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Long Time Olvera Street Merchant Sent Eviction Notice

By Eric Richardson with Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, July 24, 2009, at 03:32PM
Coffee House Ed Fuentes

Gallery and coffee shop Casa De Sousa recently received an eviction notice from El Pueblo management.

As a broader struggle over rents on Olvera street works its way through city departments, tenants are already feeling the pressure.

On July 15, gallery and coffee shop Casa De Sousa received an eviction notice. Owner Conchita Sousa and her family have operated the shop for decades, but are puzzled by the notice, which cites the lack of a concession agreement as the reason for expulsion.

Rents on Olvera street have been a hot topic in recent weeks, with the City Council looking at increases as a way to end the General Fund subsidy of the El Pueblo monument. Councilmembers criticized El Pueblo for failing to have current leases with tenants, hoping that rental agreements closer to market rate could generate an extra $250,000 per year.

The eviction notice claims the space is operating without a concession agreement, which computes payments based on a percentage of sales on food and beverage.

Sousa disputed that claim, and said that she doesn't recall any expiration date on a concession agreement signed in 1985.

Different than the concession agreement is Casa De Sousa's lease on the space, which Sousa's mother signed in 1999. "It's a complicated situation," said Sousa, adding that the fact that her shop is not strictly retail nor strictly a restaurant has led to confusion on how it should be treated.

El Pueblo management made no attempt to contact her to straighten out the agreement situation before sending the eviction notice, Sousa said.

"There was no discussion what so ever about a renewal," she said. "It was thrown at us before, something about talking about an agreement... no word to come work it out. We called, there were no responses."

With the city's budget situation and the increased pressure on El Pueblo management, Sousa feared that her lengthy tenure on Olvera might be in jeopardy.

"We had a feeling this was coming, but not like this," she said. "We are having a gathering this Saturday [July 25] to gather support. It's called 'The Day Out of Time on Olvera Street.'"

July 25th is the last day of the Mayan calendar year. Observations focus on forgiveness and artistic celebration of life and freedom.

Laughing and sighing at the same time, Sousa said, "It also means we may be out of time."

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