South LA residents shop for employment at Juanita Tate Marketplace

Signs advertise the businesses at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace | Wan Xu

Signs advertise the businesses at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace | Wan Xu

At the back door of Northgate Gonzales Market, security guard Ulises Hernandez asked a maintenance worker for identification before waving him through. The two men are among the 100 South L.A. residents who have found employment at the new grocery store, which opened its doors last week at the new Juanita Tate Marketplace at Slauson and Central avenues.

The security work is a step up for Hernandez, “about $4 more per hour” than he had been earning, he said. “I’ve been working in El Monte and La Puente. They’re really far compared to this one. I definitely prefer this job.”

Emerging Markets Inc., a consulting firm that helps supermarket chains pursue business opportunities in low-income neighborhoods, helped to recruit new South L.A. employees.

“It helps us coordinate with a couple of work resource centers here in the local area so that we were able to organize interviews,” said store director Alberto Ayala, adding that 1,200 applicants were interested in positions. [Read more…]

South LA street cooks could soon go legit

Felipa Mayo cooks tacos each weekend outside her home on Compton Boulevard. | Daina Beth Solomon

Felipa Mayo cooks tacos each weekend outside her home on Compton Boulevard. Scroll down for a photo slideshow featuring other street cooks and street foods. | Daina Beth Solomon

Felipa Mayo starts her job the same way each weekend. She heads out to the sidewalk of her stucco bungalow on Compton Boulevard and checks to make sure there are no cops around.

Then she pulls a white toque over her brown hair bun, sets up a few folding tables in the driveway and unpacks the contraband she’s so worried about getting busted for selling: Tacos.

The corn tortillas served with chicken, beef or goat could get Mayo in trouble with the law.

The hundred other weekend vendors on this bustling stretch of Compton Boulevard in South Los Angeles -– some selling quesadillas, burritos and pupusas, others hawking merchandise ranging from electronics to underwear – operate with caution too. [Read more…]

St. John’s health center in South LA to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour


Councilman Curren Price with St. John’s employees | Skylar E. Myers

South L.A.’s largest health center has decided to increase the minimum wage of its workers to $15 an hour, making St. John’s Well Child & Family Center one of the nation’s first nonprofits to move from minimum wage to living-wage.

Jim Mangria, St. John’s president and CEO, made the announcement today in front of a crowd of workers and community members who chanted, “Fifteen! Fifteen! Fifteen!”

To hear sounds and perspectives from the event, click play on a radio story from Annenberg Radio News:


Photo Credit: Skylar E. Myers

[Read more…]

Green alleys to take root in South LA

Walk down an alley in South Los Angeles and you can expect to see old furniture and scattered trash piled on cracked pavement. You’ll hear dogs barking incessantly and smell standing water. And you’ll rarely come across a fellow pedestrian. An environmental initiative currently in the works, however, seeks to change this reality by turning those neglected alleys into clean walkways sprouting with native plants.

“If residents see that their city is investing in them, we can really build a better quality neighborhood all around,” said Connie Llanos, spokeswoman for councilman Curren Price of the 9th District.

The Green Alley Program, slated to break ground late this year, will transform alleys of blight into welcoming open spaces. The Bureau of Sanitation partnered with city districts within South L.A. and the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit that develops parks throughout the nation, to spearhead the program.

Los Angeles is one of the most park-poor cities in the nation, says a study by the USC Center for Sustainable Cities, with only 7.8 percent of the city devoted to open spaces. In other major cities like Chicago, according to the City of Chicago Green Alley Program website, 8.5 percent of land is devoted to park space. In low-income communities like South L.A.’s 9th District, the number of parks is significantly fewer, while the rate of poverty is among the highest in the city.

Meanwhile, South L.A. is home to the greatest percentage of the city’s alleys — nearly one third. That’s because South L.A. is one of the oldest parts of the city. At one time, alleys were used for garbage collection and goods deliveries as a way to reduce traffic on the main streets in the year’s following World War II. Today, because of the high poverty rate and the lack of a functional use for them, the alleys have become a place for drug dealing and other crimes, said Llanos.

“Right now [the alleys] are a tremendous eyesore,” Llanos said. “But we can utilize them and clean them up when we use them as a place for families to congregate and play.”

Two alleys have already been identified for transformation under the project. One is sandwiched between 53rd and 54th Streets in between San Pedro and Main streets. The other snakes between 51st and 52nd Streets between Towne and Avalon boulevards.

The alley between 53rd and 54th streets at San Pedro and Main streets is slated for transformation into a green space for residents to walk and play. | Jordyn Holman

The alley between 53rd and 54th streets at San Pedro and Main streets is slated for transformation into a green space for residents to walk and play. | Jordyn Holman

According to TPL, these alleys will be more ecologically friendly. Their new paving will allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground, preventing standing water. The permeable paving will also help nourish the fruit trees and native species that will be planted along the alleys, creating mini-parks. Streetlights and crosswalks will be added to ensure safe passage for pedestrians.

Planners hope the beautification improvements will encourage locals to get out of doors. Currently, several neighborhood organizations, like Challengers Boys and Girls Club of America, run their programs indoors because of safety concerns.

Challengers offers athletic programs and academic support to children in South L.A. The group’s building and its amenities give children a place to play that’s safer than they could find outdoors, said Diane Jones, director of development.

“Everything else is gloom and doom,” Jones said, referring to the surrounding community of Jefferson Park and West Adams. “The community needs someplace where [people] can walk and feel safe.” As it is, she said, “No one is going to go outside and take a walk.”

Jones said the plan for more green spaces within South Los Angeles would enhance the wellbeing of the residents, particularly children.

“People need fresh air because it’s healthier — mentally, physically and emotionally,” Jones said.

The Green Alley Program is not the first ecologically friendly project to take root in the area. The program joins a growing list of more than 14 green initiatives aimed at improving residents’ quality of life. L.A. Audubon’s Baldwin Hills Program, which educates South Los Angeles teenagers about the local environment, is among them. Stacey Vigallon, program director, said exposure to healthy outdoor environments within the city limits is crucial.

“Green space and open space, especially in the city, is essential to physical fitness,” said Vigallon. “Plus, it also makes people more accountable to their community.”

Though green alleys may benefit the environment, many stakeholders believe the ultimate accomplishment will be increased interaction amongst neighbors. In order to maintain the alleys, Kjer said, residents will form “green teams,” which will be responsible, along with the city, for the upkeep of their nearby alleys.

Kjer believes this element will be crucial in building stronger community ties.

“People who might not have talked to one another or paid attention to their community before are now active and paying attention to cleanup and taking ownership of their community into their own hands,” Kjer said.

Though TPL and the city are currently focused on rolling out the program solely in South L.A., planners believe the impact of the green alleys will extend far beyond the area. The Trust for Public Land said that, although not all of L.A.’s alleys will get a full renovation, many will be improved in some way.

“There are 900 miles of alleys in Los Angeles,” Kjer said. “Green alleys should become the standard.”

One of the alleys slated for greening:

Challengers Boys and Girls Club: 

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South LA could get Promise Zone funding in Obama’s 2015 budget plan

Obama | The White House

Obama discussed the 2015 budget at an elementary school in Washington D.C. | The White House

President Barack Obama released his 2015 budget proposal on Tuesday, revealing a plan to create 40 new “Promise Zones” nationwide — a major bump from last year’s designation of just five. As a low-income neighborhood, South Los Angeles stands to benefit, said Rep. Karen Bass.

“I’m thrilled by the resources he’s putting in,” she said. “In regards to South L.A., he’s calling for the establishment of 40 more Promise Zones, so that could really increase the possibility that an application from South L.A. would be successful.”

Last year, Obama passed over South L.A. in selecting neighborhoods eligible for funding that could improve education, housing and public safety. Instead, he picked L.A.’s Pico-Union, Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood and Hollywood neighborhoods. The move left some L.A. leaders and activists feeling that South L.A. had been neglected. [Read more…]

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. 

L.A. Finally Legitimizes Rebel Green Thumb

Originally published on Neon Tommy.

Ron Finley has emerged as a powerful community leader in South Los Angeles. | Flickr/Anna Hanks

Ron Finley has emerged as a powerful community leader in South Los Angeles. | Flickr/Anna Hanks

Just a few weeks ago, Ron Finley was best known for his highly visible, and nutritious, acts of civil disobedience. To combat the growing problem of malnutrition facing many throughout South Los Angeles, the Crenshaw-based fashion designer planted gardens full of strawberries, dill, thyme and other edibles in unused parkways.

For his admirable efforts, which were against the Los Angeles’ “residential parkway landscaping guidelines” at the time, the city of Los Angeles issued a Finley a citation. The community joined Finley in appealing the citation. The matter was only dropped after the dispute generated enough media attention.

Finley took his story to TED talks in Long Beach, California earlier this year. The video of Finley’s presentation propelled the guerilla gardener to Internet stardom and generated over 1.5 million views. The talk also compelled the media into examining a bureaucratic system that viewed Finley’s agricultural endeavors as illegal. [Read more…]

Local businesses desire better job training

901 Bar & GrillWith the race for the Ninth District City Council seat underway and elections next month, the spotlight is on the district’s economy.

Both candidates, State Senator Curren Price and Los Angeles City Council aide Ana Cubas, are highlighting job creation in their campaigns. But with about 15 percent of registered voters in the district participating in the March primary, local businesspeople and residents alike do not seem to be holding their breath for any quick changes. [Read more…]

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorses Curren Price for L.A. City Council

In a dramatic sign of the growing and diverse coalition behind a campaign to transform the 9th District, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed Sen. Curren Price for L.A. City Council.

The mayor cited Price’s deep roots in the 9th District, and his impressive record of achievement in the areas of immigrants’ rights, public safety, expanding healthcare coverage and providing opportunities in education.

“Curren Price was born in the 9th District, attended a school in the 9th, and then went on to serve residents and families in the 9th District in the legislature,” said Villaraigosa. “As State Senator, Curren Price helped champion the California Dream Act that expanded access to college for children of immigrants, he helped protect funding for neighborhood schools and for anti-gang programs, and he successfully expanded health care coverage for all families.”

Price welcomed the enthusiastic support from one of America’s most visible leaders, and said he looked forward to coming to City Hall and building on the progress that has been made during Villaraigosa’s time as mayor.

“Mayor Villaraigosa is a good friend who loves Los Angeles and cares deeply about its future,” said Price. “He understands that it will take a record of leadership, integrity and experience to move the 9th District forward, and a champion to fight for its fair share of resources and city services. The advances in public transit and neighborhood safety that have resulted from Mayor Villaraigosa’s leadership have set the stage for the 9th District to become a model for how diverse communities can unite behind shared goals, and make their neighborhoods a better place to live for our families.”

Mayor Villaraigosa’s support is the latest development in the campaign that demonstrates mounting support for Sen. Price’s campaign. Among elected leaders, Sen. Price’s City Council candidacy is also endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez; Congressman and former L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas; Congresswoman Karen Bass; Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod; L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson Jr.; and State Sen. Kevin de Leon.

Sen. Price has also won endorsements from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA); SEIU; AFSCME Local 685, UNITE HERE; United Farm Workers; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

9th District Candidate Closeup: Curren Price

image Curren Price, second from the left, with County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Council President Herb Wesson and Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass.

When Curren Price opened his campaign headquarters to kick-start his race for the Ninth District Los Angeles City Council seat, he was joined by some of the city’s most prominent elected officials.

No other candidate running has taken photos with the City Council president, a Los Angeles County supervisor and a U.S. congresswoman – at least not all at once and while holding the candidate’s campaign signs.

Of all the candidates running to represent the Ninth District, Price has the most experience, high-profile endorsements and campaign cash, which makes him seem as the clear front-runner in the March 5 primary election. Price said he has experience making laws, something most of his opponents can not claim, and he has served a portion of the Ninth District before as a senator for the 26th District.

“I’m excited about the prospects of serving in the Ninth, of coming back home, and being a part of a process that’s going to really revitalize and rejuvenate the Ninth District,” Price said.

City redistricting in 2012 removed much of downtown from the former “Great Ninth” and added USC and L.A. Live to what Price now calls the “New Ninth.” Price said he is pleased that the redistricting “preserved the voting power of minorities.” He said making sure South L.A. gets its fair share of the city’s resources is a major priority for him.

In January, eight candidates filed their most recent finance report. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Terry Hara leads the pack with over $220,000 in cash on hand. Price is the only other candidate with over $100,000.

Some of his opponents have called Price a carpetbagger, a man seeking office wherever he is most likely to be elected. Supporters say those attacks are false and distract voters from what really matters in the race. On campaign materials and his websites, Price says he was “born and raised” in the Ninth District, which is true.

image Photos from Curren Price headquarters.

Price, who was born at Queen of Angels Hospital, attended Normandie Avenue Elementary School then Morningside High School, in what is now Los Angeles’ Ninth District. He majored in political science at Stanford University and graduated with a law degree from Santa Clara University in 1976.

In a district where going to college is far from a guarantee for many students, Price believes his own educational background should not unnerve voters.

“I think every kid growing up in the Ninth should have those options, should have those opportunities,” Price said to a group of supporters.

Price left California in 1979 and spent the next 10 years in Washington, D.C. working for international companies specializing in communications infrastructure. He returned in 1989 to become a deputy for two members of the L.A. City Council, Robert C. Farrell and his successor, present Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Current Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson began his political career as a council staffer as well. He said for Price and himself that experience was invaluable.

“We know how to do things hands-on and don’t have to rely solely on staff because everything we’ve asked our staffs to do we’ve already done it,” Wesson said.

Price found his first political break when he was elected to the Inglewood City Council in 1993. He was defeated for mayor of Inglewood in 1997, but then returned to his council seat in 2001. In 2006, he was elected to the State Assembly and overwhelmingly won re-election in 2008. Victorious in a special 2009 California State Senate election, Price currently serves part of the Ninth Council District in Sacramento. According to Wesson, the relationships Price has in the state capital will help him if he is elected because many residents call the city asking for things that are actually controlled by the state.

L.A. County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas described Price as a “consensus builder.”

“He’s someone who you can easily talk to,” Ridley-Thomas said. “He’s not standoffish; he’s not one who will put you off. He will listen to you and he will mobilize his staff to help you.”

At campaign events Price talks about improved public safety, more attention to public works including street cleanups and potholes and more incentives for local businesses. In 2007 and 2009, the University of California Student Association awarded Price “Legislator of the Year” for his work to increase access to Cal Grants for students, among other initiatives. For young voters, Price notes his efforts that led to laws allowing 17-year-olds to preregister to vote and dependents under 26 years old to stay on their parent’s healthcare plans before it became the national law.

With his past elected experience, Wesson believes the obvious next step for Price is a seat on the L.A. City Council.

“I think that it’s a natural progression for him to come home and back to the people that live in the area where he grew up and went to school,” Wesson said. “He is a homegrown product.”