EL SERENO : Residents Reassured on Adelante Project

Residents concerned that an effort to improve the business centers in the Eastside could lead to the destruction of their neighborhoods were assured last week by a letter from Councilman Richard Alatorre that their homes will not be targeted for demolition.

However, no guarantees were given to residents whose homes lie in commercial and industrial corridors targeted for redevelopment.

The Eastside Redevelopment Feasibility Study, which is the second phase of the Adelante Eastside effort to renovate sections of Boyle Heights and El Sereno, is being undertaken to find government and private funds for redevelopment.

Barrio Planners Inc., an Eastside architectural firm, is conducting the feasibility study to update the 2-year-old Adelante Eastside study. Barrio Planners is studying traffic and business ownership patterns, analyzing whether businesses there are compatible with one other.

"We are essentially trying to build a case, an argument, that we have these problems and we need the redevelopment to correct them," said Raul Escobedo, a consultant on the project.

Escobedo and other consultants gave a progress report on the feasibility study Wednesday to the Community Advisory Committee of the Eastside Redevelopment Feasibility Study and about 50 residents.

Mesa & Madrid Development of Bellflower is updating the study's analysis. It will analyze property values, business vacancies, population, income and employment in the target areas, said consultant Henry A. Madrid.

"We will look at . . . what is the spending power in our area, how much we have existing, what does the community need and what does the community want," he said.

Another part of the study will determine the potential tax base for the area. The 4,173 parcels in the study area occupy 1,947 acres--roughly 3 square miles--and have a tax base worth $1.1 billion, said consultant Michael Popwell.

The study's goal, the consultants said, is to figure out how to assist growing businesses that want to stay in the area by helping get through city permit requirements.

One part of the study could, for example, identify local commercial and industrial spaces that would fit the needs of expanding businesses so they won't have to leave the area.

"These are conditions that individually we cannot overcome, but collectively we can," Popwell said.

Alatorre's letter addressed concerns by residents at previous meetings who said they did not trust government efforts to improve their neighborhoods. They have formed their own watchdog group, Union y Fuerza de la Comunidad, which meets monthly.

Alatorre referred to a motion passed by the City Council last August that emphasized the "potential for redevelopment in the commercial and industrial areas of Boyle Heights and portions of El Sereno."

"This is not and I repeat not a plan for taking away housing from the neighborhood," he wrote in the letter addressed to committee chairman Steve Barba.

Although Alatorre's motion does not mention housing within commercial and industrial areas, Escobedo stressed to the audience that completing the study in itself does not jeopardize those homes.

"If we follow that logic, then all the commercial and industrial properties are jeopardized," he said.

"We need to fine-tune that study, but nothing is jeopardized by doing the study."

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