In December of 2013, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) issued separate Request for Proposals (RFPs) for three Metro-owned sites in Boyle Heights. Since then, Metro has announced several transit-oriented development projects by the Gold Line stations. Specifically, these are the Mariachi Plaza Commercial Development, The Santa Cecilia Apartments, Las Mariposas Apartments, Los Tulipanes Apartments, and the Chavez/Soto Mixed-Used project, all of which are near the Mariachi Plaza and Soto stations. This means new space for retail, medical offices, affordable housing, and parking in the area.
The Mariachi Plaza Commercial Development is one of the projects that Metro hopes will attract more riders to the area. This proposed $49 million project will consist of two structures:
- A three-story building with a gym, restaurants, and shops,
- An eight-story building with six levels of parking and two floors of medical offices.
The proposed development would result in the demolition of several small businesses, such as J&F Ice Cream, Restaurant Santa Cecilia, and Libros Schimbros. Furthermore, it already presents a dramatic transformation of Mariachi Plaza, a public space that has served as a gathering place for musicians since the 1930s and is considered a cultural icon by many of its residents.
In response, the community of Boyle Heights has expressed their discontent and disappointment at the lack of inclusion in the planning process. They have vocalized that as proposed, this project is not taking into account their needs, culture, and current socio-economic situation. Many residents fear that the construction will only lead to higher rents which would consequently displace those who cannot afford to pay said increases. In fact, some have already stated that rents are going up in Boyle Heights.
In addition to holding community meetings, Metro could also do the following to gain the trust of local residents and come to a compromise that would benefit all of those involved:
- Form partnerships with local community-based organizations to participate in the planning process of the proposed project and form a community advisory board,
- Schedule charrettes meetings in which municipal officials, developers, community-based organizations, and residents participate and partake in the creation of joint solutions to the proposed project, and
- A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to address any remaining differences between the residents and developer.
In February 2015, Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning, Jenna Hornstock, acknowledged at a community meeting that the agency had made a mistake by excluding the residents of Boyle Heights from the planning process. She stated that it would start over, request new development proposals, and make the process more inclusive. However, it is uncertain if Metro will achieve this when there is great discontent among the residents and those concerned that their neighborhood may become gentrified.
Are there any indicators that gentrification is taking place in your neighborhood? How has your community’s capacity to organize benefited the sustainable development of your community? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.