Early Action Projects for the 710 Freeway

Statement by  Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas

“As a member of the Metro Board, representing a district adjacent to portions of the 710 Freeway and many constituents who use it every day, it’s clear that we need immediate relief along this corridor. It’s one of our most antiquated freeways and the freight traffic on it has unquestionably affected air quality and safety in the surrounding communities.

“I am driven by the opportunity to transparently, thoughtfully and immediately proceed with available resources to complete ‘early action’ projects on the 710 Freeway that would address priority safety needs while also improving functionality. Afterwards, the Metro Board can do a reassessment.

“In many ways, Metro has become an ‘instigator for innovation’ throughout the region. That is the case here, as we are compelled to coordinate not just a policy but also a financing agenda to facilitate the transition of freight infrastructure towards zero-emission technology.

“We have our work cut out for us in facilitating meaningful and much needed improvements to this corridor, but I am pleased that we are inching closer to providing that long-awaited relief.”

Vermont and Manchester: A Blighted Reminder of How Difficult It Has Been to Rebuild the Spirit of South LA



On Feb. 13, 2018, a fire demolished the last standing structure at the corner of 84th and Vermont. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but this was far from the first time this lot owned by Sassony Commercial Development has been a public nuisance. Blighted for 26 years, it has been an ongoing source of embarrassment for residents and a daily reminder of how difficult it has been to rebuild the spirit and wealth of South Los Angeles since the Civil Unrest.

I serve as Pastor of the 88th Street Temple Church, just a few blocks south of 84th and Vermont. We have been property owners and contributing members of this community since the early 1980s. From operating a food bank to hosting neighborhood meetings, our congregation has always sought to uplift the Vermont-Manchester community.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has long been our partner in this effort. We have collaborated with him on several community projects over the years, including tree plantings, cleanups, façade improvements for small businesses, even exploring how to redevelop our church property.

For these reasons, it is unsettling for us to hear Sassony and its cohorts allege that there hasn’t been enough community engagement around the County’s intent to acquire the property. On December 5, 2017, many members of the Vermont-Manchester community and Sassony representatives shared their views in an open forum. I, along with many other local stakeholders, spoke in support of taking immediate possession through eminent domain. We expressed our heartfelt gratitude that the County has taken a firm leadership position on this issue and utilized the only public tool available to end the dilapidation of this prominent location in our community, so that we can have much needed public amenities.

As the Supervisor himself stated, we must all be committed to elevating the quality of life in this neighborhood if we are to see any change. Sassony has not gotten the job done for the last 26 years. Let’s give the County a chance to bring the services that this community is long overdue.

A recent article, written by a media consultant hired by Sassony, offered excuses for why the property has sat vacant all this time, but the residents of South Los Angeles know better than to accept the assurances of a developer who promises “The Grove” tomorrow, but gives us the ghetto today.

(Pastor Anthony L. Williams, a well-known community leader, serves the88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Guest Commentary reposted with permission from CityWatch.

The Vermont Manchester site as it currently stands

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site



A Vision for Vermont Manchester

New renderings capture the vision for a proposed development at the corner of Vermont and Manchester Avenues in southwest Los Angeles, transforming it into a bustling hub for the community.

Spanning two city blocks, the project will include retail shops, 180 affordable housing units, a public transit plaza and parking lot, and a public college preparatory boarding school designed to serve 400 youth currently served by Los Angeles County’s social safety net.

About 50,000 square feet would be dedicated to providing other critical needs within the community, such as retail and social services, as well as job training.

“This property is uniquely suited, sufficiently sized, and optimally assembled for this type of public investment,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This community wants and deserves better, and the County strives to deliver better than the cycle of despair that the property has come to symbolize.”

“This project is real, and not the fantasy of a non-performing developer who has held the community hostage for two and a half decades,” he added.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in December to acquire ownership of the property, which has remained mostly undeveloped since being decimated during the civil unrest of 1992. It has received more than three dozen notices of violations from the City of Los Angeles.

The County has filed for immediate possession of the property and currently has a mid-April court date for the matter to be considered. The acquisition is expected to cause only minimal disruption, as the site is already vacant. The elements of the proposed project reflect the priorities of the recently adopted South Los Angeles Community Plan, as well as surveys by the Public Health Department and local community organizations.

Testifying before the Board in December, Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said, “Having spent the last 25 years in and around this particular set of parcels, this proposal comes as a great relief to me and thousands of other folks.” In a letter to the Board, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass wrote, “the County proposes to meet multiple needs here and serve the broader community.”

“We need development there, and I think this program that the Supervisor’s putting forth is what we need,” longtime resident Pastor Anthony Williams said in December. “I wholeheartedly support it, and all those that want to partner (with us) to make our community better.”

The Vermont Manchester site as it currently stands

Rendering of proposed development for the Vermont Manchester site


Modernizing LA’s Historic Coliseum

A construction crane looms over the LA Memorial Coliseum, which is undergoing a massive restoration and renovation. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

A groundbreaking ceremony marked the official start of a $270-million project to restore and upgrade the 95-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, preserving it as a historic landmark while adding modern amenities – not to mention creating thousands of jobs.

LA Councilman Curren Price, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, USC President CL Max Nikias, United Airlines’ Janet Lamkin, and USC athletic director and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann at the ceremonial groundbreaking. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.

To underwrite a portion of the project’s cost, the University of Southern California announced a naming rights agreement with United Airlines. The stadium will be called the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum beginning in August 2019.

“The university has a time-honored commitment to the Coliseum,” said C. L. Max Nikias, president of USC, which operates the stadium under a 98-year lease with the city and county of Los Angeles and the state of California. “USC is honored to be the caretaker of this Los Angeles treasure.”

“Over almost a century, the Coliseum has endured as one of the world’s greatest sports and entertainment venues, a civic monument and architectural icon in the heart of Los Angeles,” said County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a member of the Coliseum Commission. “Through this restoration project, USC continues to demonstrate its responsible stewardship of the stadium, ushering in a modern era for this historic landmark and preserving its legacy for generations to come.”

An artist’s rendering shows the renovated United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. (Image/Courtesy of DLR Group)

The project calls for restoring the iconic peristyle, as well as additional aisles, handrails, wider seats, more legroom, cup holders, updated Wi-Fi, concession expansion and improvements. Audio and video systems also are being upgraded, along with electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.

The peristyle. Photo courtesy of USC.

Commissioned as a memorial to Los Angeles veterans of World War I, the Coliseum opened in June 1923. It was designed by the father-and-son architectural team of John and Donald Parkinson, whose firm also designed LA City Hall and Union Station.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in July 1984, the Coliseum is the only venue in the world to host two Olympic Games, in 1932 and 1984, with a third scheduled in 2028. Super Bowl I and VII were both played at the Coliseum, as were the 1959 World Series, the Dodgers beat the White Sox, their first championship in Los Angeles after moving from Brooklyn.

The Coliseum also hosted visits by three US Presidents: Ronald Regan, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, who accepted the nomination for president there during the 1960 Democratic National Convention. It also visits by Pope John Paul II in 1984, and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela in 1990. Among the orga nizers of the South African icon’s trip was then-Southern Christian Leadership Conference executive director Mark Ridley-Thomas.

In addition to the Coliseum, other construction projects at Exposition Park are the Banc of California stadium for the LA Football Club, the expansion of the Natural History Museum, and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

“Exposition Park is undergoing a renaissance of sorts that is bringing with it much prosperity in the form of jobs, economic growth and community benefits unlike anything we’ve seen before,” said City Councilman and Coliseum Commission President Curren Price. “I want to thank USC for the major investment in our community, which will have a lasting, positive impact in the lives of current and future generations.”

Renovation of the Coliseum field and stadium seating is under way. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors.


California Election 2018:
Gubernatorial Candidates
Town Hall Meeting

Six candidates vying to become the next Governor of California faced off for the first time during a town hall meeting at the University of Southern California (USC). During the 90-minute discussion, themed Empowering California: A Local Perspective, candidates Travis Allen, John Chiang, John Cox, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa answered questions about homelessness, immigration, education, criminal justice, how they would work with the Trump administration, and other topics.

The Empowerment Congress, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC hosted the event at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, which drew an audience of almost 1,500 people. Many also listened to the live stream on KABC7 and the live broadcast on 89.3 KPCC.

Los Angeles, CA – JAN 13: 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit | Empowering California: A Local Perspective | Gubernatorial Town Hall (Pool Photo by Leroy Hamilton)

Opening the discussion, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “With a plethora of local challenges across the state, ranging from affordable housing crises to threats to a range of civil liberties, it is critical that we elect an individual to lead the state of California who understands the opportunities, challenges, responsibilities and privileges associated with representing the most populous and diverse state in the nation.”

“Governor Jerry Brown released a record $132-billion proposed budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and it is our collective responsibility to seek out the individual who can best balance that budget, answer the tough questions, and demonstrate resilience in the face of crisis,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “That’s because, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”

Robert Shrum, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said, “There is no better way to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday than a spirited, honest and respectful face-to-face town hall involving the candidates for governor, one of whom will lead this state into the future.”

“The core of our democracy is civic engagement,” Empowerment Congress coordinator Cassandra Chase said. “The gubernatorial town hall provided an opportunity for community members to ask questions of the candidates on issues that are important to them. Our community is constantly engaged and takes the lead on visioning the California we deserve.”

ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown served as moderator. KPCC senior political reporter Mary Plummer also sat on the panel, focusing on concerns raised by voters.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas founded the Empowerment Congress 26 years ago, when he was a member of the Los Angeles City Council. It is widely considered a national model of civic engagement, built on the core principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability and intentional civility. It holds an annual summit during the national observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to address issues of importance within local communities.

The mission of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC is to motivate students to become active in the world of politics, and to encourage public officials to participate in the daily life at USC.

Los Angeles, CA – JAN 13: 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit | Empowering California: A Local Perspective | Gubernatorial Town Hall (Pool Photo by Aurelia Ventura)