The Obama administration has awarded South Los Angeles a federal Promise Zone designation, giving it priority access to federal funding as well as technical assistance to address the area’s 46 percent poverty rate.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti made the announcement during a press conference at Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC). She said the goal of the Promise Zone initiative, created by President Barack Obama in 2013, is to significantly reduce poverty by providing greater resources to serve residents.
The new South L.A. Promise Zone is home to nearly 198,000 residents in parts of Vernon-Central, South Park, Florence, Exposition Park, Vermont Square, Leimert Park, and the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw neighborhoods. It is one of one of 13 urban Promise Zones in the nation, and the second in the City of Los Angeles.
A coalition of 53 community partners and more than 50 allies who developed the winning application call it the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z). They seek to capitalize on opportunities that new light rail lines bring for economic development and neighborhood revitalization.
“SLATE-Z represents an unprecedented partnership among dozens of diverse organizations with the collective vision of improving the quality of life in South LA,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This place-based approach aims to transform distressed neighborhoods into destination neighborhoods.”
Larry Frank, president of LATTC and convener of the SLATE-Z coalition, said, “With preference points on most federal grant opportunities and a partnership with HUD staff, the existing LA Promise Zone received more than $100 million in grants since designation in 2014. It is now South L.A.’s chance to step up.”
The federal designation will bring crucial benefits to residents. For example, students at the 11 comprehensive high schools in SLATE-Z will receive increased support to prepare for colleges and careers. Currently, more than half of residents older than 25 have less than a high school education and only nine percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The coalition also plans to tackle the 12 percent unemployment rate and under- employment to move more residents into living wage jobs and career pathways.
One of the coalition’s early victories was securing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s unanimous approval to create the Universal Pass or U-Pass pilot program, making more part-time students eligible for fare discounts. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Metro Board chair, carried the motion.
“The Promise Zone designation will help build on the incredible things already happening in South Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “This will bring new resources, energy, and urgency into our movement to expand opportunity in all of L.A.’s neighborhoods.”
US Rep. Karen Bass added, “This isn’t just an incredible victory for South Los Angeles, it shows that when our community leadership works together, we can accomplish great things for our neighborhoods.