100 South LA sidewalks fixed, 400 more to go

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Video courtesy of Annenberg TV News

Councilman Bernard Parks and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative broke ground on the city’s 100th sidewalk repair yesterday as part of a project to improve South L.A.’s District Eight, calling on repairman to tear out the old pavement with shovels and drills.

The initiative’s executive director Veronica Hahni said the partnership had succeeded at “improving the quality of life for South Los Angeles residents by removing invasive tree roots and replacing these uplifted sidewalks.”

The repair also marked an important milestone for 84-year-old South L.A. resident Geneva James, who has lived at the corner of St. Andrews Place and 48th Street for more than 40 years, according to the L.A. Times. For many of those years, the broken-up, uneven sidewalk impeded her ability to leave the house, James’ grandson said at the event.

“I am glad I live to see it,” James said. “I will be able to come out and worry about not falling.” [Read more…]

South LA councilman Bernard Parks reflects on 50 years of public service

At ease behind a desk in the conference room of his Crenshaw district office, Councilman Bernard Parks sat down recently with Intersections South LA, in shirtsleeves and a tie, surrounded by poster-sized District Eight maps from yesteryear and took stock of his career and legacy of service in Los Angeles.

In July of next year, Parks’ third and final City Council term will come to a close, marking five decades that he has served the City of Los Angeles.

[Read more…]

Redistricting lawsuit filed on behalf of South LA voters

imageAttorney Leo Terrell filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of residents in the 8th, 9th and 10th Council Districts, alleging that city officials used race as the basis for redrawing boundary lines for those districts.

Terrell accused the City Council of redrawing the boundaries to create a predominantly African American voting bloc in the 10th District represented by Council President Herb Wesson, who is African American. Many of the black neighborhoods represented by 8th District Councilmember Bernard C. Parks, who is also African American, were taken out of the 8th and put into Wesson’s district.

Parks has said moving those neighborhoods out of the 8th District has been economically disastrous for his district.

“Over the last two years we were leading the city in creating jobs, but the 30,000 jobs were taken out just by the drawing of a line. This community leads the city in homelessness, unemployment and foreclosures,” Park recently told Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce.

In a news release, Terrell said,” Key Redistricting Commission and City Council members redrew the City Council district boundaries, with the explicit purpose of increasing the African American voter registration percentage in District 10, and increasing the Latino voter registration percentage in District 9.”

District 9 is now represented by Jan Perry, who is African American. Perry is termed out and running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Terrell also points to how redistricting “diluted the voting power of the Asian American community” by breaking up parts of Koreatown and Downtown Los Angeles and moving them into other districts. The redistricting commission moved much of the downtown neighborhoods out of District 9, leaving it with mostly low-income neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Voters will be electing a new city council member in District 9 on Tuesday.

“Shame on this city when minorities disenfranchise minorities,” Terrell told the Los Angeles City Council today.

Councilmember Herb Wesson did not comment on Terrell’s lawsuit.

Council redistricting outrages council members

imageA commission appointed by the LA City Council prepared the redrawn maps to account for population changes since the last census. But the changes have outraged some councilpeople.

Bill Rosendahl represents District 11, which currently encompasses the west side, including LAX. His colleague, Bernard Parks, represents District 8, which includes Crenshaw and Leimert Park over to USC.

At a news conference, both councilmen criticized the proposal that would let Rosendahl keep LAX but would give Westchester to Parks.

“How dare they take people away from the issues that matter so much to them? It’s an insult to democracy at its best,” Rosendahl said.

Councilman Parks was quick to criticize what he calls closed-door meetings where the maps were drawn.

“We were asked well before the commission was created whether we want Westchester and the airport. And we said, ‘no, it doesn’t fit our community.’ How are people in City Hall talking about maps before the commission was created, and who’s creating maps outside of the commission?” he said.

Rosendahl drafted a petition against the redistricting proposal that has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

One Westchester resident, William Roberts, says the plan would break up a community with similar interests. He says LAX and nearby Loyola Marymount University affect Westchester residents like him.

“We share the burdens and benefits of LAX, we share the burdens and benefits of having students in our community who rent from homeowners here,” he said. “When there are problems, we want to go to one councilperson and have them worked out that way instead of having an opposing situation where you have two city council people representing the same area.”

Calls placed to the Office of Redistricting were not immediately returned.

How shutting down the CRA will impact South LA

imageUnless alternative funding can be found, the next phase of the Crossings at 29th street, an affordable housing project in district 9 will come to a halt.

Today is the California Redevelopment Agency’s last official day and the future of dozens of projects in South Los Angeles are at risk of becoming casualties of politics, money and allegations of corruption.

More than 50 housing, public infrastructure, commercial, community service and program development projects in South LA will be on the chopping block, unless other funding can be found to move them forward – 34 are in Councilwoman Jan Perry’s 9th District. Another 17 are in Bernard Parks’ 8th District.

“The pending closure of the agency means that many potential projects, such as the rehabilitation of the Angelus Funeral Home, a historic Paul Williams structure, will be hard pressed to find new funding and it will be incredibly difficult to fill these gaps and get these projects done,” Perry said in a statement.

Also in danger, construction of affordable housing projects such as the extension of the Crossings at 29th Street, which just last week celebrated the grand opening of its first phase.

In CD 8, the controversial Marlton Square project in the Crenshaw district and the Vision Theater in Leimert Park could come to a screeching halt.

The L.A. CRA owns the Marlton Square property, which has been in redevelopment limbo for 20 years. “There were some missteps with the previous developer,” admits Los Angeles CRA spokesman David Bloom. “It’s impossible to say what will happen now, but presumably, it will be sold off. The reality is that some of the properties we own will be more attractive to buyers.”

Technically, more than 400 redevelopment agencies across the state will no longer exist after February 1st, but the winding down of the CRA’s operations and of many projects currently underway need to be taken care of.

imageMarlton Square, in district 8, was in redevelopment limbo for 20 years. Demolition finally started in 2011, but now its future is uncertain.

“The government must now appoint three people who live in LA County to be part of a board to run a designated local authority to take over the job of the agency to wind down,” explains Bloom. Until successor agencies are designated to pick up where the redevelopment agency left off, employees will continue going to work during the transition period.

The mission of redevelopment agencies was to improve areas and neighborhoods officially designated as blighted by targeting them for economic development. These areas would benefit from infrastructure improvements, construction of affordable housing projects, business assistance and other programs.

But critics argue that millions of dollars were being invested in areas that were not blighted and hardly any money was spent in areas that were in dire need of economic development.

“The CRA was the biggest cesspool in the world. It never delivered what it was supposed to do – reinvest in underdeveloped communities,” complains author and political science professor Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad. “Hollywood Boulevard got redeveloped. It got millions of dollars. And communities that should’ve been prioritized didn’t. Almost all of South LA should have gotten money, but didn’t.”

Bloom quickly defended that investment: “People who don’t think Hollywood was blighted have no idea what it looked like. Downtown was not what it’s like now and that’s because of what the CRA did. The agency helped transform areas that were blighted – it was work over many decades so they no longer look blighted.”

Based on a 2011 list of Los Angeles redevelopment projects, the CRA set aside only about $32 million for all of South LA. By comparison, the agency earmarked $52 million for the downtown parking garage that would be adjacent to Eli Broad’s Broad’s proposed museum in the L.A. Civic Center.

Councilwoman Perry, whose district stands a lot to lose by the CRA’s demise, also justified the redevelopment agency’s existence. “I can personally attest to the efficacy of the CRA and the amazing work that we were able to accomplish in partnership. From developing housing for the formerly homeless, to building new grocery stores in areas where there historically had been none to restoring communities by building quality affordable housing, the CRA has helped us reinvigorate and rehabilitate neighborhoods.”

While dozens of projects in South LA will no longer have agency funding, it doesn’t mean they’ll never be built. It will just be harder to get them off the ground, as it will require finding other pools of money. With mounting state and municipal budget deficits, raising funds for even the most well-meaning projects will be a challenge. The bigger question will be who would spearhead efforts to find a way to help and how long it will take to fund the projects that seek to transform South LA from an impoverished area to a prosperous community.

Editor’s note: State law determines that funding for redevelopment projects comes from tax revenues raised in the area where the project is located. When redevelopment agencies improve “blighted” areas, property values in those areas rise, increasing property tax revenues. That increase, a result of redevelopment activity, is referred to as a “tax increment.” The money raised with the tax increment, along with the sale of bonds, finance projects in the area where the taxes were generated.

After the story was published, CRA LA spokesman David Bloom contacted us to say it was unfair to suggest the agency was to blame for the disparity in the different redevelopment project areas. He writes: “Under the provisions of the redevelopment law, funds from a given project area could ONLY be spent in THAT project area. If an area generated fewer resources, we had fewer to spend… The agency invested considerable dollars across many years in South LA. And the proof of the agency’s efforts lies in the great distress that officeholders and community groups are showing at the agency’s dissolution.”

A full list of L.A. projects that will be negatively impacted by the closure of CRA:

Projects that will move forward because they’re considered to have “enforceable obligations:”

South LA’s 8th district begins redistricting discussions

The results of the 2010 census have led to a spate of efforts to re-draw political lines at all levels, from Congressional districts to State Senate boundaries.

While those efforts have attracted considerable notice and controversy, less attention has fallen on this decade’s City Council redistricting process, which begins formally on Nov. 28.

A commission will ultimately make recommendations for the new shapes of the city’s 15 council districts, which will then be voted on by the current council members before March.

Los Angeles City Council Redistricting…Why Should I Care?” a flier reads, somewhat plaintively, and on a drizzly Friday night, not many were up to the challenge.

In South LA, Councilman Bernard Parks and District 8 Commissioner Tunua Thrash held a pre-meeting at the Constituent Service Center, designed to engage and prepare residents to make formal statements when the hearings begin the week of November 28.

Despite the lure of free sandwiches, just over a dozen people turned out; most were Councilman Parks’ employees and only a handful were residents.


“It’s extremely important that we have community members come out and testify and talk about what is their community, not only from a perspective of describing who the people are, describing what are some of the resources in those communities, but even going so far as to telling of us what are some of the boundaries in your community, what areas would you not like to see split apart,” Thrash said.

The redistricting process at every level borders on the arcane. The 21-person redistricting commission comprises one member appointed by each councilmember, as well as an additional commissioner for Council President Eric Garcetti. The City Controller and City Attorney also get one each, while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appoints three representatives on the commission.

The group is tasked with holding a series of public meetings before hashing out the lines. They will also consider the size of each district, natural boundaries, and “communities of interest,” a term that Thrash and Parks stressed had broad meanings, ranging from distinct neighborhoods to similar demographics, or even the areas under the flight path of an airport.

The commission will also consider the Voting Right Acts, a federal mandate that redistricting cannot discriminate against minority groups.

The boundaries for the 8th District, which saw just over 5 percent growth in the last decade, are not expected to move dramatically.

“The one thing that’s unique about the 8th District is our numbers are such that we can actually remain exactly the way we are,” Parks said. “The dilemma is that there are many districts around us that are in need of boundary changes to gain population, and that’s going to be the push and pull, as it relates to dealing with those districts.”

Although the three districts to its north and south were also mostly stable, downtown’s 9th District, to the east, rose at nearly twice that rate to overcome the 8th in population. (You can find a useful map of the council census data here at blogdowntown).

Because the 8th District is partially surrounded by other cities, including Culver City and Inglewood, which are not affected by redistricting, the areas where lines could be redrawn are limited. Some of Parks’ aides worry that few of the possibly affected residents, many of whom are not politically active, will turn up to contest those changes.

District 8 will hold its first official redistricting meeting on Dec. 12 at the Expo Center.

State of the Eighth address reveals new development

Councilmember Bernard Parks delivered his ninth annual “State of the Eighth” address on Thursday evening to a room full of students being honored for their academic achievements and their proud parents. Families gathered at the Expo Center to hear Parks reveal new plans for their area and update them on current developments. After the address, “STAR” students from the Eighth District were awarded medals and backpacks for being the most improved or earning the highest grade point average in their grade.


Jan Perry, councilmember of CD 9, made a surprise appearance to introduce Parks. “I thought things were great over in the ninth, but they’re pretty great over here in the eighth too!” Perry said, “The kids are going to be the stars tonight!” But before the students had their time to shine, Parks took the stage to deliver his “State of the Eighth” address.

In less than ten minutes, Parks addressed some of the upcoming improvements to CD 8. These developments spanned from public transportation, to environmental, to recreational.

The “State of the Eighth” began with an explanation of the improvements to the district’s infrastructure. Parks said that they were able to receive funding to repave almost 18 miles of streets since July 1 of this year. Funds have also been allocated so that over 300 trees will be trimmed. Access ramps for wheelchair users will continue to be built around the city so that people with disabilities can go up and down curbs more easily.

Sewage improvement also received a moment in the spotlight. Parks said that the sewer work on Vernon “will be completed soon” but focused on a multi-million dollar sewer repair plan that was just approved by the city. Over the next 10 years, $170 million will be spent to improve the sewers in District Eight.

“We think it’s an absolute essential investment,” Parks said. “Because we have some of the oldest parts of the city, we certainly have some of the oldest sewers, so we’re going to get our fair share of the sewer improvement over the next 10-year cycle.”

Furthermore, Parks spoke about the multi-billion dollar public transportation system in Los Angeles. There will be an Expo Line that will run from Culver City to Downtown L.A. and another line from Culver City to Santa Monica. Locally, $1.5 billion worth of rail will be constructed starting next year linking Crenshaw from Exposition to L.A.X. The total of all of these projects is estimated to be between $2.5 and $3 billion of taxpayers’ money.

New upcoming additions to District Eight include the first animal shelter, which will open in the next three or four months on 62nd Ave and St. Andrews, according to Parks. This $15 million animal shelter will be the first in the history of their community. In about seven months, the new grocery store Fresh ‘N Easy is expected to open on 52nd Street and Crenshaw. By the end of the year, Northgate Market and a senior housing complex will have their groundbreaking on 94th and Broadway. At the beginning of 2012, a six-acre plot on Manchester and Vermont will be available for development.

Two achievements that were celebrated during the “State of the Eighth” were a substantial donation from Superior Warehouse and an increase in jobs. Superior Warehouse donated $250,000 that was split between View Park Prep Accelerated and 107th Street School. View Park Prep is located in the Hyde Park/Park Mesa Heights area and 107th Street School is in the Southeast area of District Eight.

Finally, out of all fifteen Los Angeles districts, District Eight was the only one that was “able to maintain and increase job creation” despite the recession, Parks said. In the last year, District Eight created 3,700 jobs. Parks continued, “We’re creating jobs in the community and with those jobs we hope that they bring people’s ability to be proud of their community and also the ability to withstand the economic downturn and help fund the issues for their family.”

But the evening was not just about the “State of the Eighth.” Excitement began to buzz when the councilman presented awards to Eighth District students. Constance Reese, Miss Black California 2011, and Leila Ford, from AT&T, joined Parks in passing out the awards to students. Students in 5th, 8th, and 12th grades from District Eight schools were awarded most improved or highest grade point average.

imageCouncilmember Bernard Parks poses with Miss Black California Constance Reese and a student

Even though Audrey Tieger is a resident from West L.A., she was still impressed by all of the changes coming to the Eighth District. Tieger said, “I’m a retired educator, so I know all of these schools. It’s really important that all of these things are happening. It’s wonderful.” Tieger was at the event supporting her grandchildren.

Jeffrey Frazier, an 8th grader from Frederick K.C. Price III, won the award for Most Improved student in his grade. Jeffrey said that the recreational changes Parks talked about would be “a great influence on kids to keep them out of trouble and out of jail.” Jeffrey’s proud parents, Jeffrey Frazier Sr. and Beverly Frazier, were also there cheering him on.

imageThe Frazier family, from left to right Jeffrey Sr., Jeffrey Jr., and Beverly

Frazier echoed her son’s thoughts on the improvements coming to District Eight. “I think they’re much needed,” Frazier said. “They’ll revitalize the community. It’s great to hear that dollars are being put back into the community like that.”

Frazier was especially grateful for the new skate park opening next week at Jackie Tatum/Harvard park. She explained, “They say, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,’ so it keeps [teenagers] off the streets and in a positive environment.” She hopes that Councilmember Parks will start offering educational resources to District Eight, such as math tutoring, mentoring, and guest speakers.

According to Councilmember Parks’ website, he represents over 250,000 people, making District Eight one of the most densely populated areas of South Los Angeles. The Eighth Council District includes the communities of Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Leimert Park, West Adams, Jefferson Park, Chesterfield Square, and other areas of South Los Angeles. In an evening when “star students” were recognized, Parks’ “State of the Eighth” shed light on a hopeful future for jobs, recreation, the local economy, and public transportation, to name a few.

Bernard Parks officially wins City Council District 8 election


Bernard Parks officially won a third term on the Los Angeles City Council today after the City Clerk’s Office released a final tally giving him 51.21 percent of the vote in the March 8 election.
Parks received 9,482 votes, while his closest challenger, Forescee Hogan-Rowles got 8,058 votes, or 43.52 percent, according to the clerk’s figures.

Parks did not wait to declare victory—he announced that he had won on election night after unofficial results gave him 50.89 percent of the vote. Hogan-Rowles, however, did not concede,
saying the number of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots meant that Parks might not have the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.
In a campaign update sent via email, Hogan-Rowles said, “I’m proud of our campaign and the coalition we built together with workers and neighborhood leaders. We came just a few votes away from forcing Bernard Parks into a runoff—even though he used to be one of the most popular leaders in the City.”

She continued, “Our campaign sends an important message to elected leaders like Bernard Parks, who ignore their constituents and the workers who keep our city working: no matter how popular you think you are you can’t take the people for granted.”
Photo by Sarah Golden

Read more on this topic:
Hogan-Rowles advocates a run-off election
Bernard Parks celebrates election in Leimert Park
City Council candidates discuss the issues in South LA

Hogan-Rowles supporters remain hopeful

In the hours following the March 8 election, supporters of candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles gathered at her campaign headquarters on Crenshaw Boulevard.

The mood in the air was hopeful–confident even–as the supporters chanted “Yes, We Can” and “Tonight’s going to be a good night.”

Intersections South LA was there, talking to supporters and chronicling the affair through photographs.

Hogan-Rowles and LaMotte greeted by crowds of supporters