“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.

Not Enough Options

EsperanzaSalud located at Mercado La Paloma is an easily accessible health education and information center staffed by experienced Promotores like Rosa Giron and Juana Calel.  

According to an investigation recently conducted by Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, there are not enough supermarkets in the South Los Angeles sector.  Rosa, who was part leading the investigation, explained that in the last five years, the access to healthy food has improved up to 50% in covenience stores, yet the problem is still far from being resolved. 

Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC), the Los Angeles County Department of Health and LAUSD are working in collaboration with different communities and local supermarkets to make sure that fresh food is being offered and display in visible areas.

 La Opinion full article:http://www.impre.com/laopinion/noticias/2010/6/2/faltan-opciones-sanas-para-com-191872-1.html

Speaking Out: Skid Row Residents

Leading a presentation in a college classroom, Linda Valverde organizer for the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), asked students to describe Skid Row using one word. Students overwhelmingly characterized the community with words such as “prostitution, drug use, mental illness, and homelessness.” Linda said, “Well, I’m here to say: demystify the myth, because I am a community member of seven years in Skid Row, I live AND work in Skid Row.”

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Recession Obsession: Mercado La Paloma

mercadolapaloma1b

The Mercado La Paloma is a site of transformative change.  The space is a former garment sweatshop which Esperanza has transformed into a vibrant marketplace.  The Mercado Houses 14 small family-owned businesses.  All of our Mercado vendors are first time successful business owners, creating job opportunities for our community, serving healthy authentic food, and selling handmade art crafts.

 A recession Obsession is, 1) a meal so great that it stays in your mind long after digestion’s end, and, 2) plays nice with your sensitive wallet.  Is there a better place than Los Angeles to eat a wide variety of amazing food that so happens to be inexpensive?  Probably not.  We’re as lucky as we are well fed.  We last obsessed over Tandoori tacos, and KyoChon’s Korean Fried Chicken.  Today, we obsess…

Full article: Recession Obsession: Mercado La Paloma

Congratulations to Mo-Chica!

Congratulations Mo-Chica!    The new Peruvian Restaurant at Mercado La Paloma, which opened in the spring of 2009 has been making headlines for its unique and delicious food. 

MERCADO INTERIORS 4 UPLOAD 5_09-8558Ricardo Zarate remembers reading a 2004 article in the Economist magazine predicting that Peruvian cuisine was the Next Big Thing. The moment he read the article, he knew it was right: Peruvian was the next big thing, and he wanted, desperately, to cook Peruvian in his own restaurant.  The Peruvian community in Los Angeles is large but scattered, and Peruvian restaurants are mostly solitary creatures, with none of the visible concentration of Koreatown or Thai Town  – writes the LA Times.

I’ve been in Los Angeles for two years, and I still don’t know where the Peruvian community is,” Zarate says jokingly.

Full Story: LA Times: Hidden Peruvian Treasures.

Esperanza’s Board Member on Local News!

Adam Pash, editor of Lifehacker.com and Board Member of Esperanza Community Housing, appeared on KCAL 9 News speaking about how this website can help consumers save money on everyday expenses.  On lifehacker you can find affordable items such as  eye-glasses, cheap  flight fares to visit friends who are registered on facebook and even coupons for pizza!

Link: KCAL 9

Esperanza’s Healthy Homes Promoters Helping Figueroa Corridor Residents

healthy-homes-team

Funded by the economic stimulus package, through HUD, the Healthy Homes Team has been awarded an $875,000 Healthy Homes grant over three years.  With the federal assistance, Consuelo Pernia, asthma coordinator will be able to assist families  with asthmatic  children Like Rosa, and be able to referred them to St. John’s Well Child and Family Centers.

For full article see link: The-Tidings

The Healthy Homes Team working towards a Healthier Community.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly known as the economic stimulus package, included a provision for $875,000 over three years to fund the Healthy Homes Demonstration Project of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation.

The Healthy Homes Team is a cadre of 12 Community Health Promoters who have been working in our neighborhood for over 10 years to improve the environmental health of the community and keeping families and children safe from dangers  of lead poisoning, vermin infestation, mold, and other home-based health hazards.

Approximately 85% of the housing in our neighborhood was built before 1978, most containing lead-based paint, which is a toxin that severly affects  the development of testtubes1children under the age of five.  The Healthy Homes Team works in conjuction with  St. John’s Well Child and Family Center Clinics by receiving referrals of children who have elevated lead blood levels.  The Healthy Homes Team visits the child’s home, tests for lead, and educates the family on how to protect their children.

In addition, the Healthy Homes Team partners with tenant organizers of  SAJE, a partner of Esperanza, who work with local families to protect them from displacement and the ravages of slum housing conditions.  Families learn how to improve the habitability of their environment, and protect their children from constant illness.  Over the past 10 years, the Healthy Homes Team have reached thousands of people in their homes and improved the quality  of their health and their housing conditions.

In 2008, Esperanza applied to HUD for a grant to fund a Healthy Homes Demonstration Project.  While our proposal scored extremely well and was deemed fundable by a wide margin, it was not funded due to severe budget cuts.  The services that the Healthy Homes Team provides are essential for our community, but the fiscal realities would not allow us to support their work indefinitely without a funding stream.  Layoffs are imminent, foreclosure and housing prices continue to rise in our neighborhood, more and more people are crowding into smaller units in undesirable conditions, putting their health at risk.  The community needs the Healthy Homes Team, but without the funding from HUD, this highly skilled group of colleagues would have had to disband after 10 years of working together to improve the health of our community.

With the stimulus bill, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, qualifying applications to HUD’s Lead Outreach and Healthy Homes Programs from 2008 were funded, including Esperanza Community Housing Corporation’s Healthy Homes grant.  Seven people from low-income backgrounds who are experts in their field will be employed over three years,  working to improve the environmental health of their neighborhood and the families who live there.  Our program creates jobs, healthier families, and stronger communities.

On March 5, 2009 at a HUD Western Grantee Meeting, Esperanza received a Special Recognition Award from Jon L. Gant, Director of the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.  The award reads “In grateful recognition of your dedication and significant contribution in promoting Healthy Homes and advancing the Presidential Goal of Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning.  Your efforts have improved the lives of many children.”

Esperanza thanks everyone who played a role in making sure that our essential work continues.