Skip to content

Eastside

In an effort to show how transportation, open space, planning and other issues are intertwined with the health, culture, livability and strength of a community, Streetsblog and The California Endowment teamed to bring Streetsblog’s coverage to a hyper-local level in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman is Communities Editor for Streetsblog Los Angeles and oversees work in South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights. Her work and that of our former Boyle Heights-specific writer Kris Fortin can be found here. Contact Sahra at sahra[at]streetsblog.org or on twitter: @sahrasulaiman.

29 Comments

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). Read more…

6 Comments

Filed Under: Ugly Things You Find on the Interwebs

The cover photo from the offending FB page.

The cover photo of a purported bike “thief” from the offending FB page. In reality, it is a photo of Bay Area cyclist and creative DAGHE taken by Pendarvis H., Associate Producer at @ThisIsFusion.

“Wow… is all I can say,” wrote Veronica Davis, avid cyclist and member of Black Women Bike: D.C. under a photo on a facebook page entitled, “Black People with Bikes that Aren’t Theirs,” that insinuated she was riding a stolen bike.

“The ignorance of this page is astounding,” she continued. “Especially since this is a photo of me on a bike I didn’t steal.”

It’s true, the ignorance of the page was astounding (even featuring stock photos of black children on bikes and labeling them as thieves) as was its growing number of “likes” (3280 and counting since I first saw the page this morning).

I was tempted to brush it off as one of the many, many, many outrageously stupid, racist, ignorant things you can find on the interwebs with great ease. But it was tapping into something that seems to be up for national debate right now — the right of people of color to move through the public space free of suspicion — and using the photos of known African-American cyclists and livable streets advocates to make a case against their right to do so.

And while the owner of the page claimed it was harmless, stating, “This page started off as shits n gigs [sic] but for some reason people cant [sic] accept that. Im [sic] not purposely trying to be racist. All im [sic] trying to do is make people laugh,” it really isn’t.

The deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, John Crawford (killed in Walmart while carrying a toy gun sold by the store), 12-year-old Tamir Rice (killed for brandishing a toy gun and not given first aid because officers were busy tackling and handcuffing his 14-year-old sister when she tried to come to his aid), Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, 34 (gunned down in Gardena by the very police he and his brother had called for help while looking for their stolen bike), and many others all offer powerful illustrations of how easily biases about the intentions of people of color can upend their fates.

And while these issues have finally become big news of late, it is not news to folks of color that they are often viewed with suspicion in the public space, particularly by law enforcement. Walking-while-black (or brown) offers its own unique set of challenges. But so does riding bikes. Read more…

No Comments

Calendar for Metro Outreach on Boyle Heights Projects and a Correction About Tonight’s Meeting

Earlier this week, we mistakenly posted that Primestor, the developer looking to overhaul the space around Mariachi Plaza, would be presenting at the Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUC) meeting of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council tonight.

Instead, tonight’s meeting (see agenda) will focus on Abode Communities’ affordable housing plans for the site at Cesar Chavez/Soto. The Joint Development Agreement between Metro and Abode would result in 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).

Abode's plans for the site at Cesar Chavez and Soto.

Abode’s plans for the site at Cesar Chavez and Soto.

The plans for this project will not be up for review at the meeting tonight, but Metro will be asking for the PLUC to recommend the project move forward with a the first phase of a phased exclusive negotiation agreement (ENA) between Metro and the recommended developer.

Typically, an ENA grants a developer 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, free from competition from other developers. A phased or interim ENA of the kind Metro is proposing would allow for the community to have a window into the development of the plans and input on their refinement over a period of approximately three months. At the end of that period, Metro would be able to report back to the Board to seek the full ENA for the site.

The PLUC voted to recommend this approach with the 1st and Soto projects (below), to be built by Bridge Housing Corp. and ELACC, on December 11th (sending it to the larger BHNC for final approval), but rejected allowing the Mariachi Plaza project to move forward. Read more…

8 Comments

#StreetsR4Families: Maryann Aguirre on Creating Safer Spaces for her Daughter

Thumbs up. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/justanotherrandomhero/14694260087/in/set-72157645931837518##Erick Huerta/Flickr##

Thumbs up at the Pacoima Mural Ride. Photo: Erick Huerta/Flickr

“The first [bike] ride I took Leah on was the Black-Brown Unity ride two years ago,” says Maryann Aguirre, member of the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles Bicycle Brigade, a cycling group comprised of women of color based in Boyle Heights, “and I was f*cking dying!”

Pedaling the 12 miles the route wound between Boyle Heights and Watts with a heavy trailer and her then-5-year-old daughter in tow had proven tougher than she had anticipated.

While she laughs at the memory of how hard it was, I have to smile at the fact that the first ride she chose to take her daughter on was one aimed at building better relations between African-Americans and Latinos by raising awareness about their shared experiences with police brutality.

It makes perfect sense, really.

Although only 24, Aguirre has long been deeply engaged in making her community a better place. She is well-grounded in the concerns of the underprivileged, active in protesting gentrification, passionate about justice for people (particularly women) of color and willing to show up to fight for it, and, more recently, working to bring cycling and pedestrian infrastructure that fits the needs of existing residents to the working-class Latino community of Boyle Heights.

When I ask how she wants me to describe her, however, she balks at the confinement she feels sometimes comes with labels like “organizer” and “activist.”

“This is just something that I do because of the conditions I/we/she live(s) in, because of my existence,” she says. “To me, there is no other choice.”

“You are a conscientious community member with a passion for justice…” I try.

“…in my ‘hood,” she finishes, laughing.

Most of Aguirre’s actively practiced conscientiousness – even that around livable streets — is oriented toward making the world a more welcoming space for her daughter, Leah Flores. Aguirre sees access to jobs and educational opportunities, affordable housing, a public space free of harassment from law enforcement or those carrying racial, gender, or other biases, and safe spaces for the expression of cultural and other identities as being integral to making a community and its streets healthier and, by extension, safer, more just, and more accessible for when Leah is ready to move through them on her own.

Which is probably the reason that, despite the fact that I am there to talk to Aguirre about the challenges of raising a child in a single-parent, car-lite household for Streetsblog’s #StreetsR4Families series, we spend the vast majority of our two-hour conversation on everything but her transit habits. Read more…

No Comments

Exide Settlement with DTSC Limits (For Now)* Homes that Can Be Tested for Lead, County Supervisors Explore Legal Options

One of the two assessment areas where the DTSC conducted soil sampling looking for lead contamination. Image courtesy of DTSC

One of the two assessment areas where the DTSC conducted soil sampling looking for lead contamination. This one straddles the border of Boyle Heights and East L.A. Image courtesy of DTSC

Good news, good people of Maywood, Boyle Heights, and East L.A. who live within the limited assessment areas (see one, above)! The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) wants you to know that, per a Stipulation and Order settlement reached on November 6 with embattled Vernon-based lead-acid battery recycling plant Exide, if Exide has contaminated your yard with lead, it can be cleaned up at no cost to you! (emphasis theirs)

Hooray!

Er, wait.

If your yard has been contaminated with lead, you’re probably not too happy about it, given the connection of lead to developmental delays and learning difficulties in children and a host of physical ailments. And the fact that, per the settlement, Exide has up to five years to clean up your yard and home is probably not helping you feel any better about your situation. Nor is the knowledge that only two yards have been cleaned up since the announcement in February that almost all of the 39 yards and 2 schools tested in the first round of sampling had lead levels in excess of 80 parts per million (the level at which the DTSC requires a clean-up and the state recommends health-related testing).

If your yard doesn’t fall within one of the two (rather small) assessment areas — the designated areas the South Coast Air Quality Management District studies have revealed “to be most likely impacted by Exide’s emissions” — it could be a very long time before your is soil tested or any contamination is cleaned up on Exide’s dime.

According to the settlement, some time in the next four and a half years, Exide must submit “a Residential Corrective Measures Study to address all properties impacted by Facility operations that were not investigated or remediated during the initial five-year period” or part of the recently approved Interim Measures Work Plan (IMWP) Exide drafted to guide its clean-up procedures.

Any contamination found on any additional properties, as best I can tell from the settlement, would need to be addressed within a 10-year period and paid for with funds set aside by Exide for that purpose (see pp. 11-12 for details; clarification on future remediation plans will follow next week).

The Southern Assessment Area, located in Maywood. Source: DTSC

The Southern Assessment Area, located in Maywood. Source: DTSC

Which is something that may not sound as reassuring as the DTSC hopes, given their official responses to public comments on the draft IMWP, released this past Wednesday, November 19th (two weeks after the settlement was made), and the particularly large emissions footprint Exide is estimated to have (below). Read more…

28 Comments

Metro Postpones Approving ENA for Mariachi Plaza, Gets Blasted for Having it on Agenda in First Place

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 a rendering of the potential future of Mariachi Plaza. (Source: Metro)

“Injustice. […] Lack of accountability. Lack of outreach in our community,” a frustrated Teresa Marquez, president of the Boyle Heights Stakeholders Association, told the Metro Board of Directors this morning. “Nobody’s talking to us!”

She was right.

Metro had apparently reneged on promises in 2012 that, “prior to seeking Metro Board approval [for a project at Mariachi Plaza], staff will be conducting a meeting to update the community regarding the development site.

Instead, only a handful of people were made aware of the plans for an 8-story parking garage with medical offices and a 3-story retail and fitness center adjacent to the plaza, the motion before the Planning Committee last Tuesday to grant developer Primestor an 18-month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement and Planning Document (ENA) for the site, or the motions to grant ENAs to two other affordable housing projects slated for Cesar Chavez/Soto and 1st/Soto.

The firestorm the Mariachi Plaza plans and the lack of community outreach ignited (not even the neighborhood councils had been advised of the plans) prompted the Board to pull the item and the two linked to affordable housing from the consent agenda. All three were postponed until February of 2015 in order to give the developers time to engage the community in the planning process. *(The extension of the ENA for the 1st/Lorena site, which some hoped to also see postponed, was granted to A Community of Friends.)

It was a move that Primestor CEO and Co-founder Arturo Sneider said he applauded.

During the public comment period, he spoke of Metro’s Request for Proposals (RFP) process as keeping them from being able to do extensive community engagement.

Although Metro had released the RFP almost a year ago, Primestor could do no outreach during the “blackout period” while its proposal was being considered. And since Metro had only conducted the final interviews in September and decided upon the winning proposals some time after that, there really had been no time for a community process. (The same had been true with the proposals for housing at 1st/Soto and Cesar Chavez/Soto)

Sneider reassured Metro that Primestor was committed to community engagement and local hiring, and was looking forward to beginning that process.

It was not enough to reassure those present to protest the project. While they were pleased that Metro had (finally) listened to the community, they were frustrated at their sense they were never seen as a partner in development and that their voices only tended to be heard when there was a massive outcry in the eleventh hour.

Many of the speakers wanted to make it clear that community engagement was not only important for a productive planning process, but also essential to ensure that current residents would be able to reap the benefits of any investments in the area. Read more…

48 Comments

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.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 2.29.19 AM

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. Read more…

No Comments

Boyle Heights Takes to the Streets for 5K and Munchkin Run

Runners in the Munchkin Half Mile gather at the start line. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

Runners in the Munchkin Half Mile gather at the start line. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

With the installation of the jogging path around Evergreen Cemetery in 2004 and the more recent rise of the Boyle Heights Bridge Runners (now celebrating their first year anniversary), Boyle Heights has become a much friendlier place for those who prefer to get their exercise by pounding the pavement.

But there generally haven’t been that many races or other running events in the Boyle Heights area for those enthusiasts to participate in. And while there was an attempt to hold one recently — a Mariachi 5K run — it hit a stumbling block this past August when businesses and residents complained that the organizer hadn’t worked with them, hadn’t hired local mariachis, and that the “mariachi” theme would invite parodies of the culture (see Seattle’s Fiesta 5K Olé! controversy).

Organizers of this past Saturday’s Boyle Heights 5k Run/Walk and Munchkin Half Mile hope that dynamic will soon change.

And they're off! Runners make their way down 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

And they’re off! Runners make their way down 1st St. in Boyle Heights. Photo: Eddie Ruvalcaba

Lead organizer Juan Romero, owner of local café Primera Taza, spoke of his desire for runners and families to have an event of their own that celebrated health, family, and community while raising proceeds for those in the area in need.

The race was an idea many in the community had been tossing around for the past few years, he said, but no one had been able to take the lead on getting it off the ground. This past March, hoping to finally see that idea come to fruition, Romero decided to take on the responsibility himself.

The Mendez Jaguars stand with Councilmember Jose Huizar. Photo: Mendez High School FB page

The Mendez Jaguars stand with Councilmember Jose Huizar. Photo: Mendez High School FB page (click to visit)

In collaboration with White Memorial Hospital (whose health resource fair immediately followed the race) and the Variety Boys and Girls Club (the recipient of race proceeds and the provider of insurance for the event), he encouraged schools and local organizations to put together race teams.

Then, he wrangled donations from resident Jaime Perez for iPad minis for the male and female 5K winners (see results here), got 20 chromebooks from the i.am.angel Foundation for the school that was able to put together the biggest team (congratulations, Mendez Jaguars!, at right), got 200 bike helmets to kids, and was given 400 medals for the runners by the House of Trophies.

Even with all that planning, the event was more successful than anyone had anticipated. Read more…

23 Comments

Final Sixth Street Viaduct Model Showcased at Public Briefing; Expected Completion Date, Early 2019

Cyclists, pedestrians, and cars will all have a place on the Sixth Street Viaduct. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Cyclists, pedestrians, and cars will all have a place on the redesigned Sixth Street Viaduct, slated to open in 2019. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

“How was the meeting?” Juan asked me as I came out of the multipurpose room at the Puente Learning Center.

He was just leaving his evening English class and had missed the public briefing on the design of the Sixth Street Viaduct replacement given by Councilmember José Huizar, Architect and Principal Designer Michael Maltzan, design-build firm HNTB, the Bureau of Engineering, and Project Contractors contractors Skanska and Stacy and Witbeck.

“Have you seen it?” I asked.

“No,” he shook his head.

I grabbed his arm and pulled him into the multipurpose room.

“Wow,” he said, impressed. “This looks really nice!”

He was right — the 47-foot model was pretty amazing.

Architect Michael Maltzan describes the 47-foot model of the bridge at a packed public briefing at the Puente Learning Center. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Architect Michael Maltzan describes the design elements of the 47-foot model of the bridge at a packed public briefing at the Puente Learning Center in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Soaring forty-foot arches book-end a “ribbon of arches” that “weave [two disparate] communities together” via a massive multi-modal structure. Thirty-foot arches run the length of the rest of the 3500 ft. span of bridge, with the exception of two sixty-five-foot arches which will be accessible to pedestrians (one is visible in the top photo, at left) looking to either climb high above the structure or access the businesses and park space (to be created as part of the project) below it. Dedicated bike lanes run along either side of the traffic lanes. And the wide pedestrian walkway is both protected from traffic by a concrete barrier and unimpeded by light poles, thanks to the LED lighting that will be embedded in the arches and light both the street and the sidewalks.

Embedded LED lights illuminate the walkway and the street. (Source: Michael Maltzan Architecture)

Embedded LED lights illuminate the walkway and the street. (Rendering: Michael Maltzan Architecture)

The combination of the grandiosity of the design and the accessibility of the structure, project architect Michael Maltzan said, was intended to celebrate the notion that bridges were powerful “city amenit[ies] that should not be underestimated” (please take note, Glendale-Hyperion bridge project).

Which sounds great. Except it apparently almost didn’t happen. Read more…

7 Comments

The Ultimate First Street Guide to CicLAvia: Where to Eat and Who to Meet

Lupita Barajas sits in front of her restaurant, Yeya's (across the street from Mariachi Plaza), with her grandson, Julian. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Lupita Barajas sits in front of her restaurant, Yeya’s (across the street from Mariachi Plaza), with her grandson, Julian. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

CicLAvia! Bicycles! Hipster Invaders! Gentrification!

Made you look!

Probably provoked some strong emotions, too, given the way recent headlines (see here, here, here) in asking whether activities assumed to be the purview of “hipsters” could be compatible with lower-income communities, have inadvertently re-ified the “us vs. them” framing that guides too much of the conversation on gentrification.*

Very little productive dialogue tends to come of that approach, regardless of how well-intended the question is. For one, it is incredibly effective at enticing all the angry, underwear-clad racists, classists, and all-around terrible people with Internet access out of their caves. But even among those who seek a more elevated debate, that framing almost guarantees that the highly complex issues surrounding community transformations will devolve into unpleasant wranglings over who has the right to make claims on a place based on creative interpretations of history and sweeping generalizations about “culture.”

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

Behold, the most tone-deaf gentri-flyer in the history of man. (Photo source unknown)

That is not to say that bike lanes, bicyclists, CicLAvia, or even “hipsters” aren’t touchstones in gentrification debates. The gentri-flyer heard ’round the world (at right) made clear that they certainly are.

But, as I tried to illustrate in the stories penned on the storm the flyer generated (here, here), it’s not those things, per se, that provoke such a strong reaction. It’s the processes and power structures they represent.

In other words, people are often looking at current efforts to engage their communities in the context of the long history of discrimination, deliberate disinvestment, displacement, and exclusion from the planning processes those communities have endured and asking where they fit.

From that perspective, it becomes easier to see how residents with a lengthy list of unaddressed infrastructure and other needs might wonder exactly who lower-priority concerns like bike lanes (or an event like CicLAvia, staged in their community by non-residents) were intended to benefit. Particularly since investment often seems to not be directed at a marginalized area until after turnover is already underway and developers appear prepared to “ride the wave of increased gentrification”** by snapping up homes, apartment buildings, and retail sites.

Students from around the area speak about how memories and family define what home on the Eastside means to them at an Activarte workshop led by artist Omar Ramirez. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Students from around the area speak about how memories, family, relationships, and struggle define what home on the East Side means to them at a recent Activarte: Detouring Displacement workshop led by artist Omar Ramirez. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Of course, none of this means that people don’t want to see investments, improvements, events, or even “outsiders” in their communities. On the contrary — a number of the small business owners I’ve spoken with feel that more investment in the area and greater exposure to a wider customer base are necessary for them to survive and flourish.

They would just prefer that when that happens, investments will be directed at existing businesses and local entrepreneurs so they can grow and adapt to a changing landscape, the community will be treated as a partner in planning, development will be respectful of the character, history, and culture of the area, improvements will address the needs and aspirations of the long-time residents — especially those on the margins, and the existing residents’ ability to remain in their homes will be safeguarded so they can reap the benefits of any growth or change that results from that process.

Activarte participants discuss what "home" means to them and prepare to make signs bearing their ideas. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Activarte participants discuss what “home” means to them and prepare to make signs to communicate their ideas. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

So, some of the community’s stakeholders are hoping to help visitors and city officials to see the value of that approach by inviting participants to explore the length of 1st St. during this weekend’s CicLAvia, get acquainted with the small businesses, and learn about how culture, history, food, and family play into their vision for the future of their community.

They’re going to make it super-easy for everyone to do so, too.

Most of the businesses along 1st are family-run. Yeya's has been there four years, although owner Lupita Barajas worked in restaurants along the street for 15 years prior to starting her own business. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Most of the businesses along 1st are family-run. Yeya’s has been there four years, although owner Lupita Barajas (holding the baby) worked in restaurants along the street for 15 years prior to opening her own. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Thanks to the work of Aldo Medina of the East L.A. Community Corporation, who is working to organize the businesses and offer them technical assistance, Chris Pina who nurtures the growth of small businesses via Business Source, and Juan Romero, the owner of cafe Primera Taza, 1st st. will be hosting the equivalent of one very long block party. There will be food, music, art, live painting, food, outdoor tables and chairs, awesome people, and food.

Did I mention food? Read more…