Community members raise concerns over the proposed Lorena Plaza Mixed-Use Development project. Photo by Art Torres
Community members raise concerns over the proposed Lorena Plaza Mixed-Use Development project. Photo by Art Torres
Community members raise concerns over the proposed Lorena Plaza Mixed-Use Development project. Photo by Art Torres

A small, but emotionally charged crowd came together at YouthBuild Boyle Heights Feb. 12 to express their concerns on the proposed Lorena Plaza Mixed-Use Development project.

The meeting was hosted by A Community of Friends, a non-profit affordable housing developer that is charged with developing the project on the northeast corner of 1st and Lorena streets, adjacent to El Mercado de Los Angeles.

The meeting was designed to introduce plans for the development of the project that includes mixed-use, retail and residential structures with parking facilities on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority property.

Emotions ran high from the beginning as one resident after another voiced their disapproval of the plan to Dora Leong Gallo, ACOF chief executive officer and moderator of the meeting.

Some of the concerns expressed by community members included traffic and parking issues, overpopulation, having residents with mental health issues moving into the community and that the MTA had promised a pocket-park on the site.

“I don’t want you to bring more people to an area that is already overpopulated. This is my home, I want to retire in peace,” said Art Fierros, 59-year resident of Boyle Heights.

Maricela Vasquez, who has lived in Boyle Heights since 1972, said she doesn’t want anyone with mental health issues living in her neighborhood.

“No one will benefit from this; not even the mentally ill. There is nothing here for them. We have no facilities here,” said Vasquez.

Gallo addressed community concerns one-by-one, answering pointed questions about the project, the issues the development will bring and how ACOF won the contract for the project.

Many residents were concerned about the process that was used to award ACOF the contract, citing the negotiations were exclusive between the developers and the MTA, a notion dismissed by Gallo.

She said there was no improper conduct on the part of either organization and that the ACOF was awarded the contract on an open bid basis.

“The MTA put out a request for proposal, which is come-one, come-all, and so we did. After they select a group, they enter into an exclusive negotiation,” said Gallo.

She said the exclusive negotiation is an agreement between the MTA and the ACOF that the MTA would deal only with them, and not other contractors for a specified time period, once they were selected.

Gallo also said she was unaware of MTA’s promise to build a park on the site, saying she only learned this in January; an issue that was of great concern to many residents.

“We were promised a park, and we didn’t get one,” said resident Alfonso Mercado.

Another concern raised was the lack of community outreach done by both the MTA and the ACOF.

Fierro said he has lived here most of his life and that he has never been informed of any community meetings staged by the MTA about this property, or any other.

He also asked what Councilmember Jose Huizar’s stand was on the project, directing his question to Jennifer Martinez, the Council District 14 Boyle Heights area director who was representing him.

“Huizar has been opposed to the project from the start,” said Martinez.

Rick Coca, Huizar’s communications director, confirmed the councilmember’s stance.

“The Councilmember’s position is pretty clear and part of the public record – he was the only Metro Director to vote against the plan when sitting on the Metro Board and was extremely disappointed with the outcome,” said Coca via email.

This was the first of two community meetings being held by the ACOF with the second meeting scheduled for Feb., 19 at 6:30 p.m. at YouthBuild Boyle Heights 202 N. Saratoga Ave., Los Angeles, Calif., 90022.

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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