South Central development project concerns neighbors


A new South Los Angeles development project drew sharp criticism from neighbors and health advocacy groups at a press conference Monday. A report released by Human Impact Partners found that “The Reef” development, slated to build two multi-use high-rise buildings, will place over half of renters in the site’s surrounding area at high risk for financial strain or displacement.

In September, the City Council released a 3,000 page environmental report on the development. The document has been has been a source of strain on attempting to be involved in the development process.

“In the immediate, we are concerned about the draft [environmental impact review] project that has only given us 47 days to respond to a 3,000 page document,” said Benjamin Torres of CDTech.

Beyond the environmental impact report, the community is concerned that the development will bring new residents into the proposed luxury apartments while pushing out lower-income locals because of rising rent and property value.

Read More: Neighborhood council to take action on Reef Project report

Los Angeles is the least affordable city for renters, and HIP found that the city lost 65 percent of state and federal funding for affordable housing between 2009 and 2014.

The South Los Angeles neighborhood surrounding the development is one of the most crowded areas in the city. In the community where 45 percent of residents fall below the poverty line, a rise in prices leaves many residents forced to compromise.

The Reef development

Residents hold a press conference in front of The Reef, which plans to develop two new skyscrapers in South LA over the next 15 years. | Caitlyn Hynes, Intersections South L.A.

Community members are worried that The Reef development will not include affordable housing, an issue that already exists. At the press conference, residents and community leaders urged developers and the City Council to consider their voices throughout the 15-year building process.  

Benjamin Torres of CDTech said he was concerned that the decisions made about the development would not include the input of the neighbors who currently live there.

“One [concern] is the long-term process and what the role of the community is, and making sure we have equitable community development that benefits the area,” he said.

Neighbors want South L.A. to attract developers. They also want development to reflect the neighborhood’s residents as they are now, not those who will move in to be a part of The Reef’s demographic.

“Let’s imagine for one minute what this project could be. Imagine if this was affordable housing for the residents of affordable housing for South Los Angeles,” said Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. “Imagine if that development was serving the people of this community, who have built this community with their blood and their sweat and their tears. Imagine if some of that retail space were community health centers that served this community.”

Read More: Some South LA residents express uncertainty with billion dollar development 

Dr. Holly Avey of HIP said that her organization was concerned about the negative impact that this development could have on the historic South Central L.A. neighborhood. The report found that community residents who are impacted by displacement and financial issues are at a high risk of a variety of health problems, including anxiety, depression, obesity and diabetes.

Beatriz Solis of the California Endowment said that some families are forced to make delicate tradeoffs, like choosing between healthy food or preschool.

Cynthia Bryant, the owner of a local ice cream shop, voiced her concern that when the development does go forward, the businesses in The Reef will push her out of the neighborhood. Bryant worries that the business space in The Reef will drive up rent prices across the neighborhood.

“I don’t want to be the first one to get on the boat if we get pushed out of this community, because they’re pushing us further and further. But where is the boat loading? Should I be the first or should I be the last, should I keep hanging on?” said Bryant.

The rising rents and subsequent displacement of residents worries Solis as well.

“At the community level, when people are forced out, the whole community fabric begins to unravel, and what cohesion and collaborative efficacy, or social and political power did exist begins to evaporate, making it more and more difficult to have a voice in community development,” Solis said.

Neighbors like Erendira Morales, a working mother of four children, say they want to be a part of this process to make sure that their concerns are being heard and addressed.

“We feel that they are playing with the life and the future of the people who live in this community. Our local representatives are not listening to us,” said Morales. “We have our interests, we have our opinions and we feel that they are not paying attention to us. We want to participate, we want to be part of this process.”

Mom jailed for murder and attempted murder

The Valle home on Thursday, where well-wishers have set up an impromptu memorial. While the youngest victim died, her older sister remains in critical condition.

A South Los Angeles woman is in jail, arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted murder of her two small daughters. Lorna Valle, 32, is being held on $1.5-million bail.

Valle, who neighbors say was suffering from depression, is accused of killing her 1-year-old daughter Lindsay Stephanie Taque-Valle. Marian, her 5-year-old, remains in critical condition at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Police say the girls’ father told them he found Valle trying to drown their daughters in the couple’s home on West 50th Street on Wednesday. The couple are natives of Guatemala, who have been living in South L.A. aproximately 10 years.

Valle (middle) with her two children, Marian (left) and Lindsay (right).

Click here for the video story from ATVN.

A son’s suicide, a mother’s pain

By Wanda Jackson

imageI know that no matter how much I speak about Kevin, it will never bring my son back. I know, because I’ve tried. And neither will a million tears. I know, because that’s how much I’ve cried. I also know that by sharing my story I can’t help Kevin, but I can help others to live.

I realize that my son had to have been in the deepest kind of pain to end his precious life. I still hurt and feel this tremendous pain tugging at the core of my soul when I think about how, in the last moments of Kevin’s life when he walked into my garage for the last time, he must have felt so all alone.

When he came home that night he seemed sad. He said he had been fighting with his girlfriend all weekend and he was tired. He told me that he was in pain. I asked my husband to talk to him and give him words of encouragement. After that, I really felt my son was going to be okay.

But now I know that Kevin was chemically depressed; he was not mentally well. He was not crazy, or psychotic. He had a chemical imbalance in his brain, and he should have had medical attention.

There wasn’t one particular situation that caused Kevin’s depression, but I know that it had a lot to do with this girl he was dating. My son was in an abusive relationship. I told him that he needed to leave her alone because she was causing him too much pain. He was also frustrated that he could not find a job. We told Kevin that it takes time because a lot of people were out of a job.

Kevin’s car was not working and he came and asked me if I could take him somewhere the next morning. That morning, it was approximately an hour after I heard him go down stairs that I went into the garage.

I could not believe my eyes when I looked up and saw his handsome face limp. He was hanging from one of the wooden beams. It was so surreal. I screamed and screamed, “No Kevin, Kevin, no, no. Why? Why? Oh God, please don’t let him be dead,” I begged. I ran and got a knife, and I cut my son down. I administered CPR, but I knew he was probably dead. After calling for help, I held him in my arms crying and begging God to let him live, but honestly, I knew he was dead.

I learned later that it takes approximately three minutes for someone to die from hanging themselves. Even now, it’s hard to believe that my son, my precious son is gone forever. He was 30 years old.

Life would have gotten better for Kevin. The day after he died, someone called him for a job interview.

Before I found my son dead on August 26, 2008, before Kevin’s life started spiraling downward, he loved life. His passion for life was enormous; his love for his family, and the love he had for his daughter and son was huge. He was like a kid himself when playing with his children. He was a beautiful person inside and out, and to know him was to love him. Kevin was handsome; he was smart, intelligent and wise. He was funny and fun to be around. I will never forget his huge, warm quirky smile that always seemed to warm my heart. I will forever miss his spirit, his beam of light that shined so brightly in our lives.

I thank God that I have my two beautiful grandchildren, one who is 12 and the other who is eight years old, whom I am now raising. They both remind me so much of my son. Every beat of their precious hearts is another reminder that Kevin lived and loved until the end. He told me the night before he died how much he loved us and how thankful he was that we were raising his children. I told him that we loved him too, but I never thought that he was saying goodbye. Because if I knew that he was saying good bye I would have held him in my arms and explained to him how much he was loved and would be missed if he left. I would have never let him go until I knew that he was going to be okay. I would have done everything to make sure that Kevin had gotten the proper medical attention he needed, but I didn’t know.

That is why I am writing this today: to let you know that there is help and that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

The same day that Kevin died I remember I just kept saying “I have to help other people.” I remember telling my sister: “I have to spread awareness about suicide so other families don’t have to go through what we are going through.” So I started Kevin’s Cause. If I had known the signs, perhaps I could have helped Kevin. I am going to do everything I can to spread awareness so that people will understand the warning signs and know that there is nothing wrong with reaching out to others if they are feeling depressed or suicidal. People do get better if they receive the proper medical attention. Depression doesn’t have to lead to suicide.

The organization is still in its early stages. We’re developing a marketing plan. We want to engage and influence the community by raising awareness that suicide is a serious problem in our community, state and nation. We want to develop suicide prevention strategies. We want to facilitate training that will teach warning signs and the risk factors for suicide. We also want to speak at churches. Our goal is to diffuse the social stigma that has for many years been attached to depression and suicide, especially in the minority communities where the suicide rate is growing.

We would like to change the phrase “commit suicide.” It is a term that needs to be expunged completely. It is inaccurate, it is insensitive, and it strongly contributes to the horrible stigma that is still associated with suicide. We prefer to say “die by suicide.” So help get the word out: Criminals commit crimes. Suicide is not a crime. So please STOP SAYING that anyone “committed suicide.”

Kevin was loved and nurtured growing up. He went to private school, played and excelled in basketball at St. Albert’s Elementary School in Compton, and Serra High School in Gardena. He grew up in a house with both parents, a loving and caring sister, and a host of family and friends who truly loved him. Kevin had so much to live for, but yet, the way he died painted a completely different picture.

If love could have kept him alive, Kevin would still be here today.

A motto he would say often is “recess is over.” And that saying meant to him that it was time to get serious. I will adopt this slogan and use it to spread awareness. Yes, recess is over and I want everyone to get serious about educating themselves regarding depression and suicide and help spread the word so that we can stop this terrible tragedy.

Again, untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

– Appearing depressed or sad most of the time.
– Talking or writing about death or suicide.
– Withdrawing from family and friends.
– Abusing drugs or alcohol.
– Exhibiting a change in personality.

People at risk of suicide often feel hopeless. They feel strong anger or rage. They feel trapped — like there is no way out of a situation.

There are many other signs to look out for. Awareness is the Key to Saving Lives, so please, together, let’s start saving. The Suicide hotline for L.A. County is: (310) 391-1253 / Spanish: 1-800-273-8255

If anyone would like to donate to Kevin’s Cause suicide prevention and awareness, nonprofit organization. Please contact:

Wanda Jackson, (310) 310-4790 or Shaunda Hill, (562) 206-5243

Employer Identification Number: 27-1999224