Space For Rent: Echo Park council abandons troubled office space

Outdoor portion of former Echo Park council office.

It’s been about three years since the leaders of Echo Park neighborhood council threw a block party to celebrate the grand opening of its new office and community center, a former Bank of America walk-up teller office that board members and volunteers cleaned, painted and remodeled. Peek inside that same office today, however, and you will find a jumble of unused chairs, tables and other equipment gathering dust, a sign that the council’s home has been closed and not been used for a while. In fact, it will never reopen again.

Earlier this week, however, the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, now under new leadership, voted to have the office cleaned up and cleared out after deciding to give up the space. It’s not exactly a money-saving measure  since council will have to come up with about $6,500 for repairs and unpermitted remodeling.

It was a small price to pay for some board members and residents who said the place was never well suited for the council or the community. “Just get rid of it,” said resident Margarita Fernandez.

Former Echo Park council office

Echo Park council office was open to the sidewalk.

Former council President Jose Sigala, now running to represent the 13th Council District, and his wife and fellow board member Lisa Baca-Sigala,  were heavily involved in getting the office opened, with Baca-Sigala even painting chairs to liven-up the decor.  Despite a convenient location, it was not an idea space, with larger meetings having to be held in a semi-enclosed space that was open to the sidewalk and street.

Following the complaints by some board members and activist, the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which oversees neighborhood councils, last year determined that the office on Echo Park Avenue at Sunset Boulevard was “not compliant with building codes.”  Later, the city voided a new lease with Bank of America over the same space.

Sigala and Baca-Sigala and others wanted to keep the office open. At Tuesday night’s council meeting, one board member said while the office may have been an “ugly duckling” it “seemed to serve its purpose.”  Others, including new council President Ari Bessendorf,  saw no reason to keep it.

‘We felt that it was no longer an appropriate public meeting place due to its physical condition,” Bessendorf said in an email. ” We are working  …  to finalize our exit from the space and leave the space in an orderly manner.”

Sigala and Baca-Sigala declined to comment.

But the council cannot just walk away from the office.   Bank of America has demanded an estimated $6,500 to cover the cost of dealing with repairs and unpermitted work performed by board members. It’s not clear when and if the neighborhood council, which now holds its general meetings at the Logan Street School auditorium, will ever open another office.  For now, the challenge at hand is to determine what office items to dump and to keep and where to store them.

The bank has expressed an interest in finding another tenant interested in keeping the space open to the community, and several board members wanted to help recruit such a tenant. Said board member Tad Yenawine, “It’s a shame to lose a space that’s so centrally located.”

No comments

  1. well sigala screwed up echo park and now wants to screw up the whole district.talk about visions of grandeur and now hes broke.

  2. Please turn it in to a walk up weed counter , thank you .

  3. maybe I’ll rent it and open up a tattoo shop.

  4. What Ever Happened to { IKare ? }

  5. Finally an end to the Sigala Monarchy. Good ridden. Shame on all of YOU WHO allowed urself to be manipulated. Lied and hustled too by the Sigala LATINO POLITICS. I TOLD YOU.
    You all where smarter than that YET YOU ALL DRANK THE SIGALA KOOL AID.
    SHUT that office down its a scar to our community. Barlow bought the SIGALA KOOL AID. Are you?

    • Ok so you spew nonsense and cannot spell for beans !
      Which is worse ?
      You all “where ” smarter than that …”good ridden” ….. come on now, really ?

      • Can I ask you what is the point on you commenting on someone’s gramatical errors? when her point and the point of this article is focusing on how badly Sigala was at doing if anything for this district as neighborhood coincil President.

        If you have nothing to contribute to this article the please take your nonsense somehere else people. There’s enough trolls out there, we dont need them here either. Thank you

  6. Attention ! . . ………..To Read about the team :Baca-Sigala ,behind the scene’s Expose Report Look for , and Obtain the Current Issue of the Los Feliz Ledger, March 2013. Vol# 9 Written by Ledger contributig Writer: Colin, Stutz. Happy Reading !

    • Not exactly a banner week for Echo Park’s self-proclaimed “power couple”. Could this possibly be just the tip of the iceberg? Only time will tell. As far as the “community center” is concerned, I attended two or three meetings at this location. I do recall at one such meeting, former Echo Park neighborhood council president Jose Sigala was to make a powerpoint presentation. He set up the equipment and within a few minutes it was quite obvious something was burning. Turns out as Mr. Sigala exclaimed, “My notebook is melting!” It was quickly unplugged and the meeting continued. I was alarmed by the incident and contacted the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment/Empower LA the following day to report the incident and express my worries. That was two years ago and as to why it took so long….I guess we’ll never know.

  7. The Office was a great space but was never taken care of and used everyday. It is not an issue of the Board Members doing illegal work it was an issue of Sigala hiring his family member as the illegal contractor that’s work could not be assured or insured or properly executed.

    This is much like his Campaign slogan; “No One Has Done More” to Mess Everything up in our Neighborhood Council!

    If Sigala had hired a licensed contractor to do the work we could hold that contractor responsible for the faulty work done; but now; frozen funds, no more office and the Council is responsible for repairs.

    There are deeper issues here and all will come out; as his bid for Council is over!
    Look at his peek-a-boo money donors scam on the Ethics Commission website.

    Sigala came in 9th and fooled 721 voters to vote for him. Think about that before blaming the members of the GEPENC Board for swallowing kool-aid.

    We are all volunteers from the neighborhood and are not perfect but we care enough to help make a difference… If you can do a better job, step up and be a part of the solution… GEPENC needs your passion so the unscrupulous won’t be your representatives in the future.

  8. Where are you. . …… .I Kare ! !!! Are you and Mussolini Still licking each other’s wound’s ?. Instant Karma really hit you hard on your head’s. now you reap what you have sown . …how fitting . Remember you two Bone head’s are Immortalized on film, print & have a Paper Trail .+Don’t Forget a Confession from David Rockello, one of your G.E.P.E.N.C. flunkie’s now a turn-coat revealing secreat’s . guess Rat’s do feed on Rat’s . we hope Ari’s Regime Dosen’t Follow the same road, The Whole World is Watching ! !.!

  9. Lisa Baca-Sigala

    David Rockello lets really set the record strait since you were the former GEPENC VP and ACTIVELY participate in the 2009 Office repairs and open house – I have the photos of you and all the VIP at the ribbon cutting.

    Funny how you forget what really happened in the office since YOU were there actively cleaning, painting along with the rest of us from the community including Echo Park Security Association, GEPENC Neighborhood Council and other community volunteers.

    1) NEVER did Jose Sigala or GEPENC never “hire” his brother. Check the receipts filed with DONE for 2009 NONE are for labor.

    2) As far as being a “illegal contractor”, Jose’s brother is and remains a journeyman union carpenter.

    3) You are the only person I know who had ever called us a “power couple” .

    4) Regarding “peek a boo” – why don’t you return the $900 GEPENC Cricket Art Craft Machine Ari Bessendorf gave you without GEPENC Board Approval since it was missing from the office inventory when they closed.

    Why isn’t Rampart Village Neighborhood Council buying YOUR OWN Cricket since you never spend your money in the community??? Could it be you are using it for your own personal gain???

    Funny how the Bessendorf ADHOC Reconciliation Draft full of mistakes resulted in the FINAL GEPENC Reconciliation Report with EVERY PENNY for the missing five quarters accounted for WITH RECEIPTS, minutes, meeting agendas with GEPENC Board Approval and votes…unlike the current President Ari Bessendorf who has SPENT OVER $2,000 in unauthorized GEPENC Board Approved funds (or their knowledge ).

    FACT CHECK SOURCE – look at DONE’s Auto Deduction list and the dates of the transactions. The $2,000 is in addition to his own personal out of pockets expenses over $850 made with out GEPENC Board knowledge or a GEPENC Board Vote of approval.

    You may not like Jose personally – which you are entitled to your opinion – but the fact are the facts, Jose Sigala as President of GEPENC never did what Ari Bessendorf as GEPENC President has done illegally the first 6 months.

    (CHECK THE MINUTES AND VIDEO from the April 16, 2013 GEPENC Executive Committee meeting – DONE volunteer Jay Handel made a VERY clear speech in front of the GEPENC Executive Committee – ask Christine Peters she was there and heard every word of the DONE DEAL COVER UP.

    Those who throw stones should not live in glass houses David – you have enough baggage following you and Erlinda in HiFi…just ask all the land lords you have left holding the bag for your unpaid rent.

  10. It is a shame, the previous Board new all the expenses paid . either by card or by check. It is only a matter of who is telling the story. Christine Peters and her crew ,or the Members of a well balanced Neighborhood Council. A group that physical work in the community events Lotus Festival ,neighborhood clean ups was mostly unrecognized. Please , do not say that it was self serving. when You worked a full day and week .and did all of this on Your own time also dealing with personal attacks and ridicule without the power to answer .

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments civil and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. The moderator reserves the right to edit or delete any comments. The Eastsider's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy apply to comments submitted by readers. Required fields are marked *