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After development is nixed, what's next for Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza?



A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza. The building it is on would have been torn down as part of a proposed development by the MTA, which has reconsidered.
A mural along Boyle Avenue, just off Boyle Heights' Mariachi Plaza. The building it is on would have been torn down as part of a proposed development by the MTA, which has reconsidered.
Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

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Opposition from the community has pushed the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit to rethink a proposed development at Mariachi Plaza, the iconic Boyle Heights gathering spot.

The proposal was for a roughly 120,000-square-foot development with shops and medical office space. Critics argued that it wouldn't suit the needs of the historic immigrant neighborhood - and  would encourage further gentrification from downtown. 

So now that Metro plans to go back to the drawing board, what do residents and merchants want? It depends on who you ask.

“Some people want a market, and a laundry where they can wash their clothes. Some people want parks," said Carlos M. Montes, head of the Boyle Heights neighborhood council. "Some people want recreation. And of course, some people want low-income housing.”

Community activist Diana del Pozo-Mora said retail was welcome: "That is one of the things that our community is lacking," she said. "We don’t have a Ross. We don’t even have a Ralphs.”

She said she liked the idea of medical office space, especially if it catered to families with elderly loved ones being cared for at home. And both agreed that parking is essential.

Jorge Tello, who owns the mariachi-suit tailor shop La Casa Del Mariachi, said what many local merchants have expressed: What he'd like is to be able to stay in the neighborhood, and not get squeezed out as the area gentrifies.

"We've been in this area for 30 years, and we'd like to see ourselves stay here with the other businesses for another 30 years, that we don't get displaced," said Tello in Spanish. "The monster is already making noise across the river." 

The "monster" he refers to is creeping development from the West, already visible from his vantage point across from the plaza.

MTA officials underestimated backlash from the proposal for the Gold Line station, one of three development proposals for stations in Boyle Heights. All were proposed as a way of attracting riders.

Agency project director Jessica Hornstock said  it became evident at a community meeting last week that the project didn't have enough support to move forward.

“Part of this process is to listen to the community," Hornstock said. "In the course of listening, it became very clear – we definitely want to start over with this one.”

Hornstock said the agency would start over from scratch and request new development proposals. The two other Boyle Heights proposals, which involve housing, are still in the works – so far.

The agency will gather more input Wednesday night at a meeting of the neighborhood council. An oral report with community input will be presented to MTA officials in February.