Finally Given a Platform, Boyle Heights Speaks Out on Metro’s Mariachi Plaza and Affordable Housing Plans

Irwin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Accused of smirking her way through Metro’s heated community meeting on the fate of Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights by an agitated attendee, a clearly flustered Jenna Hornstock (Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning) had had enough.

“It’s hard to stand up and say, ‘We screwed up!'” she said of feeling like she had been on an apology tour since last November, when Metro bypassed the community engagement process and announced they were seeking to grant Exclusive Negotiated Agreements (ENA) to proposals for Mariachi Plaza and affordable housing projects at 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto.

Agreeing that the community had indeed been overlooked, Hornstock declared to the packed house at Puente Learning Center that she was not smirking. Rather, she was trying her best to absorb the pain and heartfelt concerns of residents who feared being displaced — both culturally and economically — from their community.

But as residents continued to hammer her about the fact that implementing federal housing guidelines — the calculation of rents using the Area Median Income of L.A. County ($81,500) and the use of federal funds to build the sites — would harm the community by both pricing out area residents and opening up the applicant pool to folks from outside the area, she couldn’t help but throw up her hands.

“I don’t know what we should be doing,” she said citing the very real economic dilemma affordable housing proponents and projects face. “If developers can’t fund projects, they won’t build them.”

That dilemma is precisely why people seemingly counterintuitively cry “gentrification” when told affordable transit-oriented housing projects are coming to their communities.

In the case of Boyle Heights, for example, the median income is $33,325 — far below L.A. County’s median. And because it is the median and not the average, the number of households earning less than $40,000 per year is nearly three times that of those above the threshold.

Screen grab from the L.A. Times' neighborhood guide indicating ~16,500 homes are below $40,00 per year. Source L.A. Times.
Screen grab from the L.A. Times’ neighborhood guide indicating ~16,500 households in Boyle Heights earn below $40,000 per year. Source L.A. Times.

The majority of Boyle Heights residents would easily meet the first set of qualifications by falling below the maximum income limits set (calculated using percentages of the county AMI) on affordable units.

The problem is, as well over 9,000 households earn below $20,000 a year, a great many of them will struggle to the meet minimum income limits and the resulting rents developers may set for the apartments (see a sample set of requirements from the East L.A. Community Corporation below).

So, while the units would indeed go to lower-income families that met the income and other qualifications, those local residents needing to be closer to transit and/or escape sub-standard housing conditions, over-crowded (or even illegal/unsafe) apartments, rising rents, or underhanded landlords would likely be shut out of the mix.

Moreover, entrepreneurs and small businesses in poor communities like Boyle Heights are generally lacking in technical capacity and/or capital. Meaning, they can neither meet the requirements set by developers nor afford the rent to be able to set up shop in the retail spaces set aside in newly-built sites. As developers find they can only fill those spots with chain stores or entrepreneurs from outside the area who may cater to a slightly better-off clientele, it helps fuel residents’ sense that such projects are built with everything but the community in mind.

Example of affordable housing metrics. Applicants must be at or below a certain percentage of the Area Median Income to apply. But they also generally must make a minimum income, as seen in the case of the new Sol y Luna apartments. Source: East L.A. Community Corporation
Example of affordable housing metrics. Applicants must be at or below a certain percentage of the Area Median Income to apply (top). But they also generally must make a minimum income, as seen in the case of the new Sol y Luna apartments located at 2917 E. 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Source: East L.A. Community Corporation

“That sucks you have no control over [federal guidelines],” complained one commenter, “and yet you’re going to implement [them] anyways.”

An embattled Hornstock declared that having to navigate these very real limitations to try to find a viable solution was no picnic and that, truth be told, it would be easier to “go home and snuggle with my kid.”

“When I took over [the position] five months ago, I was hearing people were upset that we had done nothing…they were tired of vacant lots,” she said, frustrated. Now, it seemed, people were angry because they were trying to do something that would benefit the community.

“We can close up shop, if that’s what you want…” she began.

“Wait for the right developer!” shouted a young man who, when commenting earlier, had declared that Metro’s development efforts were better understood as a political ploy and that he would “be damned if Boyle Heights [was] going to be developed for a profit.”

“…or we can scrap the process and open up bids for markets and theaters and see if we get them…” she suggested half-heartedly, herself sounding unconvinced that this would be a viable solution.

IMGP4702
Jenna Hornstock listens as a gentleman steps up to the mic for the third time to demand parking at TOD sites for the third time. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

It was clear that we were getting nowhere.

Metro seemed to accept that it would have to begin the process around Mariachi Plaza from scratch, that the proposed interim ENAs for the affordable housing projects might also be in jeopardy, and that whatever happened going forward would have to happen in a more transparent way.

And while it was also clear that there was very little consensus within the community about what residents believed should happen at those sites, two things did stand out to me.

One, Metro really needs to have a better handle on how to maximize the economic development opportunities that arise around transit infrastructure for the existing communities. Simply plunking down a retail/fitness center at a train station really only counts as investment in a site. It does not, by default, constitute an investment in the people of the area, particularly if one of the indirect consequences of such a development is the eventual displacement of those residents. Area residents and entrepreneurs need to be engaged from the outset of planning so they are ready and able to participate in and benefit from developments when they arrive.

Two, Metro and the city need to find ways to incorporate the value of culture and cultural reference points into their conversations, calculations, plans, and goals. Speaking with two of Genaro Ulloa’s classes at YouthBuild Boyle Heights about Mariachi Plaza yesterday, the most consistent refrain I heard was “culture.”

The students described Primestor’s renderings of the new and improved “Plaza del Mariachi” (below)  as sterile and not even remotely reflective of who they were as a people. Said student Francy Rosales, “they’re trying to paint a picture [of a community] that’s not there” — erasing one and exchanging it for another, more desirable, upwardly mobile, and decidedly blander one. (See more on the original proposed plans, here.)

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 it’s what residents were told was the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)

Concerned enough to take the bold step of speaking up at the meeting, students Irvin Plata and Stephanie Olwen (pictured at top), both talked about the importance of culture to Latino youth like themselves, a group whose aspirations are wildly underrepresented in the planning process.

For Plata, the plaza represented childhood, family, culture, music, memories, a safe place to gather with friends, a multi-generational space, and a symbol of the Latino community. Preserving it as such would help keep them connected to their history, their families, and those around them.

For Olwen, who lives adjacent to the plaza with her young daughter and has mariachis in her immediate family, it was even more personal. Development that didn’t take the mariachis into account, she feared, might result in them having to seek expensive permits just to be present at the place that bore their name or to get jobs. Then she wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning and hear trumpets and other sounds that gave her joy and helped remind her of who she was, she said. Or, worse still, rising rents might displace her from a place that felt like home.

“I feel happy being able to take my daughter [to the plaza] to see her culture,” she said. “How is she going to know about her culture [if they are gone]?”

Balancing community-centric development and culture with the very real economic and policy constraints on city agencies and developers will be no easy task. And it is made all the harder by the fact that the agencies don’t have much of a track record of trying to do so, least of all in Boyle Heights. But as the city pushes for more transit-oriented development here and in other lower-income communities of color (I’m looking at you, South L.A.), these hurdles will continue to arise if steps are not taken to engage communities more productively and as partners (read: “with intention” and “not just relying on the usual suspects”) from the outset.

The meeting concluded at 9 p.m. with no real answers about what would come next beyond an assertion by Hornstock that Metro was in the process of hiring an architectural design firm to hold design charrettes and a promise to be in touch. Even so, those straggling out did seem to feel that they had been heard and that the process would be much more transparent the next time around.

As of now, the only set dates for meetings are below. If you’d like to get on Metro’s mailing list to keep track of upcoming outreach efforts and meetings, please contact Vincent Gonzalez at gonzalezv@metro.net or 213.922.1208. Jenna Hornstock may be reached at hornstockj@metro.net or 213.922.7437.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
BHNC Board Meeting –
To consider recommendations from the BHNC Planning and Land Use Committee to approve the interim ENAs for the affordable housing projects at Cesar Chavez/Soto and 1st/Soto (see here for details on the interim ENAs). Mariachi Plaza plans may be discussed. Agenda is here.
Boyle Heights City Hall Community Room
2130 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033

Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 2 p.m.
Oral Progress Report to Planning and Programming Committee –
Staff will present oral progress report on community outreach.
Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 2 p.m.
Planning and Programming Committee – Any recommendations to move forward with phased ENAs for the 1st-Soto and Cesar Chavez-Soto joint development projects will be presented to the Committee. (Note that no action will be taken on Mariachi Plaza as Metro will not be proceeding with any developer at this time.)
Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Thursday, March 26, 2015, 9 a.m.
Metro Board of Directors –
To ask Board to consider entering into phased ENAs for 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto sites, if supported by the community
Metro Board Room, 3rd Floor, One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012

  • halobay

    “opening up the applicant pool to folks from outside the area”

    A truly mind boggling statement. At least SF nimbys have the decency to cloak their exclusionary attitudes behind environmental or traffic ‘concerns’. Sounds like Boyle Heights residents are saying straight up that they don’t want outsiders in ‘their’ neighborhood.

  • sahra

    I know how that sounds taken out of context, but back in it’s proper context, as it is above, what they’re saying is, “Nearly 3/4 of the households in our community would technically qualify for ‘affordable’ housing because they fall below certain AMI percentages. Yet many will be shut out because they are so low-income as to not make the minimum incomes required by the developers. Meaning, the neediest folks will be least able to benefit from the very projects advocates claim are being put in the community to help them.” There’s a big difference between the two. Unfortunately, the NIMBYism actually happens in other, better-off parts of town that have the clout to reject affordable housing projects outright in their community and funnel lower-income people to projects in communities like Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights has quite a bit in the way of affordable housing projects — far more than its fair share — and this has been a consistent problem…that existing residents struggle to access them.

  • sahra

    *its proper context. argh.

  • YWHYKNOT

    Why was someone arguing for more parking? This is supposed to be a transit oriented development. The fewer parking stalls the better. That was one of the major issues with the original plan they set forth in the first place. If anything the LA Metro Transit Oriented Development projects need to be more transit oriented not less. You also may find that not including as much parking will lower construction costs which could be passed to the buyers/renters and will force the issue of who will live there.

    In general most Transit Oriented Developments within LA county are more accurately Transit Adjacent Developments. This could present an opportunity to create a TOD that is much more inline with its namesake.

  • sahra

    People fear the increased density will bring cars that crowd already crowded neighborhood streets. The city and advocates often think that educating people about transit-oriented development is part of dispelling that notion. They’re not wrong, and that sort of thing (helping folks understand longer-term regional planning) is needed. But there is also the issue that many folks in Boyle Heights are bus- (not train) dependent, meaning just living next to a train station isn’t necessarily going to make you a train user. And the density in regard to services/businesses/etc. is not quite there yet to make these the kinds of self-sufficient neighborhoods where families can get everything they need within a hop on the train. And as I describe in the piece, many of the folks who would qualify for the housing might not be from the community while also being on the higher end of the lower-income spectrum, meaning they might have or feel the need for a car to get back to the areas they came from, either for work or to see family/friends. Or because they have kids and work multiple jobs around the city and just can’t do it all while relying wholly on the Gold Line. I do think we need better data to understand the intersection between TOD and lower-income communities in areas like Boyle Heights because it does seem that a lot of the developments are being predicated on assumptions about behavior/mobility that don’t necessarily hold in those communities, at least, not yet.

  • YWHYKNOT

    sahra,

    I understand and mostly agree with what your saying, but for me transit oriented development does not mean just trains. Having multiple well positioned bus access points are just as if not more important than just including some access to the train station. Also, if most of the people are transit dependent, then creating a system whereby that mode is most important is a good thing regardless of how it shakes out with people.

    I have also always been a fan of the carrot and the stick. Incentivize transit and do the opposite with automobiles. I really cannot get over how inconvenience anything auto-related (parking, congestion, etc.) in LA is perceived as this evil thing from all sides (hyper-conservative to uber-liberal), when it is precisely that auto-centric mindset and infrastructure that in my opinion destroys vibrant healthy communities more than builds them up (by most long term measures). Give free monthly bus passes to residents of the TOD and don’t add extra parking. Require additional resident permits to park on the street and price those at an effective level to decrease parking in the area. People will find other places to park and take a different mode of transit to the area.

    Anyway, we’ll see how it shakes out. I’m just happy that they realize their egregious error in forcing this thing through the way they did and are taking appropriate steps to come up with something better.

  • MDA

    Great article and responses. Not simple problems but it seems to me that given Boyle Hights residents and NGOs should be equal partners with metro when the hit reset on the planing process

  • sahra

    I agree, actually. A story I’m working on for Monday raises some of those questions as to why bus is not as well-incorporated into thinking on TOD — it seems like a missed opportunity. My only concern, (speaking generally, here, not arguing with you) as I mentioned earlier, is that we don’t really have as good data as we could on the mobility needs and habits of the poor (beyond whether they own cars or not)…it’s harder to capture. But it could be critical in understanding how to both construct TOD and structure incentives/etc. to make it more accessible for people. Some of the older stakeholders/homeowners in Boyle Heights are very attached to their cars, just like any other neighborhood in the city. They would require a wholly different set of incentives to entice them to give up their cars than a single mom with three young kids who works two jobs in different parts of town. What they need is much better service — particularly buses that run more frequently — and better infrastructure/more dedicated bus lanes to make sure they can get where they need to be within a reasonable amount of time.

  • jk2001

    It’s good to finally read an article that gets into the issue of the gaps with affordable housing.

    We need to start building public housing again. We also need to figure out ways to allow more housing to be built.

  • Bike Hair

    Consider also that reducing parking could lower overall construction costs at substantial margins to be able to pass on as lower housing prices. The primary reason to do so aside of the wasted space.

  • sahra

    I’m not the one that needs to be convinced. Perhaps when these design charrettes begin, Metro and the developers can try having an honest conversation about larger objectives, needs, and costs/tradeoffs. This meeting was one of the more “real” conversations I’ve seen in a while with the community… that level of transparency helps people feel like agencies are not trying to sneak things past them (like taking away what some consider to be important amenities for no reason).

  • Bike Hair

    Though its still a good point.

  • andrelot

    Part of the arguments conveyed here (not by the author, but on behalf of third parties) are incredibly racist and prejudicial.

    The idea that a place must be designed so that people of the “wrong” race don’t feel comfortable on it, or aren’t attracted to it, is hideous.

    The idea that certain areas of LA should be enclaves of Hispanic/Latino-only culture, where everything else is kept more or less at bay, is no less despicable than people who reject affordable housing in Santa Monica because it will “change the character of the community” and “attract those people”.

    As for the economic rationale, the commissioner is right: developers won’t build if they can’t have some level of profit. And, then, people on households earning as little as $ 13,000/yr are are extremely vulnerable already, to the point we see stupid things like rejecting trains because they are “fancy” and attract “well-paid whites” to an area they think it is theirs only.

    Finally, I contend that low-income people don’t use trains. Few enthusiasts ride a form of public transportation just for its sake if the route isn’t convenient. The expansion of rail in Los Angeles greatly facilitate mobility throughout the city. But, then, there are myopic idiots like the BRU (Bus Riders Union) who will oppose great transit project and even fight over any optimization of the network that involves streamlining the system, and using more rail (technologically superior) instead of buses (inferior).

  • sahra

    Because I really have no interest in getting into a very long, drawn-out, and ultimately fruitless argument about race (that’s for the LA Times’ comment section and I’ve done all I care to do in the comments sections of previous articles I’ve posted on gentrification), I am posting a link to a story I did that offers some of the history of Boyle Heights and how it was intentionally isolated as an ethnic enclave by whites early on in the last century. It should help give some context to the community’s concerns. They are not attempting to stake out enclaves as much as they are trying to ensure they are not erased and avoid seeing their community become indistinguishable from any other. What makes LA such an exciting place is its diversity and the different feel of each of the neighborhoods. Celebrating those differences in culture and heritage — particularly of marginalized communities — is a far cry from being racist or prejudicial. It’s not a zero-sum situation — “either you get this generic development or you are a racist.” They’re asking that development speak to who they are, that they be included in the process, and that they benefit from it. http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/06/06/gentri-flyer-opens-one-hell-of-a-conversation-now-what/

  • Phantom Commuter

    Older residents ? That’s ageist …

  • Chewie

    “Simply plunking down a retail/fitness center at a train station really only counts as investment in a site. It does not, by default, constitute an investment in the people of the area, particularly if one of the indirect consequences of such a development is the eventual displacement of those residents.”

    —–

    I don’t see how displacement of neighborhood residents is a direct or indirect consequence of building this project. True, some of the existing buildings in the plaza would be demolished and those businesses likely would be displaced even in the long run. However, couldn’t people in Boyle Heights benefit from a gym or medical offices or new retail in their neighborhood? Some of the rhetoric about this project seems way overblown to me, as if we were talking about a toxic waste dump.

    Granted, the rendering doesn’t look that great (although that is just a subjective judgment) and the new buildings are out of scale to what is there now (although isn’t density near rail a good thing?), but I think the opposition to this project is less about the project itself and more about the larger anxiety over gentrification.

    Metro would be wise to heed the community’s concerns about affordable housing, and the community would be wise to articulate a SPECIFIC vision for what it wants at the Plaza. At the end of the day, constructive dialogue requires a willingness not to demonize the other side and the ability to take abstract concerns and translate them into a concrete vision for a particular place. Both sides have a lot of work to do before that happens.

  • sahra

    The retail property owners are already beginning to raise rents along that stretch of the corridor, a trend that would likely be accelerated by such a massive and shiny development (especially one that erased some of the more identifying symbols of the mariachis). Similarly, owners are already beginning to sell to realtors/developers who are looking to renovate or tear down and rebuild apartments for a better-off clientele. It’s something that will happen regardless — i think some of that is probably unavoidable. Beyond the concerns the community has about preservation of the culture and identity of the area, there is a genuine interest in mitigating the form the changes take, making the dollars bounce in the community, and seeing new developments contribute to the overall health and growth of the people area. But you’re very right — there does finally need to be some consensus about what the members of the community do want. That’s been harder to pinpoint because that’s not how these processes have gone so far — either they get vague top-down visioning meetings that go nowhere or are presented with super-specific plans that are begging to be shot down. There’s got to be something in between…and I’m curious to see what that could look like.

  • calwatch

    What if the community disagrees with each other? Somewhere completely different, you have Mayor (and Metro Board member!) James Butts of Inglewood highlighting at the top of his newsletter a TMZ article stating that home prices in Inglewood could go through the roof. http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=55412af8-6d71-4861-b5c0-63515c610b32&c=a672d520-4b83-11e4-ab0e-d4ae529a8575&ch=a677b720-4b83-11e4-ab0e-d4ae529a8575 For property owners and homeowners, many of whom purchased in the late 2000’s bubble and only now have seen their home prices near the levels they purchased at, gentrification is a boon to them since now they can refinance at market rates. It’s impossible to have consensus when you have varying interests of property owners, business owners, renters, and homeowners all working at cross purposes to each other.

  • calwatch

    The problem is, what average person has time for a charette when they are trying to get their kids to finish their homework, go to work (noting that many low income people work non day time shifts), take care of nana, etc.? You have 27% of the units which are owner occupied – while lower than most LA suburbs it’s still reasonably high. These people may cheer gentrification – or they may oppose development because that reduces supply and keeps their property value high. Short of taking an actual vote of all residents (and not just citizens), it’s hard to determine what the “community” wants.

  • sahra

    Ha… they absolutely disagree with each other! That was clear the other night — “community” is a term that is thrown around very loosely. And that is a big problem. Teresa Marquez (an older homeowner) got up and pulled a Bill Cosby, telling Metro to raise the rents and kids to pull up their pants and get three jobs. And a young guy on the other extreme asked that Mariachi Plaza be donated to the community. Somewhere in between, there are threads that can be drawn. And I think, at least with the plaza, because of its significance culturally, that may be one of the few instances where some sort of partial community consensus is possible. As I said above, part of what needs to happen is that the city needs to revamp its engagement process. and they need to be better about engaging existing business owners…they’ve not had a great relationship with the current businesses along the corridor. Vague visioning processes and relying on the same handful of people who Metro believes speak for the community are going to result in more stasis. All in all, I’m hopeful that this is a catalyst for change in the way that the city thinks about engagement, especially as more projects in communities like Boyle Heights come up for discussion.

  • Ennnne

    Sahra Sulaiman: well I think you were a bit hard on the MTA rep — I very much doubt she was to blame for the multiple bleepups so far — and I’m sure it would be hard *not* to smirk when getting lectured — but overall, this is a very interesting piece and you are unusually well-informed and analytical. So, well done!!! I have found a new writer to read.

    I would like to be wrong, but I have a growing suspicion that MTA’s overall strategy was never about helping regular people (and in LA, that means the poor. That is who uses the bus system.). Had it been, they would have just worked on improving the bus system. I can’t quite decide if light rail is just a real estate scheme, or a stimulus project (which in itself is not so bad, and it beats building a prison or starting a new war). Meanwhile, TOD is looking more and more like its own scam. It is just a theory. And in Hollywood, where I live, there are fewer people living near the stations, they are richer, and they have if anything more cars. So. You are right that this whole situation needs more inquiry. But to me, I wonder very much if replacing the residents with newer, richer people wasn’t the entire point. Then again, I’m also not sure if the MTA board is that smart or has the attention span to come up with a scheme like that. So, it’s a caper.

  • sidewalk

    Would it be valuable to map out the existing process metro has used and publicly collaborate to develop ideas on how to best serve the neighborhood the next time around? At this point, if Metro starts over, or pulls back, we can deduce the flaws of the current process, find new approaches based on the particulars of a neighborhood and synthesize a better process. These public meetings could involve developing tools for engagement and prototyping various designs. This process could show what works and what doesn’t in public view. Streetsblog could hold a discussion on the public process.

  • sahra

    Jenna Hornstock is new to her position (5 months), so she’s definitely not to blame for the fiasco that has been the Mariachi Plaza project. A number of us at the meeting felt quite sorry for her — she was quite clearly near tears at several points — and we remarked to each other that Metro had essentially thrown her under the bus. It was unfortunate, but it also pushed her to be honest with the community members present, and that was actually refreshing. To hear her talk about the very real constraints was unusual — visioning workshops around projects are generally very vague and amount to the compiling of wish lists that can never be fulfilled. Policy folks probably assume people understand the constraints, but I don’t know that they always do. More real talk is what is needed if the community is to come to consensus about what it can get within the constraints that apply. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to come to consensus, but at least it will steer the conversation towards more concrete things.

    And funny you mention the bus system. I just published a story on how the bus system is totally overlooked: http://la.streetsblog.org/2015/01/27/move-l-a-s-south-l-a-forum-asks-if-transit-can-deliver-shared-prosperity/

  • sahra

    I think yes, looking at what’s been done and where it’s gone awry/been successful is important. But there is also the matter of developers, as these are Joint-Development efforts. Board Member Jackie Dupont-Walker recently stressed to me that the current process incentivizes developers to do what they decide is appropriate and most lucrative (she herself comes from the world of developers). She’d like to see that change on Metro’s end and said she’d do her best to make that happen. Figuring out how to get developers to adjust their understanding of the bottom line will likely be the trickiest part. Many don’t want to go into poorer neighborhoods as it is, so further tying their hands to a community-driven process may scare some away. Which sounds hypocritical, as I’m advocating for a more transparent process in these comments threads… but it is one of those constraints that presents a major hurdle. But yes, I agree, some sort of examination of the process does definitely seem to be in order!

  • sahra

    True — totally agree. I’m working on something where I argue they need to tap into community processes that are already underway in classrooms, community centers, etc. Otherwise it is always the usual suspects and the same non-productive stuff that passes for community “dialogue,” and a list of demands that seems schizophrenic.

  • calwatch

    The progress report on affordable housing is here at http://media.metro.net/board/Items/2015/02_february/20150219emcitem40.pdf

  • Juan Sepulveda

    If you self-proclaimed journalists had bothered to investigative below the surface level on this story, you would have had quite a different story to report. You failed to inform the people of this city to the hidden, sinister truth: what happened here, regarding Mariachi Plaza is *NOTHING SHORT OF A FULL-BLOWN SCANDAL* replete with multiple instances of violation of ethics, conflicts of interest, and the wholesale manipulation of the MTA’s perception of what the community here around the plaza feels about the now defunct plan to develop. Yes, a special interest group, ELACC, orchestrated such unethical, illegal behaviors so as to have successfully killed the winning bid’s development of the plaza. Poor sportsmanship, lack of ethics, repeated use of criminal acts characterizes WHAT REALLY HAPPENED HERE, by the intolerant, arrogant ELACC.

    Do you, reader, wish to know the truth, or are you content with this negligent, ignorant, lazy fluff piece? Here’s the truth you missed, Streets Blog LA:

    —————————DEFINITION OF TERMS———————————–
    East Los Angeles Community Corporation = ELACC

    ELACC does NOT equal the East Los Angeles Community College

    Metropolitan Transit Authority = MTA, or ‘the Metro’.
    ——————————————————————————————

    ELACC, one of the bidders who submitted a proposal for consideration to the MTA regarding the development of the plaza, is a poor loser who engages in unethical, criminal acts in order to sabotage the winning bid’s realization. Within hours of notice of the MTAs selection of a proposal not their own, ELACC had agents provocateur deployed in and around the Mariachi Plaza, armed with misinformation and copious printouts of the winning proposal. I personally witnessed Matt Groening inciting panic in the night workers of the Restaurant Santa Cecilia by misinforming them, telling them that they will soon be fired, no pension, and screw their future. Matt told them to sue the restaurant owner, and the property owner. Verify this yourselves: Gaby and Juan were the victims of Matt’s disinformation and fear mongering. Matt works for the architectural firm which composed ELACCs proposal. Talk about unethical behavior, bordering on the criminal! Matt is the white dude at the end of the line, at the leftmost edge of the photo, in the blue shirt, with the beard, in the photo three photos from the bottom of this story. Or see him here: http://la.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/01/IMGP4697.jpg.

    ELACC then sabotaged the winning bid by defrauding the MTA in skewing the perception of what the community feels by overwhelming with negative, loud protesters, some of which do not live in this community, and had no right therefore to speak for our community.

    Several of ELACCs employees participated in vocalizing opposition, repetitiously: Rosalinda Meza, Aldo Medina, and a few others I could not cross-reference to faces at http://www.elacc.org/management_team. One can readily see in ELACC their poor sportsmanship, at best; yet in tandem with the subsequent manipulation of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Councils vote of opposition one can readily see the criminal nature of the unethical behavior.

    What you should have reported to the readership of Los Angeles: that the city Attorney’s office needs to be notified of the gross misapplication of the power entrusted to the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council. Here’s my headcount of those who should have abstained from the vote, given their obvious conflict of interest. Carlos Montes, personally and repeatedly witnessed in the company of maria Cabildo and other ELACC members. Unethical behavior, which serves a sinister special interest group called ELACC, which utilizes guerrilla warfare subterfuge and inappropriate tactics to hijack like a bunch of terrorists, the natural, rightful process of development.

    Then there’s Ernesto Espinoza… The following information is currently being disseminated on ELACC’s website at http://www.elacc.org/management_team : click on the photo of “Ernesto Espinoza” in order to read the following proof of unethical behavior at the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s vote to patently oppose the accepted development which was planned for Mariachi Plaza.
    ————————————————————————————
    Ernesto Espinoza has spent his career advocating and working for social and economic justice for low-income communities throughout the Southwest, working for the United Farm Workers Union and the Chavez Foundation developing 1,000 units of affordable housing. In 2007, he dedicated his efforts to advance access to affordable housing in East Los Angeles, the community where he was born and raised. During his time at East LA Community Corporation (ELACC), he transitioned from Senior Project Manager to Director of Real Estate Development and the Real Estate Department has developed to date 287 units of affordable housing for the communities of Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Ernesto is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Architecture. He also holds a Certificate in Construction Management from the University of California Los Angeles and a Certificate in Real Estate Development from the University of Southern California. Ernesto is on the board of directors of the Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing and is serving as an elected officer on the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council…
    ————————————————————————————–

    Straight from the horses’ mouth… Ernesto lead the BHNC and cast his vote at the meeting where the vote was taken by the full council. Ernesto did not engage in these unethical behaviors alone — his co-conspirator Carlos Montes, for instance — the ringleader of this BHNC gang and yet another elected official maintains close ties to ELACC. Utter disregard for the admonishment levied at the council from members of the audience *PRIOR* to the actual vote, Ernesto Espinoza expressed flagrant disregard for his personal conflict of interest, in executing the ELACC directive of sabotage, and subterfuge in order to unfairly derail and destroy the accepted proposal for development at Mariachi Plaza.

  • Juan Sepulveda

    If that was not scandal enough, here’s the update to the present time:

    MTA shocked everyone a month ago by revealing the plans for the affordable housing development which will be erected across the street from the ELACC-owned, former Hotel. NOBODY in our community here at the Mariachi Plaza had been informed of this, and *NO OPEN MICROPHONE FOR THE COMMUNITY TO EXPRESS ITS THOUGHTS* regarding this development, *UNLIKE THE FRAUD-FILLED GATHERINGS REGARDING THE MARIACHI PLAZA DEVELOPMENT THESE LAST MONTHS. NO SPACE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT.

    Do you think that the ELACC puppets that are the members of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council objected to this? Guess again, fools. In an artful display of a well-synchronized act of pure artifice, the BHNC made waves publicly by expressing their possible stopping the development until the community had a chance to express their thoughts by filing some legal paperwork with a department of the city of Los Angeles to halt the construction.

    Clever feign, a total ruse. What did happen at that BHNC meeting – the issue was at the end of the agenda, and someone in the audience motioned to have it pre-emptively attended. Motion denied by the special interests cabal of the BHNC, you see, and three hours later, when *FINALLY* the issue was addressed — guess what? YEP, they no longer had quorum, and could not vote on the issue.

    Yes, the BHNC feigned opposition just cleverly enough to have been believable, yet sucker-punched all in attendance with their well-rehearsed inability to do anything at all about it, given they no longer had quorum.

    What a slap in the face, LA. ELACC is calling *YOU* a sucka, puto!
    ELACC must somehow be involved in the project. A decent journalist would follow this thread. Where’s Fletch when you need him, eh?

  • Juan Sepulveda

    I concur, and Jenna won my esteem. Jenna was brought to near tears by the flood of ELACC goons, some of whom do not live in our community and therefore should not have spoken. ALL OF THE MEETINGS, including the one at the Puente Learning center, about which I believe that you were writing, were overwhelmed by ELACC goons, whose excessively negative opposition, aggressive negativity, brought Jenna to tears. This is a red flag that something was askew regarding the Mariachi development. Where were the nay-sayers at any of the other meetings regarding other developments like the Soto station? NON-EXISTENT. But then, do your homework, and you will see that ELACC had no bid on those sites, and therefore no interest in underhandedly destroying the winning bids development.

    Someone needs to contact the MTA with the facts I posted above, and the MTA needs to understand that all of that melodramatic horseshit of testimony from the community was nothing more than a bunch of ELACC goons hell-bent on killing the wining bid for development’s realisation. The MTA has been grossly mislead, and needs to re-evaluate what happened consequentially to their naive belief that the testimony was authentic. I can prove that it was a sabotage-operation with ELACC calling the shots and organizing the supposed community members and manipulating the BHNC vote of opposition.

    ELACC = the greatest threat to my community and its future here at Mariachi Plaza. Wake up, and fight this tyranny and injustice!

    Firme.