- Second District
It was a long time coming, but the new Juanita Tate Marketplace at last is open in South L.A. Residents no longer have to drive far from their community to stop for dessert at Yogurtland, buy medicines at a CVS Pharmacy and savor fresh fruits, vegetables and Mexican delicacies at the 40,000-square-foot Northgate Market – all of which now are located at the new strip mall on the southwest corner of Central and Slauson Avenues.
The shopping center is not only a convenience, it is a symbol of progress for a community that has been neglected for too long. Although today it is an impressive site, with bold colors and welcoming signs, a quarter of a century ago, it was an eyesore, a metal scrap yard that was condemned.
It was thanks to the vision and perseverance of Juanita Tate, a longtime community activist who fought for a better quality of life for South L.A. residents and helped lead the organization, Concerned Citizens of South Central, that the marketplace became a reality.
“Today is my mother’s birthday,” said Tate’s daughter Noreen McClendon, who spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony April 14 on behalf of her mother who died in 2004. “This project took 25 years to deliver. And today is the fulfillment of that.”
The marketplace also benefited from many partnerships, including the now defunct, Community Redevelopment Agency/LA which condemned the property, cleaned it with a federal grant and then engaged developer, Regency Centers, who worked on the project for about 10 years.
“We have waited such a long time for this to happen,” said Regency COO Brian Smith. “When we help transform an area, it is extremely rewarding.”
In addition, California FreshWorks Fund, a healthy food initiative funded by the California Endowment, awarded the Northgate Gonzalez company a $50,000 grant and $5.5 million loan to build the market and provide healthy food. Northgate has also partnered with Homeboy Industries and the Los Angeles County Department of Probation to provide young men and women a fresh start in the workforce.
“For far too many decades, this corner was a symbol of the disinvestment and blight,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the marketplace. “But that is no longer the case. The Juanita Tate Marketplace is now a symbol of effective community revitalization.”
The much-anticipated Lennox Library and Constituent Service Center recently opened with a celebration.
Originally built in 1949, the Lennox Library was the oldest and most outdated library within the County’s Public Library System. The new library is more than double the size. There is a children’s section and teen study room, as well as a community meeting room and of course, an adult reading area. There are nine new public access computers and a community meeting room with seating for 75 people.
The $8.4 million library renovation is only the latest project in Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s longstanding effort to fuel community engagement by providing attractive and useful public spaces for constituents. Since taking office in 2008, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has invested more than $13 million to create true Constituent Service Centers at Exposition Park, Florence-Firestone and Lennox.
“We need to meet our constituents in their communities,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The policy work we do at the Hall of Administration is only part of our mission. By attracting residents to our constituent centers we also create opportunities for members of the community to engage with us and each other, to enable residents to let us know what services they need and how we can help make neighborhoods better.”
The Exposition Park Constituent Services Center, located adjacent to several popular museums and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, currently features the largest public meeting space of the centers, which has made it possible to host numerous well-attended events there since its 2011 completion including:
“I enjoy seeing the smiles on our resident’s faces when they walk into the new Lennox Library and Center,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “They, like all of the other constituents in Los Angeles County, deserve nothing but the best in services and facilities.”
Willowbrook, a community near Watts and Compton, originally was a farming area settled in the 1800s that derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. This year, we are featuring Willowbrook on our website to highlight its vibrant community and burgeoning development.
Thanks to a $600 million-investment from Los Angeles County in new gardens, building, public art and infrastructure, the community is poised to emerge as a regional hub for health care, transportation, culture and civic activity. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the New Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital. To date we have featured Wilowbrook in our monthly architectural feature and with the digital version of the book, Willowbrook Is… Willowbrook Es.
But nothing is more valuable than the voices from the community. Willowbrook is home to residents and retains an old fashioned sense of neighborhood. For the next two months we will be featuring one interview each week with a Willowbrook resident. The interviews were recorded by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; each voice is unique but the common thread is the pride residents have in their homes and community.
I moved here 47 years ago, and I started working at the library in 1981. A lot of changes have been made here. It used to be an open field out there. Now we have new homes. We have children coming into the library checking out books. They really enjoy it. And I try reward them when they read books. They tell me what they have read. And I have prizes for them that I bought with my own money.
I talk with the kids and they look forward to coming and meeting Mrs. Moore. If she’s not there they say, “I’ll come back later.”
Things like that really touch my heart. I love people and I like to do whatever I can for the community.
Community, family and God — that’s everything to me.
I’ve been a resident of Willowbrook for 49 years. I came to Los Angeles as a small child from Arkansas. As a result of our family being from a rural setting, we sought out a similar neighborhood. Willowbrook was known for being the country in the city, so to speak, having 350 foot by 50 foot lots. And so that’s where my family decided to purchase property. And our family has had property here ever since.
We have a rich history. The name Willowbrook came forth as a result of this land being a marsh land with these stream and willow trees that originally was part of a ranchero situation because of the fact that most of the people that purchased property here purchased that property because they wanted to raise livestock. They wanted to have the extended garden areas and a lot of space for them and their families.
I still reside in Willowbrook. I have no intention of living any other place. I still marvel at the fact that many of the families from Willowbrook to Mona and Imperial to El Segundo. They’ve been there for fifty plus years and they still maintain their property there. It’s a good feeling to know that the comraderie is still here. The sense of community is still here.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, April 26, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will lead a march along Western Avenue to bring attention to the sex trafficking of children. Other dignitaries and elected officials will join in as marchers make their way south on Western Avenue, one of the more active areas of child sex trafficking in Los Angeles County. Marchers will begin assembling at 9 a.m. on the intersection of Western Ave. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and then walk 1.5 miles to 52nd Street, sending a message that our children are not for sale. For more information and to register please go to www.empowermentcongress.com.
Eight-year-old Kelso Gaines proudly examined the plate of food before him. Then he ate every last bite of the freshly made spaghetti and meatballs—even though it was barely 9 a.m. – and declared he had never tasted a better red sauce than the one he had just made with garlic, basil and tomatoes
“It was the best because I was the chef and my classmates were too,” said Gaines, a second grader at the Barack Obama Charter School in South Los Angeles. “This tastes so good because of all the good stuff we put in it.”
That is exactly the kind of attitude that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver hopes to impart with his Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, a mobile kitchen with seven cooking stations that has traveled throughout California on a mission to teach children and their families how to prepare healthy, homemade meals. Oliver knows that if kids make it, they are more likely to eat it.
The Big Rig will be setting up shop at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center until April 25, taking in local school children, families, groups and anyone else interested in learning the basics of good cooking. Although Oliver is not on hand to cook, he was there in spirit.
The Big Rig Teaching Kitchen, which launched in South Los Angeles three years ago, will roll into other communities with the message that healthy eating is easy fun and empowering.
“When children make their own food, something magical happens,” said Scott Bottemer, operations manager for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation. “They eat what they prepare. Our mantra is educate, empower and inspire.”
Recent reports suggest that this generation of children will be the first in the history of the U.S. to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents—if eating habits and lifestyle choices don’t change.
The Big Rig’s recent stop at the new Outpatient Center, set to open this spring, was not by accident. As part of its mission, the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and Outpatient Center will form part of a wellness campus that emphasizes prevention and healthy lifestyles.
As he stirred some eggs and bread crumbs into the ground beef for the meatballs, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas told the crowd of students that healthy eating would keep them out of the hospital.
“Eating well keeps you feeling better,” he said. “Now when you go home, you can show your families how to cook.”
Indeed, stirring spoon in hand, seven-year-old Akeyla Tate wiggled with anticipation at the thought of the delectable spaghetti sauce and freshly made meatball recipe she would be showing off to her family.
“Now, I get to go home and say to my mom, “Can I fix something for you?” smiled Tate.
To sign up for classes please visit: http://bit.ly/1qri54k