Should Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights's most prominent landmark and a gathering place for the Latino community, become a medical office plaza? "Nope," says just about everyone. Just two months ago, Metro revealed plans for a shopping and medical office development in the plaza (and by its Gold Line light rail station), but a Metro rep began a community meeting about the project last week by announcing those plans were dead, according to the LA Times: "We're pretty much assuming that we're starting from scratch on this." This is Boyle Heights's biggest victory yet in its impressively successful war against gentrification.
Boyle Heights is just east of gentrified Downtown and on the Gold Line, so developers, real estate agents, and investors seem to have decided the neighborhood is ripe for new development, new types of stores, and an accompanying new kind of resident (those flipper slat fences have already arrived). BH's residents agree the neighborhood is great, so they'd like to keep it the way it is. The fight went public last spring, after a real estate agent announced a bike tour with a flyer advertising the area as a cheaper alternative to the Arts District; locals protested and the ride was canceled.
Residents have also gotten the Mariachi 5K canceled for being insulting, and hung an anti-gentrification banner on the Boyle Hotel at Mariachi Plaza. (Meanwhile, the neighborhood seems ok with Metro's plans for several other Gold Line development, which all include affordable housing.)
Despite Metro's announcement that they were backing off the project, the public meeting went on as planned as residents spoke about their fears and what they hope a new plan will look like. One resident spoke plainly about how the wave of gentrification moving eastward has become a constant pressure: "We've already lost Echo Park, Silver Lake, downtown and now we're being squeezed out by prices," she said. Nobody spoke out in favor of the proposed development.
What sometimes seem like an inevitable force in pro-development Los Angeles seems to have met its match in Boyle Heights, at least for now. But with rent and housing prices likely to continue rising in the neighborhood (and across Los Angeles) how much longer will the holdout last?
While nobody at the meeting supported the proposed project, most still would like to see the plaza revamped. There was no consensus on how exactly Metro should do that, but most people agreed that it'll be important to preserve the neighborhood's culture and community, according to Streetsblog LA.
· Should Mariachi Plaza Become a Medical Office Complex? [Curbed LA]
· Will Boyle Heights Be LA's Gentrification Hot Spot of 2015? [Curbed LA]
· Finally Given a Platform, Boyle Heights Speaks Out on Metro's Mariachi Plaza and Affordable Housing Plans [SBLA]