Hundreds of Boyle Heights families surrounding the historic Sears building celebrate that it will no longer be turned into a homeless resource center.
Many were concerned that a project was going to be carried out of which they were never notified or consulted. But it would directly affect them because the Los Angeles Life Rebuilding Center housing project intended to house between 5,500 and 10,000 homeless people in phases.
Activist Martha Jimenez said they met Monday at Resurrection Catholic Church in Boyle Heights, with the support of Monsignor John Moretta, to show their opposition to Orange County businessman William Taormina.
“The community made it known to the millionaire investors that they were not willing to have a massive homeless detention center as a national model of housing development,” Jiménez said.
Taormina came on behalf of the building’s owner, Izek Shomof, who bought the property in 2013 for a total of $1.6 million. Originally it was planned to convert the building into a residential and commercial complex.
Eventually the plan changed and the idea was to create a downtown with permanent affordable housing on the nine acres of land the building occupies.
It was later agreed to at the homeless center. However, residents of the area expressed concern saying they feared some of the thousands of residents who would be housed there had mental problems and could wreak havoc on the community.
Some residents indicated that lately they have been assaulted by homeless people and there is no close monitoring by the police.
The activist explained that a seven-year-old boy declared on the verge of tears, at the meeting on Monday, that he lives in constant fear of the insecurity of homeless people who live on the sidewalks on his way to school. She said that he can’t even go out to the park.
“Several parents testified that the place where the Sears building is located is very dangerous to build a housing complex for homeless people,” said Jiménez. “It’s very close to a lot of schools and they can endanger the school population.”
Monsignor John Moretta, pastor of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights, said Taormina’s response that night was like “a miracle.”
“I’ve never seen a developer or entrepreneur change their mind so quickly after seeing the feedback in the community,” Moretta said. “He took down the picture he was bringing of the Sears building and put up one of the people’s signs that said, ‘No to the detention center,’ and after that, he became convinced that it wouldn’t be practical or fair for the community to develop that property that way. way”.
Taormina asked to hear opinions about what the community was asking for instead.
Jiménez said that some people suggested creating extensive education university campuses and colleges that provide training and job placement for the community in different professions.
Others offered the possibility of a mixed-use building such as a hotel with a convention center or affordable family housing with shops and a supermarket.
Other ideas include a multi-resource center, recreational areas, gyms, community gardens, performance halls for concerts and for the promotion of music, singing, dance and art.
Union make force
Monsignor Moretta explained that he has been a parish priest for more than 40 years in Boyle Heights and, over time, he has had to fight with the community to stop unwanted projects that harm the health and well-being of residents, many of them church parishioners.
He said that in 1985 they began the fight to stop a prison that they wanted to install in the area. Then there was the plan to put in a toxic waste incinerator which was eventually installed in Arizona. They eventually prevented the arrival of a huge power plant through many hearings and many years of fighting.
More recently, the problem with Exide, the Vernon battery recycling company, which proved to be a polluter and the leading cause of cancer in the area.
“And now we are working on cleaning and they come to us with this. We are not against sheltering the homeless, it is part of our creed, of Catholic Christian ethics. But putting so many in one place, that’s not right,” Moretta said.
Taormina told La Opinion that he was very impressed with the level of enthusiasm shown by all the community stakeholders who attended Monday’s meeting.
About 50 people were expected to attend the meeting, but about 200 showed up. Taormina said that shows how important the issue is to the Boyle Heights community.
“Every comment I heard during the three hours of testimony was valid and clearly presented. I assured the group that their concerns will be addressed and the project proposal will be revised to reflect their ideas,” said Taormina.
He added that he hopes to meet with the group again in a few days to begin formally documenting ideas and coming up with a win-win proposal.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, July 11, starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Resurrection Catholic Church located at 3324 Opal St, Los Angeles, CA 90023.