  • GlobalLA

    Just to let you know, I’ve sat in many Planning Commission and City Council Meetings. I’ve heard it all, especially from people who may not know all the legal issues and regional rammifications.

    You’re right, thoughtful dialogue is important.

    I’ll concede and shut up from this long chain. Peace.

  • George

    If you were really from Boyle Heights then you would know that there was a supermarket right where Mariachi Plaza sits and a theater down 1st street. It’s where my mom bought food and where my sister took me to watch La Bamba when I was a little boy. I don’t disagree with you on having an open discussion but what counts as underprivileged in your eyes? If it’s another CVS, Walgreens, Starbucks, etc. then you can keep that. The pride I have for Boyle Heights are in the stories/memories I share in all these small business, not big business: going to Casa Prieto to buy my first baseball glove, buying tortillas at San Marcos, pizza at Papa T’s, Basketball at Hollenbeck gym, volunteering at Homeboy Industries, my first dress shoes from Zellmans – I knew all the owners and they all knew me and my family. Yea invest in us but let small business live and thrive. It’s what makes this part of town unique and beautiful, and it’s why you won’t find any other part of los angeles that has this much pride in where they’re from.

  • Sarah Van

    I think both of you have valid points on this matter. It’s important to engage the community into the dialogue but it’s also vital to select the most effective ideas for the solutions. Sometimes we have to get the professionals to do that job, and not everyone wants to be a part of the process willing to listen and understand the process.. In order to help build a strong and more prosperous community, the residents should not push away changes or good development projects. I’ve seen markets, shops, etc, but there is still no gym, no shopping malls with quality stores. I agree with maintaining the culture but also believe that change is inevitable for growth. We can have more coffee shop like La Mornaca with quality products and display. As a resident and property owner of this community, I hope we can find a win-win solution for the community. However, if one cannot help on oneself to resist change and growth, there is no help in the process.