Lincoln Heights residents fear large housing project

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By Ashley Orona

Contributing Writer

LINCOLN HEIGHTS — Residents lost an appeal to block the construction of a large housing complex that they believe will cause gentrification in their community.

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission voted Oct. 8 to reject the appeal made by resident Patricia Camacho against Pinyon Group, the developer of a 468-unit mixed use housing complex at 141 Avenue 34. The commission voted 5-1 against the appeal, even after hearing four hours of residents opposing the project.

Residents’ main concerns were that the developer did not do sufficient community outreach for a project of this size; that the project will indirectly displace residents who have been living here for decades; and the negative environmental impacts the project may have.

The developer rebutted those claims and presented changes that have been made to the project plan in response to community concerns. However, community members still said the project threatens to price out longtime residents and small business owners.

“These developers who are coming in with tons of money and deciding that [with] 66 affordable units they are doing us a favor and yet the impact of their market-rate units, 402 market rate units, the negative impact that it’s gonna have in the community, that weighs so much more,” Camacho told a reporter.

The project proposes 468 residential apartment units divided between three buildings, 14% or 66 of which will be set aside for “very-low income” residents at below 50% the area median income. The project will also include 16,400 square feet of ground floor retail and 311 parking spaces.

The project is considered tier 3 under the transit-oriented communities incentive program, which encourages the construction of affordable housing near bus and train stations. Under tier 3, the developer is granted a 70% density bonus and a reduction in required on-site parking. The program also requires a minimum housing set-aside of either 10% for extremely-low income residents, 14% for very-low income occupants or 25% for low-income inhabitants.

The median income in Lincoln Heights is $30,579, below the median income of Los Angeles County of $51,150 but also above the 50% area median income requirement. About 3,100 residents make less than $20,000 and cannot qualify, according to Los Angeles Times data.

Despite possibly being able to move into the affordable units, residents are afraid that the market-rate units will increase the price in rent and mortgages in the area, displacing the predominantly Latino, immigrant community that has been in Lincoln Heights for generations.

The developer said during the hearing that they have attempted several times to conduct outreach but that the community has not been responsive. Jerry Newman, a representative for the applicant, said they never had anyone show up to their community outreach meetings and that they were “shocked” when neighbors came forward against the project at the last hearing.

Camacho disagreed, saying she conducted community outreach herself upon learning of the project and was disappointed to see that many residents down the street of the project site had never heard of it.

“I just think that the community input was lacking on this project because if you ask the community of Lincoln Heights what they think should go there and what they think would be appropriate that was missing from the conversation,” Camacho said.

Residents are also concerned about the environmental impacts of the project. They claim that the land adjacent to the site is known for having contaminated soil and believe that excavation for the project could release toxins and pollute the air.

Los Angeles Planning Commission President Samantha Millman expressed concern about contaminated soil during the appeal hearing and called for a state agency to study whether construction would release toxic chemicals into the air.

Ashley Orona is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the East Los Angeles area. She can be reached at Oronash@gmail.com.