Local Groups Call for More Investment on City’s Eastside

By EGP Staff Report

Eastside community activists acknowledge improvements in policing and schools in recent years, but say city officials need to do more to improve the quality of life in Boyle Heights and other neighborhoods east of the Los Angeles River.

“The conditions of housing and the lack of economic opportunities for our families is a continuing problem,” Maria Cabildo of the East Los Angeles Community Corp. said at a news conference Tuesday morning at Mariachi Plaza in Los Angeles.

“ … It has not seen significant attention and that needs to change dramatically.”

Community activists gathered in front of the Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights to demand more investment in the eastside.(EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Community activists gathered in front of the Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights to demand more investment in the eastside.(EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

In recent years, the Eastside has gotten a new police station and a local “city hall,” Cabildo said. She added that several new schools also have opened in the area, and the eastward extension of the Gold Line helped improve public transportation.

But activist Delmira Gonzalez of Boyle Heights said she feels her neighborhood is still being left out.

“For over 25 years I have worked with my neighbors to make Boyle Heights a better place for my kids and now my grandkids, and I am disappointed that with so much momentum our elected leadership has not stood up to voice concern of us being left out,” Gonzalez said.

Cynthia Sanchez, executive director of Proyecto Pastoral, called on city officials, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, to work with Eastside residents to improve the community.

“We have built strong resident and organizational capacity to implement plans developed with community residents,” Sanchez said. “And now we need the city and our elected leaders to work with us to accelerate the vision.”

In 2011, Proyecto Pastoral was one of 21 organizations nationwide to receive a Promise Neighborhoods Planning Grant. They worked with dozens of local groups and agencies to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the health, housing and education of the approximately 19,000 people living in Boyle Heights.

To implement the plan, however, the group needed more money. So, with the support of several state and local officials, the collaborative applied for highly competitive U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhood Grants, ranging from $4 million to $6 million, but was not selected.

The group pledged to implement the plan with or without federal funding to implement the plan’s objectives, including improving the local housing stock and opportunities for better paying jobs.

The groups did not outline many specifics Tuesday, but advocates did call on state and federal legislators to pass legislation they believe could lead to increased funding for jobs and housing in eastside neighborhoods.

In particular, they are backing passage of SB 391, the California Homes and Jobs Act of 2013. Among other things, the bill would require counties, with some exceptions, to collect a fee of $75 on all real estate transactions and filings, which would be deposited in the California Homes and Jobs Trust Fund to pay for affordable housing.

If approved, SB 391 would also “require the Department of Industrial Relations to monitor and enforce prevailing wage requirements for construction contracts for certain public works projects over $1,000,000.”

The change is needed to turn the tide of generational poverty, according to Maria Brenes, executive director of InnerCity Struggle.

“Our youth and families need more to make these strides come full circle,” Brenes said.

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

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February 27, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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