Metro Takes In Ideas for Mariachi Plaza

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Boyle Heights resident Leticia Andrade last Saturday said she would like to see affordable housing built on an empty lot located behind Mariachi Plaza. Restaurant owner Armando Salazar wants a grocery store or a public parking lot, and senior Carmen Fuentes thinks a center offering services to seniors and children would be a good fit at that location.

Andrade told EGP she knows of families that have “up to seven people living in a one bedroom apartment” and building more affordable housing would help alleviate some of the overcrowding.

Lea este artículo en Español: Metro Recibe Ideas para la Plaza del Mariachi Plaza

Hers and other views were expressed during the first of two public workshops being hosted by Metro to gather input from Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders on what the transportation agency should do with two empty lots it owns adjacent to Mariachi Plaza, on Bailey Street between Pennsylvania and 1st Streets.

The design workshops are being facilitated by Metro’s urban design/architectural consultant team, with the objective of creating a project that will reflect “community goals” for the space.

Mariachi Plaza is an iconic place for Boyle Heights, Metro Director of Planning Vivian Rescalvo told EGP, explaining that Metro wants to hear directly from the community how they would like see the space used, whether it’s for housing, public space, retail or any other ideas.

This is not the first time Metro has traveled down this road. Past proposals for developing the lots were met with strong community opposition ultimately scrapped.

Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders discuss best use for two vacant Metro-owned lots behind Mariachi Plaza. (EGP photo by jacqueline Garcia)

Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders discuss best use for two vacant Metro-owned lots behind Mariachi Plaza. (EGP photo by jacqueline Garcia)

Metro is starting all over with new ideas and community input, Rescalvo said.

“We are ready to hear from the community based on what Boyle Heights has, what do they feel it needs and what do they think is the right use for these properties immediately adjacent to Mariachi Plaza,” she said.

Salazar owns the Santa Cecilia Restaurant at Mariachi Plaza and thinks the community needs a grocery store. “We used to have a market and it was demolished when Metro started building,” he told EGP. “A parking lot for Boyle Heights visitors would also be a good idea,” he added.

Saturday’s workshop kicked off with a presentation by the Las Fotos Project – a community based photography program for girls and young women— which the group said highlighted the needs of the community as captured through the lens of their cameras:

A photo of a large group of people gathered on a sidewalk on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, showcased the need for more open spaces with benches; a photo of a graffiti covered wall called attention to the need for more recreational areas to prevent tagging of existing murals; and a photo of street vendors on a local sidewalk suggested the empty lots could be used as a place for street vendors to sell their wares.

Las Fotos Project member Jennifer Bermudez said her photo of cars parked on the street shows there is a need for more public parking.

“We live in a dense area, and especially in Mariachi Plaza and Cesar Chavez where a lot of events are going on, there’s no parking,” she said. “That’s always a struggle [to find parking] and that creates [more] traffic,” Bermudez said.

The workshop included opportunities for the 100 or so people in attendance to meet in small groups with Metro planning representatives to discuss the ideas for the land they believe to be the best fit for the eastside neighborhood —whether taken from the photos they had just seen or based on what they see in their everyday life.

They were encouraged to “dream big.”

“A pool,” suggested one resident. “A skate park,” said another.

Rafael Chagoya is a member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and he thinks public restrooms at Metro’s Gold Line station at Mariachi Plaza is what’s needed.

Many other Metro stations have public restrooms, but there are none here, he told the group at his table.
Chagoya also supports creating a space where street vendors can do business in a “dignified way,” without being kicked out every time they try to sell their goods.

Andrade agrees. If new affordable housing makes it into Metro’s plan, she suggests the housing include street level retail space, which could be a good rental option for local street vendors.

At the end of the workshop, participants were given green stickers to vote for their four favorite ideas presented and red stickers for the two options they most opposed.

Among the top options were a grocery store, parks, affordable housing or public parking. Getting the highest number of no votes were proposals for commercial use, such as offices, a healthcare clinic, bank or gym, and for civic spaces like a library or city/county/state agency.

A second community workshop will take place March 9 at Bishop Mora Salesian High School from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend. For more information, visit, https://www.metro.net/projects/jd-boyle-heights/upcoming-meetings/.

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