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Building Metro’s Future Workforce at Vermont & Manchester

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, behind the podium at center, celebrates with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns after a press conference announcing the creation of a Transportation School at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors authorized negotiating with the SEED Foundation to operate a one-of-a-kind charter boarding school focused on preparing youth for careers in the transportation industry in partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Transportation School will be the centerpiece of a mixed-use development envisioned on 4.2 acres at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Manchester Boulevard in South Los Angeles. The project will also include retail, affordable housing, a workforce training center, and other amenities.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with renderings of the Vermont Manchester project. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Transportation School will prepare local youth, particularly those within Los Angeles County’s safety net, to join the workforce of the future. It will not only provide a college preparatory education but also wraparound services, particularly for students involved with the County’s Departments of Children and Family Services and Probation, and students who have experienced homelessness.

“SEED has an impressive track record operating several successful public boarding schools,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Their high-quality curricula will prepare students not just for college, but for life.”

L-R: Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo, and Metro Transportation Career Academy Program Student Sumaiya Sabnam. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Established 20 years ago, the SEED Foundation is the nation’s first and only network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools designed for students who need — and deserve — a 24-hour learning environment to achieve their full potential.

“We are deeply committed to working with the neighborhood and to making sure that this school is a tremendous community asset,” said Anita Landecker, president & CEO of ExED, one of the SEED Foundation’s proposed partners for the Transportation School.

Noelle, an 18-year-old foster youth, told the Supervisors that a boarding school would have been a tremendous benefit to someone like her. Since entering the foster care system at age 11, she has had to attend 18 different schools and stay in 10 foster homes, nine group homes and three shelters. Noelle currently has a three-hour commute between her current group home and school.

L-R: Pastor Anthony Williams, Anita Landecker and Noelle testify before the Board of Supervisors. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I never had the option of going to a boarding school. I never had the option of making stable relationships with my teachers and peers at school, because of all the moving,” Noelle told the Board. “When you move a lot, you begin to just shut out people because you know you’re going to leave and you know you won’t be able to keep these connections. It was hard.”

With Measure M expected to generate enough funds to support 778,000 new transportation jobs over the next 40 years, and almost 40 percent of its employees eligible for retirement over the next two and a half years, Metro is sorely in need of well-trained workers. The Transportation School, serving youth from 9th through 12th grade, will be an entry point into Metro’s career Workforce Development Initiative.

Supporters of the Transportation Project. Photo by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

Metro CEO Phillip Washington stressed, however, that students will have a wide range of career opportunities upon graduation. “What we’re talking about here is a Transportation School, not just a transit school,” he testified before the Board. “We’re talking about ports and aviation, and getting young people in Los Angeles County ready for careers in the global transportation industry.”

Los Angeles County took possession of the Vermont and Manchester lot in May after a judge approved its use of eminent domain. By then, the lot had been vacant for much of the last 26 years, since sustaining damage in the 1992 Civil Unrest.

Rendering of proposed Vermont Manchester project by Killefer Flammang Architects.

Several members of the community blessed the vision for the Transportation School. Pastor Anthony Williams of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ said, “We need hope, we need opportunity, we need jobs, and this school is going to uplift the community.”

Robert Rubin, executive director of the Vermont Village Community Development Corporation, said that while he found it “surreal” to finally see activity on a lot that had been vacant for a quarter century, “it’s very refreshing to know that we have a great opportunity to succeed this time around.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro CEO Phillip Washington with Metro’s Transportation Career Academy Program interns participating in a “visioning exercise” at the future site of a Transportation School in South LA. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

Artistic Addition to MLK Medical Campus

All photos by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook marked yet another milestone in its expansion with the opening of a parking structure embellished with a stunning piece of art.

“We want to ensure that the remarkable staff at the MLK Campus has space to park in a timely manner, so that they can get to work to start the healing process for our community members,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who led the ribbon cutting ceremony for the East Parking Structure. “This is another achievement in transforming this campus into a center of excellence.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the artist, Rob Ley.

The 1,431-stall, six-story parking structure features a work of art called Endless Miles on its façade, as well as a reflection plaza and a walkway depicting the  campus’ historic timeline.

The artist, Rob Ley, said, ” I feel strongly that art is one of many aspects that help shape and reinforce the ever-evolving identity of a community. I hope the new artwork can serve as a gateway and perhaps even a landmark for both residents and those visiting this neighborhood for many years to come.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas thanked the artist for “capturing the personality, diversity, strength and heart of this community.”

Endless Miles was inspired by the many historical, cultural, economic, and infrastructure evolutions experienced here in the neighborhood of Willowbrook, as well as by the doctors and staff who work right here on the campus,” he added. “We all believe healthy people and healthy communities are fostered through art.”

The transformation of the MLK Campus started in October 2011. It now includes the MLK Community Hospital, MLK Outpatient Center, MLK Recuperative Care Center, and the Center for Public Health.

Construction is underway on the MLK Childcare Center that will serve staff at the campus. Later this year, workers will break ground on a 50,000 sq. ft. medical office building for physicians and other healthcare providers affiliated with MLK Community Hospital.

Meanwhile, plans are under way to build a comprehensive and cohesive behavioral health center at what used to be the MLK Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center.

Modernizing Los Angeles County’s Voting Infrastructure

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued the following statement on June 12, 2018 after the Board of Supervisors authorized contracts advancing the Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP) project. Launched in 2009, VSAP’s goal is to modernize Los Angeles County’s aging voting system by creating an improved hand-marked vote-by-mail ballot, an innovative interactive sample ballot, a robust tally system based on modern scalable technologies, and a new ballot marking device.

“The challenges we experienced during the Statewide Direct Primary Election are symptomatic of an aging voting infrastructure that I believe can and will be corrected.

“On June 5, errors in the voter roster caused the County to activate the fail-safe mechanism that is known as the provisional ballot. While this guarantees every eligible voter their constitutional right to cast a ballot that will, in fact, be counted, it is well understood that people generally do not like how it feels to deal with a provisional ballot. It makes one feel as though voting is provisional rather than constitutional, and the experience raises a degree of angst that is certainly understandable.

“It is fair to say that the current voting infrastructure is ill-equipped to provide the kind of voting experience that inspires the level of confidence that we know is necessary. This Board and the staff at the County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk want every single eligible voter – some 5 million in the County of Los Angeles – to know that we mean business in securing and protecting the constitutional right to vote. Many people fought, bled and died so that we can enjoy this right, and the County of Los Angeles has an obligation to ensure it is fully appreciated.

“Since 2009, the County has invested significant efforts to dissect and redesign a voting experience sensitive to and, you might even say, hyper-focused on, the voter’s needs and requirements in compliance with the Voting Rights Act. This is not a negotiable set of circumstances. It is what we can and must do.

“I think it is appropriate that we continue the effort to create voting infrastructure that lets people vote on more than one day and at any voting center, vote on fully accessible voting equipment, vote on the same day they register, and vote on better vote-by-mail ballots.

“Part of that work is what’s being advanced today. The culmination of these efforts should raise the level of confidence in our voting infrastructure and ensure that the experience we had this past week won’t repeat itself.”

Homeowners Can Help in the Fight Against Homelessness

The Board of Supervisors is making it easier for homeowners to build or convert existing spaces into Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as “backyard houses” or “granny flats.” The goal: to help increase the region’s seriously depleted housing stock though the development of safe and livable low-cost housing options.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas underscored the importance of ADUs in the fight against homelessness. “Addressing a shortage of more than 550,000 affordable units across Los Angeles County will require the expedient deployment of different types of housing, and ADUs are a great way for single family properties to be part of the solution,” he said. “It puts rent income into homeowners’ pockets, without altering the character of their neighborhoods.”

He recently hosted workshops at the Exposition Park Constituent Service and Training Center for homeowners curious about building, fixing up or legalizing a rental on their property. Click on the links below to learn more.

Seeking to catalyze the community of architects, designers, planners and creative strategists to re-imagine the potential of ADUs, the County’s Art Commission launched Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU in partnership with the County’s Homeless Initiative, Department of Regional Planning and Community, and Development Commission.

In January 2018, it announced the winners of an ADU design competition. Participants included ranged from students to established practitioners, who assembled a tangible index of possibilities that can help policymakers, architects and homeowners implement ADUs in their communities.


Supportive Housing Takes Center Stage at Summit

CSH’s Deborah De Santis, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and United Way’s Elise Buik. Photo by Bryan Chan

More than 1,000 people gathered at the nation’s only summit on supportive housing and heard Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti talk about Los Angeles’ passage of ballot initiatives that will collectively raise an unprecedented $5 billion over a decade to address homelessness.

Since voters approved Measure H and Proposition HHH in late 2016 and early 2017, Los Angeles has become an epicenter of supportive housing activity. This prompted the Corporation for Supportive Housing to select Los Angeles as the host of its 2018 summit, which drew attendees from across the US, as well as Canada and New Zealand. The summit included several interactive sessions designed to encourage dialogue and an exchange of ideas.

During the plenary session, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Garcetti, and United Way CEO Elise Buik participated in a panel entitled Leveraging Local Political Will to Create Supportive Housing.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We simply seek to scale up our consciousness, our compassion, and our capacity to address homelessness.”

Buik said, “I don’t want to see anyone suffer on our streets. We are creating a movement of people who care deeply about this issue and are part of the solution.” Mayor Garcetti added, “We are here to end homelessness.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas championed Measure H, a quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax that seeks to end homelessness for 45,000 people in the first five years, and prevent homelessness for another 30,000 people. Mayor Garcetti championed Proposition HHH, a Los Angeles City bond measure that will finance the construction of 8,00 to 10,000 supportive housing units for the chronically homeless. United Way played a crucial role in the campaign to pass both ballot initiatives.

According to the 2018 Homeless Count, the number of people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County has fallen for the first time in four years to 53,195 — a three percent decline.