In the 1990s, community leaders, business owners and representatives from St. Thomas the Apostle Church, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Loyola High School and Bishop-Conaty Our Lady of Loretto High School joined forces to combat crime and foster community pride. The City of Los Angeles, including the Office of Council District 1, the Los Angeles Police Department, and Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative also held an instrumental role in helping revitalize the Byzantine Latino Quarter, nestled in the southwestern corner of Pico Union.
Today many projects and programs stem from the community’s activism in the 1990s, including streetscape improvements along Pico Boulevard and street banners, which help promote neighborhood identity and pride. However, one of the most significant outcomes was the creation of the Byzantine Latino Quarter Business Improvement District (BLQ BID), approved and adopted by the Los Angeles City Council in 2003.
The BLQ BID is an assessment district in which property owners are the primary investors in the creation of a safe, welcoming and thriving business environment along Pico Boulevard from the 110 FWY to Western Avenue and small portions of Normandie Avenue and Venice Boulevard. BLQ BID Map. On an annual basis, property owners contribute funds towards street maintenance, beautification projects and marketing efforts to benefit the properties and businesses in this bustling area in the City of Los Angeles. The BLQ BID incorporates the communities of the Byzantine Latino Quarter, North Harvard Heights and Pico Union.
The BLQ BID is guided by its mission of keeping the business corridor clean and free of trash and creating a safe and attractive environment in which people can work, shop and conduct business.
Advisory Board of Directors
Leonardo Magana, Vice President
Fr. John Bakas
St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Divine Hotel Group
Marc Tavakoli, President
Desi's Coin Laundry Property Owner
St. Thomas the Apostle Church
Ana M. Ricardo
Commercial Business Owner
The Advisory Board of Directors meets on a quarterly basis or as needed. For a schedule of meetings and agendas, please contact Moises Gomez at (213) 627-1822 ext. 18 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the second-largest city in the United States, Los Angeles is diverse, global and vast. What makes up this international metropolis are the many old and thriving neighborhoods scattered near the Pacific coast, the San Fernando Valley, the glistening Downtown skyscrapers and everywhere else in between. The Byzantine Latino Quarter is one of these many communities that make the City of Angels unique.
Early 20th Century
Like so many neighborhoods adjacent to the city center, the Byzantine Latino Quarter was among one of Los Angeles’ first suburbs, primarily characterized by farmland. Its early residents included European immigrants and Mexican-Americans. The area was known as Pico Heights and by the turn of the 20th century development started to occur. Pico Boulevard was and remains a major thoroughfare. In fact, Pico Boulevard was once hailed as the “backbone of Los Angeles” and envisioned as a main street that would connect the downtown to the beach and serve as a shopping destination.
The area became highly desirable because of its proximity to the city center and access to the yellow streetcar on Pico Boulevard, which allowed easy transit to downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. In addition, masterfully crafted homes in Queen Anne style and Mission Revival dotted the landscape.
It is also important to note that three major Catholic institutions, St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Loyola High School and Bishop Conaty - Our Lady of Loretto High School, opened their doors in Pico Heights between 1905 and the 1920s. The church and schools continue to draw thousands of people to the area every week.
Mid 20th Century
The population of the area began to change as the City continued to grow and develop. By the 1950s, Greek immigrants settled in the neighborhood. Many opened businesses, including Papa Cristo’s, which helped the area flourish. In 1952 St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, located on Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, opened its doors and became the center of activity. Today, St. Sophia continues to serve the Greek community in Southern California.
Late 20th Century
Slowly, Pico Heights transformed from the suburb it was in the early 20th century to a diverse and urban community. From 1970 to 1990, Pico Heights experienced a significant increase in population and demographic shifts. During this time immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and South Korea began to call Pico Heights their home.
As the population changed, so did the physical environment. Pico Boulevard remained a retail-oriented street, with many businesses catering to the recently arrived immigrants. Spanish and Korean language signs replaced signage and advertisement in English. In the residential neighborhoods, single-family homes became multi-unit dwellings to accommodate the increase in population and, for many, the need to cut down on housing costs.
The community name Pico Heights soon faded as surrounding neighborhoods started to organize and claim their own identities. For example, the neighborhood bordered by Vermont Avenue on the east, 110 FWY on the west, Olympic Boulevard on the north and Washington Boulevard on the south, just a few blocks east of St. Sophia Cathedral, became known as Pico-Union in the 1970s. And the community bordered by Vermont Avenue on the east, Western Avenue on the west, Third Street on the north and Olympic Boulevard on the south, just two blocks south from Papa Cristo’s, became known as Koreatown, also in the 1970s.
Birth of the Byzantine Latino Quarter
In the 1990s, local residents, church leaders from St. Sophia Cathedral and St. Thomas, representatives from community-based organizations and business owners partnered to address and tackle the deteriorating physical and social conditions of the area. Damaged sidewalks, trash, poorly maintained trees and unsafe crosswalks plagued Pico Boulevard, the center of business activity, and the residential communities. Drug dealers and gangs were also prevalent. In partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles and Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, stakeholders developed a community plan to outline the needs of the neighborhood and strategies to address them. They identified fostering community pride as one of the key strategies to beautify the neighborhood and combat crime. And in 1997, the community adopted the name Byzantine Latino Quarter. The State of California formally recognized the new community. The boundaries are 11th Street to the north, Venice Boulevard to the south, Vermont Avenue to the east and Western Ave to the west.
Today the Byzantine Latino Quarter continues to be a unique community. Pico Boulevard, in particular, reflects the history, complexity, diversity and spirit of the area. Trash, graffiti and drug dealers no longer dominate the landscape. Instead, through collective community action and investments by the city and local groups, murals, street banners, mosaic planters, crosswalk enhancements, bus shelters and plazas with benches at two major intersections define the environment. Equally defining is the community’s role in shaping its future. Neighborhood leaders, property and business owners, community-based organizations and local elected officials continue to work in partnership to ensure the Byzantine Latino Quarter and surrounding communities are safe, beautiful and places where residents and businesses alike can thrive.
Next time you bike, drive or walk on Pico Boulevard, look beyond the congestion and take in the sights of moms attending a zumba class in a renovated storefront, the smells of food from Mexico, Cuba, and Greece, just to name a few, and enjoy visiting the numerous historical landmarks that highlight the uniqueness of this business corridor and community.
The BLQ BID administers a variety of services to enhance the built environment and improve the economic and social well-being of the bustling business corridor.
Street Maintenance — A primary and critical effort to create a clean, safe and welcoming environment is street maintenance. The BLQ BID contracted with Clean Street to perform vital street maintenance. Services include the removal of trash and litter from sidewalks, emptying of trash cans, sweeping of gutters, removal of weeds and refuse from tree wells and planters and removal of illegal posters and signs on poles. An extra day of porter service was recently added to insure a beautiful and clean environment.
Business Development — At least once a year the BLQ BID hosts business development workshops. They are hosted in partnership with local resource organizations and government agencies and include topics such as access to financial resources and information on local, state and federal resources for businesses.
Community Street Medallions — In an effort to increase awareness about the BLQ BID and generate business and community pride, new street medallions were installed throughout the district. The medallions depict the BLQ BID logo—two angels flying together. The angels symbolize the power of unity and partnership.
Holiday Decorations — During the holiday season banners, bows and lights are installed along Pico Boulevard. The colorful decorations create a welcoming and festive shopping environment throughout the Byzantine Latino Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods.
Marketing — The BLQ BID is embarking on an extensive marketing campaign to highlight the wonderful diversity and uniqueness of the thriving business corridor and adjacent communities. The campaign includes a dining guide, events, social media, amongst other activities.
Newsletters — A quarterly newsletter is distributed to BLQ BID property and business owners. The newsletters cover an array of topics, including information on City and community programs available to businesses, updates on local projects, profiles of property and business owners in the district and information on BLQ BID activities.
Other maintenance and beautification projects — Other special projects include installation of pedestrian lighting, tree trimming, pressure washing. The BLQ BID is constantly developing and administering projects to create a safe, clean and welcoming environment for all.
Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) manages the Byzantine Latino Quarter Business Improvement District. LANI works closely with the Advisory Board of Directors and oversees the BLQ BID’s operations, marketing efforts and community and public affairs.
LANI has worked in the Byzantine Latino Quarter since 1997. Utilizing its nationally-recognized community engagement model, LANI developed strong partnerships with local stakeholders and completed several neighborhood-driven improvement projects, including streetscape enhancements and two transit plazas at major intersections.
Please visit www.lani.org for more information.