More than a dozen mariachis living in Boyle Heights are protesting big rent hikes that that they say would force them out of their homes.
Some of the musicians live in an apartment building on East Second Street and were notified in January that their rents would increase as much as 80 percent—or, in one case, by as much as $800—effective April 1, according to LA Tenants Union.
The musicians say they’re refusing to pay the rent hike. Tonight they’ll rally at Mariachi Plaza for a protest spearheaded by the tenants union and Union de Vecinos.
“If the Mariachis are kicked out of our homes, it will affect our whole network of work. I will keep working, but I will not have the community that I have now,” Luis Valdivia, a tenants union member and a mariachi, told Curbed.
Valdivia said he has lived in his two-bedroom apartment for 21 years. This year, his rent jumped by more than $800 from $1,020 per month.
The company that manages the building, Culver City-based Crescent Canyon Management, said the property owners have made a number of improvements over the past four months, including installing new HVAC units and on-site laundry facilities and making roof repairs. In a statement, the company said it posted rent increases for seven of the building’s 25 units.
“All the residents have benefited from these improvements,” the statement says.
The building is located one block away from Mariachi Plaza, a historic cultural hub and a place of work for mariachis. To this day, the musicians line up in the Plaza at the beginning of their work days, coiffed and dressed up, waiting to be hired and picked up for gigs.
A gateway to the neighborhood, the corner of Boyle Avenue and East First Street, where the plaza is located, is an important intersection, largely thanks to mariachis who have worked and lived nearby for close to a century.
It’s even more significant since Metro’s Mariachi Plaza Gold Line stop opened in 2009. Next to the stop is a 1-acre parcel owned by the transit agency, and for the past few years, the community has pushed for any development on that site to include affordable housing and a public park.
About one-third of the tenants in the 25-unit building on Second Street are rented by mariachis, according to Elizabeth Blaney, co-director of Union de Vecinos. The tenants’ rent checks, made in the old amounts, have all been returned undeposited, she said.
The Second Street building is not rent-controlled, so the landlord is legally allowed to raise the rent at his discretion.
In a letter to tenants in January, Crescent Canyon told tenants the decision to raise rents came after “reviewing the income and expenses for the property.”
Crescent Canoyn says it has met with the tenants and the tenants union. “CCM has never avoided meeting with the residents, nor will it in the future,” its statement said.
But Blaney says the property owner should also meet with the tenants before hiking rents. She said the mariachis “are the fabric of our neighborhood.”