“Who’s Land? Our Land!

The loss of CRAs and its threat to Los Angeles’ Affordable Housing”

Today, February 1st, 2012, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) officially closed its doors, abandoning uncompleted projects such as the one planned for the vacant lot that was formerly the Bethune Library. The pending project, Bethune Crossroads, would maintain the integrity of the lot’s community-serving purpose in the form of a multi-use development project, providing 55 much needed quality affordable family homes, a fresh grocery, 25 permanent jobs and over 100 jobs in construction. As far as The State of California is concerned, the land is now up for sale to the highest bidder.

Thats why, on this beautifully sunny Los Angeles morning, a group of around 50 people, composed of local community members, non-profit organizations including Esperanza, TRUST South LA, Abode Communities, SAJE, and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, convened in front of the Vermont and 36th St. lot to express their concerns at a press conference held by T.R.U.S.T. South LA.  Together they chanted “Housing is a Human Right!” holding signs such as “Esta tierra pertenece a la comunidad”(This land belongs to the community) and “Stop the displacement!” Community stakeholders and residents spoke to their history in the neighborhood, the developments they have seen, and the importance of holding onto land once promised not only for affordable housing, but at least for the benefit of its current population. Longtime resident and community leader Rosa Giron spoke about the changes her family has experienced over the last 30 years in the neigborhood. She, along with many other residents present at the press conference, have watched the area transition from what was once a grand majority of family-occupied housing 10 years ago, to a grand majority of student-occupied housing today. Current tenants are already being pressured out of the neighborhood by USC’s expansion and inadequate student housing stock; the loss of this project and its anticipated quality affordable housing would have dramatic and lasting effects on the face of this neighborhood, which many families have called home for decades. Robin Hughes, President and CEO for Abode Communities, added that the loss of the project will result not only in the loss of affordable housing, but of jobs, diversity, and voice.

As Tafaria Bayne, T.R.U.S.T. South LA’s community affairs manager, relates, “For us, the real concern is what the future plans are for how redevelopment work happens in a community like South L.A,” which he explains is at a critical “crossroads” as a result of California Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to close 425 of California’s CRAs. “CRAs are one of the primary drivers of affordable housing;” without them, “affordable housing developers are looking at a real crisis to get their projects moving, funded and completed.” T.R.U.S.T. South LA, along with its neighborhood partners, is driven to make sure that a space for dialogue amongst affordable housing advocates and California legislators is created, and that the land that is currently held by LA’s CRA doesn’t abandon its potential affordable housing and community-serving use. In the words echoing from this morning’s call to action: “Whos land? OUR land! Si Se Puede!”

To find out how to get involved or for more information contact info@trustsouthla.org.

By: Sophia Kandell, Esperanza Public Allied.