A resident confronts Metro representatives. Photo by Arturo Torres.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and East Los Angeles Community Corporation hosted separate events Thursday night to share new developments and future plans for the future of Boyle Heights. Both events, held at the Boyle Heights Senior Center, drew a crowd of concerned community members and were not without heated exchanges.
ELACC’s press conference lauded residents’ success in stopping a proposed MTA plan to open a CVS pharmacy on the northwest corner of Soto Street and Cesar Chavez Avenue.
ELACC president Maria Cabildo said the community has a history of poorly planned development and that a dialogue has to open between the community and MTA.
“We need to make sure that future developments create opportunities for local businesses to grow their client base,” Cabildo said.
At the core of ELACC’s call to stop the CVS development was the perceived lack of planning for the project and the displacement of long-time, family-owned businesses at the site.
The proposed CVS location was just one block east of a Walgreens pharmacy that opened last June, displacing the Big Buy Foods that had served the community for 46 years.
ELACC has fought MTA’s proposed plan by garnering local support from residents and organizations in an open letter to MTA, and by organizing a protest march last September.
The Boyle Heights-based organization was not spared criticism at the meeting, however, as some community members accused it of misleading residents in the past.
Accusations were also leveled by residents against the Union de Vecinos for trying to monopolize the floor by sending up multiple speakers to address the crowd. One resident yelled that some members of the nonprofit were being paid and did not represent the community.
Following the press conference, MTA held its Eastside Transit Oriented Development meeting at the senior center.
A series of heated exchanges brought out powerful emotions as residents lashed out against MTA, accusing the agency of carrying out a deceptive campaign to garner support for the organization’s redevelopment plans.
Several residents accused MTA liaison Diego Cardoso of not inviting a dialogue, and others accused MTA of lying to the community.
Greg Angelo, MTA director of real property development, took the floor to try to curb the heated exchange by explaining that the agency was holding the meeting to listen to the community.
Boyle Heights resident Raul Gonzales, 45, said he came to the meeting to listen to what MTA had to say but was not convinced it would have any bearing on future development in the community.
“No matter what they say, they’re going to do what they want,” he said.
Much of the night’s discussion centered on MTA’s plans for the northeast corner of First and Lorena Streets near El Mercado de Los Angeles and Evergreen Cemetery.
MTA intends on building either an affordable housing tract or a mixed-use retail/residential development on the site.
This discussion drew several negative responses from the crowd, who complained of the overcrowding of the neighborhood and the existing traffic and parking problem.
Most community members agreed that the best use for the site would be green space because of its proximity to the Evergreen Jogging Path across the street.
“It would be nice to have a pocket park there,” resident Rita Govea, 50, said, adding that it would be a perfect place for joggers to warm up before walking around the path.
MTA plans to hold future community events to keep in touch with the community about its plans to develop properties it owns in the community.
Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published at several publications throughout Southern California.