Will departing Echo Park businesses be replaced with an apartment building?


DSC_0304It’s been about a year since Hi Duk Lee opened a plant nursery next to Mi Alma Designs,  a vintage home and outdoor accessories store, at the corner of Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street.  But instead of celebrating his nursery’s one-year anniversary, Lee is preparing to move out and so is Mi Alma  after their rent was doubled and they were given 30-day notice to move out by the landlord, who owns the lot the two businesses share.  Meanwhile,  the property owner, who abandoned plans to build eight narrow homes on the property in 2011, last May applied for city permits to build seven, loft-style apartments with underground parking.

“We made this … lot something beautiful,” said Mi Alma owner Charlie Marder, who subleased part of the lot to Lee’s nursery business. “We put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy into this. This sucks.”

Marder, who relocated his shop to Echo Park from Silver Lake in early 2011, concedes they had been behind in the rent but had been catching up after Lee sublet the lot for his business. But their relationship with the landlord, Jeremy Paige, remained rocky, Marder said. Their lease was not renewed. The rent was doubled to $6,000 a month and the, on Jan. 5, Marder was given a 30-day notice to move out,  he said.

The Eastsider has contacted Paige for comment.

While there is a perception that Echo Park is “booming,”  Marder said business  along Echo Park Avenue remains very slow during Monday through Friday, with most shoppers coming by mostly on weekends.  Under those conditions, a $6,000-a-month rent does not make economic sense for shop owners, he said.

Marder was welcomed by neighbors who had opposed Paige’s plans to build four-story homes on the lot, a former gas station. The permits pulled last May were for an approximately 11,200-square-foot, two-story building with seven apartments and underground parking.  However, according to online city records, the permit remains under review and no permits has been issued.

In their final days as neighbors, Marder is preparing to move his business to a Craftsman-style building with outdoor space near  Wilton and Melrose Avenue while Lee is moving his nursery to the Eagle Rock section of York Boulevard. Lee declined to comment.

Marder said his new location might offer greater opportunities to boost sales but he will miss his Echo Park location, where neighbors brought over homemade salsa and hung out. “It became home very quickly.”


  1. Could not be sadder about losing the nursery. They are just about the nicest biz owners in the whole community. I will follow them to their next spot, for sure.
    Also, not getting into an argument about land owner’s right to build here, but IMO the last thing we need there is more apartments.

  2. Yes, super nice people, always giving you a cup of tea. I’m sorry to see them move.

  3. Please move to Boyle Heights / City Terrace, we are in desperate need of a nursery! I promise to hang out and bring you home made treats!

  4. Right, because EP needs 7 loft-style apartments more than it needs friendly, community oriented art and nursery retailers that help to beautify existing homes and infrastructure. Second such instance of business crushing retail rent increases I’ve heard of this month. There goes the neighborhood.

  5. This is very sad. That nursery was fantastic and the family that owned and ran it were the nicest people possible.

  6. great guys, but they should have learned their lesson with their last space. Same exact thing happened to them. They need to get a space with a 3-5 year lease (or more) and this wouldnt keep happening to them.
    I would never move my business to a location slated for development with a one year lease. That will never work out.

    • Exactly – these small businesses are great, but they need to be smarter about where they choose to set-up shop.

    • Easier said than done. If you want a five–year lease, you better be prepared to pay a lot higher rent in order to get it. They can’t pay that higher rent. Its not a matter of a lack of smarts; its too high rental rates to allow for such businesses. That’s what bull—- gentrification gets you. It prices out all these kind of local businesses.

      When you applaud rising housing prices and gentrification, this is what you are pushing for, running hard working local people like this out.

  7. That’s a shame. I miss the historical gas station that was there as well

  8. It hadnt been a “historical” gas station in years !
    It was Guy and Dougs place.
    Any way why is anyone surprised ?
    So many people have come in and gouged rents up the yin yang with no sense of the community but for making money . It has been the trend for years now.

    Echo Park isnt what it used to be , really .
    EParker since “66

    • Another EParker since '66

      No, EP isn’t what it used to be. Zoning is favorable for developers and city revenue. Time to build a coalition to change the zoning . . . but afraid it might be way too late. Hills already dug into, our streets more dangerously congested and monstrous structures insulting the EP character. Will any of the CD13 candidates listen? Doubt it.

      • Another EParker since '66

        Question the CD13 candidates Thurs., Feb. 7th at the EPIA meeting. Submit your questions no later than February 5 to epiamail@yahoo.com. All questions will be pre-selected prior to the event.

      • Amen to Another EParker since ’66.

        Over my years in Echo Park I haven’t thought much about zoning. I know I should have. I would imagine that the earlier lack of desirably of Echo Park followed by the recent economic troubles made it seem that various properties were forever to be as they were. Recently I started to look up the zoning for various locations. What I don’t know is exactly what zoning matches what level of allowed development. Do you know the best person/s to go to for a quick seminar about this? Assuming that most all of the current development has been allowed without major zoning variances, I completely agree that people need to understand what the zoning means and then organize to change it.

        • @NJS,

          The City does offer a “Planning 101” course at different times throughout the year. Maybe the new NC Planning Committee can schedule one. Meanwhile, you could come to an EPIA Neighborhood Issues Committee meeting, http://www.epia-echopark.org/, or the Planning and Land Use Meetings.

          Below is the City of L.A. General Zoning “dictionary”. If you look up an address on the Citys Zoning website,(ZIMAS), it will have a color graph and Zones, like RD-2-1VL, or C2-1VL etc.
          The Guide below gives the “mathematical” calculations to then know what you are allowed. on a 7500 SF Lot, zoned RD1.5 you could potentially do 5 units, (1500 SF per dwelling unit), allowing set backs etc….RD2, 3 units (2000 SF per dwelling unit)., If it was an 8,000 SF lot, 4 units….Anyway the below link is the mathematical dictionary to our very complicated zoning issues….

          Downzoning in our sensitive residential areas is necessary, and this election cycle is the time to plan it. Ask tough questions of candidates and elect someone who will support the
          necessary changes…..


  9. Back about 12 years ago when the property still had the old gas pump area, and the place was an auto repair shop, my friend took his car down there to get some issue with it fixed. He started to describe the problem to the guy that ran the shop. But the man quickly declined any further explanation, saying: “Son, I’m a professional.”

  10. here’s what is likely to happen….


    I realized the other day, part of why the “36 on Echo” is so fugly….. it looks just like the renderings from the website, colors and all!

  11. what they should do is force developers to include ground floor retail. And hopefully at a neighborhood-friendly rate. otherwise you just get pot stores and hair salon (see Sunset Blvd)

  12. Amusement Park Blues

    Everyone wants to live in Echo Park. Developers take notice of this and wham, you get 7 new crappy loft style units that are “close to shops and restaurants”. Nothing new to report here but the sweet spot to live in EP ended 10 years ago. Soon it will be another Hollywood and Highland and one can have their photo taken with Buzz Lightyear on the corner of Sunset and Echo Park Blvd as tour buses circle the area. Sad Face.

  13. Husband and I just moved to a place on Preston Street, so needless to say I’m really not pleased to hear this. Not only were the garden store owners very nice, but the last thing EP needs is more prefabricated townhouses and lofts bringing in more congestion into an area that is in no way ready to handle the traffic and parking. Not to mention the fact that like the eyesore that is 36 Echo Park, prices/rent will not be in line with what most denizens in EP make.

    • I am glad more families are moving in. The price to pay is ridiculous . So many rooms are rented that parking is not available in front of your own home. People park up to 2 blocks away as many homes in EP do not have driveways or garages that accommodate anything larger than the model T. Many of these homes were 1 and 2 bedroom starter homes with families. Now it is a horrible mish mosh of rentals rooms and converted areas which attracted the hoards to begin with offering low rents. now it is absolutely ugly with its high traffic, congested streets, one way streets and endless stop signs . what in the heck are apartments and MTA lines for on sunset blvd? EP use to be a quiet cul de sac like family community to raise your kids in the 4? nearby grammar schools and head start
      36 echo asking half a million? Per unit? People need to stop invading EP to buy low and sell high. Stop buying our homes just to do phony upgrades
      While asking triple the price purchased for. Go somewhere else to build units and play flip a house . There are still nice families who can move in and fix up over the years while making their own memories… That’s historic.

  14. People–things change; times change; communities change. I’m not saying that the change is good or bad. But time is not stagnant, and communities (demographic and aesthetic wise) also under go a constant metamorphosis. It is unreasonable to believe that rent prices should remain at a low–no matter what neighborhood you’re in. Thanks inflation and rising cost of living.

    And there was a shooting at 10 a.m. on a Sunday a couple months back acrros of Elysian Heights Elementary. It was the one of the first gang related shootings in quite a while, but one of the many reasons why gang violence has ostensibly reduced is due to gentrification. Again, not saying whether it is good or bad. It just is.

    • Another EParker since '66

      Mike, you say it’s change and cost of living making rents go up. It boils down to greedy developers, flippers & realtors who pump up their promotions with images of EP to attract folks with $. Yes, changes are inevitable, but at what price for transforming a relatively quiet historical part of the city to destroying its soul? It’s all about profits. Zoning ordinances should be changed from “one size fits all” to individual cases & neighborhoods. Enough is enough!

  15. I am very very sad to see these businesses go. I love that nursery, I wish they could relocate somewhere else in Echo Park.

  16. Really sad to lose Mi Alma and the Echo Nursery. Both were such boons to the neighborhood. We’ve also lost the framing shop at Duane and Echo Park Avenue to a predatory landlord there. I hope these property owners get all the bad karma they have earned, perhaps some hardship of the sort they’ve inflicted on others could turn them into decent people. In the meantime, we will fight the idea of apartments on Avalon, especially when they are displacing establishments that became loved by the community.

  17. I tried to love that place, but both time I got plants there, they died withing a week. I ended up going to sunset nursery instead. Their plants were never root bound

  18. Of course, communities change, but when the landlords and the real estate developers dictate this change, that’s not good. The residents of this neighborhood need to know what’s going on and be involved in decisions about their community.

    Often these landlords and developers live outside of Los Angeles or even outside of California. They just want to make money. They don’t care about the fabric of the neighborhood. For them, it’s an investment, which means it’s all about money.

  19. I hope this may help people who were not born and raised in EP
    I use to stop at that gas station just to ring the bell. The old man was so cool and always helped out fixing my bike flats before Gus took over Always checked my dads oil with every fill ’em up. Air and water were free. Down the way was Lerner, and by the pioneer market was a chevron and two more on montana and glendale. I think it was a 76 and mobil. All the big names shut down. Gus was forced not to sell gas anymore because he was being charged more for a smaller truck to deliver his fuel To run a business on EP ave you will first not expect more than break even In fact you shouldn’t be in it for the money at all. It’s for the people. It is why these people ran the echo food market the gas station, and liquor store . we were friends and neighbors in a community within a community. I was sad when Jack the Helms bakery man stopped coming in his truck . People trying to make bigger what was never meant to be bigger should stop trying to do that

  20. The efforts in building over priced apartments, trying to convert our quiet streets into the paseos and city walks with ground level businesses complaining about lack of parking and high rents are ridiculous. It was never meant for that purpose or meant for anything more than locally supported residents. If you want bigger, more, higher traffic then go somewhere else and ruin it. stop changing laws, zones, and permits to ruin our slice of heaven to accommodate your temporary efforts and subsequent failure. Take it to Blvd not to the avenues

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