Don’t Flip THIS House!

Piedmont Investment Office/Mia Sushi Bar in Eagle Rock

Rudy Martinez a character on A&E’s Flip This House, along with his associate, Paul Pagnone comprise the Piedmont Investment Company, the development firm that recently purchased the historic Self Help Graphics & Art Building in East Los Angeles.

The Self Help Graphics & Art building, a visual art piece of tile work by international artist Eduardo Oropeza, has been a sanctuary for over 30 years to hundreds of marginalized artists. Through Self Help Graphics’ print ateliers, use of studio spaces, premiere instruction, use of gallery walls and mutual interchange—major Los Angeles artistic voices were born. It is not by chance that an overwhelming number of artists whose work is now exhibited in the Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement and the Cheech Marin collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have a deep allegiance to Self Help Graphics.

In many countries important historical landmarks are preserved and revered.

In most areas of Los Angeles, community members are admired for their activism in preserving their neighborhoods safe and free of elements that are not good for its residents. For example, in South Pasadena the residents resist the 710 Freeway going through their historic neighborhood and there are also rules about the metro honking its horns at intersections. In Balboa Lake (San Fernando Valley) neighbors picket a gentlemen’s club and porno store every weekend, because those types of businesses devalue their homes. In Silverlake the community is protesting a 60-unit housing project that is being erected in a small area, because there is little parking as it is. Did I mention that this 60-unit complex is one of the “projects” of Piedmont Investment Company?

Without the benefit of environmental impact or other assessment report, Piedmont Investments believes that they know what the East Los Angeles community wants: coffee shops, drug stores, and cramped living spaces, but not a cultural center and art haven. If Piedmont Investments knew anything about the East Los Angeles community and its residents, they would know that art is valued as much as life. All Piedmont Investments need do is take a look around the Self Help Graphics’ neighborhood to realize that they are standing in the nucleus of hand painted signs and murals that have spread all over the rest of the city. That is how important art is to the East Los Angeles community. If Piedmont Investments cared about community, as much as Paul Pagnone stressed to the Self Help Graphics Board of Directors that they do, they would know that Brooklyn Hardware (another community icon since the neighborhood was Jewish), will lose business without access to Self Help Graphic’s parking lot.

Self Help Graphics & Art has maintained a harmonious environment with the East Los Angeles community, sharing the building space for quinceañeras, weddings, baptisms, community fundraisers, school programming and community parking—for a minimum fee to nothing. The use of the building for affordable life cycle events and parking for stores and residents will be a great loss to the area. The terms of Self Help Graphics’ lease with the Sisters of St. Francis, Alverno was that Self Help Graphics perform their mission statement: assisting emerging Latino artists in exchange for indefinite free use of the building for said mission. The sharing relationship that Self Help Graphic’s has with the resident-neighbors was created by founder Sister Karen Boccalero and has been honored to this date.

Many are aghast that such an icon as the Self Help Graphics’ building could succumb to becoming the home of yet another Starbucks-Long’s Drugs Store-Hawaiian fast-food triptych such as the one Piedmont Investments’ recently unveiled on the corner of York and Eagle Rock Boulevards. Others note that this is a cruel world where amassing money is supreme to spirit, honesty, sincerity or respect for others’ way of life—so deal with it.

East Los Angeles has an extreme sense of community, just like any other affluent neighborhood in Los Angeles. However, the affluence in ELA is measured in the richness of culture, harmony, respect and art. In the days to come you will hear of Supervisor Gloria Molina, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Gloria Romero, Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis and Councilmember Jose Huizar meeting with the Archdiocese to investigate their sale of this property and at the same time their misinformation to the community of ELA. The illegal sale of the building and disregard for the terms of the lease are worrisome to ELA civic leadership. To date the Archdiocese has been unresponsive in scheduling a meeting. At the same time, the community activists and artists of East Los Angeles are beginning actions to help their allies bring a positive conclusion to this insulting, and condescending treatment by “those that know the East Los Angeles community’s needs better”.

Piedmont Investments\' drug store-coffee shop-fast food complex in Eagle Rock

13 thoughts on “Don’t Flip THIS House!

  1. I recall that disaster of Piedmont’s attempt to pop into Silver Lake with condos over the Coffee Table. It was a story closely followed by The Los Feliz Ledger while I worked there, and despite the hooplah it failed to materialise with its grandiose plan.
    I was present when Gloria Molina made some rather strong comments about her distaste for the manner in which the sale had been made, of Self-help to a new owner via the catholic church. I was also curious how it came to be that the new owner professed to not know what he was buying, was allegedly directed by Mahoney and Co. to not contact nor visit the new property, yet did visit. There were questions I felt should have been asked, but I remained in the background as I were a guest there of another writer as well as tend to be too upfront when I smell a fart. But I did record nearly all the comments (as did a number of other journalists; it was a considerable front line), and I still wonder how step 2 (between Armando Duron not knowing the sale/owner/et al and then touring the spot WITH the new owner) occurred when only steps 1 and 3 were divulged. And how did the new owner find himself suddenly being given a tour of his new property without allegedly knowing of the significance of Self-Help?

  2. 1. How could Piedmont have NOT known of SHG? That was one of MY questions to Paul Pagnone when he showed up to look at the building right before an emergency meeting of the Board of Self Help Graphics on July 7—-and (get this) he was accompanied by Jenny Krusoe the ED of The Eagle Rock Community Cultural Center. Krusoe, who we had spotted at the June 29 SHG print sale, has since dropped out of being the ‘bridge’ for Piedmont with the SHG community, pressured (we heard) by her employer. When I (pretty much) called Pagnone a liar to his face for saying that he knew nothing about SHG—he sat stoic and offered no response. I felt that I was going over a line of extreme uncivilized anger at that point—so I decided to say no more. Like you, I think he came with lies to tell and he stuck to them.

    2. At this same meeting (July 7) we asked Pagnone how the sale of the building came about. He would not answer where he saw it listed or how he knew of its availability. He would not answer what he paid for the building. He did tell us that the Archdiocese told him not to tell us (SHG) that he was in the process of buying the building. All the details of the sale are public record, but to date they have not been published. These details will reveal more on how Piedmont acquired the building,

    3. The time line is this:

    July 3, 2008 (at the end of the business day) Jim Prager, legal representative for the Sisters of St. Francis, Alverno contacts SHG President Armando Duron and tells him the building was sold—it completed escrow on July 2 and that we had until the end of 2008 to get out. No further discussions, no further explanations.

    July 4 & 5, the SHG BOD calls an emergency meeting for July 7 evening (when board members returned from the 3-day weekend) to discuss the sale of the building.

    July 7, (afternoon) Piedmont Investments calls Armando Duron saying they are the new owners. They want to meet with Armando. Armando asks them to come to SHG that day. Pagnone & Krusoe are looking at the whole property when I arrived at 6:30pm. Armando asks them to stay for the first part of the emergency board meeting so the BOD can ask them questions. BTW, the SHG board meetings are open to the community and I attend many of them.

  3. OOPS–I forgot!

    Hope this answers your questions BusTard. You should not be afraid to ask at community meeting what you want to ask, especially when they are not making sense to you. Having to repeat these details over and over to many people, it starts turning into cryptic talk (because you think everyone has already heard it all).

    Also, look for editorial comments on the July 19, 2008 piece in the LA Times by Agustin Gurza. Those interviewed feel that they were misquoted to create a negative spin of doom and gloom by Gurza on the status of Self Help Graphics. Agustin Gurza is not a supporter of SHG and designed the facts to support his views.

    Self Help Graphics is in a true Renaissance, attracting young artists who believe and are interested in carrying on the mission. SHG will continue on in spite of negative press, cheaters and liars—it would be nice if it stayed in ELA, in the tiled building. Time will tell.

  4. The building itself is very important. I don’t like the way people (in the press) have been saying SHG will live on without the physical space, while downplaying the loss of the building. It will be extremely difficult to find another place like SHG with two floors, an auditorium, kitchen, parking lot, art studios, offices…People don’t have to like every little thing that happens there to support SHG. It’s an extremely vital part of East LA culture and history.

  5. All I ever heard about SHG was how great it was, all the great artist that came up there and all these other wonderful things that made me want to be a part of it. It’s hard to really formulate any valid opinion on everything that’s going on now, but maybe I can still add something. It seems to me that despite having started so many great careers at SHG, I never really saw any of those artist come back to help out. When I read the story in the times and all the artist they interviewed for it saying it was a great loss and it sucks etc… I never read or heard anything of those same artist stepping up to do something about it. Those artist seem to have the medias attention, yet they do nothing about it. Talking to others about SHG at ELAC, they all tell me about the good old days, but no one seemed to want to go back and bring back those days. I’m writing without not fully comprehending the entire situation, but to me it seems that people used and abused SHG. After being bombarded with so much info I formed this idea, the selling of SHG in secret was dirty, but no one was doing anything productive with it. It’s like when you take a toy away from a child and give it to another. That kid will cry his head off wanting that toy back not because he want’s it, but because he doesn’t want anyone else to have it. I’m just saying.

  6. man.
    shg rocks.
    all day every day.
    if you’ve been there then you already know.
    there is zero question about the integrity or future
    of that amazing facility
    and the amazing artists
    who call it home.

  7. Hi Victoria, Im sure you can negotiate with the new owners to keep SHG at that site. One of the owners is very socially conscious and understands the importance of art to us.

    The issue again is the Archdiocese vs the community. Everything they do is secret…see you soon!

    I’ve been reading lots of asumptions….get the facts or we will lose out on an opportunity.

    (Read the Four Agreements)

  8. I don’t agree with Random Hero’s comment “but no one was doing anything productive with it” inferring that it was fine to sell the building. That is exactly what the developers and the archdiocese say—they also, like Random, have not been around to see the renaissance that was going on at Self Help Graphics. What is the saying? Oh, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

  9. Paul is a sicko, look at what he has done to the corner of Linda Rosa and Colorado in his vision of making Eagle into Silver Lake… WTF, he took a piece of property that for YEARS was NEVER allowed to be developed because of the hillside that was left when Colorado was widen and therefore became a cliff. Now houses are dangling from this cliff, we are left with MUD and DIRT for a sidewalk as mothers and their infants are forced to walk across roaring traffic to get to their local merchants and school. He should take is Silver Lake taste to Santa Clarita as at least there the Robot Dummies who choice to live in these over developed no style homes, would appreciate his style. It’s sad that people like Mr. Paul can’t finish what they start, maybe him and his family would consider a camp out once a week to show their team spirit in making Eagle Rock a better place.. thanks Paul!

  10. WB’s comments on Colorado Blvd’s Concrete Nightmare should be a must read for anyone with a civic conscience prior to signing a contract with this Pagnone. I’m not sure how the guy was able to buy SHG while saying he can’t get the funds to restore the ER site he ruined (or even finish what he started.)

    If I had blighted a neighboring community the last thing I’d do is buy a building as high profile as SHG… Desirous of fame, perhaps. Like the company that brags that their gigantic billboards are visible from space- Mr Pagnone can proudly tell future partners that the 40 ft wall that they can see collapsing from the 134 fwy is his!

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