Sentiments of support and opposition continue over the Wyvernwood Gardens Apartment Redevelopment Project, a $2-billion plan that promises to completely gut and replace a sprawling 70-acre housing complex in Boyle Heights.
The Florida based redevelopment giant, Fifteen Group, plans to build up to 4,400 condominiums and apartment units, along with retail and commercial space, replacing one and two-story apartment complexes with 24-story high rises.
A townhall meeting designed to keep residents informed on the progress of the Wyvernwood renovation project drew over 200 community members to the Lou Costello Recreation Center last Thursday.
The meeting, organized by 14th District Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office, brought both pro and anti-renovation groups together to voice their concerns over the project’s future before the release of the final Environmental Impact Report, expected to be released next month.
Last year, Councilman Huizar came out against the proposal, and explained his stance to Boyle Heights Beat youth reporter Cinthia Gonzales in a previously published story. “There is a community that has existed [there] for decades who like what they have,” he said. “They just want to see improvements and not see the whole thing torn down and something put up that will displace them.”
Huizar will have a chance to vote on this when the proposal goes before the city council for a full vote following review by the Central Planning Commission and Planning and Land Use Management Committee next year.
The aging apartment complex, which was first constructed in 1939 and is a registered landmark in the California Register of Historical Resources, is home to several residential groups that oppose and favor the redevelopment project.
Huizar invited members of the Los Angeles Planning Department and Housing Authority to participate, to provide officials with a feel for how the proposed project could affect residents’ lives.
In a show of support for their perspective sides, each group wore either a white t-shirt, for the anti-development group, or yellow t-shirts for the group in favor to the project.
The open-forum event gave residents from each side an equal platform to voice their concerns over the project, but even so, residents from the anti-renovation side said they weren’t given enough time to completely express their feelings.
Adriana Carranza, 35, who has lived in Wyvernwood her whole life, said that the one-minute time allotted to each resident fell short of what was needed to tell her side.
Carranza says she loves the wide-open green spaces and the community she has built with her neighbors over the years.
“I grew up here; my kids are growing up here. I know my neighbors and they know me. I feel safe here.” said Carranza.
She also said that she is distrustful of the Fifteen Group, which is behind the redevelopment.
She and other development opponents accuse the developer of arranging to drop off a busload of pro-renovation residents at Costello.
“I walked to the meeting and so did many other residents opposed to the project. I’m not so sure if everyone on that bus was actually a Wyvernwood resident. Why would they have to be bused in?” asked Carranza.
According to a Fifteen Group representative, the developer had no involvement with organizing, or busing any residents to the meeting.
Lucy Gonzalez, 26, also took exception to the allegation saying that everyone she saw on the pro-renovation side was a resident.
“I didn’t see a bus pull up to the meeting. We might be a little more organized since we all met at the main office, but we walked to the meeting,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is ready for a change, and so are many like-minded residents.
“We’re tired of all the problems these apartments have. We want something nice for ourselves and for our children,” said Gonzalez.
“Our group is growing. The more information we have spread, the more people are joining our side,” said Gonzalez.
Residents on both sides said they appreciated the hearing. Councilman Huizar’s office said they expect several upcoming meetings to be held starting next month.
- To share your opinion, write to Jose Huizar, Council District 14 Boyle Heights Office, 1870 E. First St., Los Angeles, CA 90033
- To track the approval process, visit cityplanning.lacity.org. Search for Case # ENV-2008-2141-EIR (Boyle Heights Mixed- Use Community Project). The city’s EIR will be available for review at the department’s office at 200 North Spring Street, Room 750, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Copies are also available at some city library branches.