Battling Over the Future of L.A.'s Historic Olvera Street

The new Businessmen’s Assn. was not formed with the intent of competing with the Merchants’ Assn. for management of Olvera Street. Management of the street should be left to the city of Los Angeles.

I have been a Merchants’ member for more than 25 years. Because of my association with Tom Bradley since early childhood, Henry Barrios, the president of the Merchants’ Assn. at that time, arranged for me to go to Mexico City on a sister-city function so that I could talk to Bradley on a personal basis away from Los Angeles.

Bradley formed an ad-hoc committee when he returned to Los Angeles. Three members of Recreation and Parks and three Merchants’ Assn. members were to fight out their problems and come up with a livable program. These meetings went on for two years. We, the merchants, got everything we wanted and more. There were five issues: family succession, rent structure, merchandising, recognition of the Merchants’ Assn., and most important, the bid process, which we eliminated by staying on two-year contracts.

During this two-year period rumors ran rampant on the street. It was said that I was to take the street over, that Henry Barrios was going to get a fat job in City Hall, that a third member was to get lifetime free rent, and so on. On the basis of these rumors a group of Merchants’ Assn. members got together and hired an attorney.


The first move made was to recall Barrios. There was no need for this. Henry and I were serving because we were asked to help not because we wanted to be leaders.

Another step was taken by the association. In order to control all merchants they forced the city of Los Angeles to issue notices of eviction to those who would not join the association. The dissidents retaliated with a lawsuit. At the same time they asked the state for an opinion. The state advised the city and the Merchants’ Assn. that it was not state policy to force anyone to belong to any association.

It was because of the state’s membership ruling that Gloria Molina was brought into the act and today the Molina bill exists which places all of Olvera Street out to bid.

So, it is my impression, that the new Businessmen’s Assn. is simply a group of Merchants’ Assn. members who have finally come to realize that they have been had for six years.


Los Angeles