Laying the Groundwork for Development in Vermont Manchester

Proposed Vermont Manchester project (All renderings by Killefer Flammang Architects)

To cheers from residents, Los Angeles County on May 7th took possession of a four-acre property at the corner of Vermont and Manchester that has been dilapidated since the 1992 Civil Unrest, and began preparing it for development that would serve the community.

“It’s a big moment because the blight goes away,” said Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corp. “The County and the people have spoken, a judge has ruled in our favor, and now we’re going to get some economic development – it’s very promising.”

“I’m just very happy this is happening. It gives hope,” said Joy Fantroy, chair of the 90th Street Block Club. “It’s the answer to our prayers,” added Lillie Benbow Jackson, known in the community as Reverend Mother.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors voted to take the first steps necessary to secure the site and prepare it for development, including installing perimeter fencing and demolishing the only remaining structure – the burnt ruins of a shopping center.

“We now have an opportunity to create a bright future,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We see this is as a location for a development that can provide tremendous community benefits, including the first boarding academy in the state that will focus on preparing youth for careers in the transportation sector; 180 units of affordable housing; 50,000 sq. ft. of retail; and various transit-related amenities.”

“Now that we have site control, our focus will be to design all of this with community engagement, including identifying immediate opportunities to activate the site,” he said. “Two separate solicitation process are underway to identify operators and developers for both the boarding school and mixed-use components of the project.”

The County sued in December to condemn the property on the east side of the 8400 and 8500 blocks of South Vermont Avenue from owner Eli Sasson, who had left it largely undeveloped for 26 years. The two blocks have been subject to more than 35 notices of building code violations over that period.

In his ruling, issued April 26, LA Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy wrote, “The Court finds that (the County’s) needs override any hardship suffered by (Sasson).” He added, “(Sasson) will not lose rents and (Sasson has) sat idly on the project without development for years.”

By law, the property owner will receive fair and just compensation for his land.

LA County Poised to Develop Vermont Manchester Project

Proposed Vermont Manchester project (Rendering by Killefer Flammang Architects)

Now that a judge has approved its use of eminent domain, Los Angeles County is poised on May 7 to take possession of a four-acre property at the corner of Vermont and Manchester that has been blighted since the 1992 Civil Unrest, and to embark on the process of developing one of the largest tracts of vacant land in South LA.

The County plans to build affordable housing and retail, as well a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) transit plaza, preparatory boarding academy and training center on the site. Renderings for the project were released in February. It is currently finalizing the solicitation process to operate the academy in partnership with Metro. On April 30, bids will be solicited from affordable housing and retail developers that want to be part of the project.

The County sued in December to condemn the property on the east side of the 8400 and 8500 blocks of South Vermont Avenue from owner Eli Sasson, who had left it largely undeveloped for 26 years. The two blocks have been subject to more than 35 notices of building code violations over that period.

In his ruling, issued April 26, LA Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy wrote, “The Court finds that (the County’s) needs override any hardship suffered by (Sasson).” He added, “(Sasson) will not lose rents and (Sasson has) sat idly on the project without development for years.”

The amount of just compensation that the landowner will receive for the property will either be decided by a settlement between the parties, or by a jury.

LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hailed the court’s ruling, saying it paves the way for the proposed project to enter the development and implementation stages.

“Local governments have an absolute obligation to think imaginatively about our most pressing issues – job creation, quality education, transportation, and the development of affordable housing and community centers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With this project, we are taking an out-of-the-box approach to getting all of that done at the corner of Vermont and Manchester.”

US Rep. Karen Bass said, “I am grateful and relieved to hear today’s ruling. Over and over, residents have heard lofty promises about all kinds of redevelopment, resources, jobs and housing on this site. Now, revitalization is finally on the way.”

“South LA has waited for a fresh start on Vermont Manchester for 26 years,” added LA City Council Member Marqueece Harris-Dawson. “Over the course of almost three decades, residents endured crime, blight, violence, and neglect – all while waiting for empty promises and false starts to produce something real. Today, a longstanding injustice has been resolved!”

With the court upholding the County’s right to take immediate possession of the property, the Supervisor will begin working with community residents on the various elements of the project.

One of its most innovative components is a state-of-the-art vocational and college preparatory boarding academy that will allow students from the County’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, as well as youth from surrounding communities, to graduate with the skills needed for careers in transportation.

The local transportation industry is sorely in need of well-trained workers. Almost 40 percent of Metro employees will be eligible for retirement over the next two and a half years, and Measure M has generated funds to support 778,000 new jobs over the next 40 years. “We have projects, we have jobs and we have funding — but not nearly enough skilled workers,” said Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “This new workforce education model represents a shift in how Metro plans to prepare the next generation of workers.”

Community members also celebrated the news. “This neighborhood has been held hostage to lip service and empty promises,” said Robert Rubin of the Vermont Village Economic Development Corporation. “We have literally waited decades for this site to receive the investment, improvements and development it deserves.”

“We are grateful that the County has taken steps to end the dilapidation of this prominent location in our community, so that we can have much needed and long-overdue public amenities,” added Pastor Anthony L. Williams of the 88th Street Temple Church.

The Vermont Manchester site as it currently stands

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site (Killifer Fleming Architects)

Kicking Off A New Era of Soccer
in Expo Park

All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors

With a blast of fireworks and confetti, soccer fans celebrated the grand opening of the $350-million Banc of California Stadium at Exposition Park, the new home of the Los Angeles Football Club.

L-R: Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LAFC forward Carlos Vela, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Councilman Curren Price.

This privately financed “cathedral of soccer” is the first open-air sports arena built in LA since Dodger Stadium in 1962. A stunning piece of architecture, it stands where the now-demolished LA Memorial Sports Arena used to be, right next to the LA Memorial Coliseum.

“This magnificent Banc of California Stadium will do more than provide a new state-of-the-art place to play soccer,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Coliseum Commission. “It will bring thousands of jobs and economic opportunity to the surrounding community and beyond, furthering the transformation already taking place in this region.”

“This has exceeded expectations,” he added. “There’s no way you can come here and not marvel at what has been done in record time.”

“I think it’s the best stadium in all of Major League Soccer,” said former NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson, one of the LAFC’s co-owners along with two-time Olympic gold medalist Mia Hamm Garciaparra, former Major League Baseball all-star Nomar Garciaparra, entertainment and sports leader Peter Guber, and others.

“It is an honor to unveil this world-class stadium to the Los Angeles community,” LAFC lead managing owner Larry Berg said.  “This project is not only about providing our fans and supporters a state-of-the-art venue to watch soccer in the heart of Los Angeles, but this is about our Club’s commitment to investing in and elevating our entire city.”

Also present at the ceremony were LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, Councilmember and Coliseum Commission President Curren Price, MLS commissioner Don Garber, LAFCco-managing owners Bennett Rosenthal and Brandon Beck, and LAFC president Tom Penn. After the ceremony, LAFC players, including stars Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi, took to the field for the first time to practice for their first home game, 10 days away.

The stadium was designed by leading architect Gensler Sports. Construction took 20 months, and produced thousands of construction and permanent jobs at the stadium, many of which went to workers from the surrounding community. The project includes a large public plaza, restaurants, an LAFC retail store, and a conference and events center.

The new stadium is the newest landmark in Exposition Park, along with the LA Memorial Coliseum, the California African American Museum, the California Science Center, and the Natural History Museum of LA County. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is currently under construction.

A Budget that Reflects Our Values

Los Angeles County-funded teams conducting outreach to people living on the streets, offering a range of supportive services. All photos by Mayra Vasquez/Countywide Communications

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the $30.8-billion proposed 2018-19 budget would improve the quality of life of millions of residents, particularly the most vulnerable, while maintaining public safety, advancing economic equity, and fostering fiscal responsibility.

LA County Fire Department

“Government can’t do everything but the County of Los Angeles does a whole lot,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“This budget reflects our determination to confront homelessness, the dearth of affordable housing, and the need for criminal justice reform,” he added. “It also expands access to health services and an equitable economy, ventures into innovations in technology and biosciences, and celebrates the arts.”

County CEO Sachi Hamai unveiling the recommended budget for FY 2018-2019

County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai, who recommended the spending plan, said, “This budget demonstrates the County’s determination to address the region’s most difficult social issues through bold action, elevating the quality of life for all residents, no matter what their circumstances or paths.”

The budget includes the first full year of funding from Measure H, a $374 million investment to combat homelessness. It also includes $45 million for affordable housing, and creates 1,000 jobs providing services to the homeless.

LA County Department of Animal Care and Control

Since voters passed Measure H in March last year, the County has helped thousands of individuals and families through an unprecedented expansion of outreach, emergency shelter, rapid rehousing, supportive housing, and benefits advocacy. Among the early successes between July and December 2017: more than 7,000 people entered crisis, bridge and interim housing, many of whom were among the 3,000 people who secured permanent housing.

Public hearings on the budget will begin May 16. The Board of Supervisors will kick off deliberations on June 25.

LA County Department of Health Services’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center

Housing and Healthcare Under One Roof

Rendering of Joshua House Health Center and Six Four Nine Lofts, courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture

A state-of-the-art building that will provide affordable housing and healthcare under one roof is now under construction in Skid Row and expected to open in 2019.

Six Four Nine Lofts – consisting of 55 affordable housing apartments for people who had been homeless – will occupy the top four stories at the corner of 7th Street and Wall Street. Joshua House Health Center will occupy the bottom three stories.

At the ground blessing ceremony. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

At the groundbreaking and blessing ceremonies, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “Our collective pursuit should be to create opportunities so that anyone who calls Los Angeles County home is able to live a life of dignity and purpose.”

“The goal is access to health, access to homes, access to a better life, and access to a better community,” he added. “Let’s all be part of the movement we call Everyone In!

Skid Row Housing Trust, the lead developer for both projects, will own and operate Six Four Nine Lofts, whose residents will be mostly veterans and individuals with chronic health conditions. Thanks to funding from the County’s Department of Health Services and the US Department Veteran Affairs, they will receive comprehensive case management, as well as referrals to a wide array of services, such as physical and mental healthcare, substance abuse and detox services, counseling, peer support groups, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, life skills and employment training.

Los Angeles Christian Health Centers (LACHC) will own and operate the Joshua House Health Center, its flagship facility. “We are proud of this very special project that we hope will help transform the way healthcare and housing services are offered to people who are homeless and underserved,” LACHC President and CEO, Dr. Lisa Abdishoo, said. “Our multidisciplinary care teams will deliver the full continuum of medical, dental and mental health; substance abuse services; and linkage to housing under one roof.”

Courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture

Joshua House Health Center was designed to be state-of-the-art, open and welcoming, while offering a safe place for people to receive high-quality care. It will have 18 medical exam rooms, six flexible consultation rooms, eight dental chairs, nine mental health rooms, 13 social work and care coordination offices, a multipurpose area to provide health education and fitness classes, a meditation room, and a chaplain’s office.

LACHC expects to serve 1,200 patients in its first year at the site, and eventually serve up to 7,000 patients annually. Trust CEO Mike Alvidrez said, “As the developer, we are pleased to partner with LACHC to help expand medical care and services in a new, modern clinic that better reflects the level of dignity and quality of care LACHC has shown patients for more than 20 years.”

Without homes, people are exposed to harsh weather, disease, violence, unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, stress and addictive substances. The average age of death for people experiencing homelessness is 30 years less than that of people who do not live on the streets.

Using a single location for a separate housing and healthcare projects – each with its own structure, ownership and financing – is an efficient use of public funds as it allows many development costs, like site acquisition, to be split between the two projects. It makes each project less expensive.

Both projects received funding from a diverse array of sources, including LA County, LA City, and the state of California. This collaboration is most evident in the housing portion, which includes one-time capital funds of $5.5 million from Proposition HHH and $1.5 million from LA County’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In addition, LA County’s Department of Health Services will invest $7.4 million over the next 15 years for rental subsidies and support services.

Aside from constructing the building, the Trust leveraged $5.3 million in state cap-and-trade funds to make transit-related improvements along 7th Street, including bike share stations, bike lane, accessible crosswalks and traffic lights.

Courtesy of Skid Row Housing Trust and Adobe Communities Architecture