March convenes at City Hall. Photo from Community Education for Social Action (CESA) Facebook page
Hundreds of Boyle Heights residents and their supporters came together on May Day to raise their voice against the demolition of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments and displacement of their tenants.
“More than just apartments, it’s a community that is intended to be destroyed and we do not want that to happen,” said Irene Medina, who participated in the march that started at the complex, home to 6,000 residents.
The protest came to City Hall, where the City Planning Commission plans to conduct a public hearing on the multimillion Wyvernwood redevelopment project on May 30. The project will cost $2 billion and, if approved, would include the construction of apartments, condominiums, office and retail spaces.
Residents, the vast majority low-income Latinos, say more than three years ago the developer and property’s owner, Fifteen Group, informed them of their intention to demolish the complex made up of 153 buildings with about 1,200 units, to convert the 70-acre space into housing with over 4,000 apartments.
“They’ve been saying that for years, but nothing has happened. I hope they leave everything as it is because I live very comfortable here,” said Joel Gamero, a Wyvernwood resident for more than 20 years who shares his apartment with his wife and another couple to afford their monthly rent of $960.
“If they demolish the apartments, I’m sure we will not return because rents will will rise and that’ll keep us out,” said the retiree.
But Angie Vega, who has lived in the apartments less than a year, supported redevelopment of the housing complex.
“Everything is very old. If you turn all appliances at the same time, the power goes out,” said the mother who pays over $ 1,500 monthly in rent. “I think people do not want to leave from here only because they hold memories of seeing their children grow up here, but I don’t think it is a place that should not be replaced.”
The community organization East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), which supports families who oppose the demolition, said that the housing complex that would replace the current is designed for families with an average annual income of $90,000. According ELACC, the average income of families in Boyle Heights is just over $40,000 a year.
“Boyle Heights and is already one of the densest areas of the city of Los Angeles,” noted Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the neighborhood and opposes the proposed project. “I am deeply concerned about the project’s density, historic preservation and community support,” he said.
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Story was originally published in La Opinión