Olvera Street is a place of vast historical and cultural regard. It has embodied the traditions of the Mexican people for almost 60 years, and is composed of a wealth of historic landmarks that are in need of attention and upgrading.
Olvera Street represents a tradition handed down to successive generations of established family merchants. We have given the street its social content, and our work breathes life into the old buildings that make up the essential fabric of the Pueblo.
The ability of the merchants to obtain financing for needed improvements has been restricted by short-term leases, usually one year in duration. We have also had little to do with management decisions that are made almost entirely by the city Recreation and Parks Department. Now that everyone agrees it is time to invest in the refurbishment of the area, the merchants look forward to providing much-needed improvements that will make a noticeable difference to visitors.
Visitors seem to be most unhappy about the lack of parking, maintenance problems, scant security and the overwhelming transient population, which is perceived as a threat to their safety. For the economic environment to improve, a general cleanup of the area is needed. In spite of these criticisms, Olvera Street continues to attract more than 1 million visitors a year.
What frightens the merchants is the potential of Olvera Street falling prey to self-serving individuals who will exploit the popularity and success of the area for their own financial interests. There are signs of such activity today and it must not be permitted. We are genuinely concerned that Olvera Street could become a pawn in a high-stakes financial game designed to benefit a few. This would not do justice to the Pueblo or the people of Los Angeles. What must be done to prevent such action is strong citizen participation and a firm commitment by elected officials to protect the area from such a fate.
Representatives of both Mayor Bradley and Councilman Richard Alatorre have informed the merchants that: No city funds will be available for Olvera Street; the Pueblo area will continue under the jurisdiction of Recreation and Parks; a bid process will be instituted to select a private developer who will take charge of the area for up to 50 years; the city’s guideline for potential developers will not be made available to the public until it has been adopted.
Based on this information, the merchants have made the following recommendations: that the city commit sufficient supplemental funds to refurbish its birthplace in areas necessary to ensure the revitalization project’s success; that the city reconsider its decision to leave the Pueblo under the jurisdiction of Recreation and Parks and seek a more appropriate managing entity; that any private developer chosen for the project be assisted by the Olvera St. Merchants’ Assn. to ensure that historical guidelines be adhered to and that strict requirements be implemented to preserve the landmark buildings; that interested members of the public have an opportunity to review the city’s guidelines for developers before adoption; that public hearings be conducted when decisions are made on the final design plan.
Olvera Street belongs to all the people. The city should solicit public opinion on these important issues before final decisions are made.
The founder of Olvera Street said, “The idea is not to create another unit of modern madness, but to preserve a place dedicated to peace and simplicity.” Stand up and be counted alongside the merchants in our endeavor to preserve this vital piece of Los Angeles history.
This trust has been left to us.