How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

MTA postpones vote on Mariachi Plaza development until early next year

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background.

A plan to build new retail and office space at the iconic Mariachi Plaza in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights has been put on hold until February. The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board opted on Thursday to postpone a planned vote on the contract approval for developers to build roughly 120,000 square feet of retail and medical office space surrounding the plaza at First and Boyle, which since 2009 has been a Metro Gold Line stop.

MTA spokesman Mark Littman said the motion to postpone was introduced by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who sits on the MTA board.

"People expressed concerns that they needed more time," Littman said. He added that waiting until early next year would allow additional time for community input on the planned development. The board also held off on approving development contracts for planned affordable housing at two nearby Metro Gold Line stations, Littman said.


New China-US visa rules expected to boost LA area tourism

US China visas

Josie Huang/KPCC

Frank Li, president of China International Travel Service in Pasadena, said the Chinese travel agency see the new visa extensions as good news.

At China International Travel Service in Pasadena, Frank Li dialed up clients to tell them the good news: As of this week, one-year tourism and business visas to and from China were good for 10 years. That means travelers need only apply once — and pay one fee — for the privilege to make multiple visits to either the U.S. or China, under an agreement between both countries announced Monday.

"It caught many people by surprise," Li said. "It changed so fast."

Li said the new policy will be a boon for L.A., already the most popular U.S. destination for Chinese travelers.

"Everybody is happy here — the hotels, the retail, the theme parks, the airlines," Li said.

In 2013, 819,000 Chinese traveled to the Golden State, and 70 percent — more than 570,000 — stopped off in LA, according to Visit California. That number is only expected to grow. The non-profit, which promotes California tourism, projects the number of Chinese coming to California will double by 2017, said Ryan Becker, spokesman for the Visit California.


In immigration news: Loretta Lynch, church growth, 'coming out' twice, more

Loretta Lynch has handled or supervised a wide range of cases including New York police brutality against a Haitian immigrant, a $45 million cybertheft involving ATMs and the ongoing fraud prosecution of Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York.

Seth Wenig/AP

Loretta Lynch is Pres. Obama's pick for Attorney General.

The GOP plan for Lynch: It's all about immigration - Politico Republican senators and some aides have indicated they would use the confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch as a way to attack Pres. Obama's plan to use executive action on immigration. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah issued a joint statement saying they would ask Lynch "whether or not she believes the president’s executive amnesty plans are constitutional and legal."  Another senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he would spurn any nominee who did not "firmly reject" an executive order on immigration.

Under Pressure, Obama Stays the Course on Immigration - TIME Immigration activists are predicting that an executive order from the president could come in December, "after lawmakers reach a spending agreement that would keep the federal government running."  Potentially millions could be protected from deportation under the president's action. According to the story, implementing such a policy change "would take about six months for Administration officials to implement orders that could include work authorization and protections from deportation for three or four million people, along with changes to programs such as Secure Communities, a Department of Homeland Security program introduced under President George W. Bush that dictates how immigration officials enforce the law."


In immigration news: The coming executive action war, another blow for SB 1070, how relatives' status affects Latino health coverage, more


Evan Vucci/AP

As President Obama contemplates taking executive action on immigration, GOP leaders are preparing for a fight. Obama has reiterated that he plans to act solo on immigration reform by the end of the year.

Obama, GOP brace for political war on immigration - USA Today As President Obama contemplates taking executive action on immigration, Republican leaders are preparing for a fight. The GOP gained control of the Senate and won additional seats in the House in last week's election; one GOP representative said Obama acting solo on immigration would "hurt cooperation on every issue." 

What Obama Could Do Through Executive Orders on Immigration - Bloomberg How far could President Obama go with executive action? From the story: "By using an executive order, Obama could direct the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the deportation of those people it deems a serious threat to the United States, such as drug dealers, violent felons, and gang members. While the order would not legalize anyone who has not committed a serious would effectively mean that the bulk of undocumented immigrants would not face the same scrutiny."


MTA considers major makeover for Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights

Boyle Heights

Grant Slater/KPCC

The entrance to the Mariachi Plaza Gold Line station.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza.

Boyle Heights Google Map

Google Maps

Mariachi plaza is located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the background.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Some of the small businesses lining Mariachi Plaza; according to MTA officials, plans to develop the plaza would involve razing a structure that houses existing businesses to make way for new retail and medical office development.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

An ice cream shop on Mariachi Plaza sells tejuino, a sweet fermented corn drink.

Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A lunchtime customer orders at the Santa Cecilia Restaurant, one of the small businesses lining Mariachi Plaza.

The iconic Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights has already seen its share of changes. Decades ago, there was little more than a hotel and a donut shop. Outside, musicians gathered waiting for work. Five years ago, a Metro Gold Line station opened, bringing foot traffic - and talk of creeping gentrification - as nearby downtown development took off.

Now the plaza could be further transformed, if the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board approves plans for approximately 120,000 square feet of retail and office space surrounding it.

Long-dormant plans by the MTA to develop the plaza - stemming from the days before the real estate bust and recession - were revived late last year. Now they are taking shape, with a proposed site plan unveiled last week.

The MTA’s planning committee recommended earlier this week that the board approve an agreement with a developer to build 70,000 square feet of retail space surrounding the plaza, along with 50,000 square feet of medical offices.