Connecting Southwest LA

Los Angeles Southwest College in West Athens – Westmont

Construction of Athens Vistas – Affordable Housing Project

In the heart of the West Athens-Westmont neighborhood, the County of Los Angeles will implement an audacious plan called Connect Southwest LA to develop the community between Los Angeles Southwest College and Metro’s Green Line Vermont/Athens Station. Unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, this highly anticipated plan creates a vision to improve access to transit, connect the communities within the West Athens-Westmont corridor to Southwest Community College, identify locations to potentially build more than 1,000 additional multi-family housing units, increase commercial space for more retail and jobs, as well as create a healthier, safer environment for walking and biking.

Grand Reopening of Casa Honduras Restaurant – Celebrating Facade Improvements

“This plan lays the footprint for a brighter future for the West Athens-Westmont community,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It is an exciting and thoughtful plan that is filled with opportunities to create more affordable housing sites, improve mobility connections, and foster a thriving academic environment at Los Angeles Southwest College. We are uplifting the assets of the community to benefits all who live, work, study, play and pray here. ”

Connect Southwest LA is the product of a community seeing change on the horizon and proactively embracing the opportunity to direct how it will affect them”, said regional planner Leon D. Freeman, AICP.  “In doing so, the West Athens-Westmont community showed they could preserve their best assets while still providing 1.7 million sq. ft. for new businesses as well as 1,000 new homes. These new businesses will provide economic opportunities and community benefits to the students of Los Angeles Southwest College and the local residents that they will serve.”

Metro Vermont/Athens Green Line Station Platform

The Connect Southwest LA plan is part of a larger vision to create a town center around Southwest College, and it combines the most important elements of the best Transit Oriented Developments.  It highlights the multiple forms of public transit that already serve the area, such as Metro’s Green Line Vermont/Athens Station which currently connects to buses, as well as the Link, which provides shuttle service to the local schools, parks, and community centers for just 25 cents a ride. Connect Southwest LA will also ensure that new development complements the area and supports a healthier and safer environment for walking and biking. Additionally, it ensures the neighborhoods’ historically significant single family residential areas, busy commercial corridors, and multi-family housing are within close range of job centers, amenities and attractions in the region.

“We are appreciative that the boundaries of this Plan were expanded to  incorporate Southwest College, what residents view as one of the major epicenters of this community,” said Henry Porter from the Southwest Community Association. “This effort will provide opportunities for better circulation and transportation access for students and community members alike, which in turn leads to a better quality of life for us all.”

Metro Approves Funding for Destination Crenshaw

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson (center) with supporters after the Metro Board votes to grant $15 million to fund Destination Crenshaw. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (Metro) Board unanimously voted to approve $15 million in funding to support construction for Destination Crenshaw.

At 1.3 miles long, Destination Crenshaw will celebrate South Los Angeles, enhancing each Metro-owned property along the Crenshaw corridor. The outdoor museum intends to combat gentrification and the removal of cultural history while promoting economic development and pride for the surrounding community along the Crenshaw Corridor. Destination Crenshaw aims to ensure economic vitality for present and future residents of the community.

The action to award the Destination Crenshaw project funds came in response to a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, co-authored by Metro Directors Eric Garcetti, James Butts, Sheila Kuehl and Jacqueline Dupont-Walker asking Metro to explore a potential partnership and financial investment in the project.

“With Destination Crenshaw, Metro can be a partner in building an iconic transit-oriented community that celebrates South LA’s rich cultural heritage,” Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s a strategic investment that shows Metro is not only intent on improving mobility, boosting transit ridership, and spurring the local economy, but also about reinvigorating the communities it serves.”

“Destination Crenshaw is an opportunity to reimagine what development looks like in our communities”, said LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson. “From the art and design to the intention behind the community outreach and hiring process, this project will help transform a community. Destination Crenshaw is a testament to Metro’s commitment to community driven efforts and what can be accomplished through true public private partnerships. We hope that Destination Crenshaw will inspire more projects that support the cultural heritage and economic vitality of neighborhoods typically negatively affected by investments in transportation.”

Destination Crenshaw will run alongside Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project (C/LAX), a new 8.5-mile light rail line currently under construction between the existing Metro Expo Line at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards in Los Angeles and LAX. C/LAX is one of 12 transit projects funded by Measure R, with a projected opening in 2020. A total of $2.058 billion in funds have been allocated for the C/LAX project and the vote secures $15 million to support construction of Sankofa Park, just south of Leimert Park, which is anticipated to be the largest of ten platforms and pocket parks included in the Destination Crenshaw project.

Sankofa Park – a 49,000 square foot outdoor space walking distance from the new Leimert Park station – was conceived as an amphitheater for performances, festivals, and community gatherings. The gathering space and pedestrian-friendly enhancements further Metro’s goal of transit-supportive projects that help make streets safer for active modes of transportation and encourage more healthy activities such as walking and biking.

Tapping Counties’ Potential for Economic Development

Determined to unlock the potential of counties nationwide to facilitate sustainable business expansion and job creation in the bioscience industry, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a “County Talk” on economic development at this year’s National Association of Counties Conference and Exposition (NACo).

Entitled “Retooling for Job Creation: Case Study on the Bioscience Sector,” the presentation  featured Los Angeles County Economic Development Manager Julia Orozco, LA County Chief Medical Officer and Bioscience Medical Director Brad Spellberg, and LA BioMed Vice President of Business Development and Technology Transfer Keith Hoffman.

In his opening remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “Right now, for Los Angeles County, the future is in bioscience. In its nascent form, it generates nearly $40 billion in economic activity and supports almost 70,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs.”

The common thread throughout the day’s discussion was LA County’s asset-based approach: taking inventory of assets – whether real estate, intellectual property, or geography – and leveraging them for economic development and strong regional job growth.

“The Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, and Mark Ridley-Thomas in particular, have conceived of and implemented numerous programs that are having a significant impact on the bioscience sector in our County,” said Dr. Hoffman of LABioMed, a groundbreaking research facility on the campus of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

“These initiatives are directly paving the way for not only more high quality jobs in the County, but they are also directly setting up Los Angeles to take a key leadership position in global bioscience,” Dr. Hoffman added. “While  these efforts are focused on bioscience, I see them as a model for other counties to implement for their own industry strengths.”

The LA County region is currently home to more than 2,600 bio and life science companies. LA County has put forth a number of initiatives to support its bioscience industry to grow into a global powerhouse. This includes the creation of BioLA, a nonprofit that will serve as a coordinating hub for bioscience throughout the region; the creation of a bioscience incubator at LA BioMed; and a $15-million investment to support burgeoning startups in the region.

Founded in 1935, NACo represents 3,069 county governments, bringing together county officials to advocate with a collective voice on national policy.  This year’s NaCo conference and exposition was held in Clark County, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Supervisors Approve Ordinance Against Housing Discrimination

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with tenants at 127th Street Apartments and El Segundo Boulevard Apartments. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that would ban landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants who receive government-issued rental assistance, such as Section 8 vouchers.

Though the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, implementation of its guarantees has fallen short. A 2018 Housing and Urban Development survey found that prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers have a 76 percent denial rate when applying for housing in Los Angeles.

“Addressing pervasive housing discrimination is a critical part of our comprehensive strategy to stabilize and create more opportunity in our housing marketplace,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the motion that called for the ordinance. “The ordinance will not force landlords to rent to a voucher-holder, but simply prevent ruling them out as a tenant based solely on their source of income.”

“Implementation of the nation’s Fair Housing Act is 50 years overdue,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, lead author of the motion. “With today’s action, LA County is saying we will wait no longer. Discrimination in housing is exacerbating our housing and homelessness crisis by allowing landlords to discriminate and deny leases to families who want and can pay for housing.”

Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA) Executive Director Monique King-Viehland said in a letter to the Board, “In a County with less than a 3% vacancy rate and approximately 38,000 individuals/families on the County’s waiting list for Section 8 housing, this form of discrimination further limits the rental inventory for rental subsidy assisted families and is thereby effectively eliminating housing choice options.”

According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, the County has a shortage of about 517,000 affordable housing units.

The Board approved the ordinance after adopting a motion by Supervisors Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas in January that called for “Creating Solutions to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in Los Angeles County.” The motion directed County Counsel, in consultation with LACDA, to prepare an ordinance that would prevent landlord discrimination against housing applicants with government-provided rental assistance including, but not limited to, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, other federally-funded rental assistance programs, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool and rapid re-housing rental assistance.

The ordinance complements $5 million committed by the Board to fund a database for tracking evictions, a displacement study, incentives for landlords to take Section 8 tenants, and educational programs on housing rights.

The ordinance had been recommended by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. It is also among the policies that Board is seeking at the State level, along with preventing price gouging and tenant evictions without just cause.

Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective

Shortly after Governor Newsom’s resounding electoral victory, transition team “All-in California” Ambassadors, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and UC Regent Laphonza Butler, convened a coalition of African-American leaders to address urgent issues that African-Americans face throughout the state. This month marks the dividend of this convening – and numerous subsequent meetings – with the release of the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Gov. Newsom with the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective. Photo by Michael Short / Board of Supervisors

Embodying the ethos of the people powered approach Gov. Newsom sought in his selection of the duo as “All-in California” Ambassadors, wanting “respected leaders to help him search for innovative ideas and talent across the state”, the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective answers this call and more.

“As a community, we’ve been disproportionately impacted in so many areas of social well-being that animating the California ‘Dream for All’ in the face of this inexorable truth will take leadership, imagination, and an attentiveness to innovative and focused policy,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This Agenda does just that through policy priorities that are achievable, scalable, and evidenced-based. It’s a rock solid foundation for Gov. Newsom’s Administration to build on.”

Edited by Dr. Ange Marie Alfaro-Hancock, a leading academic on intersectional theory, the Agenda delivers to Governor Newsom a sharp and interconnected perspective on five critical policy areas: early childhood education, ending child poverty, fighting homelessness, expanding access to healthcare, and improving redevelopment and economic development. Each section includes not just a diagnosis of challenges, but also provides high-impact solutions that will stem the tide in problem areas Californians face in their daily lives.

The initial gathering, held at SEIU2015 headquarters, included an array of participants from various sectors and industries. Academics, business leaders, philanthropic leaders, healthcare providers, artists, media managers, ecumenical and civil rights leaders, labor, educators, and many more shared their experiences and divided into daylong working groups. Using their respective areas of professional expertise, participants put forth a range of policy solutions to counteract the complex risk factors that originate in racism, sexism, poverty, and geographic inequities to empower Californians to seize the “Californian Dream”.

“I’m excited to have been a part of this special process focused on providing practical solutions to the unique systematic challenges that our community face”, said Dr. David Carlisle, President and CEO of Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, referencing the outgrowth of the work from that day. “This policy brief will provide an outstanding foundation for measurable concrete action and chart a path to a more prosperous and equitable future for the state of California.”

Click to download the Agenda for California: An African-American Perspective