April 25, 2017. Tenants and activists protest in front of building whose owners are demanding sudden rent increases of up to 80%. Photo from Facebook/Carlos Ortez.

Residents of an apartment building one block south of Mariachi Plaza –including several mariachi musicians who seek work at that iconic location– are protesting sudden rent increases that range from 60 to 80%. Unión de Vecinos, which organized a rally Tuesday at Mariachi Plaza, said the tenants are refusing to pay the increased rates –as high as $800 in one case– and their rent checks have been returned by the management company.

A spokesperson for Union de Vecinos told Curbed Los Angeles that about one-third of the tenants in the 25-unit building on East Second Street are rented by mariachis, who have a long history as a Boyle Heights cultural staple.

Culver City-based Crescent Canyon Management, which manages the building, said it made a number of property improvements over the last four months, including new HVAC units, new fencing and gates, a new on-site laundry facility. But tenants contest those claims saying they have only seen cosmetic changes such as a gravel garden and new plants.

Crescent Canyon said it posted rent increases for seven of the building’s 25 units. Residents say Crescent Canyon Management have not met with tenants despite ongoing efforts to negotiate.

LA Weekly interviewed some of the mariachis that live in the apartment building, who said that living near Mariachi Plaza is essential for their line of work, and that it is important to live near their “headquarters” so that they have access to other musicians who are hiring and finding paid gigs. The publication reported that 10 mariachis live in the building.

The building does not fall under rent-control measures because it was built after 1978. According to data provided by Councilman José Huízar, 75% of Boyle Heights residents are renters and 88% of them are protected by rent-control.

A spokesman for the councilman told LA Weekly that the hikes are “completely unreasonable,” and that Huízar’s office has requested to meet with building owner Frank Turner, but that Turner has not scheduled a date for that yet.

Unión de Vecinos says that tenants in other nearby buildings are being threatened by owners with the possibility of higher rents and displacement.

Photo above: Tenants, including some mariachis, and other activists protest at rally Tuesday in front of apartment building on East 2nd Street.  Photo from Facebook/Carlos Ortez.

Kyle Garcia

Kyle García is a former web editor with Boyle Heights Beat.

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