Building Hope with Community: The Right to Affordable Housing in South Central Los Angeles

The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community…
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1959

The narrative of South Los Angeles has been one of serial displacement. Community residents, primarily low-income people of color, have systematically been priced out of our homes and neighborhoods to make way for industry and for gentrifying trends. We’ve faced higher rents, skyrocketing property values, and a cost of living that has become unmanageable — even when working multiple jobs. This combination is a result of the city’s poor planning and spot-zoning policies, and the real estate development industry’s unchecked pursuit of profits without consideration of the human cost of housing, health, and security. This has put not only our homes at risk, but also our health, our identities, our livelihoods, and our environment.

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation has been part of the South Central community for the past twenty-five years, working with families who suffered waves of serial displacement before ever entering our units — some even tracing a path from Chavez Ravine, and then the Convention Center development, being pushed each time into worse housing conditions farther south until obtaining a rare opportunity at housing quality and affordability. Esperanza began as a response to displacement pressures on local, hard-working families. Responding to need, we organized our community around land-use rights and zoning. Esperanza cultivated the skills and a pipeline for developing quality multi-bedroom housing, affordable to families of low income. Esperanza continues to be the steward of affordable housing to this day, with a portfolio that includes nine buildings in the area, serving 165 households.

Further, Esperanza has never been alone in the work to make the universal human right to housing a reality. Every member of the United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) coalition believes firmly in development without displacement and an essential human rights frame without which we cannot build a healthy and just community. We understand deeply that secure access to habitable housing is not only a fundamental human right, but a significant determinant of our individual and family’s health and well-being. Today, we are increasingly responsive to the health issues of families who are doubling and tripling up in rental units as a result of economic hardship, and to the shortage of affordable housing alternatives. We are increasingly being forced into substandard and overcrowded housing, or to our cars, as an alternative to the streets.

As developers begin to look south of the 10 freeway, we have a new opportunity to interrupt the trajectory of this historical narrative. From our collective experience in South Central Los Angeles, the impact of development without protections against displacement inevitably results in loss of homes and rent-stabilized housing, and forced migration of local families and individuals to other geographic areas far from our homes, jobs, and support networks. It also exacerbates the daunting challenge of community-based developers who have the political will and the expertise to acquire and develop land to meet the needs of our own community.

Our community is now faced with the Reef Project proposal. As part of the UNIDAD Coalition, we have commissioned a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to better understand what’s at stake for our beloved community, and to prepare our response to the Reef Project developers’ proposed plan. For the community of South Central, the findings of the Reef Project HIA illuminate the potentially devastating outcomes of the project:

Residents of South Central have historically been people of color who have relocated to this neighborhood to seek economic opportunity and to escape discrimination and violence in other areas. They were forced out of their homes elsewhere – driven out by economic and racist forces – and found community and cultural spaces, here, to live, work, and raise their families.

Thus, numbers we see reflecting historical and current policy practice mean that:

  • Los Angeles has the largest homeless population of US urban areas, and the City Council District where the Reef project is located has the second largest Council District homeless population in the city.
  • 45% of South Central residents live in poverty, compared to 22% for the City of LA.
  • LA lost 65% of its funding for affordable housing between 2009 and 2014 and needs over half a million affordable rental homes.
  • Lack of affordable housing is the main cause of homelessness in the U.S.

We’re here to debunk the myth that all development is good development. Of course, all development has the potential to be good, but only if approached equitably by building better neighborhoods with the same neighbors.  We promote and unite around developments that recognize and celebrate the historic and cultural richness of the area, building economic opportunity and improving living conditions hand-in-hand with the families and individuals who call this neighborhood home. By amplifying our voices and demanding a transparent and open civic engagement process, policy-makers and developers will have the opportunity to do the right thing and invest in equitable development. This is our chance to intervene and create a new community narrative–one shaped by our own voices, centering on healthy, stable and inclusive housing and homes.

Mercado La Paloma: Stories of Entrepeneurs

Mercado La Paloma has served South Los Angeles since 2001, unlocking the entrepreneur skills of its residents, providing affordable retail opportunities, creating jobs, and empowering local artists all under one roof creating a cultural hub for the South LA community. In the next few weeks, we will be featuring the stories of some of the restaurants and their journey to continue the growth and vision of Mercado La Paloma. The story of Taqueria Vista Hermosa began in the heart of an entrepreneur, who dreamed of sharing his culinary passion and love for his tierra Michoacán. The restaurant has served the community for over a decade, maintaining excellent service, a family environment, and developing unique relationships with people who enjoy tasting the best tacos al pastor, made from pork meat, marinated with a secret recipe and cooked on a rotisserie.

Chef and owner Raul Morales worked as a carnicero (i.e. butcher) in his home country—Mexico. As a migrant worker in the U.S., he held various jobs and also worked as a street vendor selling tacos during the weekends. Raul shares the following, “since my childhood I have always had a heart to open a Taqueria. I saw the work that my family had done in Mexico. They all started a restaurant business. For me to continue their path was just a matter of time.” Raul was continuously inspired by his family’s dream, work ethic and drive. He decided to take a leap of faith when the opportunity opened with Mercado La Paloma. While watching Univision, a Spanish television network, he heard about the opening of Mercado La Paloma, Esperanza’s economic development project. Raul joined the project initiative in 2000, with a 20 week intensive training on marketing, book keeping, and business investment. Taqueria Vista Hermosa opened its doors in 2001, specializing in traditional Mexican dishes from Michoacan.

Raul runs the restaurant with the help of his wife and their five daughters. Being a business owner has given Raul the opportunity to teach his daughters the value of dreams, commitment, and building a good work ethic. Being part of Mercado La Paloma has allowed him to exceed as a business owner and embrace his passion for cooking by delivering quality food to his clientele and community.

Throughout the years of managing Taqueria Vista Hermosa, Raul has improved his capacity in leadership, problem solving, improvisation, and organizational skills. According to Raul, it is essential to take risks and most importantly invest in the business through marketing, relationships, and team building. As the driver of his team, Raul provides professional training for his staff to learn skills in customer service and gain knowledge in how to run a restaurant successfully. At the end of the year, Raul and his team evaluate what has been effective and what needs improvement. In addition, he hosts an annual cultural event that not only promotes Taqueria Vista Hermosa but also exhibits the richness of the Michoacán culture.   

Mercado La Paloma welcomes you to be a part of this journey by supporting the heart and work of these entrepreneurs. Taqueria Vista Hermosa serves traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, fajitas, huaraches, tortas, sopes, flautas, and chile rellenos.  Chef Raul prepares all dishes from scratch, using fresh ingredients and meats

Raul Morales, chef and owner of Taqueria Vista Hermosa

For more information please visit the following site.

Website:  www.taqueriavistahermosa.com

 

Los Angeles Moves Closer To City Fracking Moratorium

 

The Huffington Post  | by  James Gerken

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Friday to advance a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, in the nation’s second-largest city.

The motion passed Friday instructs the city’s attorney to draft new zoning regulations that would prohibit fracking and other oil- and gas-well stimulation techniques within city limits until fracking companies can provide city officials with assurances as to future water quality, and can “mitigate the effects on climate change, protect environmental quality and natural resources, promote community awareness [and] “allow government access to and testing of chemicals used.”

“This is about neighborhood safety, about public health and most of all, about common sense,” Council Member Mike Bonin said in an emailed statement. Bonin co-introduced the motion last September with fellow member Paul Koretz. “We cannot continue to allow the safety of our neighborhoods to be jeopardized by dangerous drilling,” Bonin added.

Anti-fracking activists joined Bonin and Koretz in the Los Angeles City Hall rotunda on Friday after the council’s vote.

Nalleli Cobo testifies in front of LA City Counceil to end facking and oil extraction in her community

People Not Pozos – Nalleli Cobo testifies in front of LA City Council to end facking and oil extraction in her community. 

The office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did not immediately offer any comment on the council’s vote.

Some of the active oil fields around Los Angeles are outside city limits, so the moratorium will not eliminate all fracking operations within Los Angeles County.

Fracking, which has become common in states like Pennsylvania, Texas, North Dakota and others in recent years, is a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale rock formations. After drilling a well, large quantities of water, sand and chemicals are injected into the ground to fracture the shale and release hydrocarbons.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed the state’s first fracking regulations into law last September. The rules, which went into effect at the beginning of this year, require companies to seek permits for fracking, to disclose what chemicals are used and to monitor air and water quality. Yet environmental groups hoped for stricter regulations and a proposed statewide moratorium was removed from the legislation.

Twenty-eight of California’s 58 counties produce oil or natural gas, or both. Fracking has been documented in 10 of them, according to the Center of Biological Diversity.

Despite concerns about surface and groundwater contamination risks from fracking, as well as its significant water consumption in drought-prone areas, California’s Department of Conservation maintains that there has been “no reported damage to the environment” in “more than 30 years” of hydraulic fracturing in the state.

Support us through our Seeds of Hope – Plant Sale to Harvest Change

Esperanza is fundraising to harvest change!

Plant Sale PictureCome visit us at the Mercado La Paloma next week on Thursday & Friday, February 13th & 14th from 11 am – 2pm to purchase a plant for your Valentine and support our community serving projects. All sales directly support Esperanza’s health programs!

Plant sale reservations can be made by emailing Gabriela or Sandy at Gabriela@esperanzacommunityhousing.org or Sandy@esperanzacommunityhousing.org.

Thanks!

Get your tickets for Esperanza’s Annual Fundraiser!

Please join us for our annual fundraiser – Dancing Under the Stars on Friday October 18, 2013 at Mercado La Paloma. Our event will feature tasting portions from our delicious vendors at the Mercado, live music from Ethio Cali and DJ Ethos as well as a silent auction featuring great art, handmade products, goods and services from local businesses. Purchase your tickets for Esperanza’s Annual fundraiser herewelcomehome_postcard_FINAL_Page_1

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Community Health Promoter Application now Available!

Do you want to improve your leadership skills, learn about community development, improve your health and the well being of your community? Find out how you can do all of this and more through Esperanza’s Community Health Promoter Training Program.

Promotor de Salud

2012 Promotor Grads

Our 2013 Community Health Promoter Training Application is available. Click on the link below to download the application and submit by May 30, 2013. Space is limited – complete the application and contact Norma Benitez at 213-748-7285 or Normab@esperanzacommunityhousing.org for questions or more details.

Click here for more information –> Final_Promotores_Info_2013

Click here for the Application –>Final_Promotores_App_2013

 

Celebrating Thai Culture at Mercado la Paloma

CC_Thai_ImagePlease join us for lovely Thai Culture Celebrations as part of our Cultural Continuum Series at the Mercado La Paloma! We will feature workshops in dance, music and art exhibits celebrating the beautiful Thai Culture. Follow us on facebook for more details and updates.

On April 28 we will have a large festival closing our Thai Culture celebrations – mark your calendars for all of our free, fun, family friendly events!

Connecting City Planning through El Chavo del Ocho

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The popular Mexican comedy show starring “El Chavo” first aired in the 1970’s and has continued to be an international hit among families today – 40 years later.  The comedy follows El Chavo del Ocho / Chavo from Apartment 8, and is set in an apartment complex, a vecindad.  The characters are friends, neighbors and the landlord.  Most of the shows take place in the courtyard of the apartment complex. The show and characters were the perfect setting for an adaptation skit for The People’s Planning School.

el_chavo_del_ochoThe People’s Planning School is a series of bi-lingual, popular education workshops where community leaders, organizers and community health promoters teach community members about the City planning process. The workshop engages residents around community needs and identify how to get involved in the planning process to create healthier communities.  Esperanza and SAJE have collaboratively hosted the People’s Planning School over the last four Friday evenings for more than 65 local residents and community leaders. This series included discussions about Slum Housing and Housing Rights, Transit Oriented Development, Fracking and the impact of community planning on community health. The skit was a great opportunity to connect community-planning issues by using familiar characters to address local community concerns in South LA.  The workshops provide local residents with resources and the knowledge needed to get involved in planning their community.  The People’s Planning School is a tool in the larger framework of the Same Neighbors, Better Neighborhoods Coalition including Esperanza, SAJE and St. Johns Well Child and Family Center and the South LA Health and Human Rights Declaration.

PPS_SkitTo find out how you can get involved in the next People’s Planning School series follow our blog and facebook page (www. facebook/ esperanzacommunityhousingcorporation.com)  for upcoming workshops.