A boisterous contingent of May Day marchers trekked from Boyle Heights to the steps of City Hall yesterday to protest a proposed $2 billion mixed-use development that would replace a World War II era, 69-acre apartment complex that is home to about 6,000 people.
Later this month, the city Planning Commission is expected to consider a plan by Fifteen Group LLC to demolish the existing rent-controlled apartments along East Olympic Boulevard and build a mixed-use complex that would include 4,400 residential units, 300,000 square feet of retail and office space, and 10 acres of parks.
City Councilman Jose Huizar emerged from City Hall this afternoon to address the group from Wyvernwood apartments and their supporters, including Comite de la Esperanza and the East L.A. Community Corp., who claim the project would displace 6,000 people, many of whom they say are low-income Spanish-speakers.
“Our community is in danger of being demolished … to make way for high rises and luxury condominiums,” Rigo Amavizca, a life-long resident at Wyvernwood, told City News Service.
Huizar said he opposes the developer’s plan because “it’s too dense,” doesn’t preserve historical areas and lacks community support.
“We are close to the Planning Commission and I haven’t seen anything from the developer yet,” Huizar said. “The developer needs to come out with something that makes sense, and I haven’t seen anything yet.”
Fifteen Group LLC bought the apartments in 1998. The environmental impact report for the redevelopment was completed last December.
The project is supported by unions, including the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
One resident who supports the project said claims that people will be involuntarily displaced are false.
“No one’s being evicted. No one’s being kicked out on the streets,” said Rosario Guerrero, who led another rally comprised of 40 supporters of the project.
Guerrero said the developer’s plan allows for rents to remain the same. In some cases, residents may be given an opportunity to buy units.
She said the vintage-1939 buildings have outdated plumbing and wiring and lack central air conditioning.
“I don’t see why people would not want to improve their living conditions,” she said.
Huizar also questioned claims residents would be displaced, saying residents would be given first dibs on the new units.
“The housing plan, on its face, is a very good one. It’s affordable,” he said. “The issue is density.”
Huizar said he planned to talk to both sides.
“There may be a midpoint here,” he said.
Guerrero said she was not affiliated with the developer and had been a Wyvernwood resident most of her life. She claims she and more than 100 residents have tried unsuccessfully to get a meeting with Huizar.
According to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments was the “first large-scale garden apartment complex” in Los Angeles.