Here’s a dumb idea: Medical office in Mariachi Plaza

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Per Curbed, Metro LA is considering building a giant retail / medical office plaza with a ton of parking in Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

Big bureaucracies come up with stupid urban planning ideas all the time, but this one is right up there.

Consider: Mariachi Plaza is a beautiful public space, well-served by public transportation, walking / biking distance from all the excitement going on downtown. In addition, it has a long and vibrant history as a center of latin culture, in general, and Chicano culture, in specific.

Have you ever seen a giant medical office complex?

Picture what Cedars has built along La Cienega in West Hollywood. They’re huge, impersonal, remote, generic, and cut off from street life. The people who work in- and patronize them very often drive, requiring massive amounts of garage space.

Building one of these beasts would be like dropping an alien mothership into the middle of Boyle Heights. It would destroy the street life that helps make the community so interesting, both to the people who are moving there AND to long-time residents.

What should be built there instead? Housing!

How about some mixed-income housing, with plenty of units set aside for very low, low and moderate income families but also plenty of market-rate units as well? How about, gasp, for sale affordable units, where working people can afford to become home-owners? How about taking advantage of the public transportation situation to reduce the parking requirements to one per unit?

And, at street level, how about some carefully curated retail… not just signing leases with the kind of credit tenants that banks love (Subway, CVS, etc.), but mixing in some actual community retail that fits with the area, like restaurants, bars, etc. And absolutely, 100% no check-cashing, liquor, etc… the kind of businesses that screw up so many of the commercial streets in Boyle Heights.

The redevelopment of a big parcel right in Mariachi Plaza is an opportunity to enhance what already makes that part of town wonderful. Let’s not go the other direction and cursh the neighborhood with a gigantic, generic, soul-less office complex.

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