Welcome to a rainy week on the blog. The shutdown is now in its fourth week and is the longest in history with no end in sight. The president is very determined to get the $5.7 billion he is demanding for some sort of physical barrier along the United States-Mexico border. He has even threatened to take disaster relief funds from Texas, Florida, and California to pay for this ridiculous wall. Really, it is ridiculous. The president even rejected a seemingly plausible solution--sign a stop-gap funding bill to reopen the government then talk about border security--put forth by his ally Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.). This comes hot on the heels of bombshell articles published by The New York Times and Washington Post that the president may have been indirectly under the influence of Russia. More on that Wednesday but for now, back to Boyle Heights.
Boyle Heights is a vibrant predominantly Latino community in East Los Angeles that is feeling the pangs of gentrification. One its greatest concerns is that longtime residents, most of whom make below the median area income, will be priced out as newcomers buy and rent housing at market rate. Thus, creating more affordable housing is absolutely critical. It already one of Los Angeles' densest communities and has plans to build more then 5,650 new homes (boyleheightsbeat.com; Dec. 18, 2018; date accessed Jan. 14, 2019) over the next two decades. This ambitious plan has the potential to forever reshape the urban landscape.
The planned development would include "Expensive high-rises and high-end shops and eateries on one edge and 'affordable' apartment complexes and a new supermarket on the other that could effectively split Boyle Heights into two zones divided by the I-5--one for the well-to-do, the other for the working poor" (Ibid).
Further, more than 5,000 of the proposed apartments will be split between two new massive developments near Olympic Boulevard and Soto Street, in the southwest corner of the community. Most of the rents will be at market rates, with 3,200 condominiums available for purchase. Trulia lists the median rent for Boyle Heights is $2,500 (trulia.com; date accessed Jan. 14, 2019) compared to $7,500 downtown (boyleheightsbeat.com; Dec. 18, 2018).
Part of the proposal calls for only eight percent (400 apartment; Ibid) to be leased at "affordable" (Ibid) rates to families and individuals who meet the federal low-income guidelines. Those units will be built by non-profit developers, along a a one-mile section between First Street and East César Chavez Avenue, from Mariachi Plaza to the Evergreen Cemetery. Some of the units would also be designated for housing people with special needs--i.e. homeless or mental illness--with on-site services. Some of the developments will have retail space.
Carmen González reported in the Boyle Heights Beat, "None of the projects planned by the nonprofits could match the housing impact of two private mega developments planned for s small zone south of 5 Freeway" (Ibid). The iconic Sears towers (Ibid; Dec. 15, 2015) located at East Olympic Boulevard and Soto Street will become a luxury residential and commercial complex with 1,030 lofts, 80,000 square feet of retail and dining, 200,000 square feet of "creative office," rooftop pool and other amenities (Ibid; Dec. 18, 2018).
Developer Izek Shomof envisions the rehabbed Sear tower as the centerpiece of his proposed 25-acre Mail Order District, that will eventually add nearly 900 additional residences, including 400 single-family homes lining the Los Angeles River (it exists) (Ibid).
As of November 2018, Mr. Shomof's company is looking for an investment partner for the Sears tower redevelopment. Marketing material "reveal the project is split into two separate phases,... Phase 1, which is already entitled, includes the adaptive reuse of the Sears building, a railway-themed retail and a recreational landscaping project,... Phase 2, which has yet to be entitled, proposes new construction of 1,150 residential units, 95,000 square feet of retail and 120-room hotel... (therealdeal.com; Nov. 29, 2018; date accessed Jan. 14, 2019)
A short distance way--east of Soto and Olympic--the owner of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments (boyleheightsbeat.com; Aug. 7, 2018) has plans to demolish the 1,200 two-story garden units and replace them with 4,400 new units in 24-story high-rises with 3,200 condominiums and 300,000 square feet of retail and commercial space (Ibid; Dec. 18, 2018)
Miami developer Fifteen Group's estimated $2 billion project is envisioned as a project that will provide 25,000 square of community meeting space and 10.5-acre park. Fifteen percent of the units (660) will be set aside as affordable housing for 30 years (Ibid).
According to the developer's website:
The reimagined Wyvernwood site will offer a variety of modern housing options for all income levels, creating a dramatic improvement over the aging and outdated buildings on the current site . (fifteengroup.com, Jan. 11, 2007; date accessed Jan. 14, 2019)
If construction goes on as planned, "the new Wyvernwood would be one of the biggest housing complexes in the West,..." (boyleheightsbeat.com; Dec. 18, 2018). As the situation stands, right now, the original 2020 opening date had been delayed partly by opposition from longtime residents concerned about displacement.
The majority of the affordable units will be built and managed by the non-profit developer East Los Angeles Community Corporation, which has owned and operated properties in the community for over twenty years. Its most recent project, Cielito Lindo (Ibid; May 3, 2018) open last April, is 50-unit campus on First and Soto streets.
Most of ELACC's units are rented to families and individuals making between 30 to 50 percent of the area's median income ($29,050 to $48,450 for a family of four; Ibid; Dec. 18, 2018). The family four could pay between $560 and $933 for a two-bedroom ELACC apartment. However even those rents, a fraction of Boyle Heights' median rent, may put the apartments out of reach for most of Boyle Heights' residents who earn less than $20,000 a year, according to the Los Angeles Times (Ibid). ELACC has three more developments in the works that would add 154 units
Edward Reyes, the vice president of community capital told the Boyle Heights Beats that his organization "seeks input from community members throughout the housing planning process.... the organization is working with Jóvenes Inc., a another Boyle Heights nonprofit, to provide services to 18-25-year-old homeless youth at its Lucha Reyes Apartment" (Ibid; Dec. 18, 2018). Specifically
We wanted to make sure that we had the ability to house as many folks as we could in a large community that hasn't had the necessary assistance,...
Not far from Lucha Reyes, along the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, tow affordable housing complexes are on Metro-owned land. The complexes, La Veranda and Chávez Gardens will line Soto to Mott Streets on César E. Chávez. Adobe Communities, a non-profit developer, will oversee the pro proposed complexes. La Veranda (Ibid; Nov. 30, 2017) will go up behind the Boyle Heights institution King Taco and a block over, Chávez Gardens will contain 60 units, a Parkman and a grocery store (Ibid; Dec. 18, 2018).
Robin Hughes, the president and CEO of Adobe Communities, told the Boyle Heights Beat, We heard loud and clear the desire to have a grocery store in the neighborhood (Ibid). Mr. Hughes continued, "the complex would provide on-site services for adults and youth and be environmentally sustainable, both in design and operation." (Ibid)
Even though most of Adobe's apartment would be rented to tenants earning up to 60 percent of the median household income ($58,140 for a family of four; Ibid), Mr. Hughes said "that because of community input, some of the apartments would be leased to families earning up to 30 percent of median income [$29,050] and below." (Ibid). Robin Hughes said,
I hope that our affordable housing can really support the catalytic economic development that's happening in the community.... For us, it's really important that it provides an opportunity for people who currently live in the community to stay in the community and that's why affordability is important. (Ibid)