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We're reframing the fight against gentrification as a fight for the Right to the City.

The Home Page is a citizen journalism project aimed to raise awareness of slum housing conditions in order to change public policy. The site is a project of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) and is part of a larger effort to build leadership in the community and hold property owners and government officials accountable for the conditions that affect tenant's health and welfare. Funded by the California Endowment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In uncommon partnership, developer and social justice groups reach deal on affordable housing

Low income residents were not the tenants developer Norman Isaac had in mind as he drew plans for his Grand Metropolitan high-rise next to the Blue Line. But a coalition of social justice advocacy groups working in South Los Angeles changed his mind.

 

After five months of negotiations with the Unidad Coalition, Norman agreed this week to set aside 24 of his 160 planned units for poor families.

The agreement also sets aside some of the ground floor retail space for small, community-based businesses, and requires certain percentages of the construction and future retail jobs go to local residents and disadvantaged people.

"It's going to be a good model helping the community in that area, which is really needing that kind of development, definitely," Norman said. "It's very important to create jobs, to create benefits for the community.

"This project of ours is not a big project - it's fairly small project," he added, "but for the bigger projects coming up it can be a good role model."

Typically, it's city officials - not community groups - who are pushing developers to add or pay for affordable housing, usually in exchange for variances to city rules or zoning. In this case, the deal was negotiated completely apart from the official city planning process.

The construction is still not guaranteed. Norman needs the city change land use zoning for a parking lot to allow the mix of residential and commercial uses.

The parcel was previously zoned for light manufacturing. It's on the north side of Washington Blvd. between Grand and Olive Ave, close to L.A. Trade Tech and a county courthouse.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission recommended the City Council make the zoning change. After the decision, about 30 coalition members gathered on the mosaic marble floor under the City Hall rotunda to cheer the agreement.

"With today's decision we have set an important precedent for how development can be done along the Blue Line, so we should celebrate together, " said Joe Donlin of Strategic Action for a Just Economy.

At issue is what happens to older, low-income communities as new transit corridors transform parts of the neighborhood, ushering in new development.

Donlin said this type of side agreements with developers could reduce the displacement of longtime residents as new buildings go up, taking advantage of public transit.

The pro bono law firm Public Counsel represented the groups in the negotiations with Norman.

The groups involved are: Community Development Technologies Center, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, St. Francis Center, Strategic Action for a Just Economy, and Tenemos que Reclamar y Unidos Salvar La Tierra-South LA.

They called themselves the United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement coalition, which spells out UNIDAD, which is Spanish for unity.

In a statement, the coalition said the deal is the first major community benefits agreement in South Los Angeles since 2011.

The last deal was the Lorenzo apartment project, which included a guarantee of local jobs and affordable rental units and a low-cost health clinic. The clinic opened last week.

 

 

Grand Opening of Health Center a Critical Community Resource

On March 5, 2015 the United Neighbors In Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) coalition will celebrate the grand opening of the Rev. Warner Traynham Health Center, operated by St. John's Well Child & Family Center.  Please join us on March 5 from 10am to 12pm at the Health Center located at 326 W. 23rd Street.

The opening of the Rev. Warner Traynham Health Center marks a victory by the communities of South Central Los Angeles in the struggle for health equity and human rights. The product of years of organizing and partnership between community members and supporters, the health center provides much-needed primary and specialty care services for more than 10,000 patient visits each year. 

The 7,500 square foot Health Center is rent-free for 20 years and was paid for by the developer, GH Palmer & Associates. It is the cornerstone of a community benefits package that also includes:

  • 46 units of affordable housing at the Lorenzo site and funding for additional affordable housing at sites near the Lorenzo;
  • A community health outreach fund;
  • A job program to hire local workers for the Lorenzo construction jobs;
  • A living wage and local hiring program for the project’s permanent jobs
  • A job training fund;
  • Discounted retail space for community-serving small businesses;
  • A revolving small business loan fund; and
  • A fund to support community participation in transit-oriented development strategies.

 

 
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