From Burgers to Blight in Boyle Heights: This Would Never Happen in Hancock Park

C.C. de Vere

C.C. de Vere

· 4 min read
Photograph of 320 South Soto Street, a blighted and heavily tagged former burger restaurant.

320 South Soto Street has been empty since 2012, and it's become a serious problem over the past couple of years.

The Boyle Heights Beat has the lowdown on the former Tom's Burgers. Squatters and vandals have severely damaged the building and created safety hazards for the neighbors. Some of them have threatened violence or harassed the neighbors.

There is also a safety risk posed to the neighborhood kids as well - Breed Street Elementary, Hollenbeck Middle, and Roosevelt High Schools are all just a block or two from the site. No child should ever have to walk past a dangerous place harboring some potentially dangerous people just to get to and from school. Period. That's common sense, right?

The neighbors have called 311 more than 150 times.

LAFD has responded to four fires - not including the smaller ones extinguished by neighbors. (Sound familiar?)

The family next door was denied fire insurance coverage - and you really can't be without fire coverage anywhere in Southern California.

LAPD, which doesn't always show up when called (sound familiar?), has responded to 320 S. Soto at least 20 times over the past year. That's JUST the number of times they responded; I couldn't tell you how many times they've been called.

Here's the list of code enforcement complaints. As you can see, most are from 2023 and 2024.

The plan was to renovate the building from a restaurant into two small retail stores (one of them would be a cell phone store), but permits tend to take a while in LA. Which is, of course, not an excuse for the current owner's lack of action and apparent unavailability to the various city departments that have tried to make contact.

Really, the city should just farm out hard-to-reach owners to investigative reporters. I've noticed the media is often better at finding people than the government is. But anyway...

The property's fate now lies with an LADBS inspector. As much as I abhor waste, it might be for the best if this building were torn down.

Honestly, I do think part of the problem is that this is happening in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood often ignored by the city. You KNOW this would never fly in one of the wealthier neighborhoods.

We really should be having more conversations about how the city cheats its less wealthy neighborhoods. In fact, why don't we do that now?

Just a couple of weeks ago, 12-year-old Derrick Serrano was hit by a car walking home from Carver Middle School in South LA. He did not survive. The intersection doesn't have crosswalks, signage, or any kind of safety features to protect the students. Sally Ride Elementary School is close by. You KNOW parents in wealthier neighborhoods would have a fit if their kid wasn't safe crossing the street - trust me on this, I'm from Sherman Oaks. (RIP Derrick. You deserved better.)

Also just a couple of weeks ago, political candidate John Yi posted an Instagram video showing the stark contrast between Hancock Park's well-maintained sidewalks and neighboring Koreatown's not-so-nice sidewalks. (Let me be clear: I have no plans to ever endorse any specific candidates for any public office. I include Yi's video because he makes an important point.) To make matters worse, since Koreatown is the most dense neighborhood in the city, a much, much higher number of people are making do with those crumbling sidewalks.

And remember the Otsego Street saga from three months ago? One of the neighbors told me it's gotten worse. More on that in the next entry - but you KNOW this nonsense would never be allowed in snobby Encino. The city doesn't give a crap because it's North Hollywood.

320 South Soto Street, Boyle Heights.

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C.C. de Vere

About C.C. de Vere

C.C. is a fourth-generation Angeleno and is horrified at what greed and hubris are doing to Los Angeles.

This website was built by her preservation pals at Esotouric.

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