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Boyle Heights residents protest proposal to turn Sears Building into homeless housing

Hundreds of Boyle Heights residents outraged over a proposal that would transform the historic Sears Building into a homeless housing and services center came out Wednesday to protest the plan.

“We reject this project and we reject the disrespectful neighbors who have come in and insulted us. They have no respect for us,” Sofia Quinones, with the East L.A. Boyle Heights Coalition, said. 

Quinones was referring to the owner of the building, developer Izek Shomof, whose plan would turn the 26-acre property into what they describe as a “life rebuilding center” that would provide housing for at least 2,500 people. The original plan, now dramatically scaled back, called for 10,000 beds.  

The project website says the center will include mental health services, education programs, job training and job placement assistance.  

“The fact is that 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 is just not acceptable in any place to give fair treatment to these people,” said the Rev. John Moretta of Resurrection Catholic Church. “These are people that need treatment. You can’t just put them in an apartment and say that solves the problem. They need deep, deep help.”  

Opponents worry the plan would draw too many unhoused people into the neighborhood who would be ineligible for treatment at the facility and end up back on the street.  

“We really want the public to understand that we know that we have a housing crisis,” Quinones said. “We do. We are not against the homeless.”  

They also said their neighborhood has been neglected for too long and needs more economic opportunity and services, such as a market and a theater. Instead, said Quinones, community members have to go outside of the neighborhood for these things.  

The proposal would have to be approved by city officials, among others, and so far none have indicated they will support it.  

L.A. City Councilman Kevin de León, who represents the Boyle Heights told KTLA in a statement: 

“Until such time as the developer can prove to the community that their concept meets the interests of Boyle Heights residents, I stand opposed.” 

KTLA attempted to contact the developers, but has so far not spoken to them.

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