We are a network of communities made up of diverse residents, families, and immigrants coming together to SEE the conditions of their neighborhood, REFLECT on the root causes of these conditions and ACT to bring about real, concrete change
Union de Vecinos is a grassroots community base organization that promotes civic participation, democracy, and the development of community power in Boyle Heights and the City of Maywood. We take a bottom up approach to change institutional practices and community involvement by organizing residents through the formation of neighborhood issue committees. In our model, solutions to a problem are developed by those most affected – community is what drives us and is at the heart of all our work.
Who are we?
We represent all sectors of the community: tenants, homeowners, youth, seniors, immigrants, low income and working class families, and small business owners. Together we support each other through community-wide campaigns that educate, mobilize, and fight displacement; and realize projects that beautify and transform common areas from unsafe and rundown to functional spaces for community use.
Union de Vecinos was founded by the majority latino immigrant community of the Pico Gardens Housing Projects in 1996 to fight the potential demolition of their housing. Ninteen years later we have grown to a Network of Neighborhood and Issue Committees promoting economic and environmental justice, civic engagement, affordable housing, and building healthy and stable community neighborhoods. Collectively, we have achieved many victories through our community organizing, popular education and direct action model:
- Stopped the privatization of public housing in the City of Los Angeles for 2014 (impacting 22,000 residents)
- Won a lawsuit against HACLA for illegal rent increases (benefiting 3,200 families)
- Built the LA Human Right to Housing Collective a Citywide multi-cultural coalition that brings together homeless, tenants, and public housing residents in the struggle for services, to expand rent control rights and protect public housing in collaboration with LACAN
- Convinced the LA city council to form a city-wide task force to propose recommendations for Rent Control Reform;
- Successful in swearing in one of our members as a Housing Authority of City of LA Board of Commissioner (HACLA); (increased public housing resident participation)
- Stopped HACLA’s plan to eliminate 14 public housing developments for a 3 year period (benefiting 22,000 residents)
- Developed a community based housing inspection program for the City of Maywood (benefiting 25,760 tenants)
- Passed 2 advisory measures in Maywood protecting families from the demolition of their homes (benefiting 28,000 residents)
- Organized, drafted, and passed Just Cause Ordinance in the City of Maywood (benefiting 25,760 tenants)
- Formed the first Tenants Union in East Los Angeles (533 members)
- Brought Housing Code Enforcement Inspections back to Council District 14 after a 2 year absence (benefitting 69,000 tenants)
- Passed AB 240 with Assemblyman Rendon which makes private California mutual water companies accountable and transparent to their users including tenants (500 water companies serving thousand of families)
-Took over a local mutual water company in the City of Maywood and changed the bylaws to increase tenants access into the company (benefiting 25,760 tenants)
- Transformed 15 public spaces in Boyle Heights and the City of Maywood from unsafe and run down areas into community spaces used for fairs, mercados, meetings, and community celebrations (benefitting 4,500 residents)
- Organized and won two new parks in the City of Maywood (benefitting 2,500 residents)
- Passed a law in the City of Maywood that allows for street vendors to obtain vending permits (impacting 30 street vendors in one square mile)
- Reprioritized how the City of LA distributed resources for basic services (benefiting 5,500 residents in Boyle Heights who received services)
- Trained 400 volunteers who have mobilized close to 40,000 voters in the City of LA and the City of Maywood in a 2 year period
- In 2000 Union de Vecinos won a Best Practice award for its community organizing from the United Nations’ Huairou Commission.
Elizabeth Blanley, Co-Director/Founderey
Leonardo Vilchis, Co-Director/Founder
Mr. Vilchis is an immigrant from mexico co-founder of the Union de Vecinos and has worked in the Boyle Heights community since 1987. He brings his experience as an immigrant and his 30 years of experience as a community organizer to the work. He worked at the UFW as a Political Organizing Coordinator and at ACORN as Political Organizer. In the early nineties he worked at Dolores Mission with Christian Base Communities and was their lead organizer. He was trained in liberation theology in Costa Rica, is a popular educator, and conducted nonviolence trainings with Pace e Bene in Colombia and in various cities within the United States. He served as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Maywood, and was a former board member of ELACC, Clinica Romero, SAJE, and Eviction Defense Network. He gives various lectures and panel discussion on community organizing, popular education methodology and various other topics.