Chichen Itza brings Yucatecan delicacies to South L.A.

Chichen Itza Yucatan Restaurant will celebrate it’s 10th anniversary in February.

Located in Mercado La Paloma, a food court that abuts the 110 freeway near the University of Southern California, the establishment is a family affair. Owned and operated by Chef Gilberto Cetina, his son Gilberto, Jr. and his wife, Blanca, the restaurant serves up Yucatecan delicacies such as Cochinita Pibil and Panuchos.

Yucatan food is a blend of Mayan, Spanish, Lebanese, and Dutch influences, says Cetina.

The chef, whose mother taught him to cook as a child, said he takes pride in bringing his Yucatecan recipes to patrons in the United States.

Watch Cetina describe his food.

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons

Transit Center renovation disrupts downtown Compton

A giant construction project has overtaken North Willowbrook Avenue in downtown Compton. Fences, construction workers, and massive amounts of dirt now stand behind commuters as they wait for their daily buses.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Transit Center is under reconstruction; the first in a series of projects to revitalize downtown Compton.

The new transit center will serve Metro, Greyhound, Dial-a-Ride Service, Dial-a-Taxi Program and Compton Renaissance buses.

The depot will also house the Traffic Management and Operation Center, in which city traffic lights will operate through video detection to improve traffic flow, Alan Pyeatt acting director of the Compton Public Works Department said.

“As we revitalize and put in newer buildings and new facilities, we expect to revitalize the whole neighborhood,” Pyeatt said.

Mepco Services Inc. received a $10.6 million contract to reconstruct the transit center, and is expected to finish in Sept. 2010, Public Works officials said. Funding has come from a variety of sources including MTA, Department of Housing and Urban Development funds, and other grants.

But even before next fall, the project has altered life in the neighborhood.

The city has closed the eastside of Willowbrook Avenue from Compton Boulevard to Elm Street during construction and a temporary walkway has been installed for pedestrians, Pyeatt said.

The street will be rerouted and a cul-de-sac installed on the north end, while the road will merge onto Palmer Street from the south, he said.

When completed, a pedestrian plaza will connect the transit center to the nearby Metro Blue Line Compton station, Pyeatt said. He described improved access from bus to rail, as one of the project’s many improvements.

However, buses that once passed through the affected area have been redirected. Riders say service has slowed due to the construction.

“The 125 is late everyday. They are rerouting,” said Patricia Trahan, who works at Frances Willard Elementary in the Compton Unified School District.

Area residents and commuters also had mixed feelings about the overall project.

William Hardson drives Metro bus 128, which was rerouted to accommodate the construction. He has driven through Compton for 10 years and lives in South Los Angeles.

“I have no opinion because there is nothing done,” Hardson, said.

Despite misgivings about delays, he was optimistic about the final project.

“From what I have seen on the billboards it is a marked improvement,” Hardson said. “It’s about time they did something.”

Services that existed in the previous center have been temporarily moved during the construction.

Eva Walker, a Compton resident and customer service agent for Greyhound Crucero, moved her business into a trailer in July. Walker is an independent contractor and estimates her business has dropped 60 percent due to the construction.

“People don’t realize I’m still here,” she said.

Walker plans on posting flyers on major streets to alert residents to her new location.

Even with the drop in business, she was upbeat about the possibilities a new center could bring.

“I think it’s a great thing. I see nothing but positives,” Walker said. “We are going to have a lot of access to new customers.”

Others share her excitement about the end result and future projects.

“[New development] would be real good for the community…give people more options to make money than how they do,” said Otis Peel, a Compton resident.

The transit center expansion is part of the city’s North Downtown Specific Plan. Future projects include a community center, a senior center, a parking structure, and senior housing.