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)

A New Beginning for Casa Honduras in West Athens

Officials from the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles (CDC) joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, friends, and neighbors to celebrate the Grand Re-Opening of the Casa Honduras Restaurant (Casa Honduras).

Formerly a Waffle Factory restaurant and Stan Kite Coffee Shop, Casa Honduras was converted into a Latin American restaurant serving the Athens-Westmont community. The CDC provided a RENOVATE grant of over $207,000 for the restaurant’s exterior façade improvements. Casa Honduras is the first of five other businesses along corridor now upgrading their facades with a total investment of $700,000 to date.

“When we invest in our communities, we create opportunity and hope,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Monique King-Viehland, Acting Executive Director said, “This is the first RENOVATE project completed in the Second District and I hope it demonstrates the value the County can provide to help businesses grow. We have programs to help businesses large and small; it just takes a call to our office and we’re ready to help!”

Funded by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ Economic Development Trust Fund Initiative, the Casa Honduras façade improvement project continues the CDC’s vision of revitalizing commercial corridors. For example, in order to create an inviting outdoor space for the local Athens-Westmont community, the CDC designed a new patio area for festive gatherings. Not only will this enable the Casa Honduras Restaurant to expand its clientele, but will also provide an enhanced sit-down dining experience to benefit the adjacent neighborhood. The enhancements also included new windows, doors, painting, lighting, signage, and a new accessible ramp along the main entry with landing surface and railings. The CDC’s RENOVATE program provides business owners architectural design services, environmental testing and abatement, and construction project management.

“This represents a new beginning for local entrepreneurs, Jose Alvarado and Jose Marin, and a better and safer experience for those that live, work and play in this neighborhood,” the Supervisor said.

Casa Honduras Owner Jose Alvarado said, “I am truly thankful to the CDC for my restaurant being selected as one of the first RENOVATE projects for Los Angeles County. I am very excited to see how my business and the Athens-Westmont community will improve through these enhancements. Thank you to the CDC and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for this distinct honor!”

Portrait of LA:
From Glittering to Precarious

A recently released report provides an unprecedented analysis of well-being and access to opportunity in Los Angeles County, allowing policymakers and other leaders to better pinpoint communities of greatest need. A Portrait of Los Angeles County revealed large gaps in well-being across location, gender, and race, and identified trends and recommendations for progress.

Commissioned by the County’s Office of Child Protection and released by Measure of America, the report assigned American Human Development Index scores for places and demographic groups, and explored a range of critical issues, including health, education, living standards, environmental justice, housing, homelessness, violence, and inequality.

“The County has been prioritizing data collection and analysis to enable us to make smarter decisions to support the well-being of our 10 million residents,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This report provides us with a portrait that can begin to immediately inform County decision-making.”

“This way of measuring well-being is totally new to Los Angeles, and allows us to understand how income, health and education intersect to contribute to well-being or, alternatively, to disadvantage,” added Board of Supervisors Chair Sheila Kuehl. “We knew there were disparities across the County but now we have a way of measuring that disparity and geographically pinpointing areas of greatest need.”

On the ten-point American Human Development Index scale, the highest- and lowest-scoring communities are separated by an astounding seven points. San Marino, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes Estates topped the list, all scoring over 9.3 on the index. Lennox, East Rancho Dominquez and Florence-Graham each scored lower than 2.7. Within the City of Los Angeles, broken down by community plan area, the gaps are even larger. Bel Air-Beverly Crest and Brentwood-Pacific Palisades are on top with scores of 9.51 and 9.24, respectively, and Southeast LA is at the bottom with 2.26.

“The Portrait provides us with critical information about the well-being of communities that is greatly needed to effectively target prevention supports to the families who need them most,” said Office of Child Protection executive director Judge Michael Nash.

“While metrics like GDP measure how the economy is doing, the American HD Index measures how people are doing, offering a more accurate and nuanced perspective on opportunity and well-being,” said Kristen Lewis, co-director of Measure of America and co-author of A Portrait of LAC. “This study shows that some groups of Angelenos have the highest levels of well-being in the United States—and others have some of the lowest.”

The report concluded by recommending 10 high-value investment areas, such as reducing the toll of violence and trauma, investing in high-quality early care and education for infants and toddlers, expanding affordable housing, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, and helping young people graduate high school and transition to adulthood.


Aiming High and Saving Lives

Photo by Diandra Jay, Board of Supervisors

After five months of intensive classroom and in-the-field training, it’s graduation day for the first class of EMT LA students. The program is a partnership between the Office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Workers Education and Resource Center with funding support from the California Endowment.

“This pilot program is a win-win. Our young men of color deserve access to the best opportunities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “And our communities deserve first rate emergency medical technicians.”

On the heels of a successful recent program in Alameda County, 21 young men from Los Angeles County’s Second District and their accountability partners, made up of parents, friends or significant others, participated in the orientation and kickoff at Central Baptist Church in Carson. Representatives from the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, and Fire were on hand to provide words of wisdom and to participate in the launch of the program.

“In my neighborhood, my friends don’t know it’s possible to become a fire-fighter,” said Renard Page, a program participant.

The five month intensive program included technical skill development, life skill building and culminated with EMT certification. The young men selected through a rigorous application process earned a training stipend of $1,200 per month.

“The goal is to invest in young men so the return can be paid back to this community,” said Kenneth Lee from the LA County Fire Department.

The graduation was marked by a joyful celebration with family and friends and reflections from the graduates.

“This program changed the way we respond to people,” said Renard Page.

“As hard as you worked to get here, you have to continue to get to where you’re going and once you get there to stay,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby during the graduation ceremony.

This group is the first of three groups that will participate in the pilot program in Los Angeles County’s Second District over the next two years.

“It’s important for this program to continue because it shows there’s hope,” said Raul Cuellar, the valedictorian of the first graduating class.