City Council Approved Several Boyle Heights Projects that Will Shape Growth of Community

Self Help Graphics to finally own its site, affordable housing approved for three sites, and funds allocated for improvements along key streets

Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

This week, the City Council voted on several things that promise to shape Boyle Heights in the years to come.

Self Help Graphics and Art

Most notably, this past Tuesday, the council approved $825,000 in funding to aid local arts organization Self Help Graphics and Art in purchasing the property at 1300 E. 1st Street, where they are currently located. Today, the council approved the sale of the $3.625 million city-owned property to the organization.

Founded in 1970, Self Help had called a historic mosaic-tiled building at Cesar Chavez and Gage home for most of its tenure. When that building was sold in 2008, the new owner imposed rents on the organization for the first time, while reducing the space it could use for programming. Already in the throes of a significant budget crunch, Self Help found itself forced to look elsewhere for space.

The city-owned property on 1st Street location was one of ten properties the CRA/LA (the successor agency to the Community Redevelopment Agency) had been holding onto with the intention of fulfilling redevelopment objectives for particular communities. When it became clear the city would not have the capacity to carry that mandate out, it looked to the possibility of selling the property to entities that could. As an organization with an important history in elevating community voices through art, Self Help has been deemed a worthy buyer, in exchange for agreeing to provide a slate of community benefits and services for the next ten years – a requirement to be memorialized in the restrictive covenant placed on the grant deed.

The funds approved on Tuesday, originally set at $400,000 before being boosted to $825,000, will come from the CRA/LA Excess Non-Housing Bond Proceeds and will help fill the gap between the $2.8 million in loans and grants Self Help has managed to secure and the $3.625 million price tag for the property. The ten years’ worth of community programming the city is asking for are being valued at $82,500, essentially allowing Self Help to repay the loan in kind building on the work they already do. [See all documents related to the case, here.]

The parking lots at 318 N. Breed St. and 249 N. Chicago Street

The city is also on the hunt for developers who can transform two other city-owned properties – the parking lots located at 318 N. Breed Street and 249 N. Chicago Street. – into affordable and/or supportive housing complexes while preserving some public parking.

In February of 2016, the adoption of the Comprehensive Homeless Strategy allowed for the active conversion of public land for affordable and homeless housing. Councilmembers have subsequently looked to surplus and underutilized properties in their districts to help mitigate the housing crunch for their needier constituents. To date, Housing Community and Investment Department (HCID) has entered into 22 Exclusive Negotiating Agreements with developers and been authorized to do so with eight more properties. HCID anticipates these projects will produce 1,566 units of affordable housing, nearly 800 of which will be permanent supportive housing.

The surface parking lots selected in Boyle Heights are not necessarily under-utilized, but the fact that they are surface lots suggests they can also support other uses. The lot at Chicago could yield as many as 34 units, with a possible bump up to 46 units (using the 35 percent density bonus) or as many as 58, should an additional density bonus for proximity to transit be applied. The lot on Breed Street, a much smaller parcel, could yield between 16 and 28 units, depending on the density bonuses applied. [See p. 5, here.]

The council authorized HCID to prepare Requests for Proposals for the sites as well as property-acquisition agreements. [See all related documents here.]

Jovenes, Inc.

Jovenes, Inc. – serving homeless youth in the Boyle Heights community and beyond – has long struggled with greater demand than supply of stable and affordable housing for youth aged 18 to 24. Today’s vote on the property at 1304 Pleasant Ave. transfers the property to the organization, allowing it to both house youth and provide more comprehensive connections for them, given that their offices are located just across the triangle, at 1320 Pleasant.

The transfer is important, too, because under updated zoning in the Boyle Heights Community Plan, the land would otherwise be able to support the construction of 22 market-rate units. Using Transit-Oriented Community guidelines instead and letting Jovenes take the wheel allows for as many as 40 units with affordability restrictions to be built. Given that Jovenes already owns adjacent properties that allow for this larger project, the City Administrative Officer concluded that entering into an Exclusive Negotiated Agreement with Jovenes was the best way forward. [See p. 5., or see all related documents, here.]

This acquisition is in addition to another property Jovenes secured this past November meant to serve homeless youth attending college.

Street Improvements:

  • Whittier Boulevard: In March of 2016, council approved the allocation of $1 million in CRA/LA Excess Bond Proceeds (EBP) from the Adelante Eastside Redevelopment Project area to Council District 14 for the replacement of sidewalks between Indiana and Boyle. Turns out sidewalks are costly, so councils voted today to add another $500,000 to the pot. Despite the recent horrific tragedies resulting in the deaths of pedestrians, including children, seen on Whittier Blvd., it is not clear that other improvements are being contemplated at present.
  • Breed and Sheridan Streets Elementary Schools: Boyle Heights was awarded $5 million in Safe Routes to Schools funding to improve connectivity to the area’s elementary schools. The project area runs between Soto to St. Louis streets and Wabash to 8th streets (along Soto), and includes curb extensions, continental crosswalks, speed humps, bike lanes, mini roundabouts, flashing beacons for crosswalks, and a road diet along a two-mile stretch of Soto aimed at making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists moving to, from, and around the schools. The project was slated to begin construction earlier this year, but required the council to approve an additional $645,000 in CRA/LA EBP funds for the full project to be built out. The funds were approved by council on December 5. [See related documents here, or the full overview of the project here.
Source: Safe Routes to School.
Source: Safe Routes to School.

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