The Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD) recently reported that it was considering two proposals for the development of the vacant lot at 1st and Boyle, just across the street from Mariachi Plaza. It received the proposals in response to a 78-page Request for Proposals (RFP) released this past May, which had detailed the specifics of the property, the history of the area and the community’s aspirations for the site, and the requirements for the project as well as those governing the application process. [See the full RFP here: PDF]
Considering the prime location of the property – across the street from a transit station in a historic and culturally vibrant neighborhood just outside of downtown – it might seem surprising that only two proposals came in.
But the RFP had been pretty clear about what would be asked of a developer.
The property is one of a number of assets owned by the CRA/LA, the successor to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). At the time of the dissolution of the CRA in 2012, it held nearly 400 properties across Los Angeles. The majority were put up for sale in the summer of 2015.
Given the significance and/or transit-oriented development (TOD) potential of some of the properties, however, the city entered into option agreements with the CRA/LA, securing its ability to guide the development of ten such parcels. The option agreements, drawn up at the end of 2014, allow the city to purchase the properties outright at fair-market value or sell them to a third-party developer that is willing and able to adhere to land uses in line with the redevelopment objectives for the community in question.
In the case of Boyle Heights, that means not selling the parcel to the highest bidder, but rather to a developer that can work within the objectives laid out in Adelante Eastside Plans and the area’s Community Plan and that is able to respect the community’s needs.
The community, for its part, has been quite vocal about its needs.
The lot had once been home to laundromat. It was acquired by the CRA in 2009 because of its TOD potential. The city appears to have assumed that, when added to the commercial developments planned for the two Metro-owned lots behind Mariachi Plaza and the opening of the Gold Line in 2009, “revitalization” of the area would naturally follow.
But the development never materialized and the lots have sat (largely) empty and blighted ever since.
Meanwhile, the community has continued to lament the loss of the laundromat and other amenities (including a market) when the lots were acquired and the existing structures were razed. So much so that when both Metro and the city held workshops about the future of the lots earlier this year, those were the first things the community asked for (in addition to housing that would be affordable to the lowest income folks, of course). [See earlier stories on the CRA/LA-owned lot and the Mariachi Plaza lots.]
To the city’s credit, the community’s concerns feature prominently in the RFP for the CRA/LA-owned lot.