A recent business assessment of six commercial corridors in Boyle Heights has found that the area’s business community would benefit from establishing a Business Improvement District (BID) to better represent the needs of local commercial establishments. The study, still in its draft-form, also found that business owners could benefit from micro-loans and an entrepreneurial training program, among other recommendations.
The study and recommendations will be discussed today at a meeting of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee (TEC). In an email to EGP, TEC Chair Carlos Montes said the study highlighted “some really glaring problems.”
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Negocios de Boyle Heights Enfrentan Muchos Obstáculos, Detalla Estudio 
The Boyle Heights Commercial and Retail Business Corridor Assessment & Business Registry, conducted in 2012 by the Valley Economic Development Corporation (VEDC) and sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, documented and surveyed businesses located on Marengo Street, Mission Road, Cesar Chavez Avenue, First Street, Whittier Boulevard, and Olympic Boulevard.
The group documented 685 businesses along the six corridors, of which 271 were interviewed, a participation rate of 40 percent.
The study is not yet complete and VEDC is still meeting with local organizations to get more information, according to VEDC Public Relations Specialist Lisa Winkle. The final study is expected to be completed in a couple of months, she told EGP.
In addition to collecting basic information regarding the types of commercial or retail businesses in the Los Angeles neighborhood, the assessment also sought feedback from business owners about the health of their businesses, the business climate, regional and infrastructure issues, and financial and/or technical assistance services needed.
The initial assessment found that businesses were most concerned with: inadequate customer parking and poorly maintained streets, sidewalks and trees. They want better street lighting and more frequent trash and garbage pickup.
Illegal vendor activity, gang activity, crime prevention, graffiti and vandalism are other areas of concern, as are LAPD response times and business relations, overzealous parking enforcement and code enforcement activities. They also said they want access to business assistance services and community outreach programs.
The draft study makes recommendations to address parking, infrastructure and maintenance, public safety and business assistance service issues.
Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council President Edward Padilla told EGP on Tuesday that while there was some enthusiasm about the study, “as it documented many evident truths about the community,” they study was “limited in scope.”
At a presentation on the study at a neighborhood council meeting late last year, a few First Street Business owners indicated they had not participated in the study, he said.
The BHNC board also had several concerns about the study.
“Some of our board members commented on lack of acknowledgement of 4th Street which is a significant business corridor, and because the study was conducted by a third party vendor hired by Chase, it was clear that its primary purpose was to generate business for them,” Padilla said.
Meanwhile, while the study is not yet complete, it has prompted the VEDC to open an office in the Boyle Heights area and to offer micro-loans of less than $5,000, Winkle said. The VEDC already has a micro-loan program that gives out loans less than $1,000, she added.
The Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce is also aware of the study and while many of the problems identified are nothing new to business owners, Chamber board member Ralph Carmona told EGP he personally thinks that the VEDC’s micro-loan program could go a long way in helping start-up and struggling businesses.
Years ago, Carmona said, the chamber was involved in an effort to start a Business Improvement District in Boyle Heights, but it never came to fruition. He noted that the chamber is composed of volunteers and does not have the capacity to create and manage the district on its own.
The study is not the only item up for discussion at today’s neighborhood council committee meeting. TEC may also take up discussion on extending parking meter times from 1 to 2 hours and extending time on meters from 15 to 30 minutes for each 25-cents. Sidewalk repair, trash and police enforcement will also be discussed as part of the issues that could make the shopping districts more inviting to consumers.
The TEC meeting will take place from 6p.m. to 7:50 p.m. at the Benjamin Franklin Library, located at 2200 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033. For more information, contact TEC Chair Carlos Montes at email@example.com.