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Undesign the Redline

Undesign the Redline exhibit kickoff reception. Left to Right: Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Undesign the Redline Consultant Mary Lee, Designing the WE Co-Founder Braden Cooks, and Enterprise Community Partners VP Jacqueline Waggoner. Photo by Leroy Hamilton courtesy of Enterprise Community Partners

A new interactive exhibit traces the history of housing discrimination across Los Angeles and the United States.  Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise), Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC), Designing the WE and Wells Fargo to present Undesign the Redline.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas shares lessons learned from Undesign the Redline. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“It is incumbent upon us all to approach the errors of our past with a lens toward a brighter future,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This exhibit ‎helps us imagine what our community can look like. It motivates us to pursue bold change to implement our collective vision.”

Created by social impact firm Designing the WE in partnership with Enterprise, the interactive exhibit uses narratives, maps and other documents to trace how government policy, known as “redlining,” created racial segregation and disinvestment in communities from the 1930s to present-day. The exhibit combines historical artifacts, storytelling, photographs and activities to illustrate redlining’s roots and lasting repercussions.

Redlining has limited people from housing opportunities and their associated benefits, including the choice of where to live, whether to rent or own, and wealth generated by homeownership. Today, the growing threat of displacement caused by increasing housing instability is impacting these same neighborhoods.

Dance to kickoff the new exhibit.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Undesign the Redline puts into perspective the local community landscape and the history of Los Angeles, including the stories of:

• The history of Watts as a visionary plan as a “free city” of blacks and other disenfranchised groups;
• Bunker Hill Redevelopment and urban renewal;
• Limited Diversity in Lakewood;
• The Federation of the High Cost of Living, which was formed to explore how rental costs could be lowered.

“Undesign the Redline sheds light on how the explicitly discriminatory housing practices of redlining continues to influence the design and growth patterns of Los Angeles today. But learning this history inspires us to change that legacy and encourages us to transform our communities,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, VP and Southern California market leader, Enterprise.

The exhibit is now on display at LATTC’s Magnolia Hall until March 31, 2019.

The Gateway at Willowbrook

Ribbon Cutting for the Gateway at Willowbrook, an affordable living development. All photos by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

The Gateway at Willowbrook: Before and After

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated the grand opening of the Gateway at Willowbrook, an affordable living development with 105 apartments for seniors, including 22 apartments for seniors who had been homeless.

It is the County of Los Angeles’ first mixed-use development featuring apartments built on top of a public library

“The Gateway at Willowbrook marked the first time that Los Angeles County partnered with the private sector to provide not only housing but also a library,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This is the epitome of what high-quality and affordable development and services can and should look like.”

Developed by Thomas Safran & Associates, the development features one and two-bedroom apartments designed to accommodate seniors ages 62 and older. Each apartment features wall-to-wall carpeting, vinyl flooring and a modern kitchen, complete with appliances.

The exterior facade of the new Gateway at Willowbrook.

The property is beautifully landscaped with an outdoor barbecue area and seating. There is also a spacious community room, computer room, fitness center, laundry facilities, and ]secured entry with intercom. Community movie nights, arts and crafts, bingo, monthly birthday parties, and more are provided by the onsite management staff.

As an added bonus, the newly built 8,0000-square foot Willowbrook Los Angeles County Public Library is located on the ground floor of the building. Within walking distance are the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus and the Willowbrook-Rosa Parks Station.

“This project truly serves as a new gateway into the neighborhood of Willowbrook, providing much needed affordable housing – and public gathering space – supporting the entire community,” Andrew Gross, President of Thomas Safran & Associates, said.


Black History Month: Rev. Dr. Alexander Hamilton

In celebration of Black History Month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas presented a scroll to the Reverend Dr. Alexander Hamilton, who arranged the late Aretha Franklin’s Grammy-Award winning gospel album Amazing Grace, among many other stellar musical achievements.

Rev. Dr. Alexander Hamilton with, L-R, Lady Alicia Hamilton, Supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Hilda Solis and Alan Elliott. All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

“I commend you for a long-lasting and outstanding career in the music industry, and for all that you have done and continue to do in the lives of musical artists all over the world,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

In accepting the honor, Dr. Hamilton said, “As long as God gives me a finger to play with and a mind to think with, he’s got me and I’ll be making His music as much as I can.” He was joined by his wife, Lady Alicia Hamilton, as well as several friends and choir members. He said he has made a lifetime of conducting God’s music through them.

Dr. Hamilton has played, conducted and arranged scores for numerous music icons, including Lola Falana, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Lou Rawls, The Staple Singers, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Natalie Cole, Etta James, James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar and Mahalia Jackson. He also co-wrote the gospel hit He’s A Miracle Worker with Edie Kendrix.

On the big screen, Dr.  Hamilton can be seen directing the choir in Amazing Grace, which documented the recording of the Queen of Soul’s 1972 platinum selling album. The film’s producer, Alan Elliott, said of Dr. Hamilton: “His work is a monument to himself, to God, to the community of Los Angeles, and to the world.”

On February 7-18, Amazing Grace will kick off the 27th Annual Pan African Film Festival at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas encouraged everyone to see it, saying, “It is a musical experience that takes you to a different level.”

Dr. Hamilton began his career at the tender age of 9 years old.  As a child, he was a student of the late Hall Johnson, a well-known musical writer and arranger.

For 45 years, Dr. Hamilton served as the director of The Voices of Inspiration community choir, The New Generation Singers, and the Immanuel Gospel Community Choir. Dr. Hamilton and The Voices of Inspiration Choir have recorded several albums, including Glory, Hallelujah!, God Can, and Praise Him Till. Under his direction, The New Generation Singers recorded and released an album entitled Safe in God’s Love.

Currently, Dr. Hamilton is the Pastor of Philadelphia Church Fellowship of Los Angeles.

Alarm Raised Over Pepper Spray Use in Juvenile Facilities

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Chair Janice Hahn, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted its first ever investigation into the Probation Department and raised alarm over excessive and improper use of pepper spray at juvenile halls and camps.

After hearing the OIG’s report, the Board of Supervisors ordered a special hearing on the issue to ensure solutions are vetted by the community and other stakeholders. The Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) will hold the special hearing at a date still to be determined. Created by the Board last year, the PRIT is primarily tasked with plotting a comprehensive roadmap for reforming the Probation Department, as well as developing the structure of an independent civilian Probation Oversight Commission.

The Board will consider taking additional action on February 19th, including calling for a plan to implement the OIG’s recommendations, as well as an assessment of mental health needs in juvenile halls and camps to guide approaches for preventing or minimizing use of force.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“It’s high time we come to grips with this – no more excuses,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Several findings of the investigation point to a punitive culture lacking in accountability. Our responsibility is to protect the basic human rights of the youth in our care – not further traumatize them. The Probation Department must return to its mandate of rehabilitation to ensure the safety of both youth and staff.”

The OIG report included a recommendation that Los Angeles County “explore the feasibility, with significant input from all stakeholders, of restricting or eliminating the use of pepper spray in Probation Department juvenile facilities.” This after its investigation found pepper spray appears to be a commonly used tool by some staff to obtain compliance, in violation of policy.

Representatives of the Office of Inspector General presenting their findings to the Board of Supervisors. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

The OIG found instances where pepper spray was excessive and not justified, often because it was used as the first – rather than last – tool for gaining control. For example, in one incident, a youth was sprayed in the face, without physical provocation, for not following verbal commands to enter a cell. The OIG also found instances where pepper spray was used on vulnerable populations, including asthmatic youth, who can suffer serious respiratory effects, as well as youth on psychotropic medication.

The investigation also uncovered improper decontamination procedures. In a severe instance, youth had no choice but to use toilet water to remove the pepper spray. OIG found staff reports about these troubling incidents were incomplete and sometimes blatantly misleading, seriously inhibiting oversight.

Public Defender Ricardo Garcia. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“In no uncertain terms, that is abuse of these children,” said Public Defender Ricardo Garcia, whose attorneys represent hundreds of youth in juvenile halls, the majority of whom are being held pre-adjudication. “These are children, for all intents and purposes, who are still presumed innocent,” he clarified. “These are individuals who have not been charged, who have not been convicted of a crime.”

Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Chief Probation Officer Terri McDonald acknowledged some Probation officers used pepper spray in ways that were “grossly outside of policy or expectations,” but said this did not represent the vast majority of the department’s staff.

Still, Chief McDonald told the Board, “I am as concerned about the data and reporting of force within the Probation Department as I was when I took over the Sheriff’s Department” during the height of the jail violence controversy. She added, “We owe it to our youth, to our staff, to our families, to our communities to do better.”

Creative Economy Takes Center Stage

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas discusses the release of the 2019 Otis College Report on the Creative Economy. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The newly released 2019 Otis Report on the Creative Economy demonstrates the tremendous impact and influence that the creative sector has on the economies of both California and the Greater Los Angeles region, and encourages investment in arts education, economic development, and cultural planning.

The Otis College of Art and Design partnered with Beacon Economics for the first time to generate the report, and obtained support from the California Arts Council on its statewide findings.

“Working for the first time with Beacon Economics, in this eleventh year of the report, we take advantage of much learning that has evolved over the last decade,” said Otis College President Bruce W. Ferguson. “Sectors have been consolidated, race and gender are examined for the first time, and more attention has been placed on providing a richer context.

“Against the backdrop of these innovations stands the underlying truth that this report helps illuminate: Los Angeles and California are home to rich and vibrant creative communities with robust and growing economies that deserve to be taken seriously in their own right,” he added. “It is critical that leaders from public, private, and non-profit sectors work together to support this type of examination in order for the larger creative economy to continue to flourish and thrive.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who helped sponsor the research, said, “This report is an important and unique contribution that illustrates and quantifies what we’ve known to be instinctively true—an investment in our creative economy is a meaningful investment in the growing future of this region, one that’s now reached a magnitude of more than $207 billion countywide and more than $600 billion statewide. The Board of Supervisors for the County of Los Angeles will continue to do all that we can to extend our region’s cultural and creative influence as a hub for the creative economy.”

Significant findings include:

  • In total, the direct employment generated by creative industries account for around 11% of total employment in Los Angeles County, and statewide in California, creative industries were responsible for 15% of total employment overall, in terms of direct and indirect employment;
  • This impressive figure means Los Angeles County is the largest hub by employment for the creative industries in the U.S., with 10% more creative workers employed in the County than the next largest center for the creative industries in the country, New York City;
  • On average, a creative industry job is higher than the county-wide average. (Creative: $103,000 versus non-creative average: $61,000);
  • The Fashion sector in Los Angeles County employs around 24% more workers than its East Coast counterpart in New York City;
  • There has been a very robust increase in employment in the field of Architecture and Related Services & Fine Arts and Performing Arts – increasing by 32%, demonstrating the health of arts and design in Los Angeles as a key growth area in the economy.