South LA’s District Square: Big plans and a long waiting game


The lot slated to become District Square, seen in mid-March, 2015. | Ciara Lunger

By Ciara Lunger

A shopping center that was supposed to break ground in South L.A. three years ago is still slated for construction, according to officials who envision an economic boost for the Crenshaw district.

The 6 1/2 acre retail establishment, called District Square, is planned for the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Rodeo Road. Local organizations hope it will not only improve the financial climate but also bring in-demand shops and services to the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of missing elements in the neighborhood as far as access to basic goods — not a lot of clothing stores, still a need for groceries,” said Tunua Thrash, executive director at the West Angeles Community Development Corporation. District Square is slated to replace a Ralphs and Rite Aid, which, according to Thrash, were aging and needed aesthetic upgrades. [Read more…]

District 10 councilman Herb Wesson aims for another term

Herb Wesson speaks at a campaign event. | Kate Guarino

Herb Wesson speaks at a campaign event. | Kate Guarino

Correction Appended

The residents of District 10, a portion of which spans South Los Angeles, will vote for a new councilmember on March 3. Intersections interviewed the candidates ahead of the elections.

Standing among crowds of people chatting at his campaign rally, the man wearing black jeans, a collared shirt and grey oxford flats appears to be just another District 10 resident. In some ways City Council President Herb Wesson is just that, he said. Wesson has lived in the district for more years than he can count, and has represented the area since the beginning of his career in public service.

“I’m a very, very ordinary person who’s been selected to do extraordinary work,” he said.

As he prepared for the March 3 elections on a recent afternoon, Wesson said his inspiration for his work is never far from his mind. During much of his time at the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, Wesson said he did not know what he wanted to do. (He did not graduate from Lincoln until 1999 because an illness in his family prevented him from finishing his senior year.) But, that changed the day he heard Congressman Ron Dellums speak.

“When he spoke about civil rights and human rights and building coalitions at that moment that’s when I decided I wanted to be a public servant,” Wesson said, recalling the California Democrat’s speech at a fraternity sponsored event. [Read more…]

District 10 candidate Grace Yoo eyes an upset

Photo provided by Grace Yoo

Photo provided by Grace Yoo

The residents of District 10, a portion of which spans South Los Angeles, will vote for a new councilmember on March 3. Intersections interviewed the candidates ahead of the elections. 

It’s been a long day for Los Angeles City Council candidate Grace Yoo. Just hours after The Los Angeles Times endorsed Herb Wesson, the incumbent in Council District 10, Yoo walks into her campaign office frustrated about a neighborhood council meeting gone awry. It’s 8 p.m. and she still has hours left on her schedule; her campaign staff works to the soothing hum of laptops inside a small, narrow storefront near Western Avenue and Sixth Street.

But as quickly as the frustration mounts, it is easily dismissed. Yoo takes a seat and flashes a smile as she peels a clementine. Everything about her campaign, from Yoo’s fuchsia jacket to the hand-drawn pictures adorning the office walls is cheerful. She’s still hung up on the fact that the L.A. Times referred to her as ‘plucky,’ which she regards as a backhanded compliment (“Of all the words to choose?”), but even that fades quickly during conversation.

The former executive director of the Korean American Coalition is driven by a combination of faith and facts, her guiding compass to a seat on the City Council. Yoo, 43, a Los Angeles Unified School District alum, has been a strong advocate for both juveniles and the Koreatown community for many years. If she wins, she would be the second Asian American to ever win a seat on the City Council. [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.

OpEd: Council President Herb Wesson tries to ram new districts through approval process

By Bernard Parks

Dear Friends,

imageToday, Council President Herb Wesson announced the schedule for the City Council’s review of the new council district maps proposed by the Redistricting Commission.

An issue this important, that affects the lives of millions of Los Angeles residents for the next decade, should not be rushed in any way. The City Council should establish a fair, objective, transparent and deliberative review process of the proposed maps, as Councilwoman Jan Perry and I have called for.

Unfortunately, Council President Herb Wesson’s schedule calls for only three public hearings of the Rules & Elections Committee: March 5 in San Pedro, March 6 in Van Nuys, and March 7 in Downtown. The Council will then be in recess until Friday, March 16, when the Rules and Elections Committee and, then the full Council, will vote on the final maps.

Click here for political cartoonist Doug Davis’ take on the redistricting fight.

What’s the rush?

The City Charter deadline for the Council to approve district maps is July 1, a whole three months away. Considering the number of concerns that have been raised about the fairness of the Redistricting Commission process that created the maps, the Council should make every effort to make sure all residents have an opportunity to voice their opinion.

Why are there no meetings scheduled in Koreatown or South LA?

Residents in these communities have expressed the most concern and have been most critical of the Commission’s proposal. Failure to hold regional hearings in these areas can only be intended to stifle dissent.

Why is a hearing being held in San Pedro?

San Pedro is currently in CD15, the Commission has proposed leaving it in CD15, it has always been in CD15, and it will always be in CD15, due its unique geography – surrounded on 3 sides by other independent cities not within Los Angeles limits, and the Pacific Ocean. It seems a strange location to hold a public hearing: in a community not affected by the proposed changes, yet 20 miles away from those that are.

The Redistricting Commission has been a farce from day one, intended only to give the illusion that the public had any say in the process. Councilwoman Perry first rang the alarm bell in November, when she resigned from her council leadership post in protest of the secret discussions and backroom deals taking place among councilmembers over district boundaries and the election of the next council president.

Unfortunately, her concerns were proven correct over the next three months by numerous questionable actions of the Commission, such as:

– selecting Council President Herb Wesson’s top aide, Andrew Westall as the Executive Director, despite my objections and concerns for his ability to act impartially

– splitting into three secret sub-committees to draw the district maps, thus avoiding the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act

– emails and on-the-record comments by commissioners stating their intent to move boundaries based solely on race, a violation of the Voting Rights Act

– drastic changes of district boundaries that were not asked for by the public, and not called for by populations changes

I encourage you to read what the Los Angeles Times, Downtown News, The City Maven, KCET, LA Weekly, LA Weekly again, Intersections: South LA, former Daily News editor Ron Kaye, and Rafu Shimpu have all written about the process.

The City Council review process is the last opportunity, short of a lawsuit, to correct the Commission’s cynical decision to make the South Los Angeles districts 8 and 9 the poorest in the city, taking from them all thriving businesses and economic engines that could be leveraged to improve the quality of life of those worst off.

What Can You Do?

Call, email, or write to Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and let them know you are unhappy with the Commission’s proposal and demand that South LA be treated with respect. We are not a junkyard for other districts to take what they want and dump what they don’t.

Council President Herb Wesson Jr.
200 N. Spring Street, Room 430
Los Angeles, CA 90012
[email protected]

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
200 N. Spring St., Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Filed Under: Politics Tagged With: , , ,

Herb Wesson takes early lead in District 10 election

Music, food, and yellow and black balloons made for a high-spirited evening at the Herb Wesson reelection headquarters in District 10.

The incumbent won outright in his sprawling and diverse district, avoiding a run-off election at a later time.

Wesson said that his first priority after being reelected would be addressing the budget concerns of the city. He acknowledged that the statewide budgets cuts were felt by everyone, but especially in places like District 10 where funds are needed to help “redevelop blighted communities.”

Tenants in District 10 want a break from rising rents

On the morning of the most romantic holiday of the year, Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson had a “Valentine” hand-delivered to his District 10 campaign office, but the message on the card was anything but loving. 

Members of the LA Right to Housing Collective gathered outside Wesson’s office, demanding changes in the city’s rent-control law. A law that would temporarily freeze rent increases failed to pass last year. While rents are rising, many wages are not, and some tenants say they are seeing more and more families displaced from their neighborhoods.

Wesson was not present in the office when the group walked inside and delivered their card, which had a picture of a broken heart. A staff member in the office said she did not know when Wesson would be back or what his response would be to the group’s requests.

Interpreter services provided by Davin Corona, co-director of Comunidad Presente.

More stories on housing in South Los Angeles:

Protestors give Herb Wesson a hand-delivered Valentine
Historic South Los Angeles neighborhood breaks ground on new housing project
City Planning postpones ruling on luxury apartment complex

Protestors give Herb Wesson a hand-delivered Valentine

Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson had a “Valentine” hand-delivered to his District 10 campaign office this morning, but the message on the card was anything but loving.

Chanting “Housing is a human right” in English and Spanish, members of the LA Right to Housing Collective gathered outside Wesson’s office, demanding changes in the city’s rent-control law. Tenants want to see their rents stabilized and stop a 2 percent increase in utility fees.

Wesson was not present in the office when the group walked inside and delivered their card, which had a picture of a broken heart. A staff member in the office said she did not know when Wesson would be back or what his response would be to the group’s requests.

Council votes to turn over discretionary funds

Click here to listen

In a brief special city council meeting, members voted unanimously to find money in their district’s discretionary accounts to help lower the city’s debt.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had called on the council to turn over $40 million, but it voted to raise only $12 million, or $800,000 per district.

Repurposing the funds is tricky because some have federal sources.

City officials had originally called for the council to give up all the money from so-called AB 1290 funds. These come from property taxes paid by residents in areas slated for redevelopment; typically the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
Instead, the council decided that each member will have until March 11 to figure out how to come up with the money in their own districts.

Council member Herb Wesson says today’s action will make the process more fair, and council member Jan Perry said each member needed to take a realistic look at the projects in their districts. In her case, Perry knows that will mean tough choices.

The council will consider more budget proposals on Friday.