by Sara Goding.
Residents of the Wyvernwood say that their community is a safe place for their children. Parents don’t worry when the kids run around on the grassy park of the complex. When it is time to come in, they just open their doors and shout since the park is accessible to all the housing units.
However, 6,000 people living at the Wyvernwood Apartment complex in Boyle Heights are at risk of losing their homes. The developers at Fifteen group, a Miami Beach-based real estate-focused private investment firm, are looking to tear down this community. Most of the families will be displaced, no longer able to afford the higher rents.
“It is a housing complex under the threat of demolition for the construction of high-rise luxury apartments,” El Comite de la Esperanza said. “Wyvernwood should not be destroyed. It should be protected, preserved, and celebrated.”
These apartments provide affordable housing to residents and some families have called this remarkable community home for generations.
Dr. Bidhan Roy, English Department at Cal State Los Angeles, and a group of undergraduate studies research students, along with honor students organized a multimedia event on June 5 called “Storying Wyvernwood.”
The project gathered stories and artwork from the residents of Wyvernwood that highlight the importance of saving the deep-rooted community. The event focused on themes of globalization and the cultural impact of gentrification not only on families but also the individual within a sociopolitical framework. Community members, students, and local news stations were invited into the lives of the people living at Wyvernwood.
“I first heard of Wyvernwood in a Graduate Seminar taught by Dr. Bidhan Roy during the Winter 2014 Quarter. During the class, I had the opportunity of visiting Wyvernwood with Dr. Roy and some of my classmates. A few weeks before visiting Wyvernwood, Dr. Roy addressed the class about the conflicts surrounding the residential community,” Fernando Franco, English major at Cal State L.A., said.
“However, it was not until my visit that I learned about the magnitude of the problems surrounding it,” Franco said. “The problem became very real to me when I saw the faces of the families that would be displaced.”
Leonardo Lopez, one of the residents of Wyvernwood, and community leaders fighting to save Wyvernwood, gave a very emotional speech about the plight of its residents. His infectious passion incited the crowd at the event as he evoked the rally cry of the great political leader César Chavez, “Si se puede!”
“We are fighting for our culture and history,” Lopez said. “Not for financial gains, but for our hearts. We suffer together and we fight together.”
Wyvernwood Garden Apartment Complex was built in 1939 and occupies 70 acres. This complex was the first in Los Angeles to be supported by the Federal Housing Administration and is eligible to be listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
“We live in a fragmented city and a fragmented age in which a sense of the common – what we all share – is hard to find. Wyvernwood is a true grass roots community and as such a treasure for all of Los Angeles not only its residents,” Roy said.
“Cooperate capital is taking over global cities the world over -not just Los Angeles – and ordinary citizens need to stand up and realize that they also have the power to shape and define our cities. If you look at the sort of language and narratives of the residents stories my students and I collected at Wyvernwood and compare them to the corporate vision for Wyvernwood you’ll see how empty, culturally impoverished and bland corporate visions for the city are.”
Plans for this project were first proposed in 2007. The Fifteen Group wants to redevelop this site into 4,400 residential units, 300,000 square feet of commercial space and leave nine acres of land for open public space. According to the Fifteen Group, 15% of the new residential spaces will be available in compliance with Los Angeles’ affordable housing guidelines.
“Affordable housing is a critical need in Los Angeles and our plan increases the affordable housing stock,” Fifteen Group Executive Vice President and Principal Steven Fink said. “Market-rate and affordable units will be distributed throughout the redeveloped property and within individual buildings.”
While the Fifteen Group claims to recognize the need for affordable housing in Los Angeles, the majority of these new apartments will be financially out of reach for the current residents.
“The redevelopment would transform the site by nearly quadrupling the current density to include roughly 4,400 housing units, the mass majority of which are slated for market rate ownership for people earning $90,000 or more,” East L.A. Community Corporation, said. “Yet, the median income for Boyle Heights is $41,821.”
The event at Cal State L.A. drew a connection to the increase costs of higher education to the increase of housing costs for residents.
“People united will never be defeated. We’re both part of the struggle for what kind of society we are going to have,” Kimberly King, Psychology Professor, said. “A society organized to serve human needs or just corporate greed.”
For more information or to show support for the residents at Wyvernwood visit the Facebook page SAVE-Wyvernwood.