Councilmembers call for increased hotel worker wages

Nury Martinez, Mike Bonin and Curren Price outside City Hall | Katherine Davis

Nury Martinez, Mike Bonin and Curren Price outside City Hall | Katherine Davis

City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and Curren Price Jr. are proposing an increase of hotel worker wages to $15.37 per hour, a change that would apply to as many as 11,000 hotel employees working in hotels throughout Los Angeles that offer more than 100 rooms. The councilmembers, including Price from South L.A.’s District 9, say that as L.A.’s tourism industry grows, hotel workers deserve a share in the wealth. Some business organizations, however, are hesitant about the plan.

Click play on an audio story from Annenberg Radio News to hear arguments for and against the hike in pay. 

Photo slideshow: Kingdom Day Parade in South LA

The annual Kingdom Day Parade made its way down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard yesterday from Western Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard to honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. It featured local high school bands, social justice groups and union organizations, with Mayor Eric Garcetti as Grand Marshal.

Flip through a photo slideshow to view the highlights, and click to read captions.

Proud Bird restaurant closes Dec. 21 after 47 years

The Proud Bird | Katherine Davis

The Proud Bird prepares to close. | Katherine Davis

[Update: The Proud Bird announced Dec. 13 that it would, in fact, be able to remain open.]

After nearly 50 years of serving filet mignon dinners and champagne brunches, the much loved Proud Bird Restaurant neighboring LAX is preparing to close its doors for good on Dec. 21. What will patrons and employees remember about this richly-decorated, aviation-themed, banquet-ready eatery?

Hear their comments — and the sounds of whizzing planes — in an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

And click here to view a photo slideshow by Katherine Davis. 

Diners enjoy one of The Proud Bird's last meals. | Katherine Davis

Diners enjoy one of The Proud Bird’s last meals. | Katherine Davis

Sonic City: Watts

The iconic Watts Towers. | Willa Seidenberg

The iconic Watts Towers, July 2013. | Willa Seidenberg

Hit play for an audio snippet from Watts from Annenberg Radio News‘ “Sonic City” series: 

Also check out a slideshow of the Watts Towers by Willa Seidenberg.


Q&A: Donald Jolly on ‘Riot/Rebellion’

Playwright Donald Jolly has written a new play about the 1965 Watts Riots.

Playwright Donald Jolly has written a new play about the 1965 Watts Riots. Photo credit: Katherine Davis

Donald Jolly is the 30-year-old playwright behind Watts Village Theater Company’s world premiere play, ‘Riot/Rebellion.’ The play, which opens on Nov. 1 and runs through Nov. 24, reflects on the August 1965 Watts Riots. We sat down with Jolly to find out about the inspiration for the show, the writing process, and what progress—or lack of progress—has been made in the past 48 years in Watts. [Read more…]

South LA’s Obamacare enrollees

A South LA man discusses the Affordable Care Act with Covered California worker at Powerfest South L.A. Photo by Katherine Davis.

October 1 marked the beginning of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” In South Los Angeles, an estimated 300,000 people who were previously uninsured will become eligible for health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act. South L.A. sees high rates of several health problems such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and obesity. And life expectancy in the neighborhood is eight years shorter than in West L.A. While many people in South Los Angeles are eager to gain access to health care through the law, many find it confusing and some think it is too expensive. And even with hugely expanded coverage, thousands of Los Angeles residents will still be uninsured.

For more on South L.A. and Obamacare, listen to this audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

[Read more…]

Watts Village Theater Company’s new artistic director tells a tale of coming home

Lynn Manning

Lynn Manning, artistic director of the Watts Village Theater Company.

On a Tuesday night in late April, the five members of the creative team behind Watts Village Theater Company’s upcoming  “Meet Me @Metro” program gathered for their first round of auditions. Sitting at the end of the table was Lynn Manning, who started as the company’s new artistic director early this year.

“I was hesitant [to take over as artistic director] because I was enjoying being out of the game for the few months that I had been out of it,” Manning said in an interview. “I had been able to focus on my own personal career.”

But for Manning, taking on the role of artistic director is something of a homecoming. One of the company’s original founders, he is returning after a brief hiatus from the company.  [Read more…]

Jan Perry prepares to leave city council

The May 21st elections in Los Angeles will bring a new mayor to the city, and new representatives to four of the city’s 15 City Council seats.

In South L.A., this will mean definite changes. Councilwoman Jan Perry has represented the city’s 9th district for the past 12 years, but because of term limits, she can’t run again.

“We live in this time of term limits and it takes a long time to get things done, get things funded…You have to work under enormous time pressure,” Perry said. [Read more…]

South LA corner stores try to get healthy

Oaks Jr market

Oak’s Jr. Market in Jefferson Park is undergoing a market conversion.

There’s not a lot of merchandise on the shelves at Oak’s Jr. Market these days. The refrigerators along the wall keep some beers and sodas cool. A shelf stores canned chili and Aunt Jemima syrup. But the shelves below the sign that reads “Fresh Produce” sit vacant, waiting to be filled with fruits and vegetables.

Gus Harris Jr., the store’s owner, has been slimming down his merchandise in preparation for big changes. Within the next few months, this modest shop on the corner of Jefferson and Fifth Avenue in Jefferson Park will begin a transformation into a healthier version of its current self. Harris keeps a copy of the plans for the store’s redesign right behind the counter. [Read more…]

Flower Street residents continue to fight for affordable housing

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageAt the intersection of 30th and Flower Street there is a McDonald’s, a used tire center, and an old motel. The hum of the 110 freeway and the Expo line are constantly in the background.

The neighborhood may not look particularly fancy now, but to developers, this area between Downtown and USC has big appeal. Residents of the apartment building at 2913 Flower Street found that out last fall when developers started asking if they would be willing to move out.

“The developer was just offering them the standard relocation and he said the company would be willing to pay a little bit above the standard relocation,” said Thelmy Perez, an organizer with the LA Human Right to Housing Collective.

A few weeks ago, she and the residents of the building sat down with Symphony Developers, a company that owns a USC student housing building on 27th and was interested in expanding more.

Nohemi Armendariz has lived with her family in the Flower Street building for 15 years.

Her message to developers was, “We are happy at this place. We don’t want to move because it is not fair that they want to make the apartment only for the students. That is not fair. We have lived here for a long time.”

Symphony Developers did not wish to comment, but told ARN that they are no longer pursuing the Flower Street building.

But Perez said, “This issue is much larger than just this one building.”

imageThat’s why she and the building’s residents sought the support of one of their most influential neighbors. City Councilwoman Jan Perry’s office for her now-dormant mayoral campaign was just a few doors down from the apartment. 

“There is plenty of opportunity of non residential empty commercial buildings that could be acquired,” said Perry.

Perry came out to support the building’s residents at a news conference on Thursday. She will end her term on City Council in June and says her successor will have to pay attention to affordable housing.

“That person will have to protect the interests of people like the ones who live in this building,” she said.

It will also be up to the next mayor to protect rent stabilization in Los Angeles. Perez says as the mayor’s race continues, she hopes affordable housing will become a debate issue.

”None of the candidates, at least for mayor, have a plan for housing,” Perez said. “We are in dire need of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles and we can’t afford to lose any more rent stabilized affordable units in this city.”

Residents of the 33-unit Flower Street building pay between $700 and $800 a month for small studio apartments. If forced to move, Perez said many would have to leave the neighborhood to find comparable rent prices. That’s why, as election season continues in Los Angeles, they’ll look for candidates who will help them stay in their community.