City Gives Nonprofit Property to Shelter Homeless Students

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Jovenes Inc., a nonprofit that serves homeless youth, will build units designed to serve homeless students engaged in post-secondary studies on a city-owned property on East Fourth Street in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar has announced.

The site is one of several city-owned property in the neighborhood east of downtown the city is looking to develop as affordable housing.

“Jovenes, Inc. is one of our premiere homeless service partners in Boyle Heights serving one of the most vulnerable populations imaginable – our youth,” Huizar said.

“It is imperative that the city assist them to give kids hope and a future that they might not have otherwise,” he said. “Education is one of this country’s great equalizers, and this Fourth Street location and the College Success Initiative is going to be a place of inspiration — where, with the excellent support services that Jovenes Inc. and its partners provide, youth have the opportunity to go to college, have a place to call home, and succeed.”

Huizar’s office said that due to partnerships with Genesis LA, a community development financing institution, and Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, the project will utilize private capital and donations and move forward faster and cheaper compared to
traditional developments. The property has sat vacant for years.

“We must create stable housing opportunities that gives homeless students and youth an opportunity to create a new vision for themselves and leave homelessness behind,” said Jovenes’ executive director, Andrea Marchetti.

Huizar also said he wants to see Jovenes expand its services near its main site on 1304 E. Pleasant Ave. in Boyle Heights and has introduced a council motion directing city staff to use the so-called Aliso Triangle property nearby to help the organization grow its campus.

The city owns the Aliso site, which is surrounded by Jovenes’ headquarters and properties owned by the nonprofit, and Huizar said he wants Jovenes to secure it so it can expand its services.

Over Residents’ Protests, Sups Approve East L.A. Housing Project

July 27, 2017 by · 2 Comments 

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday turned down an appeal by East Los Angeles residents to block the development of affordable rental units at Whittier Boulevard and South Downey Road, pushing forward with plans to fight homelessness.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said such developments are sorely needed to keep more people from losing their homes.

“Were not even scratching the surface,” Solis said, noting that the county’s housing gap between supply and demand amounts to more than half a million units.

Corner of Whittier Boulevard and South Downey Road in East Los Angeles where one of two affordable housing sites approved by County supervisors will be built. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez- July 27, 2017)

Corner of Whittier Boulevard and South Downey Road in East Los Angeles where one of two affordable housing sites approved by County supervisors will be built. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez- July 27, 2017)

The two-building complex, to be built on two sites across from Calvary Cemetery, will replace vacant commercial buildings.

Downey I — a three-story, 42-unit, garden-style apartment building — will include 1,161 square feet of retail and parking space on the northwest corner of the intersection. Downey II will be four stories with 71 units and 3,208 square feet of retail and parking.

All but two manager’s units will be for low-income residents and 15 percent will include features for renters with special needs.

More than 100 residents signed a letter opposing the project, raising concerns about traffic, parking and the scale of the development in an area of single-family homes and duplexes.

“We acknowledge (that) some form of development on these land parcels is desirable,” the letter reads. “All we humbly ask is that … consideration be given to projects that the community actually wants and that enhance the quality of life for those who already live in this community.”

Many turned out to try and persuade the board, in both English and Spanish, not to move forward.

“There’s already impossible traffic … and I don’t understand how over 400 more residents are going to fit in this community,” said Estela Donlucas, telling the board that her family had lived in the neighborhood for more than 45 years.

Others worried about hazardous contaminants like lead and arsenic.

Soil samples showed “no significant concentration of lead,” but elevated levels of arsenic were found in two areas, one on each site, according to a county fire official in the department’s hazardous materials division.

The developer, Meta Housing, has agreed to handle environmental cleanup before beginning grading on the sites. Asbestos and lead-based paint in the buildings set for demolition will be managed through the permitting process.

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Many residents remained unsatisfied.

“Our houses will be very affected by all these toxins,” Enedina Paz told the board. “I believe you have children and grandchildren and you wouldn’t like for them to be inhaling toxins.”

Voters approved Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax to fund the fight against homelessness, by nearly 70 percent. However, residents in many communities have pushed back against affordable housing development in their own neighborhoods.

Some Angelenos offered their support.

Fanny Ortiz, a Boyle Heights resident and single mother of five children, including one with special needs who requires 24-hour nursing, said access to affordable housing changed her life.

“I believe housing is a basic human right. We are in a housing crisis and development of affordable housing is an equitable solution,” Ortiz told the board, adding that she once lived in the neighborhood in question.

As a “transit priority project,” the proposed development was granted a California Environmental Quality Act exemption, which means it will not have to report on traffic impacts on global warming or the regional transportation network.

Solis defended the board’s decision, noting that poverty rates in the county have risen above 25 percent. The lowest income renters right now spend more than 70 percent of their income on rent, Solis noted, citing data from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Immediately following the board vote, Solis issued a statement.

“It is evident that both the community and Meta Housing are deeply passionate about quality of life of our residents. Every testimony we heard at the board today had one thing in common: the community and its well-being,” she said.

“I work every day to keep the safety, quality of life and environmental health of our neighborhoods at the highest quality possible, and those values are reflected by our vote to deny today’s appeal,” Solis said. “My colleagues and I agree that Meta Housing has met all requirements to develop this project, including a number of measures designed to meet the communities’ environmental health and safety concerns.”

County Backs City Housing Bond on 3-0 Vote

September 8, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

County supervisors went on record Tuesday in favor of a City of Los Angeles bond measure that would generate $1.2 billion to fund the construction of affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

The Board of Supervisors’ vote in support of Proposition H was 3-0, with Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe abstaining.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended backing the November ballot measure, which he said would “make a significant dent in homelessness.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the proposition “HHH, which I say stands for homeless, housing and hope.”

Garcetti pointed to the success of concentrated efforts by county and city leaders to house homeless veterans.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2016 count found that while homelessness had increased nearly 6 percent overall since 2015, the number of veterans living on the street was down 44 percent countywide.

The mayor had initially set a 2015 deadline for finding homes for all homeless vets and said today that the city was 1,200 to 1,500 units away from “declaring victory,” a milestone he thought would be hit next year.

However, more non-veterans are living in tents on the street, under freeway overpasses and on hillsides.

From “every corner of this city, you can see homeless people,” Garcetti told the supervisors.

City and county leaders have both been working to raise funds to combat homelessness, with Ridley-Thomas leading a push for Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency related to the issue.

Brown has said such a declaration would be inappropriate, though the Legislature has approved $2 billion for the construction of permanent supportive housing statewide.

LAHSA has estimated that 15,000 supportive units are needed to house the “unsheltered homeless,” while the California Housing Partnership calculates a 500,000-unit deficit in affordable housing countywide.

Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said Prop. H would create a “qualitative shift” in homelessness and triple the city’s capacity to build new units.

Ridley-Thomas said construction was just part of the story.

“Units without services is a half loaf at best,” he said.

The county’s chief executive officer and LAHSA estimate that another $450 million will be needed annually to pay for homeless supportive service like mental health care and substance abuse programs.

The board has considered a number of solutions, including a millionaire’s tax, a quarter-cent sales tax and a tax on marijuana, but could not agree on an alternative to put before voters this November.

The Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities General Obligation Bond Proposition requires the support of two-thirds of voters to pass.


L.A. to Spend $200M on Housing for Disabled

September 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to spend at least $200 million over the next 10 years to rehabilitate or build affordable housing units that are accessible to the disabled as part of the settlement deal of a 2012 lawsuit.

The settlement resolves the city’s role in a suit filed by three disability and fair housing advocacy groups that alleged the city and its now-defunct redevelopment agency failed to ensure that affordable apartment projects that received federal funds were accessible to the disabled.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Independent Living Center of Southern California, the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley and Communities Actively Living Independent and Free.

The lawsuit came a month after the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed city officials it was investigating whether projects that received federal funding through the redevelopment agency followed laws protecting people who are disabled. The city stood to lose out on grants or would face fines if violations were discovered.

Under the settlement, which was approved Tuesday on a 12-0 vote, the city will be required to spend an average of $20 million annually during a 10-year period, and add 4,000 new or retrofitted accessible, affordable units.

The city has also agreed to pay at most $20 million in attorneys’ fees, with the exact amount still to be determined. The agreement also requires that the city pay $4.5 million in damages to plaintiffs and up to $1 million for miscellaneous court costs.

Other terms include creating a monitoring and inspections process that adheres to disability accessibility regulations; making a list of accessible apartment units in the city available online; and training property owners on their responsibilities to make their units accessible.

“We think this is an extremely significant settlement,” said Autumn Elliott, a Disability Rights California attorney who represents the three advocacy groups.

“It’s the only one of its kind that I know of, and it’s going to result in accessible housing for on the order of 10,000 people over the life of these units.”

Elliott said the lawsuit came about after advocacy groups received complaints from people with disabilities who said they were “having difficulty finding accessible affordable housing units in the city of L.A.”

Elliott said experts were hired to investigate the issue, and after making random visits to apartment buildings and reviewing a sampling of buildings plans, they found no housing developments “that were fully accessible to people with disabilities.”

“Our experts found across-the-board non-compliance with accessibility standards, and they weren’t small issues,” Elliott said. “They were issues that were big enough to affect the usability of the units by somebody with disabilities.”

Elliott said the affordable and market-rate units they checked had doorways and kitchens that could not accommodate wheelchairs. The units also lacked grab bars in the bathrooms and there were no countertops set to an appropriate height, she said.

The federal funds are primarily provided to housing projects as a way to encourage more affordable housing, Elliott said, and she believes city and redevelopment agency officials might not have realized “how crucial they (the affordable units) are for people with disabilities,” particularly low-income people with disabilities. Or else, they may have felt “somebody else was taking care of it,” she said.

Michael Allen, another attorney who represents the advocacy groups, said the settlement covers about 47,000 total units spread out over 700 housing developments, which includes some that were built as far back as 1988.

Allen said the 4,000 units figure reached under the settlement represents at least the full percentage of units the city was required to make accessible to people with disabilities on the existing apartment complexes.

These units included not only those that were originally the responsibility of the redevelopment agency — which were the subject of the lawsuit — but a significant number of additional units that were directly overseen by the city, Allen said.

“To its credit, when the city realized the issue of accessibility may be a concern in the entire portfolio, not just in the community redevelopment agency part, the city voluntarily chose to resolve the case on all of its affordable housing portfolio,” Allen said.

Housing developments that receive federal money are required to make 5 percent of their units accessible to people with mobility disabilities, and another 2 percent accessible to people who are blind or deaf, he said.

Allen said the settlement will set a good example to other cities.

“This is the largest accessibility settlement ever reached involving affordable housing, and it will send a strong, positive message to cities all over the country that their housing programs must be accessible,” Allen said.

Attorneys for the groups said the litigation against the redevelopment agency itself will continue. Allen said they hope to ensure that accessibility issues in at least 22 additional housing developments that is still under the agency’s control are addressed.

The settlement approved by the council becomes effective once city officials have signed it, after which the city will need to work out a process for how many units will be retrofitted and newly built.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement that the settlement “allows us to resolve a long-standing legal issue with a predictable level of investment.”

“Los Angeles is a city that stands for inclusiveness and access for all,” he said. “If we have fallen short of that commitment, we need to fix it as quickly as possible.”

Cielo Castro, a spokeswoman for City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, said the “upfront costs” of the settlement will be covered by funding from the city’s reserves, which the city sets aside for emergencies.

“The $200 million settlement will be budgeted on an ongoing basis through the regular budget process,” Castro said.


L.A. Seeks Proposals to Build Housing for the Homeless

July 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The city of Los Angeles officially put out a call Monday for developers to submit plans for building homeless housing at eight city-owned properties.

City leaders are looking to build more housing for the homeless as part of a larger plan to fight homelessness in Los Angeles, where about 27,000 are thought to be living on the streets.

City officials are asking affordable housing developers to submit proposals for what they believe can be done with the eight properties, with the hope that the parcels can either be developed into housing or sold off to raise money for housing projects elsewhere.

The developers would be placed on a list of pre-qualified firms for the proposed projects.

City leaders have adopted a $138 million plan to address homelessness in the upcoming year, and have also placed a $1.2 billion parcel tax measure on the November ballot aimed at raising a sustained source of funds for homeless housing projects.

The city’s housing department is also moving forward with its own slate of affordable and homeless housing projects at 13 other city-owned cites, according to the mayor’s office.

Metro Takes In Ideas for Mariachi Plaza

March 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Boyle Heights resident Leticia Andrade last Saturday said she would like to see affordable housing built on an empty lot located behind Mariachi Plaza. Restaurant owner Armando Salazar wants a grocery store or a public parking lot, and senior Carmen Fuentes thinks a center offering services to seniors and children would be a good fit at that location.

Andrade told EGP she knows of families that have “up to seven people living in a one bedroom apartment” and building more affordable housing would help alleviate some of the overcrowding.

Lea este artículo en Español: Metro Recibe Ideas para la Plaza del Mariachi Plaza

Hers and other views were expressed during the first of two public workshops being hosted by Metro to gather input from Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders on what the transportation agency should do with two empty lots it owns adjacent to Mariachi Plaza, on Bailey Street between Pennsylvania and 1st Streets.

The design workshops are being facilitated by Metro’s urban design/architectural consultant team, with the objective of creating a project that will reflect “community goals” for the space.

Mariachi Plaza is an iconic place for Boyle Heights, Metro Director of Planning Vivian Rescalvo told EGP, explaining that Metro wants to hear directly from the community how they would like see the space used, whether it’s for housing, public space, retail or any other ideas.

This is not the first time Metro has traveled down this road. Past proposals for developing the lots were met with strong community opposition ultimately scrapped.

Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders discuss best use for two vacant Metro-owned lots behind Mariachi Plaza. (EGP photo by jacqueline Garcia)

Boyle Heights residents and stakeholders discuss best use for two vacant Metro-owned lots behind Mariachi Plaza. (EGP photo by jacqueline Garcia)

Metro is starting all over with new ideas and community input, Rescalvo said.

“We are ready to hear from the community based on what Boyle Heights has, what do they feel it needs and what do they think is the right use for these properties immediately adjacent to Mariachi Plaza,” she said.

Salazar owns the Santa Cecilia Restaurant at Mariachi Plaza and thinks the community needs a grocery store. “We used to have a market and it was demolished when Metro started building,” he told EGP. “A parking lot for Boyle Heights visitors would also be a good idea,” he added.

Saturday’s workshop kicked off with a presentation by the Las Fotos Project – a community based photography program for girls and young women— which the group said highlighted the needs of the community as captured through the lens of their cameras:

A photo of a large group of people gathered on a sidewalk on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, showcased the need for more open spaces with benches; a photo of a graffiti covered wall called attention to the need for more recreational areas to prevent tagging of existing murals; and a photo of street vendors on a local sidewalk suggested the empty lots could be used as a place for street vendors to sell their wares.

Las Fotos Project member Jennifer Bermudez said her photo of cars parked on the street shows there is a need for more public parking.

“We live in a dense area, and especially in Mariachi Plaza and Cesar Chavez where a lot of events are going on, there’s no parking,” she said. “That’s always a struggle [to find parking] and that creates [more] traffic,” Bermudez said.

The workshop included opportunities for the 100 or so people in attendance to meet in small groups with Metro planning representatives to discuss the ideas for the land they believe to be the best fit for the eastside neighborhood —whether taken from the photos they had just seen or based on what they see in their everyday life.

They were encouraged to “dream big.”

“A pool,” suggested one resident. “A skate park,” said another.

Rafael Chagoya is a member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and he thinks public restrooms at Metro’s Gold Line station at Mariachi Plaza is what’s needed.

Many other Metro stations have public restrooms, but there are none here, he told the group at his table.
Chagoya also supports creating a space where street vendors can do business in a “dignified way,” without being kicked out every time they try to sell their goods.

Andrade agrees. If new affordable housing makes it into Metro’s plan, she suggests the housing include street level retail space, which could be a good rental option for local street vendors.

At the end of the workshop, participants were given green stickers to vote for their four favorite ideas presented and red stickers for the two options they most opposed.

Among the top options were a grocery store, parks, affordable housing or public parking. Getting the highest number of no votes were proposals for commercial use, such as offices, a healthcare clinic, bank or gym, and for civic spaces like a library or city/county/state agency.

A second community workshop will take place March 9 at Bishop Mora Salesian High School from 6:30 to 8:30pm. Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend. For more information, visit,

Twitter @jackiereporter

Displaced Tenants Win ‘Right to Return’

December 3, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Calling it a victory in the fight against displacement and gentrification, Carolina Vivara and her family Tuesday night celebrated an agreement that guarantees them and their neighbors the right to live in a new 50-unit affordable housing complex being built on the site of their former homes in Boyle Heights.

In August, families residing in 5 buildings on the 2400 block of East First Street were notified they would have to vacate their homes by Nov. 30 to make room for Cielito Lindo Phase 1, a 50-unit affordable housing complex being built by nonprofit housing developer East Los Angeles Community Corp, ELACC.

Lea este artículo en Español: Inquilinos Desplazados Ganan el ‘Derecho a Quedarse’

Months of negotiations between the tenants and ELACC resulted in the agreement that will give seventeen households, representing approximately 50 residents, the “Right of First Refusal” on leases for the first phase of the new housing complex scheduled to open in 2017.

By law, all the displaced residents are entitled to a minimum of $19,000 in relocation money, which tenants will not have to return even if they decide to lease a unit in the new facility.

It’s a big relief, said Vivara, who has lived in the same apartment for 17 years. She told EGP she was afraid she would lose her home and not be able to afford a new place. “Rent is extremely expensive,” she noted.

Tenants received support from Union de Vecinos, a nonprofit network of Boyle Heights committees fighting against gentrification and displacement since 1996.

Union de Vecinos helped tenants negotiate the terms of the deal allowing them to return when construction is completed.

Initially, renters were told by ELACC that they could only return if they met the development’s strict income eligibility requirements and passed credit and background checks.

For Vivara, that led to worries that her husband, the family’s sole provider, would not meet the minimum $24,000 income requirement for a family of four, and they would not be able to afford rent in another location.

“I currently pay $900 with utilities included for the two-bedroom apartment,” she told EGP in Spanish. “In other buildings the same apartment is $1,400 plus utilities, ” the mother of two said.

Terry Navarro has lived in Boyle Heights since the 1970s and in one of the buildings being demolished for the past eight years. She told EGP she attended the meeting where ELACC informed them about the situation and gave them a verbal offer to return.

“The problem is that we didn’t know for sure if we were coming back and that’s why we requested [the offer] be in writing,” she told EGP. Sometimes verbal offers don’t count, she said.

As part of the agreement, the tenants will not have to meet the minimum income requirements, Isela Gracian, ELACC president told EGP.

Carolina Vivara signs an agreement Tuesday night to move in a new affordable housing complex in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Carolina Vivara signs an agreement Tuesday night to move in a new affordable housing complex in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Also, applicants will have their credit reviewed, however, credit scores or debt will not be used to determine eligibility as long as applicants’ prior rental accounts are in good standing and they do not have a default eviction.

So far, 16 of the 17 households have received relocation benefits, according to Gracian. “One was able to purchase his first home with the relocation benefits,” she said.

The majority of tenants have found a new place to live for the next 18 months or so. East La Community Corp. staff is helping the others locate a place to move.

Elizabeth Blaney, co-director of Union de Vecinos told the tenants they hope the Right of First Refusal agreement is one that will be adopted by other developers building projects that could displace long-time residents of Boyle Heights and nearby areas.

“We are happy that East LA Community Corporation worked with us and the tenants to help reduce the displacement occurring in Boyle Heights,” Blaney said. “The right of return agreement can be a model for other affordable housing developers to help reduce the displacement caused by the construction of new affordable housing.”

The new housing complex will have 49 affordable units of one, two and three bedrooms and one manager unit, parking for 62 cars, 61 bicycles, a roof-top garden, community space among other amenities, according to ELACC.

Construction is set to begin in late January 2016.


Twitter @jackiereporter

The ‘Good Neighbor’ Role In Gentrification

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Just a few blocks from a major commercial corridor in Highland Park where storefronts have changed and property values have increased, east and northeast Los Angeles area residents gathered Saturday for a panel discussion on what it means to be a good neighbor.

Within minutes it was clear that for many gentrification and housing affordability are a big part of the equation.

The meeting was held at the Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, a site that has withstood the many changes going on around the nearly century old synagogue.

“Renters are getting evicted because the cost of housing is very high, meaning renters get priced out of their homes in neighborhoods that are becoming attractive, like Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights,” said moderator Helen Leung, co-executive director of the nonprofit LA-Más.

“The term gentrification is very loaded but I’m hoping we can discuss how we can minimize displacement,” she said, attempting to frame Saturday’s dialogue.

Panel speakers included Los Angeles Unified School Board President Steve Zimmer, Elena Popp, a Lincoln Heights resident and Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network, and Shmuel Gonzalez, a community activists and historian from Boyle Heights.

According to Popp, when asked what it means to be a good neighbor her first reaction is to describe someone who is friendly and doesn’t have loud parties. But as “la abogada” (the lawyer), she knows it means helping your neighbor stay in the neighborhood.

700,000 tenants are evicted every year, Popp emphasized.

“We need to develop more affordable housing and make sure the number of [market rate] developers are restricted,” she said, citing the Wyvernwood Garden housing project in Boyle Heights as an example where a development could force longtime neighbors from their homes.

A panel Nov. 14 at the Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock discuss tenant displacement.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A panel Nov. 14 at the Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock discuss tenant displacement. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

For renter’s rights and affordable housing advocates, Wyvernwood has become synonymous with eastside gentrification. Plans to demolish and replace the 1,187 World War II era apartments to make room for a proposed mixed-use development project has led to mixed emotions in the community.

Many activists claim gentrification is just another word for racism because it displaces mostly low-income Latino families.

“We shouldn’t pretend there isn’t a significant amount of profit on the backs of the working class families being displaced,” said Zimmer. “It’s up to us affected and not affected to raise enough attention for this to be addressed,” he said, prompting applause from the 50 or so people in the audience.

In general, the panel agreed that both low income and market rate housing are needed to preserve a community’s viability and attractiveness.

“We need to have that option so people can get out of low-income housing,” said Gonzalez, referring to higher earning residents who want to stay in the neighborhood but want better housing options and amenities.

Zimmer said developers visit him throughout the year hoping to entice his support for a local housing project with promises of developer fees for a particular school. In his view, the fees are just “used to hush a particular neighborhood” so he’s inclined to deny giving his support.

Annabella Mazariegos of Boyle Heights says longtime community activist like her cannot be silenced.

“A positive change in property values and new businesses should not mean a change in the people who live there,” she said.

So, if that’s the case, then how does a community respect those individuals who have lived in the neighborhood for 50 years as well as those who moved in 50 days ago, Leung asked the panelists.

Citing from personal experience, Zimmer said while he felt blessed when welcomed into the Elysian Valley community he found it very important to check his “privilege and entitlement.”

“When you move into a neighborhood that doesn’t give you the right to take over a council or organizations,” the school board president said. “Buying a home doesn’t entitle you to control.”

It’s something he has witnessed firsthand at LAUSD schools, where some individuals or groups push their personal agendas or interests.

“When a parent advisory group is suggesting school funds be used for a garden and not an intervention program I’m going to ask who is on the council,” he elaborated.

Gonzalez pointed out that Eastside communities like Boyle Heights are already dense, causing parking issues and other problems that cause tension among neighbors.

“A lot of people don’t want dense housing because they are afraid of the demographics change,” he said. “Let’s be honest it’s because that means non-Latinos are moving in.”

Gonzalez said it’s a form of racism taking place on the Eastside and pointed to a 2014-firebombing in the Ramona Gardens housing project that many people believe was a hate crime. The firebombing targeted three black families and one Latino family in the public housing complex, where the vast majority of residents are Latino.

Landlord, Cecilia Dominguez, 62, of Elysian Valley, says the issue is complex. She told EGP she understands the dilemma of not wanting to displace a family, which reflects the key culture of a community, but as businesswoman she also has to do what she needs to stay afloat, and that could be to raise rents.

According to Dominquez, the properties she purchased decades ago have gone up in value, but so have her property taxes to reflect new higher property value assessments.

“I don’t want to [raise rents] but my property taxes are going up so I know I will eventually have to,” she said.

While Dominguez sees the discussion as a good start to framing and addressing the issue of renter displacement, she was disappointed no real solutions were reached.

She said she hears over and over that a change in demographics [to higher income] in the community will translate into better streets, betters school and better options.

“But for whom?” she asks. “The people who lived there for years and were displaced won’t see those changes.”


Help Starts With A Home

November 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Juan Ortiz walked through the crowd Monday morning feeling emotional and grateful to be part of the ceremony opening of Teague Terrace, a new permanent supportive housing project.

Most of all, he was glad to have a place to call home.

Ortiz lives in one of 56 apartment units in the new housing complex in the border of Glassell Park and Eagle Rock, which actually opened its doors in August.

Lea este artículo en Español: Veteranos, Indigentes Y Personas de Bajos Recursos Encuentran Nuevo Hogar

Ortiz told EGP depression and other illnesses caused him to lose his home, bakery business and his family. He spent more than two years living on the streets of Long Beach, until a social worker helped him get back on his feet.

The approximately $18 million Teague Terrace is the second Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) community built by nonprofit developer Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS). The nonprofit partners with other groups to make sure people not only have a roof over their heads, but also receive the services they need to make the transition from homelessness to tenant.


Councilman Cedillo tours the new apartment of Ricky Shapley at Teague Terrace in Glassel Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Cedillo tours the new apartment of Ricky Shapley at Teague Terrace in Glassel Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“We are delighted that this permanent supportive housing is now doing what it was developed to do, house formerly homeless persons and other special needs populations, especially in a neighborhood that has seen the unprecedented impact of gentrification on all income categories,” said WORKS President Channa Grace Monday.

For Kathryne Church and Ricky Shapley, getting the keys to their fourth floor apartment has been  “unbelievable.” The couple said they had been living in their car for over a year before moving into Teague Terrace.

“I still can’t believe I have an apartment,” Church told EGP with a big smile. “We are very happy to have our home,” added Shapley.

Each of the apartments is furnished with a bed, sofa, refrigerator and stove. Tenants also received some pots and pans, toiletries and other basic amenities that people living on the streets often go without.

“It’s well said that the real works starts when somebody gets a house,” said Cesar Lopez, a team leader with Housing Works, a social service agency partnering with WORKS to provide on-site supportive and enrichment services.

From the moment people move in they need help with everything, from furniture to groceries, he explained. We teach them what to buy and what not to buy, Lopez said.

Most tenants receive some type of government aid or benefit, such as social security, disability insurance, Section 8 Housing Voucher or other stipend to help pay for their rent, he said.

As part of the transition from homeless to housed, social workers teach the new tenants how to manage their money, pay their rent and what they need to do tp keep their housing.

“They can live at Teague Terrace for as long as they like, as long as they abide by their lease agreement and stay current with updating their paperwork yearly with the Housing Authority,” Lopez explained.

Both Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo represent Northeast LA and both were on hand Monday for the development’s official opening blessing and ceremony.

Cedillo called the housing project elegant, well-built and something tenants can have pride in.

“I’m so excited to know that people are not only getting a roof over their heads but also of the quality of the commitment from nonprofits and social services to help [residents],” he said.

“We really need to call homelessness a state of emergency and stop acting as if it is a business,” said Cedillo, who back in September joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and six fellow council members to announce the city’s plan to dedicate $100 million to help reduce the number of homeless on city streets.

The homeless population in LA city and county has risen 12% since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

“Homelessness has become a very important word in our vocabulary,” Sup. Solis told the crowd. “But we want to make affordable housing available for all people that need it in LA County.”

There’s a need for over 500 thousand affordable units in the county, including over 80 thousand needed to house the homeless, Solis said.

Permanent supportive housing projects like Teague Terrace are making a small but important dent in that number.

The facility houses 39 formerly homeless people including some veterans, people with developmental disabilities and people who are being helped by the Dept. of Health Services. The other sixteen residents are either low-income seniors or small families whose income is at or falls below he Area Median Income, which is $1,300 per month for a single individual, said Lopez.

Fifty-eight-year-old Ortiz told EGP he’s working on recovering from his depression and to be OK again.

“I’m very happy, there’s a lot of good people that help me.”


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Supes Approve $100M for Affordable Housing Trust

October 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a new fund, set to total $100 million a year by 2020, to support affordable housing.

This is in addition to the $100 million the county has already committed to fighting homelessness.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who authored the motion and was joined by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said she was trying to take a longer view.

“This money is not just about housing people who are already homeless,” but about building housing so that most Angelenos can afford a place to live, Kuehl said.

Redevelopment agencies once supplied much of the funding for affordable housing, as they were required to set aside 20 percent of their revenues for that purpose. Their dissolution by the state in 2012 has helped contribute to a supply and demand mismatch.

A family living in the county needs to earn $71,000 per year to afford the average rent for an apartment, but the average renter household earns just over half that, or $39,000, according to Kuehl’s motion.

At least three-quarters of the new county fund will be designated for preserving, building or renovating housing for very low-income or homeless households. The balance is intended to provide rental assistance, rapid re-housing of the homeless, shared housing and move-in assistance programs.

A multi-disciplinary committee will be established and tasked with returning to the board in about five months with a detailed plan for both funding and spending the dollars.

The commitment totals $20 million in 2016-17 and scales up in $20 million increments to reach $100 million annually by 2020-21.

Supervisor Don Knabe raised concerns about setting the budget five years out before identifying the exact source of funds.

“Taking this number out of the sky bothers me,” Knabe said.

Instead, Knabe suggested setting aside up to 20 percent of the county’s excess fund balance each year, rather than setting an absolute dollar amount.

He estimated that his formula could actually provide more dollars for housing in the early years.

Pushing for the $100 million commitment, Ridley-Thomas called it an “audacious and inspirational” goal, telling Knabe it was time “to get moving and get moving now on building affordable housing … we are not running fast enough, keeping up with the crisis.”

Knabe said he absolutely supported affordable housing and wasn’t advocating for “business as usual,” but that he wanted to ensure that any plan was sustainable.

The board ultimately agreed that the committee would consider Knabe’s formula as one potential way of funding the overall commitment and voted unanimously in favor of the commitment.

The Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing praised the move, calling it “a significant boost to solving the shortage of affordable homes to our most vulnerable, especially low-income families, seniors and veterans,” said Alan Greenlee, executive director of SCANPH.

The association pegged the shortage of affordable homes for those making $18,000 or less per year at more than half a million units.

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