Ridley-Thomas Pushes for Increased Affordable Housing at Crenshaw Crossing

Following a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the mixed-use development planned for Metro- and County-owned lots at Exposition and Crenshaw Blvd is on track to become affordable for 200 future low and moderate income households. At the junction where the Exposition and Crenshaw Lines meet, the site is anticipated to become a hub for public transit within the region. Watt Companies, in partnership with the West Angeles Community Development Corporation, has proposed developing 40,000 square feet of commercial retail, a community space, and a 25,000 square-foot grocery store on the ground floor with 400 units of housing on the upper floors.

Initially, 81 units were planned as affordable housing. However, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas pushed to expand the number of affordable housing units within the development to ensure that the project would be accessible to households at a variety of incomes, consistent with the character and desires of the surrounding community.

Rendering of Crenshaw Crossing. Source: Watt Companies

“We have but one opportunity to get the development on this catalytic corner where the Crenshaw and Exposition Lines meet right. And right means building a model transit-oriented community with high-quality housing that the community that calls the Crenshaw Corridor home can afford,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased to partner with Watt Companies and the West Angeles Community Development Corporation to help advance this community vision and ensure that 200 of the units will be affordable to a diverse array of low-income, moderate, and working-class individuals and families.”

There are approximately 7,100 people currently living in 2,700 households located within a half-mile of the station area, of which 53% are renter-occupied households. The median household income in the surrounding area is $39,000 per year.

“As a long-term stakeholder in this community, I look forward to the delivery of Crenshaw Crossing as it will bring much-needed new housing to the neighborhood at rents that are affordable to a wide range of people who live here,” said West Adams Neighborhood Council Land Use Chair Eva Marie Aubry.

As part of the development guidelines established by Metro at the initiation of this project, local residents such as Aubry noted the need for market rate housing as well as housing affordable to residents of the existing community, including seniors and working families. A development that incorporated housing accessible for people who have lived in the surrounding community was seen as a critical component of the development strategy.

“Various levels of rent will encourage a thriving commercial, residential and family atmosphere to the area,” said Lynetta McElroy, a leader of the Western Quadrant of Leimert Park and the president of Grayburn Avenue Block Club.

In addition to providing retail space for local small businesses to thrive, a new grocery store is anticipated to increase access to healthful foods in the surrounding area. Metro has estimates that the Crenshaw and Expo Lines will have a combined estimated ridership of over 45,000 persons a day, many of whom will have the opportunity to patronize the retail uses on the ground floor of the development.

As part of the motion, the Supervisor also allocated $2 million to support the construction of the publicly accessible transit plaza that will connect the development to the rail stations.“Watt Companies, together with our partner, the West Angeles Community Development Corporation, remains committed to delivering a project that serves everyone in the Crenshaw community,” said Watt Companies CEO Nadine Watt.

Rendering of Crenshaw Crossing. Source: Watt Companies

Stay Housed LA

This week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors launched Stay Housed L.A. County, a countywide initiative to provide legal assistance and support for tenants facing eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The launch included the release of StayHousedLA.org, a website connecting tenants with useful information about their rights, workshops for residents who need legal assistance, and other support. Stay Housed L.A. County is a partnership between the County of Los Angeles, legal aid groups and community-based organizations to provide emergency support to tenants in need.

Virtual Know Your Rights workshops will also be offered by participating community organizations to provide L.A. County residents with critical information about permanent and emergency tenant protections that can help tenants facing eviction or other challenges related to their rental housing. Community organizations will provide targeted ongoing support to help tenants with case management support.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented and devastating impacts on far too many hard-working individuals and families across the County of Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “During this time – the last thing Angelenos should be worried about is losing their home. That is why we are standing up Stay Housed L.A. County.”

“L.A. County, along with a number of cities, the state, and the federal government have all passed protections for tenants facing eviction due to the pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who authored the motion authorizing the creation of Stay Housed L.A. County. “These protections only work, however, when people know their rights and can take advantage of the legal protections. That’s the mission of Stay Housed L.A. County: To provide the information and legal representation people need to keep from getting kicked out of their homes while we weather this very challenging time.”

“Eviction can be an incredibly devastating event that families never recover from,” said Rafael Carbajal, Acting Director of Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “It’s so much greater than individuals losing their homes. Stay Housed L.A. County represents the County’s enhanced efforts to stem an eviction crisis and our commitment to working with community partners to help our tenants preserve healthy and stable households in L.A. County. I applaud the Board of Supervisors’ leadership in this ground-breaking initiative and hope to see our most vulnerable renters take advantage of this most critical public service.”

“Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles is a proud member of the Renter’s Right to Counsel – LA, and we believe that Stay Housed L.A. County is an excellent first step to getting eviction prevention and defense representation to all Angelenos who need it,” said LAFLA Executive Director Silvia Argueta. “LAFLA is pleased to be working with our partners including Bet Tzedek, Community Legal Aid SoCal, Housing Rights Center, Inner City Law Center, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Public Counsel, BASTA Universal!, and Eviction Defense Network, as well as tenant organizations.”

“In these unprecedented times we need unprecedented solutions,” said Shane Murphy Goldsmith, President and CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation. “Stay Housed L.A. County is a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between tenant organizers, legal service providers, and the County to keep tenants in their homes and off the streets. We are proud to partner with trusted, community-based organizations to reach and educate hundreds of thousands of tenants about their rights and, as well as connect them to legal services to help renters exercise their rights.”

Participating community-based organizations include: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Communities for a Better Environment, Coalition for Economic Survival, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Eastside LEADS, Inquilinos Unidos, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), Los Angeles Tenants Union, and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE).

According to a UCLA study, about 365,000 L.A. County residents are at risk of evictions due to the COVID-19 economic recession. The Board of Supervisors extended the Los Angeles County Temporary Eviction Moratorium through Sept. 30, which instituted temporary tenant protections related to COVID-19 countywide, excluding jurisdictions that have enacted their own protections.

Stay Housed L.A. County serves as an important resource for tenants who are facing housing uncertainty — including bilingual residents and those with undocumented status — about their rights and who need legal support navigating their interactions with their landlord and the legal system. When tenants have legal representation, a family’s chance of avoiding homelessness due to eviction increases by over 70 percent.

Stay Housed L.A. County is a partnership between community organizations, legal service providers, and the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs that offers L.A. County renters information about their rights and legal assistance to a limited number of tenants to help prevent evictions and keep people in their homes. For more information visit stayhousedla.org.

The Los Angeles County Rent Stabilization Program oversees and enforces the County’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance, supports the Rental Housing Oversight Commission, administers the County’s Expanded Eviction Defense Program, and oversees the County’s Eviction Moratorium.

Below is the full recording of the virtual press conference hosted September 14, 2020.

Unprecedented Housing Construction for the Homeless

Los Angeles County unveiled an interactive map that shows where it has built and where it is building new interim and supportive housing at an unprecedented rate to urgently address the crisis of homelessness. In the County’s Second District,  represented by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, 6,300 interim housing units and about 4,000 supportive housing beds have been built for people experiencing homelessness. Still in the pipeline are 1,200 interim housing units and 4,900 supportive housing beds.

Called the Los Angeles County Homelessness and Housing Map, the data-driven planning tool shows newly constructed projects, as well as sites in the planning and development phases. These are then overlaid with geographic data that tracks the homeless population countywide, based on the latest Homeless Count. This first iteration of the map does not currently show apartment units being rented by people who receive public rental assistance, which account for about half of the County’s overall supportive housing stock.

“This planning tool provides a powerful and transparent road map for how we should be moving forward to address this crisis,” said County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai, who presented the map to the Board of Supervisors. “It offers a unique visual presentation that shows the important efforts now underway but also demonstrates the hard work that lies ahead.”

The map draws on data from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s January 2019 Point in Time Homeless Count, which reported nearly 59,000 people experiencing homelessness countywide —more than 44,000 of them unsheltered.

The map makes it possible to view where the homeless population lives, then adds layers that show existing supportive and interim housing, as well as housing that is currently being developed. It visually demonstrates the gaps between where the need is and where projects currently exist or are in the pipeline. Additional data and refinements will be added to the map in the months ahead.

“We need to build more and turn up the ingenuity and innovation as we construct a comprehensive crisis response strategy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. This map helps us understand the work that remains in terms of prevention, intervention, and regulatory relief. We must work together to address homelessness and what drives it, so that anyone who calls Los Angeles home is able to live a life of dignity, worth and purpose.”



Athens Vistas Apartments Offers Homes for Seniors

Seventy-three seniors – half of whom used to live on the streets – now have a beautiful, dignified and affordable place to call home at Athens Vistas Apartments. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas cut the ceremonial ribbon during the grand opening of the supportive housing complex for homeless seniors and persons with limited means.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles County Development Authority celebrate the grand opening. Photo by Mayra Vasquez / Los Angeles County

“This is what individual transformation and community transformation can and should look like,” he said.  “We have to  build more projects like this, and quickly, because we have more than 4,000 seniors throughout the county who still need and deserve a place that they too can call home.”

“This is a slice of paradise in South Los Angeles,” said 69-year-old Wendy Brooks, one of Athens Vistas’ new tenants. “Help us continue to build more opportunities like this one.”

“I’m very, very happy I’m not in the streets like I was,” added Richard Vasquez, the last of 73 residents to join the Athens Vistas community. Just six months earlier, he had been sleeping in the park.

Wendy Brooks welcomes Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with open arms to her new Athens Vistas home. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Los Angeles County Development Authority, Los Angeles County Housing Development Corporation, and Veloce Partners, along with FPI Management, Inc., were key to building the project, which features 74 units, including one for the manager.

Athens Vistas has a central outdoor courtyard, container garden and edible landscaping, two community rooms, a laundry room, gym, designated exercise room, computer room, and social services. Amenities include energy efficient appliances, ceiling fans and lighting, dual flush toilets, and access to either a patio or balcony. The senior units all meet the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act standards and include Universal Design standards.

Richard Vasquez shows off his new Athens Vistas home to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Salvation Army is the lead service provider for the project and will provide an onsite Service Coordinator to link residents with essential services based on their individualized needs. They can also help with resumé creation, coordinating employment training, organizing community building activities, securing transportation, and developing educational programs. They can also connect residents to other service providers who can help with case management, mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and other assistance.

The YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, meanwhile, will provide residents with fun and interactive programs and activities to prevent social isolation and physical inactivity.

Supportive Housing Development Breaks Ground

Gramercy Place Apartments Groundbreaking on June 26, 2019. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined officials from the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA), Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, and other partners to celebrate the groundbreaking of Gramercy Place Apartments.

Gramercy Place Apartments will be located in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles. The 64-unit building is designed to appear as six separate buildings with one two-story wing, two three-story wings, and three four-story wings, all connected by an exterior courtyard walkway. The development will reserve 30 units for seniors with limited means, 20 units for seniors experiencing homelessness, and 12 units for households with a mental illness. To accommodate residents, a variety of amenities will be provided: an exercise room; community spaces – a lounge, a community room with a kitchen, and a roof terrace; bicycle parking; access to three laundry room facilities, as well as commercial space and underground parking.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stated, “We will be relentless in deploying a variety of tools to tackle our homeless and housing affordability crisis. But the backbone of our effort continues to be building new, affordable housing with support services – work that can’t happen without committed, strong partners. Partners such as Hollywood Community Housing share the County’s commitment to create quality affordable housing for today, which we can ensure stays affordable tomorrow.”

Gramercy Place Apartments is the product of collaborative work. The LACDA is providing a total of $5,000,000 in construction and permanent financing, which accounts for $2,000,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds and $3,000,000 in Mental Health Housing Program Funds through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Housing Works will be the lead supportive service provider. Funded primarily through Measure H, onsite supportive services will include intensive case management services, substance use treatment, life skills training, benefits education and advocacy, attendant care, representative payee services, end of life counseling, medication management services, transportation assistance, education with a focus on arts and life enrichment, and support to connect with various community-based services.

City Council President Herb Wesson said, “We are going to solve this housing and homelessness crisis project-by-project, bed-by-bed. Gramercy Place Apartments will bring another 60 much-needed affordable units to the heart of the 10th Council District. We cannot and will not rest until we get our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness off the streets and into stable housing.”

For more information on Gramercy Place Apartments, please call the information line at (866) 247-5973.