The Los Angeles City Council voted 11 to 0 on Wednesday to provide rental assistance to merchant-tenants of Los Angeles’ El Pueblo Historic Landmark, in an effort to ease financial burdens caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The motion, brought forward by members Kevin de León and Mónica Rodríguez, directs Arturo Chávez, the historic monument’s general manager, to structure rent repayment plans within 36 months or at the end of the agreement.
It also orders Chávez to waive interest and late fees due between March 2020 and Wednesday’s approval.
“We are extremely proud of this historic place, and with that comes a commitment to ensuring that their history is preserved and kept alive,” said de León.
The monument is located near Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles, in what is considered the oldest section of Los Angeles.
According to de León, the pandemic has greatly affected local businesses and the tourism industry in general. The businesses in El Pueblo, he said, are not traditional stores, but “founded businesses with long histories and legacies rooted in Los Angeles.”
Previously, the council provided assistance to such businesses by implementing nine months of free rent and reducing rent by 60% for a period of six months, according to Chávez.
Today’s action demonstrates the city’s true commitment to seeing our merchants succeed and fully recover,” said de León. “I believe a structured plan of progress payments is best for the city, as well as for small business tenants.”
Describing El Pueblo as the “heartbeat of Los Angeles,” Rodríguez said he understands the struggle merchant-tenants are going through as business and tourism slowly return to El Pueblo.
“It would be so easy for many of you to stop there because it’s so difficult to run a business in an environment where young people don’t go on field trips anymore,” he said.
Valerie Garcia Hanely, owner of Casa California, one of dozens of El Pueblo business owners who attended Wednesday’s council meeting to support the motion, said it had to close for four months and half due to the pandemic.
“As far as people coming back and tourism coming back, it really hasn’t reached what we consider normal yet,” Hanely said.
“The City has helped us in the past by forgiving part of our rent, but we have had to pay our rent in full since January 2021 and most of us have not been able to. There just hasn’t been enough business.”
The motion would help her and other business owners in El Pueblo pay off rent for a certain period without penalties or additional interest, she added.
“We lost five traders during the pandemic, and we lost a few more before that. Currently we have 15 openings,” Hanely said.
“It’s disheartening to see these families (who) have been there for all these generations, not being able to continue working.”
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