BOYLE HEIGHTS — Restaurant owner Rosa Garcia and her mother Columba Torralba have lived in Boyle Heights for nearly 30 years. 

“Everything, all of my money is in that place,” Garcia said in an interview in Spanish, translated by LA Public Press.

Garcia’s concern is urgent: With Torralba on a fixed income, there will be nowhere for them to go if a plan for a six story mixed use complex is approved, which would leave both Garcia’s restaurant, El Apetito, and her mother’s home demolished.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City East Area Planning Commission held a hearing to address an appeal made against the Commission’s approval of the project – proposed by Tiao Properties – which would redevelop the properties into a six-story mixed comprised of a commercial ground floor and 50 residential units, 5 of which are set aside as low income affordable housing. The meeting was ultimately postponed by the commission due to lack of simultaneous translation for the attendees making public comments, many of whom spoke primarily Spanish.

Garcia was the first to be called for public comment at the area planning commission public hearing. As Garcia stood before the podium and began her comment in Spanish, calls for translation rose from the crowd of around 45 people in attendance.

Boyle Heights is a primarily Spanish-speaking, Latiné community, and the crowd attending this recent meeting included current Tiao property tenants; members of the local community; representatives of the Boyle Heights Community Power Collective, a local community organizing group; and LA Causa Brown Berets, a Chicano social justice group originally founded in the 1960s.

“We don’t lose any money by providing interpretation for this, said Shmuel Gonzales, President of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council. “There’s an automatic fund for that. The fact that they did not provide for this is rather appalling. And as you see it’s affecting the very first speaker, who is a resident and business owner.”

Others, like Ted who made a public comment virtually, said he was appalled by the lack of consideration for the Spanish speaking community of Boyle Heights.

“We found it unfair that there was no interpreter here to accommodate half of the people that speak Spanish here that are monolingual. And we were lucky that Rosa Garcia, the affected commercial tenant and residential tenant, was a person to speak and really needed an interpreter,” said Viva Padilla. “I think that the Board did the right thing in moving the [meeting] to a later date. So that can be properly prepared. And I think that you know, this just gives us more time to gather more support.”

Viva Padilla, owner of the bookshop Re/Arte Centro Literario, is also a commercial tenant at the current Taio property, filed the appeal of the Taio Project back in September of this year.

Garcia said she found out about the project not through the former property manager, but through word of mouth. According to Garcia, residents have not been offered any promise of first right of return, which would allow current residential tenants the opportunity to move into a new comparable unit at a rent consistent with their income. 

Amanda Del Cid Lugo / LA Public Press.

Owned by Will Tiao, Tiao Properties also owns and operates Altman Apartments, another complex just down the street on E. Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights.

The company first submitted an application for a plan to demolish the current building that is under their ownership at the North West Corner of E. Cesar Chavez Avenue and N. Chicago Street in July of 2021. 

Tiao Properties list their involvement with the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, Variety Boys and Girls Club of Boyle Heights and other area organizations on their website, saying “we stay active and connected by working with organizations that serve families, social causes, small businesses and more.” 

Aaron Belliston, a representative for Tiao Properties, told LA Public Press that the company had no further comments on the development due to a continuance, referring to the postponement of the public hearing. Via email Tiao properties reiterated that there was no further comment other than to point to documents already provided by Taio Properties for the public hearing.

A new meeting is scheduled for January 10 and is set to have simultaneous Spanish translation. Belliston stated that a Tiao representative would be present at the next meeting but it is unclear if they will do their presentation over again with translation.

“I feel discriminated against because of my language,” Garcia told LA Public Press. “But at the end of the day we won this meeting.”

Quotes in Spanish were translated by Amanda Del Cid Lugo.

Amanda is a journalist born and raised in SELA, where you can find her playing tennis at a local park or taking her cat out for a walk.