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.
  • Justin Runia

    Ms. Sulaiman, I wanted to use this space to try and remedy an ongoing problem that I have been guilty of perpetuating. When you write articles with arguments I agree with, or positive developments in various civic efforts, I don’t comment, instead sharing the article on Facebook, or simply with my wife. On the other hand, when you write something I have disagreement with, I take to Disqus to poke, prod, and argue with various people, including yourself. I don’t think that my argumentation is particularly harsh; time has scrubbed most of the rough edges and ad hominem from my rhetoric–however, I admit that only sharing negative feedback creates an antagonistic relationship over time, and honestly, I value what you do here on Streetsblog too much to leave you with that impression.

    I will take effort to either comment more fully, or not at all. I am sorry to have given you the impression that I don’t value your work, I will do better.

  • Richard

    “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, ”

    The condition of use for these parcels should be that they provide the maximum number of housing units; 58 and 28. The City and County government are just making things worse when they encourage development on land they own with only half the number of units the land is zoned for. It’s squandering the taxpayer’s resources.

  • sahra

    I am surprised to read this and I appreciate it. Thank you.

    Although, I must tell you that I didn’t realize we had an antagonistic relationship, per se. Your comments have frustrated me, true, but not because they’ve been personal. When I get negative comments, including many of yours, they aren’t what I would consider a “disagreement,” they tend to be dismissals of the significance of race, of the use of intersectional analyses, or of the validity of perspectives of lower-income folks of color.

    That story about the renderings, for example, was shared over 10,000x on FB and I’m still getting twitter notifications and emails about it from across the country and beyond. The response from black and brown planners, urbanists, advocates, and residents was resoundingly that this was a huge issue for them and one they had both long wished to see remedied and saw as being tied to deeper issues having to do with representation within planning apparatuses and decision-making processes.

    Yet, our comment thread for that story is a cesspool of deeply troubling vitriol denying that this could possibly be an issue of consequence and slamming me for suggesting that it was. One person got so hysterical he claimed the renderings must have been outsourced to algorithms or perhaps people abroad, and posted Streetsblog’s own tweet about the outcome of the hearing on the project four times in an effort to let me know how wrong I was. He later deleted some of those comments. But the fact that he spent several days incensed over a discussion of race in planning is the kind of thing that stuns me to my core.

    The reason this matters is because the fact that our comments section across our network can be such a toxic echo chamber means black and brown readers avoid it like the plague. Or they point to it as evidence of how far we have yet to go within the planning world and why they stay away from engaging white urbanists or even why they think about leaving the field, or distrust and avoid it altogether. They’re not wrong to feel that way.

    I don’t mind critiques. For years, I have been the lone WoC writing for a white network and a largely white and privileged audience. We expected antagonism… we’re asking folks to look at a culturally white and privileged profession through a different lens, often for the first time. I personally welcome engagement and I welcome constructive dialogue. Unfortunately, what I’ve tended to get on my stories is the dismissal of the significance of that lens outright.

    If you want to raise disagreements, I would just ask of you what I would ask of anyone – make those disagreements thoughtful. Ground them in something. If it’s to chime in to tell me you think race doesn’t matter or that maybe I just don’t like marches and that’s really at the heart of why all the WoC that spoke up with concerns about the Women’s March did so, take a breath ask first why it’s so compelling to memorialize such a thought in the comments section. What is accomplished? If there’s something underlying that thought – like, perhaps race/class matter in a different way than I’ve laid out or it remains unclear what my analysis means for policy or for the outcome of the project in question…those are things I can engage with. I do a lot of deconstruction in my analyses in an effort to aid urbanists and planners in questioning what they often take for granted. But because that can be a lengthy endeavor on its own, I tend not to write about solutions… something that is also good grounds for engagement. You get the idea – there are a variety of dialogues to be had.

    What I can’t do is dialogue with “Seems a bit thirsty, TBH,” because that negates the validity of the lens altogether… and as is obvious by my replies to just about everyone on that renderings story, I can’t even pretend that I have patience to explain to people that race matters anymore.

    Tone is hard to read in comments, so I will just express here that all of the above is said in a musing and very non-combative and non-accusatory way in my head… The response is so lengthy because I wanted to make clear that any frustration with comments has never been about me feeling personally aggrieved about my work – it is about what the comments imply about the lens used.

    Thanks again for reaching out – I genuinely appreciate the gesture and the kind words. I look forward to more constructive dialogues with you.

  • sahra

    I imagine they would favor any proposals that maxed out density. [You asked earlier about why the Expo/Crenshaw project did not and I was told by someone from Metro that the TOC guidelines were approved after that RFP was sent out. Now that they are in the interim-ENA phase and working with a community-based CDC, I imagine some of the metrics may change.] My guess is that the city may also need/want some flexibility because the funding landscape for affordable housing seems to be on shakier ground and because the need for Extremely Low-Income units (as opposed to Low- or Very Low-) is so very high in this community and those are more difficult to build.

  • Richard

    It looks like the local governments are prioritizing the number of subsidized below market rate units without care to the total number of units.

    IE they would rather approve a 70 unit Affordable Housing project than a 300 unit project that has 50 Affordable Housing units.

  • sahra

    These lots are being targeted for conversion as part of the city’s Comprehensive Homeless Strategy, of which conversion of surplus lots into supportive homeless/affordable housing is an explicit goal.

  • sahra

    [For whatever reason, my reply disappeared. I’m reposting below. Apologies if the other suddenly reappears or the format is wonky…disqus can work in odd ways]
    **********************
    I am surprised to read this and I appreciate it. Thank you.

    Although, I must tell you that I didn’t realize we had an antagonistic relationship, per se. Your comments have frustrated me, true, but not because they’ve been personal. When I get negative comments, including many of yours, they aren’t what I would consider a “disagreement,” they tend to be dismissals of the significance of race, of the use of intersectional analyses, or of the validity of
    perspectives of lower-income folks of color.

    That story about the renderings, for example, was shared over 10,000x on FB and I’m still getting twitter notifications and emails about it from across the country and beyond. The response from black and brown planners, urbanists, advocates, and residents was resoundingly that this was a huge issue for them and one they had both long wished to see remedied and saw as being tied to deeper issues having to do with representation within planning apparatuses and decision-making processes.

    Yet, our comment thread for that story is a cesspool of deeply troubling vitriol denying that this could possibly be an issue of consequence and slamming me for suggesting that it was. One person got so hysterical he claimed the renderings must have been outsourced to algorithms or perhaps people abroad, and posted Streetsblog’s own tweet about the outcome of the hearing on the project four times in an effort to let me know how wrong I was. He later deleted some of those comments. But the fact that he spent several days incensed over a discussion of race in planning is the kind of thing that stuns me to my core.

    The reason this matters is because the fact that our comments section across our network can be such a toxic echo chamber means black and brown readers avoid it like the plague. Or they point to it as evidence of how far we have yet to go within the planning world and why they stay away from engaging white urbanists or even why they think about leaving the field, or distrust and avoid it altogether. They’re not wrong to feel that way.

    I don’t mind critiques. For years, I have been the lone WoC writing for a white network and a largely white and privileged audience. We expected antagonism… we’re asking folks to look at a culturally white and privileged profession through a different lens, often for the first time. I personally welcome engagement and I welcome constructive dialogue. Unfortunately, what I’ve tended to get on my stories is the dismissal of the significance of that lens outright.

    If you want to raise disagreements, I would just ask of you what I would ask of anyone – make those disagreements thoughtful. Ground them in something. If it’s to chime in to tell me you think race doesn’t matter or that maybe I just don’t like marches and that’s really at the heart of why all the WoC that spoke up with concerns about the Women’s March did so, take a breath ask first why it’s so compelling to memorialize such a thought in the comments section. What is
    accomplished? If there’s something underlying that thought – like, perhaps race/class matter in a different way than I’ve laid out or it remains unclear what my analysis means for policy or for the outcome of the project in question…those are things I can engage with. I do a lot of deconstruction in my analyses in an effort to aid urbanists and planners in questioning what they often take for granted. But because that can be a lengthy endeavor on its own, I tend not to write about solutions… something that is also good grounds for engagement. You get the idea – there are a variety of dialogues to be had.

    What I can’t do is dialogue with “Seems a bit thirsty, TBH,” because that negates the validity of the lens altogether… and as is obvious by my replies to just about everyone on that renderings story, I can’t even pretend that I have patience to explain to people that race matters anymore.

    Tone is hard to read in comments, so I will just express here that all of the above is said in a musing and very non-combative and non-accusatory way in my head… The response is so lengthy because I wanted to make clear that any frustration with comments has never been about me feeling personally aggrieved about my work – it is about what the comments imply about the lens used.

    Thanks again for reaching out – I genuinely appreciate the gesture and the kind words. I look forward to more constructive dialogues with you.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

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 […]

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 […]