Wyvernwood Protests Pick-Up, Push Anti-Profit Message
Neighborhood Council to vote on supporting or opposing project later this month.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
The fight over a proposed Boyle Heights area development is heating up again, with opponents to the project stepping up their protest with a rally yesterday where they demanded rental units be “for people, not for profit.”
The proposed redevelopment of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartment community could be up for final approval by the city later this year.
Backers of the project, which includes a number of community groups and local unions, see the proposed development as a way to bring needed jobs and improved housing stock to the working class neighborhood located just east of Downtown Los Angeles.
Opponents see the “New Wyvernwood” as the tearing down of a community for increased profits and as adding more density in an already dense area.
The spacious green lawns of the residential community have become a battlefield of sorts, with supporters and detractors each holding rallies there to draw attention to their respective positions.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Actividades en Wyvernwood Aumentan, En Contra y A Favor del Proyecto de Reurbanización
On Wednesday, it was the opponents attempting to gather support for their efforts to block the project that would dramatically alter the privately owned 70-acre community by more than doubling the number of housing units and the construction of high-rise buildings. They claim approval of the redevelopment would result in the loss of affordable housing in an area where much of the population is low-income.
Wednesday’s “Take Back Wyvernwood” rally was just one of several planned protests being orchestrated by the Frente de Apoyo al Comite de la Esperanza (FACE a coalition of community-based organizations supporting the Comité de la Esperanza (Committee of Hope), which has been leading the opposition to the project.
An online petition to “Save Wyvernwood” — which opponents have started comparing to the forced evictions at Chavez Ravine in the 1950s to make room for the construction of Dodger Stadium — is another of the tools being used to gather opposition to the demolition of what is often referred to by supporters as a small village located within a larger city.
Wednesday’s rally was also in support of the national “Homes For All” campaign being promoted by the Right to the City Alliance (RTTC), a coalition of 45 organizations and headquartered in New York, according to El Comité President Leonardo Lopez and spokesman Roberto Mojica. The campaign seeks to draw attention to the housing crisis being faced by low- and extremely low-income people of color in urban and suburban settings and, according to the groups website, call for the creation of one million new affordable and public housing units that are free them from the “grips of corporate and market-driven interests.”
Mojica told EGP that FACE is ramping up its efforts to inform the community about what they claim are the project’s drawbacks, such as the loss of rent-controlled units.
Wyvernwood was designed to foster a sense of community and open spaces where children can play, Lopez told EGP. It’s worth fighting for, he said.
Redevelopment would bring gentrification and displace low-income working class Latino families, some who have lived at Wyvernwood for generations, opponents claim.
Fifteen Group’s plan calls for a mixed-use community, demolishing several buildings and increasing the number of apartments from 1,187 to 4,400 rental units and condominiums in several new structures as tall as 18 to 24 stories high.
According to East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) community organizer Jose Fernandez, the Post-World War II community should be preserved and apartments units fully renovated.
“The property owner claims the apartments are so worn down that the only solution is to demolish them and start over again, but since they’ve been owners, maintenance has not been at adequate standards—that’s why there’s so many issues with the buildings,” Fernandez said.
However, opposition to the project is far from universal.
One group that may not support efforts to block the development is the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, which includes a cross section of the area’s stakeholders. In January, the council voted to support “The New Wyvernwood,” but the vote and other decisions made at the meeting were nullified over procedural errors related to a change in meeting location.
According to BHNC President Edward Padilla, when the council found it had been locked out of its regular meeting place at the Boyle Heights Senior Center, they moved the meeting to the nearby Nichiren Shu Buddhist Temple, which they did not know was a violation of the requirement that meeting location changes be posted at least 24-hours in advance. The city attorney recommended that all decisions made at the meeting be vacated, Padilla explained.
Mojica and Lopez contend, however, that the city attorney’s decision was the result of the grievance they filed which alleged only supporters of Fifteen Group were invited to the meeting where the developer would present the project. They said the council did not even place a notice on the door telling people where they had moved the meeting to, and they only stumbled upon the meeting by asking people on the street if they knew where the large group of people, whose cars were parked in the lot, had headed.
A former member of the BHNC, Lopez said the issue is too important to be taken lightly. He emphasized that all of Boyle Heights could be impacted by the increased density and poorer air quality during the construction that could last a decade.
The BHNC recommendation is intended to inform the Los Angeles City Council about the community’s support or opposition the project.
There are many supporters of The New Wyvernwood, including current BHNC members Terry Marquez and Margarita Amador, as well as some new and long-time Wyvernwood residents who want modern facilities and amenities the market-rate apartments don’t currently offer.
Other supporters including Homeboy Industries, LA County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo, and others who support Fifteen Group’s Boyle Heights Jobs Collaborative that would prioritize the hiring of people from the local community.
As many as 10,000 construction-related jobs and another 3,000 non-construction jobs are expected to be generated by the 10-year, $2 billion redevelopment, according to Fifteen Group.
In addition to construction jobs, the project will bring modern housing, new green spaces, new retail options and public safety enhancements, Fifteen Group Principal Steven Fink previously told EGP.
Current residents in good standing will be able to move into a new apartment at the same rent, and the Resident Retention Plans will be legally binding and formalized in the project agreement with the City of Los Angeles, according to Fink.
Despite those assertions, however, opponents to the project are skeptical.
The City Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to take up the project at its May 9 meeting.
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March 14, 2013 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.