By Leslie Berestein Rojas, January 20, 2015
Mariachi Plaza's "kiosko," with the historic Boyle Hotel in the
background. A proposal to develop retail and medical office space at the
plaza has drawn controversy.
On Thursday, county Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials
will seek public input on three developments in Boyle Heights. One
that’s drawing controversy is at Mariachi Plaza, the iconic gathering
place at First and Boyle.
The proposal recommends building roughly 120,000 square feet of retail
and medical office space surrounding the plaza, named for the musicians
who have gathered there for decades.
MTA officials say their goal is to increase ridership by building
amenities like housing and retail near the tracks. But unlike two
planned development at nearby stations, this one isn't getting as much
The two other Boyle Heights site plans involve affordable housing.
This one doesn't. The proposal also calls for tearing down an existing
structure that houses several small merchants.
“If we have to move, what is going to happen to us?," said Minerva
Villa, who with her husband owns a snack and ice cream shop on the
plaza. "I’m concerned about that.”
This and other businesses sit on a private parcel adjacent to the MTA
property that would also be part of the development. Tenants worry they
would not be able to afford higher rents.
But MTA officials say it may not come to that . There is no
development contract yet, and enough community input could sway them to
rework what's being proposed.
"Generally there has not been much support for Mariachi Plaza. We might
start over from scratch," said MTA development officer Jenna Hornstock.
She said the agency has been trying to gather community input since
the proposal was announced in the fall. Results are to be presented to
the MTA board next month.
The plaza's history - and its name - date back to when there was
little there save for the 1889 Boyle Hotel, once a popular crash pad for
immigrant musicians. The mariachis often waited outside a small donut
shop, hoping to be hired for gigs.
But the area has seen its share of changes and development in recent
years. A Metro Gold Line station nearby opened in 2009. Then the Boyle
Hotel was renovated, partly as affordable housing - although musicians
say it's not affordable enough. New businesses have sprung up around the
plaza, and downtown development to the west has added to fear of
The Metro community meeting takes place Thursday, Jan. 22 between
6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Puente Learning Center, 501 S. Boyle Avenue, Los