Boyle Heights Community, Metro Clash at Meeting Over Development at MTA Owned Property

Diana Tarango, 77-year-old Boyle Heights resident, speaks to representatives from Metro yesterday at their community meeting concerning its properties in Boyle Heights. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

Disparate Homeowners, long-time residents, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders hijacked the discussion at Thursday night’s Metro community meeting concerning Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. The meeting was supposed to be Metro’s sole opportunity to get community input before submitting design guidelines to the Metro board of directors for three sites – Cesar Chavez Avenue and Soto Street, Mariachi Plaza and Southeast Corner of Pennsylvania & Bailey, and Soto and First Street.

Instead, it turned into a nearly two-hour venting session aimed at the Metro representatives over the lack, or excess, of affordable housing, the need of a pocket park on 1st Street and Lorena Avenue — which doesn’t seem like it could possibly happen under Metro’s plans — and heated exchanges between the community and MTA.

“That’s what was amazing tonight. The bulk of the conversation was about Lorena (Avenue and First Street site). And nobody said anything about out Mariachi, which shocked me,” said Greg Angelo, Metro’s director of real property management and development, after the meeting.

From the more than 100 people that filled the Boyle Heights Senior Center, only a handful of individuals went into detail about needs for the sites being considered for community input.

Will Ramirez of Farmacia Ramirez asked Metro to consider a parking structure on the Cesar Chavez Avenue/Soto Street site in order to create a park and ride for the Soto Street Gold Line Station. With the structure, Ramirez also recommended a walking path that connects the park-and-ride to the Gold Line station with better lighting and security.

Jazmin Guzman, who lives in the Boyle Hotel, said that she would like a market in the area because there isn’t one.

“When I go (to the market) I have to chose what I really need because I can’t carry it back home all by myself,” said Guzman.

Metro, Angelo said, speculates that all three sites should have some component of a mixed-use with commercial and retail space. Soto Street and Cesar Chavez is the only site that Metro speculates that it could have apartments. These expectations for the site from Metro is dependent on the chosen developer and the community input, added Angelo.

“Let them know what you really need,” said Dr. Michael Ramirez, owner of Ramirez Pharmacy on Soto Street and Cesar Chavez. “Whether it be housing, or a market. They have to listen to the community.”

Community members’ dialogue with the Metro representatives remained broad throughout the majority of the meeting. Leonardo Vilchis, co-founder of Union de Vecinos, started leading a chant in the crowd of “casa para los pobres,” or “homes for the poor.”

Diego Cardoso, executive officer for Metro transportation development and implementation, said after the meeting that he didn’t know before about the issue of including street vending within the sites.

When a stakeholder from Union de Vecinos asked the Metro representatives to include street vending into their considerations, some people in the crowd start shouting “No, no!” which Vilchis countered with “Si, si!”

Joaquin Castellanos, a Boyle Heights resident, said he was against street vendors being involved in the vacant Metro lots. “We need restaurants, we need people who want to bring businesses to the community and taxes for the city.”

Diego Cardoso, executive officer for Metro transportation development and implementation, speaks at the Boyle Heights community meeting about the status of Metro’ owned sites. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

The presentations had an interpreter for Spanish speakers, but as Reina Fukuda, East Los Angeles Community Corporation community organizer, pointed out, speaker cards were only in English.

The sole idea with wide consensus from the audience was to place a pocket park at the vacant First Street and Lorena Avenue lot. But that isn’t happening either.

“I agree that this area needs parks, no question, but that’s not what we (Metro) do,”said Roger S. Moliere, Metro’s chief of Real Property and Economic Development department, after the meeting. Also, Metro staff is already working on a proposal with developer A Community of Friends that would include affordable housing units. The land that Metro owns, Moliere said, needs to be used to improve transit quality, and a park wouldn’t fall in that category.

The Metro representatives at the meeting will debrief and plan to have another meeting, but nothing was confirmed.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Developers Introduced at Metro Open House to Reshape Empty Lots

|
Developers and Metro representatives came to the Boyle Heights Technology and Youth Center on Tuesday for an open house to update the community on Metro-owned lots in Boyle Heights. This is the first time developers McCormack Baron Salazar, for lots at Cesar Chavez Avenue/Fickett Street and the Southwest Corner of First Street/Boyle Avenue, and A Community of […]

Eastside Events Roundup: Action Against Metro Tomorrow, 6th Street Viaduct Proposals Unveiling, Run For Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council

|
Here’s a roundup of some actions, meetings and dates that are going on for the next two weeks that involve the neighborhood council, Metro, and the unveiling of the 6th Street viaduct design proposals. Take a look: Take Back LA – March Against Metro City and neighborhood groups will march from Downtown  L.A. to Boyle […]

Boyle Heights Briefs: Open Markets, Discussion on Arts District, and Meeting on Metro Owned Sites

|
Just because I haven’t been writing about Boyle Heights lately, doesn’t mean nothing is going on. The last couple of weeks saw festivals and community meetings that could create lasting change in Boyle Heights. Last week, the neighborhood celebrated the festival of Santa Cecilia at Mariachi Plaza. The multi-day festivities included a procession and day-long […]

As Protestors March Against CVS, Demanding Fresh Food for Boyle Heights, a Walgreens Opens Two Blocks Away

|
Only a few days removed from protestors marching up Soto Street to demonstrate against a proposed CVS and shopping center development, people milled around a new Walgreens just two blocks from the protest. Walgreens employees wearing “I <3 Boyle Heights” t-shirts greeted patrons on Monday for its opening inauguration, handing out vitamin samples, plastic cups, […]

Metro Moves Affordable Housing Projects in Boyle Heights Forward, Returns Grocery Store Project to Drawing Board

|
At Thursday’s Metro Board meeting, boardmembers took action on several items pertaining to the future of Metro-owned lots in Boyle Heights. The Board approved motions allowing affordable housing projects at 1st and Soto, Cesar Chavez and Soto, and 1st and Lorena to continue moving forward, while rescinding the agreement with McCormack Baron Salazar regarding their […]