South L.A. Residents Feel The Effects Of CRA/LA's Demise
First, the library was torn down. Now, plans for housing redevelopment and a new grocery store in South Los Angeles are in jeopardy.
Members of the underserved community are being forced to deal with the consequences of USC students’ expanding need for housing, as well as the fall of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) Wednesday due to major budget cuts by the California legislature and Governor Jerry Brown.
“Our issue and our actions today is to make a call to state officials to move forward projects that we’ve initiated in the community and that have had years of investment,” said Sandra McNeill, executive director of TRUST South L.A. The organization is a “local community controlled land trust” that previously worked with CRA/LA to build a site that would have housed 55 families and provided retail space for fresh groceries.
Residents protested Wednesday morning at the former site of the Bethune Library, which they had hoped would be redeveloped. The demonstration was in an effort to draw attention to the needs of citizens living in the area around USC. Many formerly affordable housing sites for families have instead been converted into student housing.
“We’re people that don’t live that lavishly, [but] you still have to look after us. We’re still the people of the land, and we’re taxpayers and you should make sure you look after us,” said Martia Sterling, a 10-year resident of the area. “If they put housing for students, where would that leave us?”
The protest drew around 50 people, including members from TRUST South L.A., neighborhood residents and faith leaders. They held signs that read “Housing is a human right,” and “The Land Belongs to the Community.”
CRA/LA would have been particularly helpful in converting the former library site into housing for families in South L.A. This area now has lost 20 percent of redevelopment funds that were meant for low- and moderate-income developments.
“The community redevelopment agency has played an essential role in these disinvested neighborhoods where it’s hard to move projects, and it’s hard to get housing built that meets the economic needs of these families, and it’s hard to get fresh food,” McNeill said. “Honestly, it’s been devastated already by the dynamic that has been created by the university’s decision to house only 20 percent of students.” McNeill said the university’s plan for expansion would only cover 30 percent of students’ housing needs.
The protest was intended not necessarily to stop budget cuts, but rather to address the specific cut of CRA/LA.
“Any cut they make will cause this community to bleed,” McNeill said.
TRUST South LA had five specific goals in mind with the press conference, as outlined by McNeill in her closing remarks: to call on Governor Brown to make sure those appointed to the redevelopment were conscious of the needs of the people; to keep moving forward; to challenge state legislators to structure a plan for affordable housing; to articulate the need for alternate plans; and to demand a guarantee on the housing issue.
“It’s difficult when you don’t have a place to stay,” Sterling said. “They want us to be able to give, but they just take from us and don’t give back to us, and that’s not right.”
Reach Staff Reporter Nandini Ruparel here.