Construction of affordable housing development on East 1s Street. Photo by Antonio Mejías-Rentas

A proposed update to the Boyle Heights Community Plan that looks to expand housing opportunities and protect existing units was unveiled Thursday by the city’s planning department. The proposed plan also incorporates new policy that respects the cultural fabric of Boyle Heights and addresses long-standing housing issues that have been worsened by a global pandemic.

“The plan seeks to protect the current availability of housing, improve access to local amenities, and preserve the cultural legacy of Boyle Heights through new land use measures,” according to a Los Angeles City Planning press release.

Among the proposals, the plan looks to protect non-traditional housing, such as garage dwellings, and to promote the establishment of more community stores, or tienditas, that are essential sources of food and household goods for many in Boyle Heights.

A major departure from the existing 1998 plan, which envisioned the majority of new growth within the neighborhood to take place along the César E. Chávez corridor, would refocus new growth along three other major transit corridors: First Street, Soto Street and Whittier Boulevard.

Under the new plan, city planners said, as many as 11,000 new housing units could be built in Boyle Heights through the year 2040.

“One of the key pieces of the community plan update is a tailored Community Benefits Program that really incentivizes new affordable housing for income levels that are more appropriate for Boyle Heights, and it expands it to more areas in the community,” said city planner Kiran Rishi.

“The city-wide median income I think is about 65,000 dollars and the median income for BH is 36,000 dollars a year,” said Principal City Planner Haydee Urita-López. “So, when you look at the affordable housing strategy, we made sure that the average median income is matching with Boyle Heights.”

The Community Benefits Program would focus on Lower Income households, whose incomes are 50%-80% of the area median; Very Low Income households (30%-50% of the median); and Extremely Low Income households (0%-30% of the median).

Under the proposal, projects seeking increased development rights would have to set aside 25% of dwelling units for Lower Income households, or 15% for Very Low Income households, or 11% for Extremely Low Income households.

To encourage multi-generational residential settings, the proposed plan would provide incentives for the construction of larger dwellings with two or more bedrooms. It would also make it easier to build or permit existing rear-yard dwellings.

“A lot of people have a garage or a unit in the back, we would love for that to continue to exist,” Urita-López said.

Given that 75% of the households in Boyle Heights are renters, the Community Plan proposes a number of policies and programs aimed at preserving existing dwellings that qualify under existing rent stabilization laws.

The plan also seeks to address existing zoning regulations that have not allowed for new “tienditas” to open in residential zones.

“Especially now during a global pandemic, I think it’s really important to have those smaller business available for people who are immune compromised or don’t feel comfortable going to large store or don’t have access to get to a large store” said Rishi.

The proposed creation of more open spaces for recreational purposes could be especially beneficial during the COVID pandemic, when being able to maintain social distance but still getting fresh air is of great importance.

“Looking at what’s going on with the pandemic now and in the future, having access to healthy open spaces is also very important” said Rishi. “In Boyle Heights there is a lot of industrial mixed with residential, we are trying to make sure there is more greenery buffers between heavy residential and industrial.”

The plan would also provide incentives for the creation of new jobs and the establishment of more, smaller neighborhood businesses, and seek to preserve Boyle Heights cultural assets by supporting the future designation and protection of various identified historic neighborhoods, buildings, and murals, should local stakeholders wish to pursue such protections.

Boyle Heights is “recognized as a key birthplace of Chicana/o activism and civil rights and we honor that legacy,” said Director of Planning Vince Bertoni in making the press release. “Our plan puts housing and families first, so that we can preserve the neighborhood’s sense of hope and promise for future generations to come.”

Prior to advancing the final plan to the City Planning Commission and the City Council, the department said it will organize a workshop and public hearing to solicit additional input and community feedback.

Links to the full plan draft, zoning regulation changes and community benefits program can be found here.


Yazmin Nunez is a freelance journalist. A Roosevelt High School alumni, she is one of the founding reporters of Boyle Heights Beat and enjoys writing stories on the history of her community.

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