Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line: Construction On Track

Construction of the $2-billion, 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX rail line continues to move forward, with another round of excavation underway for an underground train station.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been working on the project for just over a year, tackling challenging feats of engineering while also supporting businesses in the hard had areas.

Once completed in 2019, the Crenshaw/LAX rail line will have eight stations, the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line, and southernmost to the Green Line, not far from one of the world’s busiest airports. Funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008, it is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, vice chairman of Metro’s Board of Directors, said the importance of the Crenshaw/LAX rail line cannot be understated.

“This rail line will transform neighborhoods by allowing people to get where they need to be, and quickly,” he said. “It’ll also cut air pollution and traffic congestion, and boost businesses along the route by carrying customers almost to their doorstep. In short, it will change the landscape of Los Angeles for the better.”

Bringing Economic Development to the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line

Screen-Shot-2014-10-09-at-10.53.06-AMWith the Crenshaw-LAX rail line projected to serve thousands of commuters by 2019, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has proposed creating affordable housing, commercial and residential developments on county-owned real estate along major public transportation lines.

His motion, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, recommended making better use of a 1.9-acre parcel of land on Exposition Boulevard in Los Angeles at the intersection of the Crenshaw/LAX and Expo Lines, as well as a 40,000-sq. ft. property on Redondo Boulevard in Inglewood which is adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX line.

“With its prime location adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX Fairview Heights station, the County should explore opportunities for making the property available for private development that would cater to commuters on the rail line,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The use of county-owned properties will generate additional revenues that could potentially offset the costs of relocation.”

The county’s 40-year-old Exposition Boulevard property, which houses a Probation Department field office is outdated and needs substantial renovation. By relocating the Probation staff to another County building, the Exposition Boulevard property would be available for private developers to build affordable housing, live/work housing, retail stores, restaurants, creative office space and other commercial and residential developments that would cater to the needs of commuters on the Crenshaw/LAX rail line.

This proposal complements another motion set to go before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors this month to develop a 2.1-acre parcel of land at Exposition and Crenshaw Boulevard owned by Metro.

Combined, the two motions represent a significant change in the way the county can use its assets to address economic development and housing needs.  Together, the Los Angeles County and Metro properties bring up to 500,000 square feet of potential new development into the marketplace.

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line is funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

The 8.5-mile train route would run through the historic Crenshaw Corridor, known as the epicenter of African-American culture in Los Angeles. It is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000 once completed in 2019.

Plans are already in place to build a major retail center with a Target store, a new Kaiser medical facility, and a revitalized Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza next to the rail line.

A Place to Call Home in Koreatown

16211177808_16be5ce4e9_zPainted a vivid red, orange and yellow, the newly opened Casa Yondé affordable housing community in Koreatown is doing more than brightening up the neighborhood – it is a refuge for some of the county’s most vulnerable young people.

Among the tenants is a 21-year-old working student who recently aged out of the foster care system and is learning how to live independently. Gregory declined to reveal his last name but expressed relief over having a place to call home.

“It makes my life better,” he said. “It’s very convenient because it’s close to my school and my job. Since I don’t have the stress I had before, I’m able to focus on my goals.”

With funding from Los Angeles County and public and private sector donors, Casa Yondé opened in January with 52 units for homeless adults; low-income families and individuals; and youths who have aged out of foster care and are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Casa Yonde apartments replaced an obsolete building with only 26 affordable housing units, some of which were 90 years old. In addition, young people living in the complex have access to services to help them integrate into the community, as well as counseling rooms, community spaces, and a landscaped courtyard.

“I believe that every individual has the right to live in safe, affordable and quality housing,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who noted more than 1,600 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing units have been created in the 2nd District since 2008.  “Through affordable housing and community services, we can change people’s lives and the communities they live in.”

Another 67-unit affordable housing community, LDK Senior Apartments, is under construction in Koreatown, off Crenshaw Boulevard, for seniors at different stages in the aging process. The apartments will come with amenities such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars, no-slip surfaces, emergency call systems and recreation areas. It will also house service providers to help residents sign up for affordable healthcare, job skills training, and others.

 “Come spring next year, this development will provide the wrap-around services to help residents thrive,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation built both Casa Yondé and LDK Senior Apartments, with financial and operational assistance from both the private and public sectors, including Los Angeles County.

The Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance is the service provider at Casa Yondé. “These apartments allow tenants to take care of their family and participate actively in the community,” said tenant services coordinator Maya Anderson of KIWA. “Now they can live in an affordable and safe home.”

County to Conduct First-Ever Comprehensive Assessment of Parks and Rec Facilities

Roy Campanella Park in Compton, photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Roy Campanella Park in Compton, photo courtesy of Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Hoping to get an aerial view of the green spaces in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors recently approved an unprecedented analysis of all the parks, hiking trails, botanical gardens, wildlife sanctuaries and similar venues within its borders.

The first-ever Countywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment would help determine the most efficient way to operate and maintain existing assets. It would also identify the communities that remain underserved, and include an inventory of potential projects and their respective funding requirements.

“The final product will not only identify geographic areas with the highest need for parks and open space, but will identify, prioritize, and outline costs for specific park and/or open space projects,” Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Antonovich said in a joint motion.

“This effort has never been done before and it is much needed,” Ridley-Thomas added. “Parks and recreational facilities can enhance and even transform neighborhoods. We must continue to bring green spaces to communities that need it, and enhance the parks and open spaces that we already have.

The analysis could position the county to better compete for public and private funding, as well as make the case for creating a revenue stream through a ballot measure in 2016.

Currently, the county relies on Proposition A, a parcel tax approved by voters in 1992, to generate $52 million annually for park construction and maintenance, beach cleanup, the acquisition and preservation open space, and other purposes. Proposition A, however, is set to expire this June.

The board sought an extension by putting Proposition P on the ballot last November, but it failed to muster the two-thirds majority required for passage. Among the criticisms of Proposition P was the lack of a “needs assessment” that would justify continuing to pay the parcel tax.

The Countywide Comprehensive Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment approved Tuesday is estimated to cost $3.5 million, and take about 16 months.

Home for Good

DJA_0089 By the end of 2015, Los Angeles County will eradicate veteran homelessness—that was the pledge made recently by national and local government officials, non-profit and philanthropic organizations and the local business community.

Home For Good, an initiative by United Way of Greater Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to end veteran homelessness in 2015, unveiled a detailed Action Plan to meet that goal. The initiative prides itself on an individually based approach to end homelessness. By understanding homeless people’s needs, quickly linking them to permanent housing, job training and mental health help, many veterans have found a new way of life.

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“I am so grateful,” said Felicia Blankenship, a veteran who was homeless for many years before finding permanent housing at the Rosslyn Hotel Apartments in downtown Los Angeles, where the initiative was announced. “I am alive and I am sober and I am so happy to be here.”

Since its launch in 2010, Home For Good partners throughout the region have housed over 12,000 veterans, with a current rate of 438 veterans housed each month. To achieve the goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of the calendar year, the community must house 538 veterans per month.

photo“I welcome my new and fellow Supervisors, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, in joining me to help solve homelessness in our County,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who in 2010 co-sponsored the motion for Home for Good in Los Angeles County. “This is an esteemed and productive public/private partnership that has made major gains toward ending chronic and veteran homelessness in our County.”

Secretary of U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Robert McDonald, was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis.

“If we end veteran homelessness in L.A. County and across the country, imagine what else we can do,” said Robert McDonald, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. “There is no reason why any veteran should be homeless.”

There are 39,500 homeless men and women in Los Angeles County, of which 4,618 are homeless veterans. Los Angeles has seen a 40 percent reduction in veteran homelessness but clearly more work needs to be done.

“Having thousands of people on the street is morally wrong,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. “Frankly, it is also bad for business.”

With the current partnerships, Home for Good leaders are confident the goal to end veteran homelessness will be met.

“Every region in Los Angeles County is impacted by veteran homelessness, and it will require a strong and collective effort to eradicate the issue and house our homeless veterans still living on the streets,” said Elise Buik, President and CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “I’m confident that with this group effort, renewed focus and expansion of the proven Coordinated Entry System, we will eradicate veteran homelessness in Los Angeles County in 2015.”

For more information, visit Home For Good.