New Rosa Parks Metro Station on its Way to Willowbrook


A $39 million state grant to the Willowbrook / Rosa Parks Metro station won praise on August 29th from state and local officials, public health professionals, Metro workers, community and faith leaders and environmental groups.

“I commend the State for investing in projects that meet a triple bottom line,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also serves as chair of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors. “The improvements will green our environment, improve access to our public transit system, and help revitalize the surrounding community.”

The funding comes from the California Cap and Trade program, which provides funding to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions through various initiatives including expanding public transportation ridership. In addition to improvements at the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station, the grant will also be used for traffic signal enhancements along the entire Blue Line. The project is expected to yield a 865,000 ton reduction in carbon emissions, an equivalent of Angelinos driving 2 billion less miles.

“Metro means business when it comes to greening the environment and reducing greenhouse gases,” the Supervisor said.

Joining the Supervisor in lauding the new funding were Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, Senator Isadore Hall, III, California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly, California Air Resources Board Vice Chair Sandra Berg and Coalition for Clean Air CEO and South Coast Air Quality Management District Board member Joe Lyou.

The Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station renovation project is part of a nearly $1 billion planned investment that seeks to improve the quality of life for the Willowbrook community by promoting health and wellness, economic development and job creation. More than $650 million has been invested in the MLK Medical Center campus and a new library and senior housing has also been approved.

Part of the Metro Blue Line, the Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station is the fourth busiest station in the entire Metro system. Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station improvements will provide better commuter access with a new plaza and parking facility, and will enhance passenger safety with new lighting and a Sheriff’s substation. The Metro Blue Line is one of the nation’s busiest light rail lines, with nearly 80,000 daily boardings.

Taking Transportation Careers to the Next Level

Metro CEO Phil Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Metro Board Chairman and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Metro CEO Phil Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Metro Board Chairman and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Workers building Los Angeles County’s vast – and still growing – transportation system are getting a boost from the federal government to take their skills to the next level.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Tuesday to announce $1.1 million in federal grants for local workforce development.

“Metro needs a diverse group of well-trained and skilled employees as it embarks on one of the largest public works programs in the nation,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the press conference at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (Trade Tech), a beneficiary of the grants.

“By investing in the human capital needed to redefine our transportation system, we are changing the landscape of the region,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

Trade-Tech and the Community Career Development Inc./LA Valley College will both receive grants allocated through the Federal Transit Administration’s Public Transportation Workforce Development program. Metro will provide matching funds.

Trade-Tech will receive $775,000 from the federal government to establish the Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology Training – the first of its kind in a community college in the country.

Community Career Development Inc./LA Valley College, meanwhile, is setting aside its $331,000 share for its Moving Employees into Transit Related Opportunities program, which will recruit and train low-income individuals, women, veterans, minorities, and others.  

“In Los Angeles and across the country, as ridership continues to trend upward and major transit projects are planned, built, and put into service, the transit industry will continue to see high demand for skilled workers,” Secretary Foxx said.

“We are committed to making careers in transit a pathway to education, financial security, and other ladders of opportunity, especially for those in disadvantaged communities,” he added.

The grants come at a crucial time in the transportation industry. The federal Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor recently released a report, Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry, that details projected increases in future demand for skilled transportation workers.

According to the analysis, employers will need to hire and train 4.6 million new workers – 1.2 times the current transportation workforce – due to expected growth, retirements and turnover in the transportation industry from 2012 to 2022.

Also at Tuesday’s event were acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan, LA Community College District Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Brice Harris, Trade-Tech Vice President of Workforce Development Leticia Barajas, and Community Career Development Inc. Executive Director Gloria Moore.

Affordable Housing Reimagined


SCI-Arc students turning their architectural sketches into reality

With hard hats and hammers, dozens of volunteers gathered in south Los Angeles Thursday to kick off construction on a home that’s not only inexpensive but innovative.

“This is the result of an unprecedented collaboration among the public, private, philanthropic and academic sectors,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Together, we are easing Los Angeles County’s homeless crisis and creating a prototype for affordable housing in the future.”

IMG_0113Once completed in October, the 1,150-sq. ft. home will include three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, energy-efficient heating, low-flow plumbing, insulation with recycled materials, and a drought-tolerant yard.

The home sits on a 4,410-square foot lot at 1232 W. 101st Street in Athens donated by Los Angeles County to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

Habitat, a nonprofit organization championed by former President Jimmy Carter, builds and renovates houses, often with volunteer labor, and arranges reasonable mortgages for low-income individuals and families.

To design the home in Athens, Habitat tapped the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), whose students developed blueprints during the fall 2014 semester, secured permits during the spring 2015 semester, and are participating in the construction phase this summer.

Habitat also partnered with General Motors Foundation and Bernards Builders and Management Services for volunteer labor and donated furniture. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ office donated $95,000 toward the project, which also received funding from Habitat, SCI-Arc, and other donors.

“This project has given us the opportunity to collaborate with new and longtime partners on driving forward the standards for sustainable and cost-effective housing,” Habitat LA President and CEO Erin Rank said. “Innovation is key in building a greater Los Angeles, one project and neighborhood at a time.”

SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss said the cost-effective single family home is a new area of interest for SCI-Arc. “There have been a number of such efforts over the years, typically skewed in the low cost rather than the imaginative design direction,” he said. “It’s time SCI-Arc turned its attention to the solution for both.”

IMG_0108The design chosen for the home was dubbed IVRV, short for Inverse Reverse, because it blurred the relationship between indoor and outdoor areas.

Habitat will sell the home for no more than $419,000, an amount set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Habitat will work through its established home ownership program to find a veteran homeowner. Five potential buyers are already in the queue.

More projects are in the works. “We look forward to future groundbreakings on the dozen other properties in the Second District that have been donated to Habitat for Humanity for high quality affordable housing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

The Vermont Corridor is in for a Transformation

Birds Eye Site 1-2

Some of Los Angeles County’s most dilapidated government office buildings are slated for the wrecking ball, to be replaced with housing and retail spaces, as well as a modern new headquarters for the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

The Board of Supervisors voted to start the process of accepting bids for the development of three sites on what has been dubbed the “Vermont Corridor” in the County’s Second District.

“It’s an innovative approach that transforms once-neglected County resources into modern facilities that would serve the public in a variety of ways, including creating jobs, revitalizing communities, generating new revenue streams for the County, and addressing urban blight,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Bringing new development and replacing dilapidated County facilities is a cornerstone of my economic development agenda.”

He stressed the need for open and transparent real property leasing and acquisition procedures, especially after a 2014 proposal to purchase the Saturn Building in Monterey Park raised serious questions about the County’s policies and practices. At Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ urging, that project was ultimately abandoned. “Extraordinary care and diligence must be taken to preserve fairness, ensure efficiency, provide equal opportunity, and reinforce public trust,” he said.

The County has more than 1 million square feet of office space along a quarter-mile stretch of South Vermont Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets in Los Angeles. It either owns or leases office buildings and parking structures for staff of the Departments of Mental Health; Children and Family Services; Parks and Recreation; and Community and Senior Services.

Sean Rogan, executive director of the County’s Community Development Commission, described the facilities as a “blight” on the surrounding community, noting they have “experienced a high level of deterioration and offer few operating efficiencies for County employees.”

Under the plan approved Tuesday, the County would tap a single developer to transform:

  • 510, 526 and 532 South Vermont Avenue into a state-of-the-art, 400,000-sq. ft. headquarters for the DMH, with groundbreaking expected in 2018;
  • 550 South Vermont Avenue and 3175 West 6th Street into a mixed-use high-rise with street-level commercial, service and retail spaces designed to benefit the local neighborhood; and
  • 433 South Vermont Street into either a “project with the highest economic benefit to the County” or affordable housing for seniors with a community center at street level.

The developer must plan, design, entitle, finance and construct new structures on all three sites, and also upgrade an adjacent parking lot for County staff at 523 Shatto Place. The old DMH facility will be demolished and replaced with a high-density, mixed-use development that would generate new tax revenues and ground lease payments for the County.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation’s Institute for Applied Economics, construction of LA County offices and two residential towers at an estimated combined cost of $453 million could generate about 1,355 construction jobs.

The Vermont Corridor is a bustling socioeconomically and culturally diverse neighborhood that includes bus and subway stations; retail and service establishments; markets; restaurants; schools; and the Korean American National Museum and Islamic Center of Southern California.

Vermont Corridor Development 6-24-2014 8

A Vision for Leimert Park Village


CREDIT: John Dlugolecki/Urban Land Institute of Los Angeles

A panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) unveiled Friday its vision for revitalizing Leimert Park Village, the center of African American culture in Los Angeles and a stop on the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line, opening in 2019.

Investors and business owners have been eyeing the 1.19-square mile neighborhood (population 13,000) just west of Exposition Park since the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, voted to build an underground train station there.

For advice on the best use of the land and creating a thriving community, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas tapped the ULI, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research and education organization recognized as one of the nation’s most respected sources of objective information on urban planning, growth and development.

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ULI TAP panel chairman Michael Banner interviewing Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.


“Leimert Park Village is at a critical crossroads”, said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The $2-billion public investment in the Crenshaw/LAX transit line is a unique opportunity to attract investment and propel the community forward in achieving its vision as a hub for African American arts and culture in Los Angeles County.”

On Friday, ULI’s technical assistance panel – composed of ULI members, together with experts in real estate development, land use planning and design, real estate financing, economic development and marketing – presented its report after conducting site visits and interviews with stakeholders that included Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and City Council President Herb Wesson.

Among its first priorities, the panel recommended cleaning up the neglected park at the center of the village; completing long-stalled renovations to the historic Vision Theater; filling what are now empty storefronts and parking lots with community-oriented retail and dining establishments; and building housing units that would double as studios for local artists.

The panel also called for integrating art into public spaces; promoting cultural assets; and making streetscape improvements such as adding bike lanes, lighting, and a paseo similar to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

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CREDIT: John Dlugolecki/Urban Land Institute of Los Angeles

“Leimert Park Village has many assets that can be used to entice and guide private development,” said panel chairman Michael Banner. “The panel’s recommendations address immediate, near-term and long-term strategies to achieve the community’s vision for Leimert Park Village.”

The panel said an entity should be designated to take the lead in implementing short-term and long-term goals. It also proposed looking into tax credits, philanthropy and even crowd-funding to pay for projects.

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.

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CREDIT: John Dlugolecki/Urban Land Institute of Los Angeles