South Los Angeles community leaders sign agreement for Lorenzo Project

News Release from UNIDAD

Multimillion Dollar Settlement Agreement Designed to Meet Critical Health Care Needs and Provide Other Benefits to Underserved South Los Angeles Residents

Los Angeles—Community organizations working with United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) announced the signing of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with developer Geoff Palmer for his upcoming ‘Lorenzo Project,’ to be located on what used to be the North Campus of the Orthopedic Hospital at 23rd St. and Flower.

As part of the Agreement with UNIDAD Coalition Organizations, Palmer has agreed to provide 7,500 square feet in the Project for a community-serving medical clinic that will be rent free for 20 years, providing at least 20,000 patient visits a year for low income and uninsured South LA resident, and to provide operations funding and start-up costs for the clinic. In addition, Palmer has agreed to provide funding for community health promotion, affordable housing creation in South Los Angeles, job training, local small business support, and transit oriented development support for development around the Exposition Line. Palmer has also agreed to implement a local and at-risk jobs hiring program for the Project’s construction workers, and a living wage and local hiring program for the Project’s permanent workers. “This is an important victory for local families. With this agreement we will again have access to more health services close to our home,” said community resident Sandra Matamoros.

This historic agreement is unusual in that it concerns a development to be funded entirely with private funds. It also comes at a time when proposals are being discussed that would grant environmental exemptions for a proposed football stadium at the Convention Center downtown, and on the eve of the city’s entitlement process for the USC Master Plan, which includes retail, a hotel, and student housing at the University Village. “It is critical that community residents have a real seat at the decision-making table for development projects to ensure that their voices are being heard and that community residents will benefit from any proposed developments in their neighborhood,” said Paulina Gonzalez, Executive Director of SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy). “We should strive together to build a better city for all its residents. We hope this agreement marks a step in that direction.”

Coalition Organizations believe that the benefits provided in the agreement will improve the quality of life for residents in and around South Los Angeles. Based on these community benefits, the Coalition Organizations have withdrawn objections to the Project. “The people of South LA were heard loud and clear with this game-changing CBA. We have an agreement with Palmer that provides South LA residents with health services, jobs, affordable housing, small business development, and TOD planning – all desperately needed in this historically underserved
community,” said Serena W. Lin, Staff Attorney at Public Counsel, and Malcolm Carson, Managing Attorney for Legal Aid Foundation’s South LA office.

UNIDAD Coalition Organizations include SAJE (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy), Esperanza Community Housing, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, Community Development Technologies Center, PV Jobs, TRUST South LA, St. Francis Center, United University Church, Coalition for Responsible Community Development, and Vermont Village CDC. UNIDAD Coalition organizations were represented by Public Counsel, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Chatten Brown & Carstens, Natural Resources Defense Council and Community Benefits Law Center.

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City planning postpones ruling on luxury apartment complex

City Planning postpones ruling on luxury apartment complex

Los Angeles City Hall overflowed with people Thursday, as hundreds attended a public hearing for the Lorenzo Project, a $250 million luxury apartment development Palmer Construction proposes to build on the corner of Flower Street and 23rd Avenue. At the end of the six-hour hearing, the City Planning Commission continued the issue until February 10.

The Lorenzo Project is the newest in a string of Italian-style apartment complexes developed by Geoffrey H. Palmer, who built Visconti, Orsini and Piero, among others.

The location of Lorenzo was chosen in part because of the Expo Line, the new light-rail that is scheduled to open in 2012. The building is designed to have easy access to the Expo Line, a gesture by Palmer to help Angelinos move towards public transportation.

Currently, the proposed site is zoned as a Q Condition, meaning only medical or educational facilities can move there. If the commission chooses to approve the project, they will have to rezone it for residential use.

During the open comments portion of the hearing, members from the community spoke of the need for better health services in the area, especially in the wake of the closure of other nearby hospital and clinics.

Palmer Construction attempted to assuage these concerns during the project’s presentation. Among the retail space available, Palmer says they will provide a unit for a community health center rent-free for the next 20 years.

The Lorenzo Project pledges to make 5 percent of their units affordable housing, but community members say that isn’t enough. During public comment, a member of the local neighborhood council said the council had unanimously opposed the project on the basis that it would not be accessible to the people of the area.

Among the supporters of the project were 200 construction workers clad in bright orange shirts with slogans such as, “Si Se Puede, Put LA Back to Work” and “GH Palmer Provides Jobs.” The majority were workers from a Palmer Construction site, where they had been given the day off to appear at the hearing.

Both sides urged the commission to think about the economic benefits for an underprivileged population: Palmer arguing that they were creating jobs, the community arguing that health and education should come before luxury apartments.

“This may create jobs for two years,” said an attendee during open comments. “But we are going to have to live with the building forever.”