Golden Gate Theater now showing…

Photo by Al Desmadre

Perhaps you’ve all heard the bad news by now – instead of East Los getting a new theater or cultural arts center, we can now say with pride, we are home to a new CVS drugstore. Start the celebration! According to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, this CVS will bring jobs to the area. Yay, minimum wage part-time jobs! What more could we ask for?

Here’s more from the Los Angeles Times article:

Los Angeles County supervisors unanimously voiced support Tuesday for the conversion of the long-abandoned Golden Gate Theater in East Los Angeles into a 24-hour drugstore despite passionate last-minute appeals by some residents to block the project.

“This is not just a building. It is a theater … a monument, the last one in East L.A.,” Sam Barraza told the supervisors. “This is not just a geographic or development battle … the spirit of East L.A. is at stake.”

and from the business side:

“The addition of a national pharmacy chain will be a tremendous benefit,” said Jesse Torres, chief executive of East L.A.-based Pan American Bank.

“We have to have those stores and retailers,” said Al Rivera, who supports the plan. “CVS will be looked at by other corporations. We want to make sure other corporations and investors look at East L.A. as a business-friendly community.”

In my opinion, “business-friendly community” means “hey, we are willing to do whatever you want, come exploit us!” Is that what might happen if East Los Angeles is able to incorporate itself as an independent city? No thanks!

About a year ago, LA Eastside posted a story about efforts to save the theater from commercial development. You can read the piece here.

50 thoughts on “Golden Gate Theater now showing…

  1. it would be great if we can get a community center or arts center in there rather than a cvs, but the simple reality is that it does not make financial sense. Restoring a historic building and bring it up to cold is ridiculously expensive. It sometimes easier to build a new building than restore a historically designated monument. And i think it would be a waste for any nonprofit to spend so much money just to restore a building and not actually on programing or outreach.
    Another example is the Mariachi Hotel on Boyle and First. 23 million is being spent to restore it to serve as a 31 units of affordable housing.
    Should these buildings be restored definately. But when scare resources are available to nonprofits, spending those resources solely restoring historic buildings is a waste. Again those resources could have been used on programing or staffing or whatever. But something that allows the nonprofits to effectively fulfill their mission. For the amount that is being used to restore the mariachi hotel many more new units could have been purchased or constructed to provide additional affordable housing. so instead of 31 units you could have 60 units.

    Personally, i think its better if a private company pays to restore these buildings. Let them deal with the cost and hassle of restoring and maintain a historically designated building, which is no easy task. And maybe down the future, when then business closes down. The community can the acquire a full restored and updated historical building.

    Lastly, I wonder about the ability of a community to support numerous nonprofits. Nonprofits usually have bills to pay; rent, utilities, maybe staff, etc. Is the community they serve able to sustain and assist them, especially when numerous nonprofits and community centers are in close proximity to each other? I ask this out of curiosity, especially during these times.

  2. So So Sad..just shows you that life is not fair!

    Really? like people couldn’t just walk down Whittier Blvd to the Commerce Center and shop at the Rite Aid right there..really?

    Shame on the LA county board of supervisors y mas a la pinche gorda de Gloria Molina

    The Golden Gate Theater was a cultural monument- im glad at least i got to go inside of it- back in the 1990’s when my older brother took me to a church service there.

    * If there is justice- When Gloria Molina passes away- they will make her home into a Mc Donald’s with a drive thru,play area and trucker parking 🙂
    She already looks like Grimace and i mean it will create jobs too.

    – Que lastima

  3. We need to take this anger off the web and into the streets. I’m serious. This is a fucking catastrophe.

    Thanks for this post! We need to mobilize.

    Here’s the thing folks: We … need … to call people out on their shit. Jose Huizar, where you at? Gloria Pinche Molina … where you at? (the original LA Times article had a comment that was borderline libelous, but if true, would be interesting to check out Molina’s inter-connections to all this shit)

    And that douche bag from Pan American Bank, Jesse Whatever. I thought dude was down but then he says: “The addition of a national pharmacy chain will be a tremendous benefit,”


    Let’s make this logical. Anyone can go to the drug store across the street. I want to know how many jobs this would bring??? 4. Four part time, no health benfits gig? Fuck it. Let’s take a fucking stand people.

    La eastside. Here’s my assignment to you. Stop with the “hey guys check this out” and let’s keep these politicans feet to the fucking fire. Jose Huizar and everyone who claims to represent us. Let’s show them that we don’t forget next time we’re voting. Jesus fucking christ … i’m outta here.

  4. … and while we\’re celebrating the new CVS, why don\’t you have another freeway East LA? You guys have been thriving ever since we cleared out your homes, neighbors, and local businesses to give you the 10, 101, 5, 60, and someday soon a complete 710!

    Business friendly?! How about human friendly? Have you ever tried to cross the street by Sears in Boyle Heigts? If the business corridors in East LA were even slightly less car-dominated we wouldn\’t need to celebrate the opening of yet another auto-culture dependent corporate chain store.

    It’s the same story in LA all the time. That’s why Glendale, Burbank, Culver City, Bevelry Hills, Santa Monica and other small cities are laughing all the way to the bank. They make their streets for people in the commercial districts and property values stay high, or rise, even in the midst of a global financial collapse. LA’s rulers care only for drivers that are retail benedict arnolds, they hate people shopping and living locally and you can see the results. More cars, faster speeds, less business in our neighborhoods and more crashes and injuries.

  5. @Steve: Believe me when I say that I wish we could have put up a cultural/community center at the historic site. You know my acts and my love for East Los. Myu actions are clear. Your first impression was not wrong. I loved it when my dad would take me to the movies at the place as a kid. We would then go to Der Weinerschnitzel after the matinee.

    The problem is that the building for many many years has stood still and everyday it is not worked on is another day that it comes closer to demolition due to aging. Like Ms. Molina said, lots of time came and went and no one stepped up.

    Understand my point of view…a renovated Golden Gate beats a demolished Golden Gate. There is no one else stepping up.

    Instead of taking it to the streets, take it to my office. Come meet me and let’s talk about how we can organize. Right across the street from my office is the old First Street Store. This is a great place for a center. It is a very large and vacant building and will be for some time. Step up and lead the charge, I will support you like I support other initiatives in East Los Angeles.

    The CVS, while not the ideal solution, beats continued deterioration of the building.

    So here’s the deal. My last name: Torres – not “whatever.” My office number (323) 264-3310. My address: 3626 East First Street.

    Come by, let’s chat and see how we can keep moving ELA in the right direction.

    I get it. I understand the frustration. I’m not pleased with the outcome but I do really think that given the alternative, there is some upside to be realized from this.

    Call me.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

  6. @Victoria: We met with Ms. Gallardo a few months ago. We’re still here. Call me at (323) 264-3310 with an update. We would love to be involved.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

  7. I would guess CVS would bring around 30 jobs, with several in the pharmacy. The problem is that Rite Aid is just down the street. While the competition might lower prices, it might also cause one to go out of business.

    As far as the Mariachi Hotel, I assumed that they’re overpaying for the renovation and taking a cut to fund their other work. The city or state or whomever goes along, because if the hotel got torn down and gentrified, the mariachis would move. Then, maybe they’d stop hanging out at Mariachi Plaza.

    (I also think for 23 mil you could build 80 units at around 300k each.)

  8. Jesse, ah, so its up to the applicant to chase down those who approve or reject? I see–interesting—and I always thought that lack of closure by institutions meant “No”.

  9. What a Shame!!! What people are not mentioning here is the history of Whittier Blvd!! In August 1970 the Chicano Riots where several latinos including Ruben Salazar Lost their lives!! This is OUR history, it’s a shame that there are those who will just whitewash or erase our history!! I compare it to the student protesters at Kent University who were gunned down in cold blood while protesting the Vietnam war, Imagine if they built a new Mc Donalds or Wal Mart on THAT site, where would the history go?? C’mon Mr Torres get a grip on what the people want, not the big money corporations, you are a banker,since when were you interested in history or culture? Did the Riots impact you in any way, what about the innocent people who lost their lives on Whittier Blvd??? OOPS!! Your’e thinking Money!! No one stepped up??? Now you are stepping down!!

  10. @Victoria: I am a little confused. Perhaps it is best to consult with the Board at Self Help. For obvious privacy reasons I cannot be too specific other than to say we are waiting for further instruction and would love to play a role.

    Out of curiosity, what role do you play with Self Help. You seem to have some info but there appear to be some gaps.

    I am 100 percent accessible. Rather than make inaccurate comments that may apply to too-big-to-fail banks, come by and meet me.

  11. @Vince: Vince, thank you and the others that have taken time to give feedback on this issue. As a native of East L.A. I am vested and a believer in East Los, whether you chose to believe it or not. I would not be here otherwise.

    Your attack is typical these days. Bank and banker have become four-letter words. In fact, I am usually the one attacking the too-big-to-fail banks for everything they’ve done to hurt the industry. So, in a sense, we are not that far apart. Check out my blog at You see it there.

    Regarding your comments on my studies, I did study the liberal arts in college. I did not pursue a degree in finance or money and banking. I graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science and an emphasis in accounting and took a job with the U.S. Treasury Department as a bank examiner. Over the course of my career much of my time has been dedicated to community development. Regarding East L.A. history, I lived off Whittier Bl. during its heyday.

    So, Vince, now let me ask you. What are YOU doing to make things happen? You write a mean blog posting but que mas?

    I came back to East L.A. because I had an opportunity to put to use what I learned to help East L.A. reach its full potential. I would like to sit with you face-to-face to learn about all the work you are doing in East Los to help its people with the expectation that I can lend some support.

    If you know anything about me and Pan American Bank you know that we are all about collaboration. I don’t hold grudges and I don’t judge. All I care about is action. Talk is cheap and time is precious. With respect to Golden Gate, if more action had taken place 18, 15 or even 10 years ago, it would be a different story. But too many people expect everyone else to do the heavy lifting. So how about you and I and others we can rally, get together to move something and make it happen.

    Unfortunately Golden Gate is done. So let’s learn from it and kick it into action. I mentioned in a prior post the old First Street Store. That is a great location for a cultural arts center. And there are many other locations throughout East L.A.

    You insinuate that I am a typical banker, all about money. But with Golden Gate I don’t stand to earn a cent. I don’t even know the developers nor do I own stock in CVS or have any relation to anyone on the project. I do know that if the building continues to deteriorate, it will be red-tagged and will have to be torn down – no questions asked. To me, I would rather have it up and standing in some form than torn down due to dilapitation.

    What bank CEO do you know is active on the local blogs? Ken Lewis of BofA? Vikram Pandit of Citibank? Richard Davis of U.S. Bank? You get the idea. How many of those guys invite you to come meet with them face-to-face to work out a disagreement?

    I am not a typical banker like those I listed above. While I am a bank CEO, a substantive portion of my experience is in community development. I do care for this community. My actions back my words. Come meet with me to learn about what we do and what we are doing. I am confident that your opinion will change.

    Be fair – have the courage to meet with me and then criticize base on knowing me not some idea you may have of me.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    3626 East First Street
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”
    (323) 264-3310

  12. To re-use the building as a theater would require 500 parking spaces (the Golden Gate Theater has approx 1,500 seats and the county requires one parking space for every 3 seats, which means 1,500/3 equals REQUIRED 500 spaces). There is no way that the owner could provide this much parking even if he went underground (by the way it cost TOO much money to go underground) and there’s no land available to dedicate such a parking structure. NOW to bring back the old Vega building would further exacerbate the parking problem and would be completely infeasible since it would require more than 500+ parking spaces. Zoning code says for every 250sq/ft of buildable building area requires one parking space.

    As you can see, to bring back the old use would be completely impossible and infeasible. Although i dont agree with the use, it’s the best use that is presently available.

    From a social justice perspective it would be nice to save the Golden Gate Theater, and provide a performing arts classes in there, etc.

    Im 100 percent sure that the people who posted these speculative comments wouldnt like to be told what to do and not do in their own homes. This is the same case for the developer who owns the land, except that the community wants to tell him what to do with his property. Its private property period. Maybe it it was under the county it would be different. YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND that the county is not a developer nor do they engage in risky investments.

    You need to understand how development works and all sides of the argument before people start speculating about the whole situation.

  13. I am learning so much about today’s business models from these comments. Let’s see.. . . ‘development’ no longer means a person inspired to enhance a community by bringing together all the principals (finance/design/city/community) needed to create a dream project—it now means someone sitting in their swivel chair waiting for finance/design/city/community to come to them to develop a project …… … AND, if you own a building you do not care what the surrounding community/consumers want, because a privately owned building should only serve the shopping needs of the owners(!) wow.

  14. “A Doctor Francisco Bravo has been calling me for two weeks. He leaves messages with Ralph, the old Okie clerk downstairs. I’ve not answered because of the message he left the first time. It said, ‘Dr. Bravo called and wants you to meet with him and Mayor Yorty.’

    ‘Fuck that tío taco,’ Gilbert said when I told him.

    ‘He’s the owner of the Pan American Bank,’ Risco said.

    ‘But maybe he can help us,’ I said.

    Risco and the others laughed at my foolishness.

    ‘Like I’ve told you over the years…uh, some of you fellers might not know it, but Doctor Bravo here has been in this game a long time…. He was fighting for Mexicans a long time before some of you were probably born….’

    ‘He’s a sellout,’ Gilbert calls out from the rear. Everyone pretends they didn’t hear him.”

    —The Revolt of the Cockroach People, Oscar Zeta Acosta (1973)


    From the Stanford University El Centro Chicano Alumni Hall of Fame Webpage:

    1997: Dr. Francisco Bravo, MD ’36, Surgeon

    Born in Ventura, California, on April 2, 1910, Dr. Francisco Bravo received his MD degree from Stanford University’s School of Medicine in June 1936.

    During his lifetime, Dr. Bravo achieved recognition not only as a surgeon, pharmaceutical chemist and civic and business leader, but also as a ceaseless fighter for the education of Mexican American students. He established the Bravo Clinic in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles and served as family physician to innumerable Chicano/Latino families, tending to their illnesses, performing needed surgeries, and delivering their newborn babies. Dr. Bravo also established a scholarship fund to help Chicanos complete their medical school education.

    Dr. Francisco Bravo served in the Pacific during World War II. At home he served as the first Chicano on the Police Commission for the City of Los Angeles. He helped found and served as president of the Pan American National Bank located in East Los Angeles. Dr. Bravo died on May 3, 1990 after which the Los Angeles Unified School District named the Francisco Bravo, MD, Medical Magnet High School after him in honor of his contributions to the community.

  15. Que barbaro! There is already enough drug stores in the East Side to fill prescriptions to eternity. I would much rather see the building transformed into a local cutural museum. Also, I would like to see real and current Hispanic/Chicanos/Mex-Amer, professionals, old and new movie stars, dignitaries, kings and queens, car clubs, whatever, to be honored at the museum.
    Tico Tico

  16. I believe people come before free enterprise. Call me a socialist all you want. I’m not running for office.

  17. Jesse- You said Supervisor Molina said ” alot of time went by “and nobody stepped up” Ok, where were you & Supervisor Molina when “alot of time went by”? Same place I was? Were our “Political Leaders”, and “Community”, leaders waiting for the ordinary man to step up??, sure looks like it!! If so, then why do we need you guys?? Que Mas????

  18. @Vince: Pan American Bank has been very active and involved. For a small bank (third smallest in Los Angeles County) we’ve done more than the big banks – by a long shot! And we have even more in the pipeline.

    For example, while the too-big-to-fail banks were taking TARP money and paying themselves fat bonuses, Pan American Bank was keeping its borrowers in their homes. While banks were foreclosing on borrowers all around us, Pan American Bank did not foreclose on a single borrower in 2009 and foreclosed on only one in 2008. Pan American Bank took an accounting hit of hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep our families in their homes while they were losing jobs or being furloughed. WITHOUT FEDERAL BAILOUT MONEY. Did the bank on your checkbook do that?

    While the State of California and the Feds cut the monies it granted to nonprofits providing needed social services, Pan American Bank cleared out space at its headquarters to provide rent-free space to VELA and for them to operate the great organzations they run in East Los. Did the bank on your checkbook do that? You are invited to the Grand Opening of the center on June 24th (!/event.php?eid=125832130770583&ref=mf).

    When the FDIC and the Census Bureau released a report in December 2009 stating that Latino communities such as East Los Angeles were 40% unbanked/underbanked and subject to predatory financial service providers such as check cashers, rent to own and others, Pan American Bank launched in program to establish 14,000 free children’s savings account to set the next generation on a path to economic empowerment. The accounts have no maintenanc fee and no minimum balance and cost $5 to open. If the child/youth is signed up through their school or nonprofit, Pan American Bank actually opens the account with the Bank’s money so it does not even require the $5. Did the bank on your checkbook do that?
    See the Univision story here (

    When community organizers wanted to get the word out about the dangers of substance abuse among East L.A. youth, the Bank sponsored a three-hour long Town Hall Webcast and brought in experts from all over the state to speak on how to best handle the problem (!/album.php?aid=175605&id=129087751244&ref=mf). Did the bank on your checkbook do that?

    And I can go on and on about everything we’ve done to improve the lives of the residents of East Los Angeles. If you weren’t aware then you really need to come in to meet with me. There is a world of stuff going on out there and so much activity going on that you need to be a part of.

    At a minimum follow us on Facebook at I hope that will help you understand what we are doing and how hard we are working to make in difference in this community.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

  19. When the FDIC and the Census Bureau released a report in December 2009 stating that Latino communities such as East Los Angeles were 40% unbanked/underbanked and subject to predatory financial service providers such as check cashers, rent to own and others, Pan American Bank launched in program to establish 14,000 free children’s savings account to set the next generation on a path to economic empowerment.


    Path to economic empowerment. lol. I’ve heard it all. And I’m sure you guys won’t start offering them credit cards eventually..

  20. Pan America Bank was not the only organization/ person who supported the CVS project. I would also like to clarify the false parking calculation Arnulfo posted. I read MELA’s proposal and if you would have too, the proposed seating for the performing arts center was not at 1500 seats like the original theater had. The parking would have been grandfathered from current building codes if it was renovated AND under the Eastside Community Standards, it would have been exempt based on the rebuilt Vega Building on Whittier Blvd. Parking should not be a reason why the CVS is coming in and could have been resolved either by the underground option or a shared parking option with the adjacent lot. No, a developer should NOT have the right to come and build anything they want just because they owned the land. This is very different from building a custom home for yourself on your land. This is transforming a community’s history and architectural/ urban integrity. Not only that, any developer should respect the community their conducting business with. It was this developer’s CHOICE to purchase a Nationally registered historic building and with it came lots of responsibility. Its this type of thinking that gives us stucco bland facades and large neon signs. It is up to the County to decide what is best for the community, and yes they could have played a role with denying a CVS and advocating a more suitable use that will support it’s architectural integrity (I.E. a bookstore or the MELA option). It is unfortunate that they supported the CVS and now EAST LA should be so proud right? Look at us now, we have a CVS in our only registered historical landmark, a place to buy condoms and booze. GREAT cities are places with identity, cultural significance, great architecture, landmarks, and landscape . Too bad we don’t live in one and now we never will.

  21. Jesse- I do not doubt that Pan American Bank and yourself have done alot for the community,Yes!!! But as I look At Whittier Blvd, that ugly, dirty, looking arch that just happens to be in front of your bank,I can’t tell if it represents Chicanos, French, or German people why is it there in front of your bank?, what a co-incidence!!! (As if Whittier & Arizona are the cultural or historical highlight of the Boulevard)All the plaques of notable Latinos are nice, but again you forget, and do not mention the lives that were lost there especially Ruben Salazar’s. There is a small plaque about the size of a computer mouse pad at the former site of the Silver Dollar Bar, what a joke!!!. And you say you lived off the Blvd during it’s heydey, I believe you but can’t understand why the arch or El Arco is at Whittier & Arizona Blvds it should be atleast at Whittier & Atlantic when one enters at Atlantic heading west. Some poor tourist may come by and think the Blvd starts at Arizona Ave!!, that’s certainly what it looks like!! 14,000 savings accounts with no $5.00 fee that’s great but whose gonna make some interest on those 14,000 accounts? Not my bank!! Setting up accounts is nice but what good are they without a paycheck or job to make some deposits?? Right, my bank doesn’t think like you!! And all this constant offering to meet with me and others, all this stuff about how you will take the time to meet with us but other bank Presidents won’t, are we supposed to be impressed?, because certainly I am not, why?, because you dropped the ball on this issue of the CVS, and you just couldn’t come through regarding what the people want, BECAUSE IT WASN’T WHAT YOU WANTED, now you are constantly trying to mention all your community progress, and we appreciate it and believe it but please don’t say CVS is going up because the average guy did not step up enough, it’s because our political and business “leaders” were so busy doing other things!!

  22. @Vince: First off, Thank You for your response.

    Regarding the arch, I agree. I was away from the community during its construction and as such was not involved in the decisionmaking process. I agree that its placement is unusual as it is in a sense, neither here nor there. I suspect that it had to do with the renovation of a section of Whittier Boulevard (The Whittier Corridor) or perhaps based on activities take take place on Whittier Bl., such as the parade, it may also have made sense.

    Regarding the savings accounts, you only need to do a simple calculation on the back of a napkin to learn that we do not make any money on the 14,000 childrens accounts. Banks make money by lending the deposits it collects. If you assume that each child deposits $100 in the account over a year period (keep in mind, most will not), it means that we will lose money on the accounts. Without considering data procssing costs and human capital expense and only considering factors such as stamps, paper statements, etc. generated, each account actually costs the Bank money. In other words, the expense in maintaining the account exceeds any revenue that can be generated from the interest income on the aggregate deposits. Instead, we view this as a long-term investment that will get our community to become comfortable with saving for their future rather than become victims of predatory check cashers, rent to own businesses and others that take from our community and do not revinvest. So, please be clear, there is no money being made here. It is the complete opposite.

    Your question regarding jobs is a great one. In the best of times our community struggles with good paying jobs and a strong economy. Today, with the economy in a state of severe depression, things are even worse. That is why with the help of Gloria Molina, Pan American Bank, VELA, and a corsortium of other nonprofits will launch an economic improvement program for small businesses in East Los Angeles. Beginning on July 1st, businesses will be invited to participate in a FREE business improvement program that will provide technical assistance to local businesses. Each business will go through a comprehensive business analysis. At the conclusion the businesses will be provided with a BIP (business improvement program) that will highlight things that should be improved to yield best results. The small business will receive ongoing coaching and other assistance. The goal of the program is to get 600 local businesses through the program in Year 1. The results will strengthen local businesses from many perspectives, including marketing, tax strategy, financing, cash management and many other areas. With a stronger local economy, local businesses will be able to hire more employees and will be able to succeed. I invite you to attend the Grand Opening of this technical assistance center, which will be housed at Pan American Bank’s facilities at 3626 East First Street.

    My point in offering to meet with you is not to impress you. You state that I failed with respect to the Golden Gate. But how did I fail when no one EVER came to me and said, “Mr. Torres, here’s the deal. We need help to raise money to develop, to raise awareness, etc.” Instead, years passed and the building deteriorated and eventually the opportunity passed. When did the weight of the community get placed solely on my shoulders. Why is it unreasonable to expect you and your neighbor and anyone else with an interest to act? I am asked everyday by individuals and organizations to lend a hand. Some I can help, others I am just too small. But always I have listened and tried to find a way. I am sorry but I have little patience for people who expect others to do their work. Like so many in this community, I grew up with very modest means. My immigrant parents did everything they could to give me what they couldn’t provide. But frankly, that would not have been enough to get me through college and to succeed in many instances. At some point I needed to step up and fight for what I wanted for myself. Many times I’ve succeeded, many times I’ve failed. But I have never stopped trying. Perhaps that is the most valuable lesson provided by my parents. It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you take it and what you do about it.

    I appreciate your engagement on this blog very much. I leave the office each night having learned a little more about the community. This will certainly shape future decisions. But talk without action is just talk. If the community wanted Pan American Bank’s support why didn’t a single person come talk to me? While I am very active in community affairs, my primary function is to run Pan American Bank. I’m far from omniscient and rely on members of the community to keep in the loop. I appeciate your engagement but talk withouth action will ALWAYS fall short.

    You state that “I dropped the ball” but this was never my ball. It was OUR ball. I am a local business just like any other. I am not a public servant, though I do serve the public as best I can. As I stated before, I do regret that it could not be turned into something other than a CVS. But why is that my failure. Why is it not your failure? As I stated, no one at any point – particularly early in the process, sought my assistance. Yet when things did not work out at the eleventh hour, everyone started pointing fingers. If you tell me, what do you prefer, demolition of the building due to continued neglect or the conversion into a CVS, I say convert it. It is not a victory but it is the lesser of two outcomes.

    Let’s learn from this. Let’s remember that no one is going to do the heavy lifting for us and if we really want something we need to do the work. Let’s get rid of the sense of entitlement and work for it. This community is great because of all the hard work of the people that came before us. Why should the expectation be any less of us.

    I am not a public servant but every day I try to do something that makes a difference. Some days it happens some days it doesn’t. Regardless, I never stop trying.

    Don’t be impressed by my invitation. Quite frankly, I’m not an impressive person. If you ran into me on the street you would never know it. But don’t complain to me when I don’t do something that is a passion for you if you don’t let me know it. Pan American Bank can’t be all things to all people, but we also can’t be anything to anyone if we don’t know about you.

    It’s time to learn, move forward and prevent getting into this situation again.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

  23. Jesse Torres
    June 3rd, 2010 | 6:38 pm

    Instead, we view this as a long-term investment that will get our community to become comfortable with saving for their future rather than become victims of predatory check cashers, rent to own businesses and others that take from our community and do not revinvest.


    Who’s going to protect them from your guys’ credit and loan departments?

  24. This message is for Jose… I dont care what MELA proposed because it’s all infeasible at the end of the day. I instead read the County’s staff report, which include four scenarios for the use of the building -it’s an objective analysis. The building is NOT grandfathered in since there were a series of different ownership. Proposition 13 changed the way property tax get collected, requires 2/3 supermajority vote for any special tax, property taxes cant go above 2 percent a year due to inflation. The current property owner, Charles Co bought the property sometime in 2002 or 03 from another developer because MELA blocked the development.

    BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PROPERTY AFTERWARDS? It was left again to deteriorate… Had the Board of Supervisors not approved, who knows for how many years the property would remain vacant, dilapidated, and underutilized. The County will not use taxpayer’s money for a risky investment, especially in a national landmark. County is not meant to compete with cities if you understand the concept the fiscalization of the land.

    The people commenting on this blog THINK that the developer will build what the community wants???? Doesn’t make any sense to me. If that’s the case, then the developer will resell the property BACK TO THE COMMUNITY. All this time that the building has remained vacant, where were all of you guys at? especially those who wanted a community center, etc??/?

    I didnt see or hear any of you guys doing community organizing either in favor or against the development. All of guys are just pure talk and no action -except for Jesse, he’s been doing too much for the community and he’s being attacked by internet bloggers. Get off the internet and go scope out the community, and get involve, serio.

    Besides, MELA has no MONEY TO BUY THE PROPERTY FROM THE DEVELOPER. We cant wait any longer for them for another 10 or 20 years to come up with the money. That’s the reality dudes. Open your eyes and stop being so SOCIAL JUSTICE and idealistic; be realistic dudes. THAT doesn’t work unless ALL the community gets all together, like back in the day with the Chicano movement. Those days are gone now and nobody is stepping up to take the lead. On the other hand, ive been getting involved in unincorporated East LA, not Boyle Heights -although im planning to do great work too in Boyle Heights as an urban planner.

    I am getting my masters in urban planning at UCLA and I grew up in unincorporated East Los Angeles and graduated from Garfield. I still live in East Los and have doing a great deal of work to raise awareness in the community and will do more once i graduate in less than two weeks.

    My last point, the Mother of East Los Angeles is a Boyle Heights non-profit organization, not from unincorporated East Los Angeles -although i may acknowledge that maybe one or two are truly from East Los. Boyle Heights is a neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles and is governed by different zoning ordinances, etc. I dont think MELA should interfere in unincorporated affairs and prevent development and the creation of jobs. That doesn’t make sense that outsiders want to get involved locally and stop development.

    In terms of the parking dude, read the county’s staff report. MELA was just misinforming residents, saying “it’s going to be a drive thru- liquor store”. WRONG. The reason why they used the liquor argument is because they were trying to block the entitlements to the land. which was part of the agreement deal with CVS and the developer. A deal is a deal.

    I dont have the staff report’s link but i do have the file (if you want to read the report then i’ll be more than happy to email you with a copy). That building is not grandfathered though, go do additional research dude. serio.

    I helped organize a community meeting because i felt that it’s always been about MELA and have always been antagonistic and reluctant in compromising. Ultimately, i wanted this meeting to turn out as a community benefits agreement, where the developer compromises with the community in exchange for development. The meeting was all bickering and nothing got negotiated or solved. Too bad we could have demand the developer local jobs to those in East Los and more concessions. At the end, MELA lost and didnt get anything from the developer. Unwilling to compromise got them NOTHING. oh well….
    go lakers,

  25. I never understood the gripe about property taxes. You pay 700k for something, what do you expect, for it to be tax free? We need a military. Police. Streets. Bridges. Schools. And, yes, programs that will keep people from starving on the streets. You shouldn’t buy something that costs nearly a million dollars if you can’t afford the tax on it. Either these Jarvis type prop 13 supporters are a bunch of babies, or prop 13 was an underhanded way of defunding public schools and inner city programs. Why they would want to do that, I don’t know. But like I said, the only other reason is that they’re a bunch of babies that want to have their cake and eat it, too. We have civic responsibilities in this country and paying taxes is one of them.

  26. Can you imagine how the corner of Whittier and Atlantic would look like with a big honkin’ new drugstore? Que feo!
    That corner could be a showcase for something really special. Make it reflect the local culture.
    Tico Tico

  27. once again, making local culture is just an ambiguous term there tico. That “local culture” plan or whatever it may be MUST be self-sustainable financially. Who will pay for maintenance and operations? People’s salaries to run whatever your proposal is. You need to understand how development works and does not work.

    here are some bullet points:

    county does not build anything, except repair roads.
    Cities have the same function – to provide municipal services and road maintenance.

    In terms of actually construction, let say housing counties or cities DO NOT BUILD anything.

    This is all done by private development, private money, and private parties or sometimes public/private partnerships.

    Now the Golden Gate.

    the county is not going to rehab the building with taxpayer’s money with or without a recession.

    only private development will drop the $$$$ to make it happen, which is why they deserve their return plus the interest. This means that the developer dropped a few million because they know the return on their investment.

    Dont go to the CVS, boycotted, etc, but it will be successful with or without your patronage.

    We should be thankful that a developer wants to take a risk in a low-income community.

    East LA has been disinvested by years and now we’re complaining about the same investment we’ve been desiring. It’s time for East LA to get competitive and have its own local economic development/business development. TELACU study shows that more than 3/4 fourths of the community work outside EASt LoS. Wouldn’t it be better if East LA can provide jobs so that its residents work locally and spend locally. Shame on all of you who go elsewhere to spend your tax dollars, this is why mom’s and pop’s business are disappearing (dont make enough money either). peace….

  28. Arnulfo,
    I understand your argument regarding disinvestment in the area. We could add local area disenfranchisement to the discussion as well.
    But that corner is so special (at least to me), maybe that is why only a private for-profit firm is the only entity that can afford to take it over.
    Tico Tico

  29. Arnulfo Delgado
    June 3rd, 2010 | 9:20 pm

    Dont go to the CVS, boycotted, etc, but it will be successful with or without your patronage.


    Wow. I bet that sounds even stronger translated in German.

  30. “We should be thankful a developer wants to take a risk in a low income community”????????? Yes, we should be so thankful for a handful of minimum wage jobs with hours strategically cut so benefits are either non existent or at a bare minimum!!! That’s just what a “low income community” needs!! Wow!!!!!
    Jesse- You give a laundry list of Pan American’s past achievments in community service, and i do applaud them, but that’s not what this particular blog is about, it’s about the Cvs now going up at Atlantic & Whittier Blvds, and how our Political & Business “leaders” dropped the ball, and then had the balls to say the average guy did not step enough!! I know we all have to work together on this but if you’re waiting for the average person, and the average person is doing what he can while waiting for our leaders to step up, then where are we going to be?? Also, this thread has apparently turned into an advertising platform for Pan American Bank if you listen to Jesse.
    Why not sign your name Jesse Torres, President & CEO Pan American Bank, California’s Oldest Latino Owned Bank that supports a CVS Drugstore at the site of our only Nationaly Registered Historic Building!! (on Whittier Blvd ELA) and now it’s because no one approached you and told you what we wanted?? C’mon Jesse!!

  31. This one is for Vince. “Yes, we should be so thankful for a handful of minimum wage jobs with hours strategically cut so benefits are either non existent or at a bare minimum!!!” Id rather have people work for minimum wage jobs than have them waiting at the unemployment office or trying to get GR.

    Vince you obviously do not understand how cities and unincorporated areas operate. The rise in service sector jobs is endemic throughout the united states. In every city you go you’ll find minimum wage jobs and i dont understand why you’re whining about them. Trust me, id rather have living wage jobs, but that all depends on the employer.

    If you understood urban public finance, you’ll know what makes up a city’s general fund. Anyway homie, you need to stop whining and accept the final ruling because it is going to become a CVS. Serio.

    You’re one of those vatos who blog about problems and yet do not do anything about them.

  32. Arnufo, never saw or heard you on this issue till basically now!!, you say you are all over this or that you have been stepping up all along, pero no llega, you think you are the only one who knows how things work, c’mon get real.I’D RATHER PEOPLE GET LIVING WAGE JOBS THAN SLAVE AT MINIMUM WAGE AT SOME CORPORATE EYESORE!!I’m not your homey, and I’m not whining, I’m telling it like it is. All your education and all this rambling on this blog didn’t get the job done did it?? Where were you Arnufo, never heard of you before till now when it’s all said and done!! And I do have the right to put my opinion here no matter what you think!! If you don’t like it or it strikes a nerve with you and Jesse then that’s just too bad!! I could not care less what you guys think.

  33. This is one of the major problems in our community—we do not have benefactors or people with philanthropic ideas—except artists and writers (such as those here on—notice no commercial ads). For 30+ years, artists, writers and academics have worked diligently creating a cultural birthplace in ELA for us all to enjoy and be proud of. Yes, our community has been art led—and still we artists are tireless. So many artists have given to this community decade after decade—and for free. They don’t have to be ask twice to perform for the community or donate art —and they do it freely, no questions asked to the point of being exploited. Self Help Graphics puts on FREE community events –and you have enjoyed them year after year–gratis. Many of these older ELA artists have no medical insurance, are not rich, and have no retirement plan. They gave it all to us in murals/art, cultural development and writings. Have you ever heard one of them complain? No—because they REALLY love ELA. ELA is known world-wide, because of these artists efforts—-a market was created–free for all of us. Enter our ELA business people. Instead of adding to this vision, they insult us with the same dollar and cent bottom line, that we could get from any business in Beverly Hills. Getting local business to donate to the arts (without getting something tangible in their hands), is unheard of in our community. Who the hell are all those businesses on Monterey Pass Road (north of Cesar Chavez Blvd), hauling out big rig after big rig in millions of dollars of products all day long? Do they even give a $1 to this community? Could anyone in our business community do anything free for 30+ years without wanting something in return—even without the publicity of giving bank accounts to little children? Here is an example of a person that loves a community and in spite of having the credentials to earn “loads”—he does what he does, because it is the right thing to do. Luckily, not all of us in this community are fixated with the all mighty dollar. Come to your office help you develop? No thanks, I am busy being an ELA artist—maybe you can figure out on your own how to bring jobs here that give people a dignified living, not a teenager’s allowance.

  34. @Vince: Thank you for appreciating the effort of Pan American Bank.

    You are right, this blog posting began with the CVS and the resulting decision. It did then take a major turn. As the owner of a couple blogs I can tell you that I love it when a posting takes on a life of its own – even when it goes off on a tangent. But even better, it touched a nerve with someone enough to spark a debate. I think if you ask Chimatli if he thought this posting would still have life today he would likely say no. Quite honestly, what needed to be said about the decision itself was said in the first couple comments. It stinks. It’s not right. The CVS supporters stink. Done. Consider the rest as bonus engagement.

    Regarding blaming the business leaders, I do still believe that the buck is being passed. I suppose as a business leader I don’t know what exactly was expected of me/us? Should I have purchased the building for how ever many millions and then deeded it to who? Let’s assume Pan American Bank had the money to gift a multimillion dollar property (which, it does not….by a long shot!), what about the next guy who wants the Bank to buy another building for this reason or that reason. Assuming I had the financial wherewithal to do one deal, why this deal and not another? You get my point. And while you believe in your heart of hearts that being a historical landmark is the determining factor, the Excutive Director of the battered women’s shelter thinks that her building is more important, etc., etc.

    Having said that, had someone come to me and said “we have a plan…” I could then sit down and evaluate that plan to see where the Bank could get involved. You alluded to it yourself, I am very effective at promoting. In this case, the Bank’s name. So it would not be inconsistent for the Bank to raise awareness and along the way ASSIST in raising funds for a project. I do this on a regular basis. While I can’t do it for everyone, if the mission of the project is consistent with the Bank’s mission, I try to find ways to make it work. We’re a small bank and we have everyone tapping us for money and other assistance. We can’t help everyone but we help many.

    I know it sounds like tough love, but yes, I do expect the average person to step up. If the average Joe doesn’t care enought to speak up, how am I going to know there is an issue? And even if I knew of an issue, if the average Joe doesn’t speak up, how will I know that he even cares?

    When I took the job of CEO of Pan American Bank I was not given a special ring that gives me super powers. I don’t have a crystal ball nor do I possess the ability to determine that one cause is better than another. I and every other business leader in this community are just as ordinary and average as anyone else. Our main priority is keeping our businesses running so we can keep the lights on and employees on the payroll. While Pan American Bank makes community development a priority, that is not a priority of commerce. There is a limited amount of “grease” to go around. It is the squeaky wheel that is going to get it. And unfortunately the result is that unless the “average Joe” speaks up and fights for what is important to him, no one is going to know there is a problem. Keep in mind, I am referring to “business” leaders – not elected public servants. That is an entirely different role. Not being an elected official I can’t speak to the nuances of that position.

    You state that this thread has turned into somewhat of a commercial for Pan American Bank. While we have disagreed on a number of topics, I will agree with you here. Now, right or wrong, let me explain why I am unabashed about the use of my company name.

    Years ago when I was at graduate banking school I had to research and write a banking-related dissertation. In doing my research I realized that there was a real dearth of Latinos in senior banking positions. After conducting significant research I realized that one reason for that was that (harsh generalization coming) Latinos generally do not toot their own horns or their businesses horns. The result is that they lose opportunities, either as individuals or businesses, to those that do. As such, I decided on that day that I would give myself the same opportunities and advantages and that I was going to toot as loud as I could. So while I do “get it,” I continue to stand firm on my position knowing that while some people might find it annoying, it nonetheless lets everyone know that we are Pan American Bank, we are located in East Los and we are California’s oldest Latino-owned bank. Something we are incredibly proud of.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

  35. My name been mentioned a few times now on EGP news and done a few interviews. Im not a politician or anybody of power, im just a graduate student who is about to graduate this week…

    But anyway, i do feel you Vince and i agree that we need living wage jobs, but it’s difficult right now with this economy. Manufacturing jobs pay the best wages, but unfortunately East LA’s has too many brownfield that are unproductive.

    Ive seen actual footage of the Golden Gate and it’s beautiful and historic. I do feel bad, but i realize that it’s time that the building gets back to business.

    I’ll post some pictures later on the week.. i’ll be visiting the building sometime this week for a quick tour. It’s not open to the public unfortunately, but i’ll see what i can do so that people can get a last look at it before its gets a make over. 🙁

  36. I’d rather people took unemployment benefits than worked minimum wage jobs. If they made a living wage at the company they’re drawing benefits from, they’ll make a helluva a lot more on unemployment than they would at a minimum wage job, and that money generates back into the economy. People making good money and spending it on good things is what makes the economy and the country strong. People making shit and spending it on shit is what keeps the rich rich and the poor poor.

  37. RT you’re kidding right?
    If a company had to let go of a worker because the marginal cost was just too much during a slump in revenue, then add the tax to fund the unemployment benefits for that laid off worker, that is a gain for the worker and company and society as a whole?

    Unemployment benefits are good and all as assistance to the unfortunate event of losing a job, but to be so naive as to root for a system where production approaches minimum levels is downright ignorant of basic economic mechanisms.

    Who is going to be producing the “good things” all these people are going to be spending their “good money” on?

    …but if it makes you feel good to root for the underdog and go against the evil “rich” people, fine. but know that type of idealism is pretty much laughable.

  38. Too bad we can’t all agree on everything, in this case even something.Jesse I don’t agree with you and probably never will, I’m not saying you should have bought it for however many millions and then…. and I know Arnufo is correct when he says that it is ridiculous to THINK the Developer WOULD buy it and then build what the community wants… I never truly believed that angle to accomplish a goal. So Jesse, are you insinuating that Chicanos or Latinos are just too _________? , to get the job done, there’s absolutely no way to do it?..No thinking outside the box, no creative thinking, no imagination? Wow!! and you still are so proud of your past and current achievments, as a banker, and that some how I need to step up and tell you guys how this project could have been done? Jesse, I didn’t know YOU were the “go to guy”, My emails to Supervisor Molina were a waste of time then. And please don’t even think of trying to put a museum or cultural center on First St, all that is, is memories of endless shopping trips with my Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Tias and my Mom!!, plus it’s way too far from where Ruben Salazar was murdered!!, and where the Chicano Riots went down. I also don’t believe that a minimum wage job payed for Arnufo’s fine education, if it did more power to you… but the average person would have an almost impossible time!!

  39. Jesse, Chimatli is a female! And I believe she started this blog to make light of the issue, to stimulate debate, but not as an advertising platform for you and all the pride you and your bank feels! Will you be at the Grand Opening passing out ballons, and saying, “Orale Raza step right up and get your minimum wage jobs with little or no benefits”!!!!! I hope so!!!

  40. Victoria, as a music consultant, music producer, and poet, I can’t agree more, especially the way you said it!!

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