Community members and activists will march from Downtown LA to Boyle Heights Thursday to protest what they call “irresponsible” development practices by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) in low-income working class communities.

East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), in partnership with Right to the City Alliance, the Bus Riders Union, and Union de Vecinos will lead Take Back LA, a campaign action that aims to influence Metro’s construction plans for eight empty plots of land near the Eastside Gold Line Extension in Boyle Heights.

According to ELACC, the construction phase of the light rail on the Eastside, which began in 2004, led to the displacement of 250 families and left empty lots to sit vacant for more than six years. However, Metro Media Relations Spokesman Marc Littman says all the affordable housing units that were removed in the Boyle Heights and East LA area have been replaced.

“Metro is one of the major players in promoting affordable housing in Los Angeles,” said Littman. “The projects we’ve done so far or that are under construction include 1,222 affordable housing units.”

So far, the only projects approved by Metro include a development of 52 units of affordable housing and 10,000 square feet of retail space on 1st and Lorena. According to Littman, the board will continue to design guidelines and request proposals from developers in the next coming months.

But activists demand community input over redevelopment plans on Metro property, and argue the agency is focusing on introducing big box retail stores to the community, affecting small, local business and ignoring the community’s needs.

“[Metro] is ignoring us, they’re not listening. We want a market, a laundromat, affordable housing, a park,” said Boyle Heights resident Petra Rivera, 65, at a June protest organized by ELACC against a proposed CVS drugstore near the corner of Soto Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue.

But Littman says plans for a CVS on that intersection of Boyle Heights fell through, and says the agency’s board is instead looking to bring a market to the area.

“The board is very cognizant that this land is owned by tax payers and we want to get the best use out of it and use it for what’s compatible with what the community wants,” said Littman.

Making matters more complicated, community members are not unanimous about what they want. Although most residents in attendance at a recent town hall meeting hosted by ELACC agreed they want to see a grocery store, there was disagreement on building additional affordable housing projects.

When asked about ways to engage the community, Littman called Metro’s plans “transparent,” citing several community meetings that have been held in the past and noting there’s been active communication with Councilman Jose Huizar and L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina who are on the Metro’s board of directors.

“This is a good time for the community to talk to their local representatives who happen to serve on our board as well, before our board adopts any guidelines for new proposals,” said Littman.

A demonstration is planned for Thursday starting at 3 p.m. at Father Serra Park in Downtown LA. The march will then continue to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

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