Owner of beloved Olvera Street burro pleads with board – NBC Los Angeles

California

Amid an ongoing contract dispute and order to vacate, the family that has owned and operated Olvera Street’s landmark burro photo stand pleaded with El Pueblo’s Board of Commissioners at Thursday’s board meeting to let them stay in business.

However, at the end of the regularly scheduled public meeting, a deputy from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office monitoring the meeting informed the eight commissioners, including commission president Liliana Perez, that the board does not have any discretion with regard to lease agreements, leaving the burro’s owners with few options moving forward.

La Carreta, as the business has been known since opening 57 years ago, was formally ordered to vacate on May 16th, one month after the death of longtime owner and family matriarch, Maria Trancito Hernandez.

Hernandez’s death triggered an automatic expiration of the business’ lease agreement because no one else was listed on the contract, despite her request in 2019 to add her children, Richard and Patricia Hernandez, to the lease.

After weeks of not responding to repeated requests from NBC4, El Pueblo’s general manager Arturo Chavez sent over the following statement Thursday evening: 

“The tenant in question owed $21,874.16 in back rent acquired over more than 5 years, and the lease expired under its own terms. In instances like these, the City Charter requires a completely new lease to be issued through a transparent, competitive process. All interested parties are welcome to bid on any Request for Proposals that the Department may issue in the future as the Department continues to work to prioritize and protect the rich culture of la Placita.”

In response, Richard Hernandez said he has made repeated efforts to pay back rent and that Chavez initially told him rent wasn’t an issue with regards to the contract ending.

Has time run out for Los Angeles’ Olvera Street burro? After five decades, it may have to move. Jonathan Gonzalez reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, 2024.

“None of that was ever brought to my attention. A lot of merchants were also behind,” Hernandez said. “I began making double payments. He kept assuring me it wasn’t the issue of the rent. Why is he changing his tone now?”

Hernandez spoke before the commission on Thursday, as did several other Hernandez family members, other Olvera Street vendors and members of the community. 

The Hernandez family also submitted a notarized written request dating back to 2019 from Maria Trancito Hernandez to add her children to the lease, which the family says was never honored by Chavez, who began in 2020, nor his predecessor. 

The family also entered more than 3,800 signatures collected on Change.org into the record.

Meanwhile, a representative from LA Councilman Kevin De Leon’s office submitted a copy of the motion that De Leon recently introduced to urge the commission to reconsider the lease, despite the commission’s inability to do so.

Various pets and animals participated in the annual tradition of getting blessed on Olvera Street.

La Carreta has been a landmark family venture at Olvera Street for decades, attracting everyone from mayors, celebrities and tourists to take a picture on top of the stuffed donkey for a small fee.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Perez, the board president, told NBC4 that the only option left may be for the Hernandez family to reapply for a new lease.

However, Richard Hernandez, who continues to set up shop each day, said he doesn’t believe they’ll be granted a new contract.

“I don’t have to be on the contract. Put my sister on the lease,” he said. “I just wanna keep my life alive.”

NBC4 has reached out to Mayor Karen Bass’ office for comment and is still awaiting a response.

Read original source here.

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