On Monday, June 13, community organizations based in South Los Angeles joined together for the “South Los Angeles Peoples’ Forum” at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, to discuss and make demands regarding transit service and projects, gentrification, affordable housing and local hire and construction careers. Metro CEO Phil Washington attended the forum to meet with the community and address their concerns. Crenshaw Subway Coalition Executive Director Damien Goodmon moderated the forum.
The forum was attended by representatives from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance, Community Coalition, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council, Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment, KPC Building Corporation, Los Angeles Black Worker Center, Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers, National Action Network-Los Angeles, NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood Branch, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Southern California.
“We’ve brought together a broad group of organizations to talk about transit issues, displacement, affordable housing, workers’ rights, bus drivers’ rights,” said Goodmon.
Speakers included black and brown renters, homeowners and construction workers, who presented their stories and requests for specific action from Metro about more involvement in the planning process, an end stop-and-frisk, Blue Line and Expo Line mitigation and Vermont Transit Line among other concerns. Washington stated what he expected to develop from the forum.
“Mostly, I’m here to listen and better understand the concerns,” said Washington,” and then we’ll see where we can partner on various issues.”
Among the issues are the Park Mesa Heights street-level design from 48th St. to 59th St, across Slauson Ave. Many feel this plan will lead to more accidents as it is in an area of high foot traffic from local schools, senior facilities and includes major thoroughfares. One of the solutions presented is connect the tunnels on the northern and southern ends of the Crenshaw Blvd alignment by undergrounding the line for the 11 blocks. There is a call from community members to include the 11-block “Park Mesa Heights tunnel” in the “Measure R2” spending plan. Goodmon still hopes to continue the bid for the tunnel despite recent rejected requests.
“On the most pressing issue of the Park Mesa Heights tunnel, we were disappointed he didn’t make a commitment to identify resources necessary, but we believe that’s because he already knows that Metro has more than enough money to implement the tunnel on Crenshaw now,” said Goodmon.
“We are going to continue to press the Metro board to do the right thing and give the community what it has been requesting for over 5 years.”
A community member spoke about stop-and-frisk procedures taking place on Metro lines. Washington addressed the alleged stop-and-frisk policy on Metro and agreed to take action.
“We’re going to take a look at that,” said Washington. “There is no official policy but if that is happening, we’re going to put a stop to it.”
Another big topic presented was gentrification and displacement taking place around areas of development. The Reef megadevelopment project taking place south of Downtown L.A. was presented as an example. The $1.2-billion, 1.66-million-square-foot project includes a 19-story, 208-room hotel and two condo high-rises. The development will generate over 2,758 temporary construction jobs and 751 full-time positions to the community. The Strategic Actions for a Just Economy projects over 40,000 people who live within the area could face an increase in the cost of living or end up displaced. It was also discussed that many in the area aren’t within the income bracket to afford any of the new apartments.
“Every community wants to see improvement,” said Goodmon.
“Is it done from the bottom up and for the existing residents or is it done from the top down by people who don’t necessarily care about the culture or the aspects of the community, which is gentrification.”
Washington responded to the questions of affordable housing around Metro projects and spoke about their policy.
“Metro-owned property… near transportation assesst must be 35 percent affordable housing,” said Washington. “That is a great step, that is more than any other transportation agency that I know of in this country to have a policy of 35 percent.
“We want to do better than that and we’re committed to that.”
Goodmon feels that some progress was made at the forum and looks forward to continuing the discussion of incorporating the community into South L.A. development and growth.
“I think we introduced a lot of people in the community to a new and I’d argue much better method of communicating with decision-makers,” said Goodmon. “ Instead of broad open-ended questions, we formed a working group to discuss our community’s needs, researched the issues, and found a way to both communicate our interest and concern while making specific demands regarding for actions within the power of the Metro CEO.
“When a CEO of a public agency like Metro, publicly makes commitments on these issues, well that’s the gravy on the mashed potatoes.”
“When we talk about the Crenshaw Line, what we are talking about is a revitalization of the entire community,” said Washington. “One of the things that is important to me is to make sure that we do the best job in helping to revitalize the community before, during and after the construction—that’s very, very important.”