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LA County Offers to Step In to Help
Customers of Troubled Water District

Local regulators unanimously voted to initiate the dissolution of the mismanaged Sativa Water District. The vote came just one day after Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn sent a letter to the State Water Board proposing that LA County be appointed as interim administrator of the water district until a permanent agency can be identified. The Local Agency Formation Commission for the County of Los Angeles (LAFCO), consistent with the Supervisors’ letter, also urged the State to appoint and provide financial support to the County of Los Angeles, in order for them to oversee the District. The County of Los Angeles has also offered to lead a process to identify an alternative, competent long-term water provider.

Hundreds of Sativa customers in unincorporated Willowbrook and Compton have reported brown water running through their taps. Unable to provide proper maintenance of its 70-year-old pipes, Sativa has been the subject of many such complaints over the years, as well as allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.

In the letter, the Supervisors also urged the California State Water Resources Board to empower and fund the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to begin “creating stability in Sativa’s immediate administrative functions” and “facilitating a long-term alternative service provider for this service territory.”

Residents line up for bottled water at Sagrado Corazon Church in Compton.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “For too long, government – at all levels – has allowed Sativa to operate without sufficient oversight. The County is willing to step up to facilitate the changes that are necessary to promote the public health and wellbeing of Sativa customers. In this time of unprecedented surpluses in its budget, we hope the State will be our partner by providing the financial resources needed to facilitate our efforts.”

“The County is prepared to step in to take control of this long-mismanaged water district,” said Supervisor Hahn, a member of LAFCO, who voted in favor the dissolution. “The leadership of Sativa has proven itself to be incapable and untrustworthy and as LAFCO moves forward to dissolve this district, I am hopeful that the County can provide some needed supervision and stability.”

When Sativa customers first expressed alarm about the brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, take immediate steps to prevent any serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s infrastructure issues. At his direction, the County distributed approximately 20,000 gallons of bottled water to residents of unincorporated Willowbrook and Compton.

In June, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called on the California State Water Resources Control Board to appoint an interim administrator to exercise “vigorous oversight” of Sativa. Shortly after, he filed a motion to support SB1577 by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which called for requiring the state to appoint an overseer for Sativa.

Taking the Lead on Bioscience

Rendering of 350,000-sq. ft. Bioscience Tech Park envisioned on LA County’s Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus.

Los Angeles County appointed two executives to jumpstart the local bioscience industry, with the ultimate goal of creating thousands of jobs and stimulating the regional economy.


Dr. Brad Spellberg

LAC+USC Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Spellberg has been named the County’s medical director for bioscience. As part of his new role, Spellberg will help establish biotech parks throughout the county, in partnership with public and private entities, the academe and nonprofits.

Douglas Baron, a senior member of the County Chief Executive Office, has been named the County’s business development director for bioscience. He will lead efforts to identify, attract, grow and retain businesses operating in the bioscience sector.

“Brad and Doug have the vision and practical know-how to advance our goal of supporting new enterprises and local job growth by tapping our region’s world-class research,” said the County’s Chief Executive Officer, Sachi Hamai, who announced the appointments.


Douglas Baron

Spellberg and Baron will work to create an organization that would serve as an entrepreneurial hub for government, research institutions and the private sector. This new organization would bring the county’s diverse bioscience resources together collaboratively to accelerate startup activity and amplify economic opportunity throughout the region.

“This approach will foster a vibrant business ecosystem that can help us realize the bioscience industry’s full potential as an economic engine,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has championed the creation of a 15-acre biotech park on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus, funded a bioscience incubator at LA BioMed, and sought increased investments in bioscience startups and workforce development.

“In Los Angeles County, the bioscience and life science industry generates more than $40 billion in economic activity annually and supports 70,000 direct jobs as well as 160,000 indirect jobs while having the potential to create even more—at all skill levels,” he added.

Bioscience creates jobs for scientists and entrepreneurs, as well as young and mid-skilled workers. The industry has proven resilient even in the face of economic downturns and was the only sector that continued to grow during the Great Recession.

With a $7.6-billion budget dedicated to health services, the County is uniquely positioned to help startups that are developing new devices, processes and therapies to improve health and quality of life. The County will draw on extensive research it has commissioned to identify where investments will make the greatest impact, including:

  • Providing capital funding for local bioscience incubators;
  • Developing a biotech park on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Campus;
  • Establishing a bioscience investment fund for early-stage startups in Los Angeles County; and
  • Partnering with community colleges and industry leaders to implement life sciences apprenticeship programs.

“Like many growing fields in which Los Angeles County is at the forefront, bioscience creates jobs and saves lives,” said Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “With bioscience a cornerstone of the LAC+USC ‘Healthy Village,’ we are providing our communities with access to world-class integrated health delivery. Brad and Doug’s efforts will support and expand our work to provide jobs and health care to all, and I am excited to celebrate their future successes.”

“With world-renowned tech giants including Caltech, pioneering biotech companies and visionary start-ups, Los Angeles County is leading the nation in innovation, research and development,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger.  “The county’s efforts to partner with research institutions and the private sector will result in greater economic growth, job creation and collateral success.”

Rendering of LA BioMed at LA County’s Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus

Vermont/Manchester Hosts First Neighborhood Event

Participant reviewing development plan for Vermont Manchester. All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

More than 200 people braved the heat wave over the weekend and ventured to the corner of Vermont and Manchester for an afternoon of family-friendly fun and refreshments, as well as a chance to share their vision for a multimillion-dollar development at the site, which had been vacant for more than a quarter century.

Members of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority team and Vermont Manchester stakeholders.

Sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the neighborhood event was facilitated in partnership with the Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN). Having worked together to take control of the long-vacant property, the Supervisor, Councilman and Metro joined forces to meet residents, hear their ideas for the upcoming development, and celebrate what has been lightning-fast progress for the long-empty corner.

At the end of April, the courts granted the County control of the site. Soon after, the Supervisor had the burned-out building, left there since 1992, demolished. Weed abatement and removal came next, and Saturday’s community event was only the first of several planned in coming months to engage the neighborhood on immediate opportunities to activate the site, and their feedback on the ultimate design and amenities for the development.

Malcolm Harris greets interested stakeholder.

“This project is about economic development — the kind of sustainable, ongoing investment this community has long deserved,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We want to make sure that residents and other stakeholders have a chance to be a part of history in the making. We want to collectively design and construct a project that uplifts this community.”

“The fact that more than 200 people braved 100-degree heat to tell us their aspirations for the Vermont and Manchester site shows the depth of the community’s commitment to this project,” KDI Project Manager Naria Kiani said. “Going forward, we will host a series of engagement activities and events to provide additional opportunities for residents to be heard.”

Slated for the 4.2-acre site are: 180 affordable apartments, California’s first urban public boarding school, a transit careers training center, open space and 50,000 square foot of retail space. The housing will significantly bolster the area’s supply of available units, and the school already is poised to become a one-of-a-kind pipeline for graduates seeking lucrative careers in the transportation field. Many other elements, however, remain to be decided.

Throughout the four-hour event, everyone was invited to stop by a stand with colored blocks — green for restaurants, yellow for grocery stories, red for job training — to provide feedback on their priority for retail shops in the development. Most people chose a small grocery store and a job training center.

Visitors were also asked to weigh on the proposed name and design of the development, as well as provide general feedback regarding what features were priorities for them to have as part of the project.

Despite the brilliant summer sun, there was a festive mood under the shaded canopies that protected people from the sun’s glare. People cooled off with copious amounts of ice water and cups of free ice cream, and enjoyed hot dogs and french fries provided by Earle’s (formerly Earlez Grille).

“In the last month, I’ve seen more action on this site than I have since I was a child,” said Moises Rosales, president of the Southeast Neighborhood Association. “It’s progress for the community and powerful for our children to see this. I’m hoping it’s going to be a catalyst for all of Vermont,” he added, waving a hand toward the avenue.

Richard Benbow, retired chief operating officer of the Los Angeles City Community Redevelopment Agency, said, “We are celebrating this tremendous project – it’s very much needed and represents an amazing step in the recovery of this community. This has been a long time coming.”

(Left to Right) Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Larry Broussard, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Time and again, community members returned to the themes of economic recovery, job training and community rebirth.

“What I see here is hope. It will be a godsend,” said Pastor Anthony Williams, of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Christ located a few blocks south of the site. In particular, the presence of a school oriented toward transportation careers will, he believes, catalyze job training and economic investment for the community.

Harris-Dawson, former executive director of the nearby Community Coalition, spoke to both the past and the future, noting the new project ends more than two decades of “nullification, excuses and disappointments” — something that gives everyone reason to celebrate.

Rendering of proposed Vermont Manchester project.

New Affordable Apartments To Enhance Communities

Rendering of Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project, courtesy of AMCAL.

Los Angeles County has received a $30 million state grant to help build about 320 new affordable apartments in unincorporated areas, as well as a $10 million state grant to fund road improvements that will connect those new housing developments to mass transit and nearby community amenities.

A combined $20 million of the state grant to build affordable apartments was allocated to AMCAL’s Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project and LINC Housing’s Willowbrook II, both conveniently located near Metro train stations and parks in the Second District.

“These projects are a great example of public-private partnerships that seamlessly integrate high-quality affordable apartments with transportation and recreational amenities,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

Located adjacent to the Florence Blue Line Station, AMCAL’s Florence Neighborhood Mobility Project will have 109 affordable apartments, half of them for individuals and families at risk of homelessness.

It will also include a County-operated workforce development center on the first floor. An enhanced walking path will connect the project to the nearby Franklin D. Roosevelt Park.

LINC Housing’s Willowbrook II will include 100 affordable apartments and a daycare center. Located across the street from the Rosa Parks Blue and Green Line stations, the project will also feature upgrades to bicycle routes and improvements to nearby Mona Park.

“As numerous studies have shown, integrating housing and health care leads to better health outcomes, greater housing stability, and a significant reduction in the use of County resources,” LINC Housing’s chief operating officer, Suny Lay Chang, said. “We are extremely grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their continued and sustained support in addressing the housing shortage in Los Angeles County, particularly for our most vulnerable populations.”

Rendering of Willowbrook II courtesy of LINC Housing.


LA County Renews Focus on the Arts

LA County Arts Commission’s Annual Arts Summit for students participating in the LA County Arts Internships Program. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors.

Los Angeles County is reaping the rewards of a renewed focus on the arts.

Community Chandelier at Stoneview Nature Center. Photo by Fallen Fruit.

Two of the County’s civic art projects in the Second District have been recognized by the Americans for the Arts as outstanding public art projects created in 2017. Meanwhile, the County’s Arts Internship Program is providing 179 university and community college students with meaningful experience in nonprofit arts organizations this summer – its largest class ever.

“It’s important that we create an environment that fosters creativity because this offers a range of benefits for individuals and communities, besides being an economic powerhouse,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, lead author of a recent motion to create the County’s first ever Department of the Arts, as well as another motion nearly a decade ago that saved the Arts Internship Program from elimination during an economic downturn.

The latest Otis Report on the Creative Economy estimated the County’s creative economy generated $178 billion in economic output in 2016, directly employed more than a tenth of all private sector workers countywide, and supported close to a fifth of all jobs countywide.

Taiko Drummers perform at the Japanese American National Museum during the LA County Arts Commission’s Annual Arts Summit. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors.

“Arts and culture in Los Angeles County are vibrant and growing at a phenomenal pace,” said Kristin Sakoda, executive director of the County’s Arts Commission, whose profile will be raised by the creation of the Department of the Arts. She committed to further “increasing access to opportunity in the arts and expanding career pathways into the creative sector” through programs such as the Arts Internship Program.

This summer’s 179 interns – a quarter of them from community colleges – will participate in paid internships at 127 nonprofit performing, presenting and literary arts organizations. Since its inception, more than 2,000 young people have completed the internships.

Sakoda noted the County’s deep pool of talent has not gone unnoticed. Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education, has recognized civic art projects in the County four years in a row through the Public Art Network Year in Review program.

Original Watercolor painting by Sandy Rodriguez for the Martin Luther King Junior, Recuperative Care Center Project. Photo by Audrey Chan.

This year’s honorees include the Artist-in-Residence project at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recuperative Care Center (MLK RCC) in Willowbrook. Visual artist Sandy Rodriguez enabled patients and staff to create artwork to adorn the walls of the MLK RCC, and developed a program to help support homeless patients’ transition into housing. “This project demonstrates ways in which creativity can be part of the healing process,” she said.

Civic artwork at the Stoneview Nature Center. Photo courtesy of Fallen Fruit.

Also among the honorees was the civic artwork at the Stoneview Nature Center in Culver City. David Burns and Austin Young, who constitute the artist group, Fallen Fruit, held community meetings and then created artwork in the lobby that includes quotations from local residents, personal photos, family portraits and historic images. They also created a garden of “living sculptures” that feature different species of fruit trees and California native plants.