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Posts from the "East Los Angeles" Category

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Food Vendors Rally for New Law That Would Provide Path to Legal Vending

There’s always been a certain irony that Los Angeles is the only one of America’s ten largest cities to have a blanket ban on street vending. Los Angeles is famous for its street vending culture, especially for the high quality food options available on many street corners, but every time a vendor takes to the streets, he or she is breaking city law. This has led to thousands of struggling low-income entrepreneurs being penalized with hefty fines, confiscated equipment, and even incarceration.

Image: Rudy Espinoza/LURN

Yesterday, city officials took the first step to change that reality.

Flanked by dozens of supporters, members of the Los Angeles Street Vendor’s Campaign, and street vendors themselves, Council Members Curren Price and Jose Huizar rallied behind a motion that would set the city on a path to legal street vending at a rally at City Hall.

“Adopting a safe, legal and regulated street vending policy that works in concert with and compliments  established businesses can add to the economic vitality of our city,” said Council Member Huizar. “Beyond  providing much-needed regulation and a pathway for people to vend legally, this plan should also aim to increase access to good, healthy food.”

Price represents the 9th City Council District, which covers large portions of South Los Angeles. Huizar represents Downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and other communities east of the Los Angeles River.

Public health advocates have long argued that the city’s ban on street vending is a roadblock to improved public health. Occidental College Professor Mark Vallianatos has written extensively on this subject, including many times at Streetsblog.

“Decades ago the city pushed pedestrians out of the streets to make way for cars and banned vendors as obstructions on the sidewalks. Removing commerce – and especially food – from the sidewalks made them dead places, so it ironically reduced rather than promoted walking,” Vallianatos writes, noting that banning street vending is also about mobility planning that makes walking less attractive. Read more…

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Roads We Walk: Jovenes Inc and Art Center College of Design

Images provided by Eric Hubbard of Jovenes Inc., taken by Art Center students.

“The road I walk every day,

it’s no game, I’m trying to make my way.

People see what they want to see. That’s not me.

Take a look, take a look…Take a look, I might surprise you.”

The catchy beat and chorus spilled out of headphones hanging down from the ceiling at the Art Center Wind Tunnel Gallery, like an anthem to the sprawling city landscape. Bodies swaying, heads-bobbing as audience and artists alike moved through the small and carefully curated space.

Now on its second year, the collaboration between Jovenes Inc and Art Center School of Design produced a captivating collection of “ARTifacts.” The collection includes an original song, interactive installations, videos, photographs, print work, and live performances that pieced together the stories of a group of Angelenos from very different walks of life.

The collaboration is a negotiated collaboration between young men faced with the every day challenges of homelessness and graduate students students in one of the country’s most renowned design schools. The unusual experiment sprung out of a professor /student mentorship. Eric Hubbard, Development Director at Jovenes Inc. was a student of Professor Elizabeth Chin during his time at Occidental College. Chin, a trained anthropologist, is now a professor at Art Center in their Media Design Practices track, which focuses on “designing media systems to facilitate the agency of citizens…social justice, and generating knowledge…”

The Monday evening art opening gathered urban young men in baggy clothes, rubbing their hands, and smiling nervously in a space visibly unfamiliar. In contrast the art students paced back and forth guiding their collaborators and audience members through a maze of interactive visual, sensory, and audio pieces.

“This project means a lot to me,” said Lorenzo, or Mr. LA, one of the youth collaborators from Jovenes. “I hadn’t done this before, but now I feel like a superstar…” Read more…

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Inside Out 11M Rolls into Boyle Heights

The Inside 11M project visits Eastside Luv in Boyle Heights. Photo: via L.A. Taco

Susy Chávez Herrera grew up in City Terrace, Los Angeles, CA and Colima, Mexico. After years away from home she’s recently returned to LA. A trained anthropologist whose favorite subject are urban settings, she enjoys gardening, and loves nothing more than to lose herself in the sunny streets of Oaxaca, Mexico on a quite Sunday morning. 

We headed out early enough on Saturday morning August 10, 2013 that the Inside Out 11M rolling photo booth crew was still setting up when we arrived at Mariachi Plaza.

Like most weekends, the western side of the plaza was already buzzing with morning activity. We watched a recovering Mariachi, trumpet in tow, make his way across the plaza as we stood next to the photo truck on the eastern side of the plaza. Three generations of my family decided to participate mostly on the grounds that this was a nationwide group action project highlighting immigration as it sought to “create a portrait of America that includes immigrants and the descendants of immigrants.” 

The addition of the Metro Gold line into East L.A. has turned Mariachi Plaza into the kind of downtown destination it has always been for those of us from the area. Eastsiders have met the Metro addition with a mix of hope and unease. The addition of green bike lanes, the opening of Libros Schmibros sandwiched between a liquor store and an AA meeting site, and the christening of Mariachi Plaza as a destination for CicLAvia have all pointed towards the unknown for a neighborhood largely ignored.

As noted in recent articles focused on the changing face of Boyle Heights, the changes have not all been external. The exit of Homeboy Industries for a nearby downtown location, the relocation of Self-Help Graphic’s to a factory building just before the First St. Downtown bridge, a stone throws away from the “Artist District,” and a growing population of those of us from the area who have returned “home” armed with the college educations that were supposed to take us out of the neighborhood, have begun to change the once largely poor and working class area.

Nowhere was this tension of in-betweeness more evident than that morning. Read more…

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Las Fotos Project Looking for Your Help to Build Community Gardens Map

In an effort to create an online and physical map of community gardens throughout Boyle Heights, the Las Fotos project is asking for your help. The map will include original work by the young women who participate in the program. You can submit leads on any public or private gardens or fruit trees by clicking here. If your lead is confirmed, you could win a $100 gift card.

Click on the image to see a larger version of the flyer. To see the poster in Spanish, click here.

Las Fotos Project has since worked with Latina youth throughout Southern California, and has developed partnership with national and international nonprofit organizations and schools to expand the movement of empowering Latina youth through photography and self-expression. It was founded in 2010 by Los Angeles-based photographer Eric V. Ibarra after seeing a need for teenage girls throughout Los Angeles to have a skill that could help build their confidence and self-esteem.

“Las Fotos Project’s student photographers are creating a resource map with all the gardens and public fruit trees for the community of Boyle Heights,” writes Natalie Franco, a professional advisor and advisor for this project. “We need your help! Please submit your leads to any gardens or public fruit trees here: www.lasfotosproject.org/boyleheightsgardens

Over the course of ten weeks, 14 students will use Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to document the location and size of all gardens throughout the community. The map will distinguish between gardens and green spaces on public property, shared community gardens, and school gardens, and will distinguish them by size: small medium, or large. Read more…

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Eastside Access Project Breaks Ground with Bailey Street/Mariachi Plaza Improvements on First Street

Bailey WEB

In November of 2009, I took a bike ride with Carlos Morales and other members of the Eastside Bike Club, not to be confused with the Eastside Riders, and Browne Molyneux of the Bus Bench to explore the bicycle and pedestrian access to the Gold Line’s about-to-be-opened Eastside Extension.

During the ride, we ran into City Council Member Jose Huizar who was not yet a member of the Metro Board of Directors. Huizar listened to the concerns of some of the riders, and engaged with us about what kind of fixes we would like to see.

Today, the first round of those are much closer to reality. Earlier today, Huizar  the Department of Public Works and Metro joined with community members Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony in Boyle Heights for the first part of the Eastside Access project. This project would turn Bailey Street into an extension of the Mariachi Plaza station, creating a pedestrian connection from the plaza to Pennsylvania Avenue and Bailey Street.

“Since the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension route opened in 2009, our goal all along was to enhance and transform the areas around the light-rail stations to improve pedestrian and bicycle access and traffic, as well as support business, community and art-related projects,” said Councilmember José Huizar. “The Garden Street on Bailey Project is an important part of a multi-million dollar, multi-agency commitment to do just that.”

The Eastside Access project is a $12 million pedestrian improvement project in and around four stations of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension along First Street. A graphic showing all of the remaining projects can be found at the bottom of this story.

 On Bailey Street, the city will construct a series of small improvements along the one block between Mariachi Plaza and Bailey Street. These improvements include: Read more…

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Op/Ed: Saving Wyvernwood is the Environmental Choice

(One of the ongoing stories in our Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles coverage has been the debate over whether or not to proceed with the redevelopment of Wyvernwood Garden Apartments. Jesús Hermosillo has a master’s degree in urban planning and contributes regularly to Boyle Heights Beat. Streetsblog has not taken a position on the project and welcomes an op/ed by the Fifteen Group or any proponents of the project. – DN)

To save or not to save Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, and build something else in its place, is the question more and more people are grappling with as city officials prepare to decide on the proposed Boyle Heights Mixed Use Community Project.   Anti-redevelopment arguments center on preserving a cultural landmark, and averting another mass displacement reminiscent of Chavez Ravine. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, there is no doubt a new Wyvernwood will change Boyle Heights forever. The consequences of the $2.2 billion real-estate venture—one of the largest ever proposed in the United States—could spell an ecological catastrophe for Boyle Heights.

Google earth image via Los Angeles Times

Despite its billing as an exemplar of New Urbanism—an urban-design movement promoting compact, mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods as a green alternative to automobile-reliant development—one of the proposal’s central features is undoing the historic garden community’s pedestrian-oriented design to make way for vastly expanded car facilities.

Fifteen Group, the Miami-based company that owns Wyvernwood, proposes to replace the seventy acre “Garden City” campus containing hundreds of orange-colored buildings, 1,187 homes and over 6,000 residents, with something similar to an Eastside version of Playa Vista,. The proposed development contains  4,400 condominiums and rentals; 325,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and offices, recreational facilities for residents including swimming pools and spas; and parking for 9,048 cars.

Although total parking spaces proposed is over five times more than 1,799 spaces currently on site, the number ultimately built could be higher if Fifteen Group fails to obtain an exemption from city minimum parking rules requiring 10,903 to 11,003 spaces for a project this dense.  Fifteen group justifies the project as creating “a healthier place to live and work.” At the same time, the developer wants to continue subsidizing automobile ownership after describing Wyvernwood’s current provision of 1.5 parking spaces per home as “inadequate,” corresponding to “a time when there were fewer automobiles” than today. Read more…

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Change.Org Petition Asks for Bike Lanes on North Figueroa

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s East L.A. Bike Ambassador Program is proving to be one of its most active local programs. While the group is meeting again tonight to discuss strategy for working with the city to improve bicycle access and safety in East and Northeast Los Angeles.

Photo: LACBC via Change.Org

It’s been a cause celeb for many bike advocates to expand the My Figueroa! (aka South Figueroa Corridor Project) to Figueroa Street in Northeast Los Angeles. Now that desire has taken the form of an online petition at Change.Org asking LADOT and City Planning for Bike Lanes on North Figueroa Street between Colorado and San Fernando Boulevards.

As of publication, the petition has over 200 signatures, an impressive number but well short of the 500 signatures goal. You can sign the petition by clicking here.

In the petition the LACBC brings up more than just bike friendliness as a reason to invest in bike infrastructure. They focus on how a strong bike network creates a safer environment for all road users, fosters a stronger sense of community and increases the incentive for people to shop locally.

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Developers and Proponents of New Wyvernwood Face Off at Special Forum Held by Council Member Huizar

Yellow in favor of the new development, white opposed. Photo: Erick Huerta

City Council Member Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, East L.A. and parts of the Downtown, held a community meeting with the current residents of Wyvernwood Apartments to hear their concerns regarding the proposed redevelopment project to replace the current apartment with a higher-cost mixed-use housing development. In 2011, Huizar expressed concern with the project, but last night seemed more neutral while listening to the 200 residents in attendance.

The new Wyvernwood Apartments proposal is a $2 billion dollar project submitted by the real estate company Fifteen Group, to remodel the entire Boyle Heights apartment complex to mixed used housing development. The new plan offers opportunities for businesses to open up on bottom floors, with housing on higher up. The proposal includes plans to widen sidewalks and to make pedestrian access to and around the development easier. A final environmental report on the project is expected next month.

A different angle shows a lot more yellow.

Representatives from City Planning and the Public Housing Department spoke to residents about some of the processes involved with the proposed plan and urged them to continue to stay involved in future meetings to voice their concerns or support. The next community meeting will be held in October after the FEIR is released and city planners present their recommendations.

Passions flared before and during the meeting as each side was given 30 minutes to voice their reasons for supporting or being against the renovation. Supporters included resident Guzman Guerra, who testified that many are tired of living with an infestation of bed bugs, rats and cockroaches in their apartments. Others added that with the changes in the complex, crime, drugs and gang activity would be reduced while living conditions improve. The currently-standing 80-year-old apartment complex suffers from outdated plumbing, electrical wiring and structure damage. Just last month, a sewer pipe broke, leaving a stench throughout the development.

But not everyone supports the project. Maria Hunter challenged supporters, saying that if residents were sanitary and hygienic, they wouldn’t have insect or rodent infestations. If Wyvernwood residents became more active in reporting drug and gang activity, holding the owners responsible for their apartments, renovation wouldn’t be needed.  Read more…

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Getting Doored Leaves Marks on Body, Mind

Getting doored down Floral Drive can cause a lot of problems. @Elrandomhero/justarandomhero.blogspot.com

(When I found out that Kris was “doored” a little over a week ago, I asked him to write about it on Streetsblog. I didn’t push him to editorialize about it, something the reporter in him is loathe to do with his personal experiences. I think that it’s important for readers to understand where our team is coming from when we talk about issues such as bike safety or harassment on the train. – DN)

I don’t like riding fast through residential streets. They are too narrow, and people and cars are constantly coming from either side of the street. So getting doored while I was riding my bike down Floral Drive in East Los Angeles was a surprise. I was riding slowly uphill, and I have never been thrown off my bike by someone else’s actions.

Erick Huerta, or @elrandomhero on twitter, was riding ahead of me and noticed a man in his Dodge Camaro texting on his phone, but with his door opened slightly. Though I only had a second to maneuver around when he opened it, my right pedal still hit the door and knocked me off my bike.

The two-lane street doesn’t give much space to parked cars or cars themselves, so bicyclists usually end up hugging close to the sides of parked cars. This creates numerous blind spots for bicyclists like not seeing motorists exiting their vehicle or automobiles exiting driveways — lines of cars park so close to driveways that they act like a wall. If an automobile were trailing close behind me, a motorist’s alertness and good breaks would have been the only thing to stop me from ending up underneath the car since I landed in the middle of the car lane. Read more…

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Bike to Work Day: An East Los Angeles Bike Pit Stop

Since there were no bike pit stops in Boyle Heights for Metro Bike to Work Day, I took a break from the neighborhood and checked out the one in East Los Angeles. Staff and students from La Causa Youth Build, a charter school that serves 16 to 24 year olds that are pushed out of traditional schools, stood on the corner of Olympic and Goodrich Boulevards.

Amy Ruvalcaba, La Causa’s AmeriCorps coordinator and who organized La Causa’s Bike to Work Day pit stop, said that when she saw  that there was no pitstop in the East Los Angeles area just two weeks before Bike to Work Day, she started work on bringing one to La Causa.

La Causa has a curriculum with a foundation in social justice and sustainable practices.  The school organized a team of students to help at the pit stop intermittently throughout the day. Juan Gutierrez, 23, is a current student at La Causa Youth Build. Gutierrez manned the kiosk when I visited and was there throughout the morning before his classes in the afternoon.

La Causa’s pit stop wasn’t in a prime location for cyclists, but it did allow for students to visit or man the kiosk between classes. The volunteers had to contend with the noise and presence of big rig trucks coming from a lot of industry from around their offices and neighboring City of Commerce.

Regardless, those passing by, mostly pedestrians and some cyclists, stopped at the kiosk to see what was being offered.  Read more…