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The county’s 40-year-old Exposition Boulevard property, which houses a Probation Department field office is outdated and needs substantial renovation.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.

Advancement Project Receives Award for Gang Intervention

The Advancement Project's Urban Peace Academy develops teams of trained professionals who will together respond to and reduce gang  violence in "hot zone" communities.

The Advancement Project’s Urban Peace Academy develops teams of trained professionals who will together respond to and reduce gang violence in “hot zone” communities.

The Advancement Project’s Urban Peace Academy, which has worked to reduce gang violence in many neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County, received the 2015 John Anson Ford Human Relations award for their efforts from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Since their founding in 2008, the academy has trained more than 2,400 individuals – many of them at-risk youths and current or former gang members – on how to negotiate gang truces, discourage retaliatory shootings, and quell rumors that lead to violence.

Its trained staff also works with law enforcement officers, emergency room staff, school safety personnel, and various government agencies and nonprofit organizations, resulting in improved collaboration, shared accountability for public safety, and effective community policing.

“The academy’s innovative approach gives neighborhoods a chance to thrive,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Through this work, the academy also creates employment opportunities for at-risk youth and current or former gang members.”

Many graduates of the academy’s rigorous 14-week training course have gone on to work for the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach’s Summer Night Lights programs, which keep parks and recreation centers open until almost midnight during the summer months. By holding sports tournaments and other activities, Summer Night Lights provides an alternative to gang involvement, as well as links to wraparound services.

“We work with former gang members to help develop the skills to engage active gang members to reduce violence,” said Fernando Rejon, deputy director of Urban Peace for the Advancement Project. “We also train law enforcement officers on how to engage with gang intervention workers, and how to engage in community policing strategies that are more effective for community safety.”

The academy’s innovative techniques are now being emulated by other cities in California, as well as in Columbus, Ohio; Memphis, Tennessee; and Seattle, Washington.

Jobseekers Pursue Empowerment at Job Club

Sinaa Watkins, 43, is a single mother of two with a 19-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son. Currently unemployed and living with her mother, Watkins says a job would allow her to get back on her feet.

“It’s all about supporting family for me,” said Watkins at a recent Job Club in Lennox. “If you’re out there and looking for employment, this is for you,” said Watkins.

The Job Club is a bimonthly job search workshop at the new Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center. Held in the Wiseburn Conference Room, the sessions are free to all community members. The program, powered by Community Career Development, Inc. and the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, offers opportunities for networking, job leads and interview techniques along with a sprinkle of hope. The workshop aims to help those who are underemployed, unemployed or starting in a new career by offering resources and employer referrals as well as job training opportunities.

“A just-trained candidate, is a just right candidate,” said Tony Jaramillo, Program Manager for Community Career Development, Inc., the non-profit, community-based organization that leads the workforce development training for jobseekers.

The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County currently hovers at 8.1 percent, exceeding the state average of 7.4 percent; it is nearly two full points above the national average of 6.2 percent according to the Employment Development Department.

The county lost 57,600 jobs in July, although 69,200 were added over the year with an annual growth rate of 1.7 percent. The jobless rate was down from 10 percent a year ago.

“Meaningful work is important because most folks are looking to sustain a living wage to raise the quality of their life here in Los Angeles,” Jaramillo said. “There is a gap in computer skills necessary to secure the higher wage jobs. There seems to be a divide between those that have the ability to be retrained and those that stand on their laurels,” Jaramillo said.

Curtis Blue, 47, from Los Angeles, is an information technology professional who has been unemployed for two years. He attended the job club for the first time to improve his interview skills and look for work.

Having been out of work for two years, Blue discussed the challenges of staying abreast of quickly changing technology.

“Technology is always changing, so not having the hands on experience is challenging. But I’ve learned that I’m not the only one struggling,” Blue said.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “Quality jobs are at the core of developing healthy communities. They improve the economy and help families function. It has been and will continue to be a priority for me to bring opportunities and to create a better quality of life for all residents of the Second District.”

The next Job Club is scheduled for 11 a.m. on September 11 in the Wiseburn Community Room at the Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center located at 4343 Lennox Blvd., Lennox, CA 90304.

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Economic and Community Development Plan Moves Forward

Increasing affordable housing and expanding employment opportunities has been a longstanding priority in Los Angeles County, but the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011, made it difficult for the county to fund these types of projects.  But the county will soon have a new economic plan to boost jobs, business growth and affordable housing projects.

At a recent board meeting, the Board of Supervisors took a major step toward creating an economic plan for the County by setting in motion a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program. The program, championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, aims to make it easier for small businesses and light manufacturing to operate in the county by expediting the permitting process and waiving associated fees, expanding key trade industries such as aerospace and fashion in the region and streamlining foreign trade.

The program, also calls for the development of a $100-million public/private catalytic development fund that would be used to develop affordable housing and transit oriented development projects in low-income communities.

Before they were dissolved, redevelopment agencies reinvested a portion of tax proceeds into communities to financially support economic development and affordable housing.  The development of a Countywide Economic and Community Development Program is intended to help bridge the financial gap that redevelopment agencies formally fulfilled.