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Progress Made In Olvera Street Lease Agreement

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After a year of "intense negotiations," the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee passed a motion on Monday that brings the city and merchants of historic Olvera Street closer to a lease agreement that's been missing for 13 years, reports the Los Angeles Independent.

The terms of the agreement include a 20-year lease with a 20-year renewal option; a rent scheme that brings all merchants' rents to fair-market value over a period of time; two months of security deposit; back rent from last November to be paid over two years; and the ability for owners to transfer their leases to immediate family members and certain other merchants with city approval.

Merchants testified before the committee that paying deposits, back rent and increases in the proposed timeline would drive many out of business. An amendment to the agreement would now allow the merchants to pay out over five years.

The president of the Olvera Street Merchants Association, negotiating on behalf of 47 merchants, said "the amendment must remain intact for the merchants to sign the agreement and that the city also must "measure again the square footage of businesses and reevaluate a provision requiring merchants to spend no less than 80 hours each month working on the premises," reports the Los Angeles Independent.

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A hardship clause in the least agreement allows for merchants receive a possible 50 percent discount in their rents following a finance audit by the city controller.

"The major issue here is that the rents are too high for the revenues the merchants are realizing,'' said attorney Paul Hamilton, who represents the merchants association. "What is absolutely critical here is that the El Pueblo Commission and the city council provide funds for events, for artisans, that will bring Olvera Street back to what it traditionally was...It isn't enough to just put capital improvements in. They must have active operating money to ensure that there is sufficient enhancement of visitors who will come to Olvera Street and raise revenues.''

Gloria Molina, the Los Angeles County Supervisor, helped in negotiations saying:

"I don't think any of these people would mind paying market rate, if they were getting the kind of business they should be getting...But that can't be measured at market rate when they have an economy that is in bad shape and you have a whole city that isn't as attentive to this entire historic park as it should be.''

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, where Olvera Street is located, marks the city's birthplace in 1781. In 1995 the state transferred management of the park to Los Angeles where some vendors had been operating since at least the 1930s.