Mothers and their kids play in Wyvernwood. / Photo: Cinthia Gonzales
Mothers and their kids play in Wyvernwood. / Photo: Cinthia Gonzales
Mothers and their kids play in Wyvernwood. / Photo: Cinthia Gonzales

Nearly 400 people flooded the 10th floor of Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday to express their feelings and concerns about the proposed Wyvernwood Garden Apartments redevelopment project.

The public hearing was designed to give community members an opportunity to speak directly to city planning department officials about the massive project that would demolish the 1939 housing complex and replace it with condominiums, offices, parks and shopping centers.

The New Wyvernwood-Boyle Heights Mixed-Use Community Project promises to provide increased housing and homeownership to the residents of the Wyvernwood community.

It will include the construction of up to 3,200 condominium units and no less than 1,200 rental units, along with retail and office spaces on the nearly 70 acre site.

The advisory agency/zoning administrator meeting started more than one hour after the scheduled time of 10 a.m. and accommodated seating for only 70 in the main chamber.

Overflowed meeting rooms accommodating an additional 250 people proved inadequate as community members filled the hallways of the historic building.

Many community members took the microphone to express their views, both pro and con.

Proponents of the plan cited the desire for updated, modern dwellings that would provide residents with an improved electrical and plumbing infrastructure, cable and internet access, job creation, along with better accessibility for both emergency and non-emergency traffic.

Opponents argued the project would pose a health risk because of the dust associated with the construction, increased noise and traffic problems, increased smog, over crowdedness and the loss of the community’s identity.

In contrast to prior community meetings, today’s meeting did not feature much controversy among residents, many of who are polarized in their opinion about the plan.

This was due in part to the planning department’s repeated contention that the meeting was just an information-gathering event.

“We are just here to hear from the community members. No decisions will be made today,” said Senior City Planner Jon Foreman, adding that a staff report detailing the results of the meeting will be forwarded to the city planning department.

A sea of yellow-shirted project supporters flooded the main chamber; all in favor of the project’s advancement, while groups– including East LA Community Corporation and Comite de la Esperanza– came together to voice their opposition.

Monsignor John Moretta, Pastor of Resurrection Church, voiced his support for the project.

He spoke about the inadequate conditions that currently exist in Wyvernwood and how the community needs improved residential facilities to entice residents to come back to the neighborhood as adults instead of moving out of the community.

“It’s very frustrating to be here 29 years and see our people, who have been through college, get nice jobs who won’t come back to live in the community,” said Moretta.

He went on to say that with improved living conditions, these people may want to stay here to raise their families in the same place they grew up.

Wyvernwood property owners, the Fifteen Group delivered a PowerPoint presentation detailing the specifics of how the project will manifest itself to open the meeting.

Although the meeting was mostly free of incident, some community members accused proponent groups of being paid by the Fifteen Group to create a presence at the meeting, an allegation that was vehemently denied.

One resident who said he was affiliated with the East Los Angeles Community Corporation argued that the meeting itself created a “pro-project” atmosphere because of the time it was staged and because it was conducted in English.

Speakers for the project outnumbered those against by a margin of about two to one.

Community members will have two more opportunities to voice their opinions to city officials beginning in March when the city planning department holds a meeting, and consequently at a Los Angeles City Council meeting.
 

Gus Ugalde

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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