South LA in 2013: The year in review

In 2013, policy makers and community members alike took a stand on a variety of issues affecting daily life in South Los Angeles. Here are five of them that will continue to develop during the next year. 


Lining up to find out about Obamacare at Powerfest South L.A. Photo by Katherine Davis.

Lining up to find out about Obamacare at Powerfest South L.A. | Katherine Davis

In 2013 healthcare was a major concern for many South L.A. residents. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act residents rushed to the front of the lines to enroll. Prior to the act’s approval one could find health clinics and health care workshops popping up all over the city. Though there were some complications with enrollments in the beginning, the Affordable Health Care Act is shaping up to be beneficial for the community.

Crenshaw/LAX Metro Line


Crenshaw/LAX business summit | L.A. Wave Newspaper

Back in June the Crenshaw/LAX rail line was approved for construction after years of dispute. The light-rail line will run though South L.A. and promises to create hundreds of jobs. Local businesses came together to host a summit for those interested in working for the rail line in October. Though the production of this railway may bring transportation benefits, some worry about the effect it will have on Leimert Park’s historic role as a hub for African American arts and culture.

Gang injunctions

Community members protest the gang injunctions | Photo Courtesy of the Daily Breeze

Gang injunction protest. | Daily Breeze

This past year there has been a new gang injunction plan for Inglewood, Echo Park and the San Fernando Valley. Gang injunctions seek to make communities safer by drastically restricting the activities of known gang members. Some people believe this new policy will help while others feel it merely promotes the schools to prison pipeline.


Oil Fields in Baldwin Hills | Photo Credit: The City Project

Oil Fields in Baldwin Hills | The City Project

One of the main issues concerning the people of South L.A. this year was oil fracking at the oil fields of Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. Many complained of the damage the fields were having on their homes while others were more concerned with the health risk they face living next to an oil field. Despite the community’s pleas to cease oil fracking in the area it seems federal funds are still being pumped into production.

The Forum | WikiCommons

The Forum | WikiCommons

The Forum

This past year the Forum in the “City of Champions,” Inglewood, was taken over by entertainment power house Madison Square Garden and renovated from the inside out creating hundreds of jobs for people in the community. The Forum will kick off it’s grand opening with a series of shows performed by the iconic band the Eagles in January 2014.

Leimert Park Phone Company debuts reinvented pay phones

Pay phone protoype

Pay phone protoype. | Stephanie Monte

At the forefront of remixed technology, transmedia, and community storytelling, the Leimert Park Phone Company seeks to create new forms of civic engagement simply by re-purposing old pay phones.

Leimert Park glimpsed the future Saturday outside the historic Vision Theatre at the unveiling of the first reinvented phone.

The fire-engine red prototype is equipped with a microphone, loud speaker, tablet device and electrical outlets. The public was invited to pick up the receiver and share as well as hear stories about the history and culture of Leimert Park.

To project participant Ben Caldwell, director of media arts organization KAOS Network, the old objects have potential.

“Discarded pay phones are portals for community storytelling and to preserve our history,” he said. KAOS Network has been a community staple for more than 30 years helping develop local artists develop multi-media and design skills.

Caldwell is one of a group of Leimert Park community members, artists and musicians who have worked with 30 USC students and faculty on the project since 2012. It began with a series of workshops geared for brainstorming and rapid-prototyping – “hacking” the pay phone to find ways the device could be programmed to record sound or create its own WiFi network.

François Bar, a USC Communication professor, helped acquire the phones. He also posed a key question: “How do you change the objects that are on the sidewalk so they can interact with the people that live there?” Leimert Park’s unique street life would offer an ideal opportunity for experimentation, he decided.

“Many people live outside, there’s a lot of interaction — life from the sidewalk that’s very different from other parts of this city,” said Bar.

Art work for the Leimert Park Phone Company

Art work for the Leimert Park Phone Company. | Stephanie Monte

Leimert Park has been a key artistic and cultural hub for L.A.’s African-American community. Residents and business owners have recently begun to worry that that developers will drive them out by buying property and blasting up the rent, now that a Metro Line is slated for a Leimert Park station.

Some say a few old-fashioned pay phones could be just the thing to help stimulate business within the community as well as generate civic engagement.

Pick up the receiver and you’ll hear: “Press ‘one’ to hear a story about Leimert Park. Press ‘two’ to leave a story. Press ‘three’ to hear the history. Press ‘four’ to hear the music of Leimert Park.”

The project, still in its soft-launch, operates with a small computer called “Raspberry Pi,” which uses an ARM processor, runs Linux and costs about $35. Programmers said it’s ideal for embedding in a pay phone because it’s cheap, flexible and can detect and send voltage changes.

Electrical engineer Wesley Groves made the two outlets encased in flexible plastic tubing that let users plug in USB cables such as phone chargers. He said the pay phone was designed to look attractive.

“As you’re walking down the street and you look at this, your eyes begin to communicate with the object… Then you’ll walk over to it, maybe interact with it, and more people will come,” said Groves. “It creates its’ own communication field.”

His wife Collette Foster Groves, who lives in nearby Ladera Heights, said the phone plays with innovation and technology in mystical, magical ways.

“It’s great to see such art and technology fused together, recycled and repurposed especially for a historical function,” she said. “They should call it the smart phone because of all the ways it can be used.”

Historic Visions Theatre in Leimert Park

The historic Visions Theatre in Leimert Park. | Stephanie Monte

Attendee Janice Villarosa also supported the idea of making art “instead of throwing something out,” and said she thinks learning about Leimert Park’s history will “build more community.”

Andrea James, a frequent Leimert Park visitor, said this kind of project is long overdue to help people understand the neighborhood’s history and struggle.

“This is really the last area that people of Black culture can call their own in the city of Los Angeles,” said James.

For now, the prototype phone is too fragile to be left on the sidewalk. But the Leimert Park Phone Company says it’s planning a permanent installation by January, perhaps with the help of local business owners.

For more, visit

The Vision Theatre in Leimert Park. View larger map.


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Leimert Park’s World Stage fights eviction

The World Stage in Leimert Park -- co-founded by poet Kamau Daàood and legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins -- faces an uncertain future.

The World Stage, co-founded by poet Kamau Daàood and legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins, faces an uncertain future. | Brianna Sacks

Founded in 1989, The World Stage has become the cornerstone for Leimert Park, L.A.’s historic hub for African-American arts and culture.

The World Stage’s jam sessions, jazz performances, youth groups and writing workshop have been a model for countless other nonprofit literary arts groups around Southern California and the nation, according to KCET. It has also churned out some of the nation’s most famous jazz musicians and poets over its 25 years.

Last May, Leimert Park found out that its two-year fight for a metro stop on the incoming Crenshaw/LAX line would become a reality.

Shortly after, the World Stage’s owners and their neighbors learned that the building had been sold and eviction notices were handed out to the stage and many other businesses.

[Read more…]

‘Hey Obama…where you at?’ 600 days and still no justice for Trayvon Martin

On October 16, the grassroots civil rights campaign, Fight for Soul of the Cities, led a rally featuring drums, spoken word, and song in Leimert Park, seeking justice for Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy who, 600 days ago, was killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Florida.

Youth from Boyle Heights sharing their appreciation for the events of the day.

Youth from Boyle Heights sharing their appreciation for the events of the day.

“Is it my hoodie or my skin that’s probable cause/ For my people being slain by these racist laws?” youth from as far as Boyle Heights chanted at the community speak out, demanding the Obama administration do a full civil rights investigation and indictment of Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department.  A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder charges in July 2013.

“The administration has not yet brought civil rights charges against either Zimmerman or Sanford, Florida Police Department, the indictment of the police being essential to confront this institutional form of racism,” said chair of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, Sunyoung Yang. [Read more…]

Leimert Park targeted by investors

Metro’s new light rail stop in Leimert Park could bring an end to L.A.’s historic African-American cultural hub. After three years of fighting to get the line to stop in the area, business owners now fear the area will be commercialized. About a dozen of Black businesses in the area have been notified that their leases won’t be renewed after investors started buying buildings in the area.

Laura Hendrix, owner of Gallery Plus, in Leimert Park.

Laura Hendrix, owner of Gallery Plus, in Leimert Park. | Brianna Sacks

Laura Hendrix has owned an art store called Gallery Plus in Leimert Park for 23 years. While the owner of her space has not changed, she says many businesses around her have left or might be kicked out after investment companies recently bought several buildings housing multiple units.

“We are on edge because we don’t know what is going to happen to us,” said Hendrix. “This is a cultural icon and we worked hard to get it like this and want to keep it that way.” [Read more…]

Black History in LA webcast

The Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL) and Time Warner Cable (TWC) have teamed up to present on February 8, 2013 a free interactive webcast with civic leaders who will share insight on Black History in LA. The “There is Black History in LA” webcast will take place from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PT and will feature new LAUL CEO and President Nolan V. Rollins, Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray and community activists “Sweet Alice” Harris and John W. Mack.
The webcast (which can be accessed at offers an opportunity for the LA community to interact with the aforementioned individuals and host Josefa Salinas of KTLK am 1150 and HOT 92.3, and learn more about the history of civil rights in LA. It builds on an exhibit – “The 90 That Built LA” – at the Museum of African American Art (MAAA which opened on December 12, 2012 and celebrated LAUL’s 91 years of existence by honoring 90 individuals who have fought for civil rights and equality. In addition to the webcast and other Black History Month events (see Facebook post), LAUL will co-present a panel featuring USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, Mack and USC Dornsife African Studies Director Francille Rusan Wilson, who will discuss the PBS special “The PowerBroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights” after it is screened at the USC Annenberg Auditorium on February 11. (

LAUL VP of Marketing & Communications Chris Strudwick-Turner said her team had the vision for the exhibit, which features the tagline “We Built LA” to assert the contributions of Blacks and other minorities to LA’s development, several years ago and was able to turn it into reality thanks to TWC. “Like us, they saw the vision of what this exhibit could be and they have been with us every step of the way as a presenting sponsor to put this exhibit together for the community,” said Strudwick-Turner in a December statement to the press.
Members of the TWC Diversity and Inclusion team recently visited the exhibit–located near Leimert Park at the MAAA’s space at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall’s Macy’s third floor–on February 1, 2013 to commemorate 15 months of partnership between LAUL and TWC and promote the aforementioned webcast. TWC Regional VP of Operations Debi Picciolo said in a press statement her company was “proud of our long term partnership with the Los Angeles Urban League, and delighted we could help bring this exhibit to the community.”

One of the most notable aspects of the webcast and exhibit is the rare opportunity for young people in LA to delve deep into Black history in the city thanks to the presence of individuals like Reverend Chip Murray. Murray, who grew up in the South during segregation and whose insight on civil rights movement like the 1992 LA uprising was featured in a 2012 Intersections South LA story (, will answer questions from webcast attendees and discuss the struggle that made equality possible. Murray and his fellow panelists plan to highlight trailblazers from the distant past such as Biddy Mason–a slave that walked several hundreds of miles to LA to gain her freedom–in addition to former LA Mayor Tom Bradley, who made history in LA as the first Black mayor of a major American city.
imageAngelenos can discover historic art and photos commemorating LA trailblazers in fields such as cinema, civil rights, music and media; Sir Sidney Poitier, Cesar Chavez, Ella Fitzgerald and Paula Madison, respectively, at “The 90 that Built LA” exhibit through March 7, 2013.

Elias Kamal Jabbe is the Founding Editor of (

Jazz and hip-hop seek compromise in Leimert Park

The Regency West Supper Club is a mainstay in old Leimert Park. Its shimmering gold napkins, thick scarlet carpet and flickering tea candles illuminate decades of famous visitors, which earned the neighborhood national renown in the 1960s and 70s for its jazz, blues and African art traditions.

These customs still thrive in iconic institutions like blues bar Maverick’s Flat and arts consortium The World Stage. And the Supper Club still hosts the Living Legends Jazz Series, which brings jazz’s elders back to Leimert Park every summer. The next show will take place Aug. 30. image

But the venue on 43rd Street only tells half the neighborhood’s story. Leimert Park’s new generation, now in its early 20s, includes rappers and Twitter accounts. Storeowners say teenagers and 20-somethings are absent from Dengan Boulevard on weekday afternoons, but they flood the town center on Thursday nights for hip-hop open mic Project Blowed and on Sunday mornings for the community’s monthly Art Walk.

If the jazz generation will let them, then these young musicians are ready to make Leimert Park their own.

“I’m one of those people that actually want to see Leimert Park… get renovated, if you will,” said Jamaal Wilson, a Leimert Park native who released his first rap album, The Cool Table, in March. Wilson is a 21-year-old junior studying psychology at the University of California at Merced. “I want to see it come up with the times and kind of embrace the hip-hop community a little bit more and just get a bit more new and current.”

Changes in Communication

Community Build tried to implement one of those changes in January. Its weekly community meetings considered a proposition for public Wi-Fi access in Leimert Park Village, where historic shops line Dengan Boulevard and a small fountain gurgles in the center of the park.

Community Build reviewed the suggestion for a few weeks, but has tabled it indefinitely.

“If Wi-Fi is something they want, it’s easy for them to get,” said Eddie North-Hager, who founded the neighborhood’s online forum, Leimert Park Beat. “If businesses think it’s worth the money, I bet they’d do it. But if you’re shopping for clothes or a hat or gifts at Zambezi [Bazaar], who’s going to need Wi-Fi?”

North-Hager estimates that 75 to 85 percent of Leimert Park residents at least have an email address. And Leimert Park Beat has 1,475 registered users – more than 10 percent of the neighborhood’s population, according to the L.A. Times’ Data Desk.

But most of Dengan’s famous shops haven’t entered online conversation. Zambezi Bazaar, for example, doesn’t have a website – just a Facebook page it updates about once a month. Eso Won Books, which does have a website, started posting on its Twitter account regularly at the end of February.

imageDrummer Al Williams, one of the Living Legends Linda Morgan (second from right) celebrated in April

The jazz community is also largely offline. When Linda Morgan, 50, assembled the first Living Legends Jazz Series in 2010, she featured 11 artists at four concerts. Three of them showed up in Google searches that summer.

“If you’re not using technology, it’s really hard to describe,” said Ben Caldwell, who toes the line of Leimert Park’s generational divide. The 66-year-old founded KAOS Network in 1984 to teach film and music production. Since then, he has been leading teleconferences, burning CDs and spreading videos online before any of those practices were commonplace. But most of his peers are unenthusiastic about technical innovation.

“It can be tough for me, and I like computers,” Caldwell admitted. “But unless you were raised in that [technological] world, you probably won’t use it. And then, the old world dies around you while the new world takes over.”

But Morgan said some of her series’ performers, who she fondly calls “my legends,” reject the changes Caldwell described altogether.

“One of my legends was so outdone with all the photography at a show that she was like, ‘I don’t want to take another picture in my life.’ I can’t allow that to happen,” Morgan said. “This year I have legends like Gerald Wilson, who’s 92. I don’t want them overwhelmed.”

Out of respect for the performers, Morgan tailors her monthly Supper Club shows to their wishes. But to reach young audiences, Morgan also makes all her legends Facebook fan pages and works with their families to secure copyrights for their music. If families are unable or uninterested, she does the work herself – meaning she still manages 22 Facebook pages and owns dozens of domain names.

This year Morgan turned the project into a nonprofit. Eventually, she wants to televise the concert series and open a museum.

“They’ve given so much to the music that we need to make sure that their legacies continue – and not only that they continue, but that they’re protected, promoted and preserved,” Morgan said. “That’s the only way the next generation of hip-hop is ever going to know anything about them.”

“The Newness that is Hip-Hop”

Leimert Park’s median age is 38, and most of Morgan’s audience members are older. “Legends” must be 65 or older to perform in the series. At the same time, though, Morgan wants to hire a young, Internet-literate staff to help her put these records and biographies online. She hopes their work will inspire a whole generation of sign-ups for piano, saxophone and drum lessons.

More than digitizing their parents’ records, however, Wo’se Kofi hopes his peers will fuse jazz traditions with their own. The 24-year-old son of an African dance instructor and African drummer already uses their rhythms in his rap songs.

“The funny thing is, everything in hip-hop comes from that beat, you know? That’s the ancestor. Drums are our ancestors,” Kofi said.

But it’s not only possible for rappers to honor their roots, Kofi said. It’s necessary. At its birth, rap was about cultural pride. Only in recent decades did lyrics become degrading and divisive.

“When people first started rapping, rap had more of a revolutionary aspect, more of a change, more of a substance,” Kofi said. “I feel like the younger generation kind of lost a sense of culture and a sense of togetherness. We just have to find a culture in general, something that we are all unified [in], something that is already in us. We are a revolutionary culture. Or we should be.”

But even if the hip-hop generation embraces their jazz roots, Wilson worries that their elders won’t reciprocate that respect.

“I feel as though they aren’t reaching out to the young hip-hop community. Whenever somebody thinks of Leimert Park, they want them to think it’s the jazz epicenter,” Wilson said. “It’s not really recognized for jazz music anymore and I think that is kind of rubbing them the wrong way, maybe, and they haven’t embraced the newness that is hip-hop.”

Wilson said Leimert Park is garnering some clout among his generation of rappers. Neighborhood native Dom Kennedy played at indie festival South by Southwest in 2011 and has appeared on songs with J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar. People know him, Wilson said, so they see Leimert Park as a hip-hop epicenter – a young, rapidly expanding one.

“You can almost see and hear the difference between artists that come from the Leimert Park area,” Kofi said. “They’ve been around the cultural aspect of Leimert Park, which was African ancestors, the African culture, people dressing in African clothing… People who grew up around that positivity continued to keep the positive in their lyrics.”

Compromise and Adaptation

Morgan wants to preserve the jazz culture that made the neighborhood famous two generations ago. She and Kofi agree that culture involves more than music, though – it’s about family ties, visual art and a common neighborhood experience, like rebuilding after the riots in April 1992.

“I want it to grow. I want that area to flourish. It’s culturally rich, especially in jazz,” said Morgan, who also gives Leimert Park historical tours on Art Walk Sundays. “I want to keep that whole society going.”

Wilson was born a few months after the riots ended. He belongs to a different era than the places Morgan points out on her tours. But he and Kofi said their generation wants to take responsibility for the neighborhood’s past as well as its future.

“You have these new kids with the new ideas and the new energy, and you have the older people who have worked their whole lives to try to make this a success and to give it a personality and a character,” North-Hager said. “They’re not always going to agree… [while] passing on the mantle of leadership and responsibility and activism.”

Wilson just isn’t sure Leimert Park’s elders are ready to hand over the reins.

“That’s awesome that they pride themselves on their history, but if you don’t adapt, you run the risk of dying,” Wilson said. “And then you take so much pride in your history that you become history. And Leimert Park is too great of a place to become history.”

Hidden gems in South LA for homebuyers

Everyone knows that real estate is expensive in Los Angeles.  And everyone knows how hard it is to get a home loan these days.  So you would think that real estate agents are sitting glumly at their desks waiting for phones to ring, drumming their fingers, watching their bank accounts dwindle.

imageNot in South Los Angeles, where property is selling in some areas.  Leimert Park-based real estate agent Heather Presha (pronounced Pre-shay) said that homes on the market in her neighborhood and neighboring areas of Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, View Park, Baldwin Village, Hyde Park, and Jefferson Park are getting 40 to 50 offers each.  Open houses are filled to capacity with prospective buyers.  “It’s so competitive now, I haven’t made an offer on a home in six months that hasn’t had multiple offers,” said Presha.

Reasons to buy in South LA
Real estate agent Natalie Neith, who specializes in historic homes in South L.A., echoed Presha’s take.  She said there are three main reason buyers are looking at South L.A.  Firstly, these neighborhoods have preserved a lot of older architecture.  Some of them need fixing up – Neith just sold an historic fixer-upper to a former writer/producer for the TV show “House” – but many are move-in-ready.

Population by ethnicity, 2010 Census (Source: Mapping LA, LA Times
Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw
Black 71.3% Latino 17.3% Asian 4.7% White 3.3%
Leimert Park
Black 46.8% Latino 44.9% Asian 2.9% White 2.7%
West Adams
Black 37.6% Latino 56.2% Asian 1.7% White 2.4%

Secondly, these neighborhoods are located in the center of Los Angeles.  The 110, 10, 405, and 105 freeways are roughly the eastern, northern, western, and southern boundaries, respectively, of South L.A.  Almost 1 million people use just the 10 and 405 freeways daily.  That central location starts to make a lot of sense if you’ve endured the clogged east-west and north-south commutes in L.A.
And finally, there is price.  Buyers who are finding themselves priced out of suburban neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley and other desirable areas of L.A. are finding they can get a lot of house for the same amount of money in parts of South L.A.  Or the same house for a lot cheaper.  For instance,  a home that would sell in Silverlake for around $750,000 might go for $337,000 in Leimert Park, according to Presha.
Prices are beginning to inch back up after the low prices of the last several years.  For example, as listed on the real-estate website Trulia, a small post-war courtyard bungalow in Village Green, an historic neighborhood in Baldwin Hills, sold for almost $400,000 at the height of the market in the late 1990s.  The list-price had fallen to $185,000 in April of this year.  The same bungalow sold for $195,000 this May.

Getting a loan

imageWith interest rates at historically low levels of 3% or less, it’s a good time to buy if you can get a loan.  Neith said if you’re buying an historic property – one that is in an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, or HPOZ, or one that is outside an HPOZ but designated historic – then you may qualify for significant property-tax reduction under the Mills Act.  The Mills Act allows tax reduction of 50 percent to 75 percent for ten years after purchase.  Owners can apply for renewal after the ten-year window.  However, all money saved under the act must be used for historical restoration.  The West Adams area alone has at least six HPOZs.

But even with good interest rates, Presha warned, it’s still a seller’s market.  Buyers need to be prepared to provide a deposit of at least 3% of the final price, and sellers aren’t likely to cover fees or closing costs.  But Presha also cautioned against being too pessimistic about one’s hopes of getting a home loan.  She said prospective buyers, many of whom are single women and young professionals, who have enough money to put down for deposit often significantly underrate their chances of being approved for a loan. 

Are these neighborhoods safe?

Conventional wisdom says that neighborhoods in South L.A. are unsafe.  And there’s no doubt that these areas suffer their share of crime.  LAPD Southwest Station Senior Lead Officer and community liaison Sunny Sasajima says it depends on how you look at the numbers.  (Southwest Station patrols the neighborhoods of Adams-Normandie, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Village, Baldwin Vista, Crenshaw, Exposition Park, Jefferson Park, Leimert Park, Union Square, University Park, Village Green, and West Adams.)
According to the L.A. Times’ “Mapping L.A.” project, over the week from July 4 – 10, 2012, Leimert Park – Officer Sasajima’s beat – saw eighteen crimes:  sixteen property crimes (including burglary) and two violent crimes (robbery and aggravated assault).  Leimert Park had a population of approximately 12,000 as of 2008 (the figures used by “Mapping L.A.”).  According to “Mapping L.A,.” that gives a ratio of 14.6 crimes per 10,000 people.  Leimert Park “averaged 3.5 violent crimes and 16.5 property crimes per week” over the last three months.
But compare that to Koreatown, an area that has a slightly safer reputation.  Situated just a few miles to the northeast of Leimert Park, Koreatown is much more densely populated, with a 2008 population of approximately 100,000.  During the same week, Koreatown’s crime ratio was much lower:  2.9 crimes per 10,000 people.  But there were thirty-six actual crimes that week:  twenty-eight property crimes and eight violent crimes (robberies, aggravated assaults, and rape).  According to “Mapping L.A.,” Koreatown “averaged 10.5 violent crimes and 36.8 property crimes per week” over the last three months.  Regardless of ratio to population, that’s a lot of crime in one week.
When asked about the issue of crime, Neith said, “It doesn’t make sense for me to sell unsafe neighborhoods.”  Her business depends on word-of mouth referrals and repeat customers, both buyers and sellers.  And that goes for Presha, too.
Both Neith and Presha stressed the importance of block-councils and neighborhood cooperation to the sense of community that prevails in West Adams and Leimert Park, their respective home neighborhoods.  “[West Adams] is like a small town in a big city,” Neith said.

On the upswing

imageRecent improvements in South L.A. have made it a much more attractive prospect for homebuyers.  The recently-contructed light rail Expo Line, which follows an old rail-line cut, is part of what Neith said is an overall feeling of good things happening in the neighborhoods along it.  Even those who don’t use it think it’s “part and parcel of progressive improvement in Los Angeles.” 
The second phase of the Expo Line will extend it out to the Veterans’ Administration Hospital on the Westside.  As well, a line is planned to run north-south from Exposition and Crenshaw to the Green Line station at Aviation/LAX.  The Crenshaw Line is not expected to open until late 2018, but Sasajima says he’s already hearing a lot of interest in the community about the project. 

An unexpected and early side-effect is that Sasajima is losing leverage to get commercial property owners to make crime-fighting improvements to their properties, such as installing more lighting and cutting back trees.  “Property owners are sitting on their hands, waiting for Metro to buy them out and begin construction,” he said.
imageOne business that thinks South L.A. is a good investment is the top-rated restaurant Post and Beam, which opened near the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall in 2011.  With a star chef who also happens to be a local boy made good—Chef Govind Armstrong grew up in Inglewood—Post and Beam serves a locally-sourced menu driven by ingredients, many of which are raised in the restaurant’s own organic garden.  It would be perfectly at home in the moneyed environs of the Westside.  Yet it’s filled to capacity weekly by Baldwin Hills locals hungry for quality food and quality places nearby to spend their money in.  Real estate agent Presha said, “It’s what we deserved.”
The long-awaited Marlton Square project, which has been in planning stages for almost thirty years, is also finally underway.  Demolition of the ramshackle buildings which had been on the site for decades has been completed.  In June, Kaiser Permanente announced that it would be the anchor tenant of the project, bringing in much-needed medical services and economic stimulus to the area.  The project will also include entertainment and retail businesses. 
Other improvements in the Leimert Park-Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw-West Adams areas include the arrival of grocery chain Fresh & Easy at Crenshaw and 52nd Street and major renovations at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall.
There’s a sense of gathering momentum in these parts of South L.A.  Will they bring gentrification?  Some worry about being priced out, but real estate agent Presha said, “Everybody wants the basics of a good life”— more and better shops, more accessibility, more options.

Leimert Park, West Adams, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw.  Don’t believe the negative hype.  Things are happening, and these neighborhoods are ready.  Home buyers are taking note.

Leimert Park wears many hats

By Cristy Lytal

Susie’s “happy hats” are in dialogue with the time-honored church hat tradition, which stems from the following Biblical passage:

“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head … A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.” -1 Corinthians 11:5-15

Those church hats sound a little less than happy, don’t they?

Susie isn’t the only person in Leimert Park with something to say about hats. View the slideshow to meet other neighborhood hat enthusiasts.

View slideshow here

View timeline here

Fewer customers hurting Leimert Park businesses

imageBy Theresa Pablos

The economic downturn has been devastating for Obine Ador. He’s now in the process of closing his shop in Leimert Park Village. “It’s because the business here isn’t like it used to be,” he explains.

Ador opened the African art store, called African Heritage and Antique Collection, in Leimert Park about five years ago. He remembers when business was better.

“People were looking for African medallions, masks, clothes… It was a trend,” says Ador, who believes his loss might have been preventable if the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association (LPVMA) was in better shape. LPVMA was started in 1933 to help stores in Leimert Park Village.

“I can’t say it’s helpful. They haven’t achieved anything,” he says. “Everybody has their opinion on how the thing should be, and nothing has come up as a result.”

The current president of the LPVMA is Jackie Ryan, co-owner of Zambezi Bazaar. She declined to comment about her work as association president, but she has recently made promotional efforts, such as creating fliers, banners and a website that publicize Leimert Park Village.

imageHowever, some storeowners think her marketing campaign has not drawn in enough new customers to keep stores open and flourishing.

“The leadership should be promoting here – promoting Leimert Park,” Ador says. “Laura used to be president and everybody liked her.”

He refers to Laura Hendrix, the former president of the LPVMA, who has owned Gallery Plus, an art store in Leimert Park Village, for 21 years. She agrees with Ador.

“The leadership hasn’t been as strong,” says Hendrix, who is no longer a member of the LPVMA. “We used to have at least 35 stores in the association.” Now, only about 20 stores comprise the LPVMA.

For Hendrix, her biggest success has been keeping her art store open for so many years. “It’s been rewarding to be here, to work with other merchants,” Hendrix says.

All of the storeowners in Leimert Park Village work closely together to promote business on the street. The collaborative effort to share customers has helped fill in the gaps that the LPVMA has not been able to. “We don’t try to exclude anybody,” Hendrix says. “It’s better than fighting for yourself.”

For about 80 years, Leimert Park businesses have been drawing customers with festivals. According to Hendrix, there are about three or four street-wide festivals throughout the year, mostly put on by non-profit groups, in addition to other events organized by local businesses.

“If you want more people to come, you have to have more events, something to spice things up,” says Barrington Bailey, a two-year employee of Adassa’s Island Café and Entertainment in Leimert Park Village.

imageBailey notices that more customers come in during special events like their buffet brunch and live jazz music every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. When customers come to Adassa’s Island Café for their highly rated Jamaican food, other businesses on the street also get customers.

Mia Robinson, a regular at Addassa’s, began walking the street after visiting the restaurant one time. “I’ve been to the bookstore,” she says. “People have done book signings, but I haven’t been [to the signings] yet, but I want to.”

While the LPVMA or the stores of Leimert Park Village are not as successful as they were in the past, they are not giving up. Even Ador who is closing his store plans to return.

“I’m going to come back and bring my African art.” He says he’s thinking of doing wholesale to supply the stores in Leimert Park Village.

In the meantime, Ador and other storeowners hope the economy recovers soon, so that Leimert Park Village can once again become a thriving cultural and business hub.