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Leaders and Advocates Push For Federal Promise Zone Designation to Improve South Los Angeles
By Shirley Hawkins, Contributing Writer
Published March 2, 2016
LA City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (Courtesy Photo)

LA City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (Courtesy Photo)

South Los Angeles was bypassed as a Promise Zone designee in 2014, leading to significant disappointment and a new commitment not to have this community left out again. A collaboration of leaders and advocates came together to develop a thorough and compelling application for the latest round of designations as part of the Obama Administration’s Promise Zone Initiative. The broad-based group of community interests and entities gathered at a news conference at Los Angeles Trade Technical College on Feb. 19th to celebrate the completion of the new application. The application officially will be submitted on February 23rd.

If approved, the South Los Angeles area would receive extra points in the federal grant process, which would lead to additional funding and resources. The federal funding would target increased affordable housing, access to career training, educational pathways for underserved neighborhoods and improved and accessible public transit and bike lanes for South LA.

The situation in South Los Angeles is challenging: Almost 46 percent of the nearly 200,000 residents in the zone live below the federal poverty line, indicating that a household of four is living on less than $23,400 per year or approximately $11,880 for an individual. More than 53 percent of children in the proposed Promise Zone live in poverty, which is more than double the rate for all of LA County.

The lack of educational attainment continues to be a barrier to better jobs and careers for residents of South Los Angeles. Fifty-two percent of those 25 and older in the area have less than a high school education and only nine percent hold Bachelor’s degrees.

A Promise Zone designation would support increased capacity for agencies and organizations serving impoverished communities by prioritizing federal funds into anti-poverty strategies.

The statistics are just a few of the reasons why the broad-based South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z) strategy is attempting to seek a federal Promise Zone designation. The partners conducted a symbolic signing of the application on Friday as a show of support for the work accomplished and future implementation.

Elected leadership who attended Friday’s application push were Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Los Angeles School Board member Monica Garcia, Los Angeles School Board member Dr. George McKenna III, Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price Jr., Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Los Angeles Community College District trustee Mike Fong.

The Promise Zone initiative was submitted on Feb. 23rd to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development which handles the urban applications for the Obama Administration’s Promise Zone Initiative.

Los Angeles Trade-Technical College president Larry Frank, who brought together the SLATE-Z group, observed, “South Los Angeles has an urgent need to receive a Promise Zone designation because it brings resources through which this community can build economic growth and investment.

“The South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone partnership is a cross-sector collection of community leadership and advocacy that strongly believes this community needs this opportunity to transform itself,” Frank added.

“We are eager to see resources come to our schools and community in South L.A area and share the urgency with which this initiative has worked to get them here,” said Los Angeles Board of Education member Monica Garcia. “Education is the super highway out of poverty and this federal initiative will add strength to the toolbox we have to get our students to 100 percent graduation and college and career ready.”

Ninth District Councilman Curren Price was pleased with the signing. “We were unable to get the Promise Zone designation the last time around, but we were able to bounce back with a can-do attitude and sharpened focus to revitalize our community,” Price pointed out. “I am confident SLATE-Z is the answer to the disparities holding our community hostage. I know the ideas and approaches outlined by the dozens of dedicated community groups will play a significant role in closing the gap of inequalities.

“I’m so proud of the work we will be presenting to move the district forward,” Price continued. “Now is the time for those much-needed breaks our community so desperately needs such as additional resources, access to good-paying jobs, quality education, and affordable housing—a chance at a better life. And while we remain optimistic, with or without the Promise Zone, we are committed to working together to help those in need.”

Announcement of the new Promise Zone designations is expected later in the Spring of 2016.

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