Luxury apartment plan draws protest downtown

LOS ANGELES About 100 demonstrators gathered on the perimeter of a parking lot that used to be a hospital.

"A lot of the community here are below the poverty levels where they wouldn't be able to afford luxury housing here," said Jose Lopez, a former patient of the hospital.

"I used to get around with crutches. I was in a wheelchair and I received treatment from the staff here." Lopez is now able to walk thanks to the therapy he received at the orthopedic hospital.

But the hospital closed down several years ago and the land was purchased by developer Geoffry Palmer. In 2006 he proposed building an upscale apartment community on the parcel.

"We feel that this project is a betrayal of the community's trust. We feel that it's a betrayal of the original purpose for this site which was dedicated by the original donors for serving Los Angeles' disabled children," said community leader Nancy Ibrahim with Esperanza Community Housing Project.

Ibrahim believes the city should keep the area zoned specifically for healthcare.

"We want the city to be stewards of that zoning that protects the community's interest. If that zoning disappears, this site, all of it will be forever lost to the community in need."

There is still a small clinic that operates next to the parcel of land in question and the zoning request will go before the city's planning commission next month.

Geoffrey Palmer was not available to comment.

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