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Community News: East

BOYLE HEIGHTS : Homeowners Object to Hospital Project

August 01, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

In a heated exchange with a homeowner whose property is among the first targeted for acquisition to expand County-USC Medical Center, Supervisor Gloria Molina said the county will take homes by force to facilitate the project if necessary.

"I represent you, but I also represent the people of this county and if this hospital is not built, the old hospital will be closed down," Molina said to homeowner Jose Luis Troncoso. "It's a voluntary process, but it's true that we have the force of law to buy the house by force."

Troncoso, whose wife, Esther, grew up in the Cummings Street house they now occupy, spoke last week at Francisco Bravo High School, in the first hearing to review the draft environmental impact report on the project. Troncoso said he and his family do not want to sell to make way for the new structure, which will eventually replace the current medical center.

The county plans to buy out more than 200 homeowners, renters and business owners on 15 acres east of the present site. The eight-year project will consolidate the center's four hospitals and two clinics into one large building at a cost of $960 million.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the final EIR in December, after which the county can begin negotiating with property owners for acquisitions, said Carlos Jackson, director of the Community Development Commission, which is leading a housing team formed by Molina to help residents through the process. The housing team will answer questions from residents, arrange personal interviews to appraise their homes and help them with relocation costs and finding new housing.

Jackson suggested enlisting churches and nearby counseling offices to help residents. Many neighbors of the hospital have lived in their turn-of-the-century homes for 40 years or more.

"I realize that to relocate you . . . is a very emotional thing. I'm not going to run away from that," Jackson told about 70 residents who attended the hearing. "I know that there are a lot of skeptics when the government gets involved. There's always the question of whether you're going to be treated fairly."

Residents living in Phase I, the area bounded by Cummings, Charlotte, Chicago and Marengo streets, will have to move by April, 1995. Residents in Phase II, bounded by Zonal Avenue and Cummings, Cornwell and Marengo streets, will have to move by January, 1997, according to current construction schedules.

Each homeowner will receive up to $22,500 in purchase assistance, depending on the difference between the value of the current home and the replacement home.

Renters will also receive assistance for 48 months. Each will receive a lump sum to either help with rent in a new location or to apply toward a down payment on a new home.

Although most of the residents are resigned to having to move, they are angry that the plans call for using their land to build parking garages or side streets.

"My wife was born there and my in-laws died there," said David Gamboa, who has lived at his Cummings Street home for 20 years. Gamboa, Troncoso's brother-in-law, said three related families live near each other on the same street.

"It's not easy to say, 'Let's pack up and go.' It's very difficult, and they don't seem to understand that," Gamboa said.

Other public hearings on the report will be Tuesday at the Alpine Recreation Center, 817 Yale St.; Aug. 11 at Resurrection Church, 3324 E. Opal St., and Aug. 17 at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center, 2323 Workman St. All meetings are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.

A field office with bilingual staff has opened at 2000 E. Marengo St., Unit F, to answer questions from residents and business owners.

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