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Star Housing Apartments Offers New Life on Skid Row

Jude Burns stood in awe among the hundreds of people who turned out recently to celebrate the opening of the Star Apartments, a 100 unit supportive housing site for the homeless. Once homeless, bereft after the death of his only son and severely disabled, Burns got a new lease on life when he was given a place to live at the Star Apartments.  Finding a home and stability gave him the will to live.

“It’s wonderful.  Everything is here- the kitchen, the patio, the counselors. I have a new refrigerator and bed.   I’ve been talking to a therapist here to help me with the loss of my son,” Burns said.  “Without this place I don’t know where I would be.  The people here are family.  We all came from different walks of life, have different stories and just fell on hard times.”

At the celebration, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose office invested $400,000 into the project, applauded the innovative and collaborative partnerships between private and public organizations to create Star Apartments, who frequently use emergency healthcare services such as hospitals and urgent carecenters.

“Everyone deserves to live in housing that it safe and affordable,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.  “Residents here at Star not only have a safe place to call home but they are also able to receive medical, social and recreational services on site.”

Located on 6th Street and Maple Avenue, along the border of Skid Row, the building is owned by the Skid Row Housing Trust and houses a Department of Health Services primary care clinic on the ground level that specializes in providing integrated health care services to homeless people and Star residents and the department’s Housing for Health offices with residential units above.  Philanthropic and financial organizations also funded the Star Apartments, the first supportive housing project in Los Angeles with 100 percent of its residents referred by the Department of Health Services.

Designed by notable architect Michael Maltzan, the six floor, 98,000- square-foot- LEED platinum certified building is made of prefabricated residences that were placed on top of a concrete superstructure. Formerly an elevated parking garage, the building includes track, a garden patio community kitchen, community garden and lounge for the tenants.

Robert Newman, Skid Row Housing Trust property supervisor of Star apartments hopes that Star will be a life changing experience for all its tenants.

“All of us have bumps in the road,” Newman said. “We want people to have a chance to get back on their feet and become productive citizens.”

Board to Take Up Living Wage for County Contracts

living wage

Hoping to improve the lives of thousands of residents who live with salaries that are below the minimum wage, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has asked for a review of a new living wage standard offered by the county to contract employees based on today’s housing and consumer costs.

Given the local cost of living, Los Angeles County residents who work in low-wage jobs barely make sufficient income to afford the cost of housing, utilities, transportation, food and savings for emergencies and retirement.

“The prevailing wage offered by the county to contract employees should reflect a wage rate that rewards their hard work, meets minimum standards of living and enhances self-sufficiency,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion asking for the review of the living wage. “When we provide a decent wage, all of society benefits.”

County government should also minimize the tax-payer subsidy granted to employers which in practice keeps a low-wage workforce reliant on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs. At the current hourly rate afforded County contract workers under the County’s Living Wage Ordinance, a worker with health benefits earns annually $20,051.20 (or $1,670.93 per month) if employed in a 40 hour per week job.

The motion directs the Chief Executive Officer to estimate the hourly wage a worker who resides in Los Angeles County needs to earn to meet the basic subsistence needs for a single adult, a single parent family with one dependent child, a two parent family (one parent working) with one and two dependent children and a two working parent family with one and two dependent children in the Los Angeles region. The Living Wage Annual Report is due in 120 days.

Metro Station Named After Civic Pioneer Alfred Hoyun Song

Sasha Song Boehling, 36, of Irvine, remembers her grandfather, Alfred Hoyun Song as a playful and loving grandpa who wore flip flops, played golf and enjoyed spicy Korean food.

But at a recent monument dedication at the Metro Wilshire/Western station in Koreatown, she reflected on her grandfather’s public legacy as the man who authored legislation to both create the office of the state public defender and overhaul the California Evidence Code, a guide to rules of evidence admissible in court as the first Asian American sworn to the California State Assembly.

“It’s really neat and validating to be reminded of what he’s known for and what he did outside of our family,” Boehling said, who attended the ceremony hosted by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Senator Alfred Hoyun Song Commemoration Committee. “I am really proud, thankful and excited.”

Boehling joined more than 90 onlookers, including Song’s family members and community leaders at the unveiling of the Wilshire/Western Alfred Song Station.

At the unveiling, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said he was delighted to memorialize a true trailblazer.

“We are here today to celebrate a public servant who was a visionary and pioneer,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “A man who made an indelible mark, not just within the surrounding Koreatown community but throughout Los Angeles County, the state of California and indeed the entire United States of America.”

In 2013, the 13 member Metro board unanimously passed the motion authored by Metro Board Director Mark Ridley-Thomas to rename the station in honor of Song. Song joins other former elected officials and notable public figures such as the honorable Tom Bradley, Julian Dixon and Rosa Parks who have metro stations in Los Angeles named in their honor.

Born in Hawaii in 1919 on a sugar plantation, Song was the son of plantation workers who had emigrated from Korea. In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles, studied at the University of Southern California and then as the war broke out, attempted to enlist in the Navy. He was initially turned away, however, because he was not white—or as recruiters put it “not part of Naval tradition.” Eventually he was admitted into officer candidate school with the U.S. Army Air Corps with a letter from the U.S. Department of War directing that he be treated like “any other friendly enemy alien.” Despite these setbacks, he went on to become a second lieutenant.

After the war, Song became a lawyer and went on to have a successful practice. Denied the chance to buy a house in the valley due to discriminatory laws, he moved his family to Monterey Park, and it was there that he became active in civic affairs. After being named to the planning commission, he went on to the city council and then in 1962, raising only $6,000 for his campaign, he was elected to the state assembly. Four years later, he was elected to the state senate, where he served three terms.

While his election preceded the movements of ethnic politics, he was active in fighting for minority rights—in particular outlawing harassment of voters at the polls. He authored a bill creating the office of the state public defender and another bill that overhauled the California Evidence Code, a guide to rules of evidence admissible in court. His crowning achievement, however, was the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act which protected consumers from products that were “lemons,” by attempting to beef up warranties and end misleading advertising.

Leslie Song, Alfred Song’s daughter hopes that both Koreans and Korean Americans who visit the station who had no knowledge of her father, will feel proud and inspired.

“I’m really happy about it,” Song said. “A little bit sad. But I know my father has a way of knowing that we are doing this. I hope that young people will think, ‘we can do something good, rise up to the challenge and fight for a better world.’”

Reward in Calvin Gray Case

Calvin Gray 1Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Professional Peace Officers Association are offering a $30,000 reward in the case of Sheriff’s Department Security Officer Calvin Gray who was shot to death in July while off duty as he dropped his son off at a relative’s home in the Vermont Knolls community of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Police Department Homicide detectives are seeking the public’s assistance in obtaining any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for Gray’s death.

“When the public and law enforcement work together, it benefits all of us,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This senseless act has resulted in a lifetime of grieving for Mr. Gray’s family and friends.”

Gray was hired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on October 10, 2010, and was assigned to the County Services Bureau.  His first assignment within the Bureau was providing security at the Maravilla Senior Center in the City of Los Angeles.  He worked at the Center for approximately two years before being assigned to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in the unincorporated area of Torrance.

“The Professional Peace Officers Association is offering this reward to not only to bring Calvin’s murders to justice, but also to take these violent killers off the streets so they cannot hurt other innocent souls,” said Lt. Brian Moriguchi, President of the Professional Peace Officers Association.

He was known as a family man who volunteered his time mentoring children in Los Angeles. He was the youngest son born to Margaret and Bernard Gray.  He leaves behind four children and a large family including four sisters and twelve brothers.

Anyone with information can call LAPD Robbery Homicide Division (213) 486-6890 or the afterhours Tip Line: 1-877-527-3247.

October 2014