The heritage and culture of Los Angeles flows through the veins of the Leimert Park Village community. Businesses that took root near historic Leimert Boulevard reflect the neighborhood’s progress and elevation. In this quaint, Black artistic-mecca, comprised mostly of store fronts, restaurants and vendors in South L.A., there is a history pride for the community and culture.
On Monday, May 17, Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas illuminated the work happening at the park and surrounding area of the village. He revealed the new improvements that will be taking place. Juneteenth will reintroduce the utilization of the area and also be symbolic to the restoration of the Leimert Park Village legacy.
“As Councilmember for the 10th District, I am committed to working with local stakeholders to not only celebrate the rich cultural and social legacy of Leimert Park Village but create a future for the village that is safe, clean and welcoming for all members of the community to enjoy,” Ridley-Thomas stated.
The Councilmember invited the L.A. Sentinel to see the process of rejuvenation happening, Ridley-Thomas talked through the steps towards restoration in Leimert Park village as he took strides along the fountain in the plaza. Walking through the gates, workers in hard hats were deconstructing part of the teal-colored barrier, a portion of the gate is coming down for more accessibility to the restroom area.
Ridley-Thomas walked around the Degnan Blvd. area, looking at the sidewalks and streets, he spoke with passion and concern, conveying the emotion that “this won’t do,” referring to the current condition of the cracked and uneven sidewalks and debris found in the plaza’s parking lot. Ridley-Thomas urged his team working closely on this project, to work with vigor and he noted certain areas of the village that needs more intense care.
The streets will undergo massive improvement, the goal outlined in the statement targets Degnan and 43rd street and looks to implement new 15-foot-wide sidewalks, curbs, and ramps. The rehabilitation will also include the landscape of the trees and the repair of light posts. The goal is to have made a significant difference in infrastructure before the end of this year.
Black-Owned Businesses like Harun Coffee, located 4336-4338 Degnan Blvd., are watching the renovations being made right outside their door-step. According to the vision statement released by Councilmember Ridley-Thomas’ office, Leimert Park Village is a “major tourist destination,” due to the cultural authenticity found in the food, art, entertainment and the communal warmth surrounding the Leimert Park Village.
Other updates tied to this community include the new Metro station that will soon be open for public transportation; a rail line connecting Crenshaw to the LAX station is looking to be a groundbreaking step, adding additional benefits to the neighborhoods surrounding the new transportation line.
As a community, Leimert Park Village reflects the evolution of Black people inhabiting this part of Los Angeles. Many of the owners of the store fronts grew up as members of the Leimert Park Community; they now provide opportunity for jobs and revenue recycling back into the neighborhood. According to the vision statement, “The vast majority of residents in the surrounding area are people of color – almost 80% are Black.”
Councilmember Ridley-Thomas is looking to make Leimert Park Village a model to resemble the importance of inclusivity and economic investment in all communities. Leimert Park has seen its share of uprisings, community emergencies, and civil unrest, but this will be its first resurgence from a global pandemic which closed down in-person contact for the local businesses.
Juneteenth is set to be a day to welcome the community back to the Leimert Park village looking to be hosted by Leimert Park Rising, Ridley-Thomas has made the pathway to the area’s growth clear. The vision is to invest into the culture, rejuvenate the buildings that hold parts of the Leimert Park Village legacy, and uplift the unsheltered community who are residing in that area. Some of that will be portrayed in cultural festivals and art exploration.
Public service is looking to keep the area welcoming and well-maintained to promote the wellness of the community. This will include a heightened focus on street cleaning, waste management, and traffic and parking management. The budget for the current renovations includes projected public investment of $35-$40 million by 2022.
Ridley-Thomas showed a dual concern for the unsheltered population that surrounded the Leimert Park village; he described the placement of those experiencing homelessness grew to challenging numbers around the park. Earlier in March, Ridley-Thomas dedicated energy towards the allocation of $500,000 to the awareness and prevention in Leimert Park Village and Crenshaw corridor.
The councilmember pointed out the non-profit organization on-site; they have been working to aid the unsheltered population. The Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS) has various members and volunteers leading with love and care everyday around the Leimert Park Village and provide the simple service of humility, to those who are in need. HOPICS has built a relationship with the unsheltered over the last several months which led to 75 people transitioning off the streets.
Ridley-Thomas stated, “There is no greater challenge that this city faces more than our moral consciousness to the dignity of our neighbors, and to the health of our city, than the crisis of homelessness.”
He Continued, “Data has shown that homelessness in Los Angeles affects Black and Latino residents at a rate of 3-to-1 as compared with other communities. 70% of those on the streets are people of color. And roughly four people die on the streets every day in Los Angeles. This is why I engaged HOPICS to deploy a dedicated team to work in Leimert Park.”
Council Ridley-Thomas stated, “As a long-time resident and elected representative [City, County and State) for this community], I am focused on bringing resources to bear to uplift the Village and celebrate its rich history and resilience.”
Different parts of Leimert Park Village are undergoing a rehabilitative focus, including the Vision Theatre. The mission for the entertainment facility is that it is revived and fully operational by 2022, ready for “culturally relevant programming” and to accelerate the opportunity for the local artistic nature of the community to continue to develop.
Our goal is to ensure that the Vision Theater opens in a manner that provides consistent, high quality and culturally relevant programming and opportunities for the local creative economy. We hope to have the theater operational by the end of 2022.