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Boyle Heights

Residents Protest Demolition of Wyvernwood Apartments, Seek Preservation

More than 100 people ate and danced at a potluck styled party to protest the Wyvernwood redevelopment project. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

Advocates for the preservation of Wyvernwood Apartments used the simplest of ideas Sunday to oppose the proposed $2 billion redevelopment project: throw a backyard/frontyard party at the complex. Families brought homemade food, silverware was used instead of disposable, and music and dance brought the more than 100 people center stage.

"For me, I've always seen this," said Wyvernwood tenant Evelyn Martinez in an interview. But the frequency and flexibility to have these types of celebrations in the open changed when owners 15 Group, a Florida-based real estate investment firm, took over.

Members from El Comité de la Esperanza, a Wyverwood-based community advocacy group and Sunday party's host, are fighting the proposed $2 billion mixed-use redevelopment project and trying to preserve and rehabilitate the current complex. Preservationists argue that the new redevelopment would displace current residents, and would destroy the community that has development at the apartment complex.

15 Group, the real-estate firm that owns Wyvernwood, has stated publicly that residents will have priority to move into the new redevelopment project through their resident retention plan. The plan would give current residents priority to buy or rent from the 660 affordable housing units, or keep the rent they paid from the apartments.

Yet, doubts remain.

"Now what makes you trust this same developer?" said Elena Popp, El Comité's lawyer. "The very developer that was not responsible and didn't maintain it and allowed rats and roaches to breed in this development, and doesn't fix the plumbing, and allows the mold to grow in your apartment. That's the same developer that proposes to do this (redevelopment)."

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Last month the Final Draft Environmental Impact Report was released, moving the redevelopment project closer to a vote by the City Council.

The activities on Sunday have lived in Wyvernwood for years, said Popp, who has represented el Comité since 1997 and currently represents them pro-bono. Wyvernwood used to have youth programming, usually around soccer, Easter activities, and even a food program that would aid tenants with ailments. Now, the occasional party and posadas are the few things that are allowed, said Popp.

"We will fight without rest until the last moment," said Leonardo Lopez, Wyvernwood tenant and president of El Comité.

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