East L.A.'s new ‘City Hall’ fulfills decades-long dream
East Los Angeles has long fought for its share of services and its place among the communities around it. On Wednesday, hundreds of its residents and leaders turned out to celebrate a victory in that campaign with emotional as well as practical implications.
Surrounded by red, white and blue bunting and American flags, accompanied by a color guard, marching band and cheerleaders, East Los Angeles cheered the formal dedication of a county “City Hall” for the unincorporated area just east of Boyle Heights. The opening of that building fulfills a dream that many in the largely Mexican American neighborhood have nurtured for decades.
In 1973, then-community organizer Esteban Torres was among those who envisioned a zocalo, or town center, for East L.A. “It’s been 35 years since then,” Torres, who went on to a career in Congress, reflected Wednesday. But “now, now, the City Hall,” he said, gesturing at the building behind him. “It is here. The dream has come true.”
The new government center, at 4801 E. 3rd St., offers practical advantages to East. L.A. residents. It contains county staff to assist with building permits, environmental health complaints, parks programs and the like. It joins other government buildings in the same complex, including a library and health clinic.
But the building’s larger resonance was its symbolic acknowledgment of East L.A.'s place in the fabric of Southern California.
Torres compared East L.A. to the “hole in the doughnut,” surrounded by Montebello, Monterey Park, Commerce and the colossus to the west, the city of Los Angeles. The opening of the center gave many residents the feeling that they too were a significant part of that larger region.
Although the center itself was the object of Wednesday’s festivities, the day’s undisputed hero was county Supervisor Gloria Molina, who pressed for the building for years.