Angelenos Participate in City Meetings Aimed at Directing Housing Funds
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Dan Aporte Acerca de Como se Deben Usar Fondos Federales de Vivienda
The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of a series of community meetings aimed at soliciting input into how Federal grants that target very-low, low-, and moderate-income communities in the city should be used.
Meetings in Boyle Heights, Southwest and Central LA and the Harbor Area have already taken place. Meetings in other parts of the city are on the horizon.
Every five years the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires Los Angeles to develop a Consolidated Plan, a document showing how it intends to spend grants for low-income communities and address issues related to affordable housing, job creation and reducing homelessness, according to Ana Lynn, senior director of Community Development Policy and Programs for the Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"The reason I am here is to say that we want to hear directly from you, the community residents, so, yes, your voice does count" when the city is deciding where to target its resources, Lynn told the attendees at a meeting held earlier this month at the Pico Aliso Recreation Center in Boyle Heights.
The meeting at Pico Aliso was intended to gain input from residents in East and Northeast Los Angeles communities.
A community survey is the first step in the information gathering process, explained Llyn, who added the city has already received back a thousand of the surveys distributed across the city. During the meeting, residents were asked to use post-it stickers to label community "treasures," "challenges" and "changes/improvements" desired in the areas of housing, jobs and businesses, social services, neighborhood improvements and "other."
At one point, stakeholders, including several members of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, broke into groups where they gave more detailed feedback on one of the areas they wanted improved.
The information gathered at the session will be submitted to L.A.'s mayor and city council, as well as HUD, speakers said.
Feedback from the community showed that not everyone agrees on how to spend the federal grants, especially when it comes to changes in their backyards. Area stakeholders were often at odds with one another, especially in the area of housing.
While some residents said they want more affordable-housing units to be built, others said there are already too many in their area. Similarly, some wanted neighborhood improvements and more name brand retailers, like Starbucks, but others called those suggestions gentrification, and in Boyle Heights, for many that is a problem.
Boyle Heights resident Rosalie Gurrola on several occasions complained that the affordable housing projects being built locally by a developer are attracting more homeless people to her neighborhood. And, she said, the developments are just adding more density in an area that is already too crowded.
Homeowner Terry Marquez said one of the challenges to increasing homeownership in the area, where a large number of the area's residents are renters, is lackluster schools. She and others hinted that more code enforcement could improve the appearance of residences.
And while there was disagreement on housing issues, many at the meeting agreed their community needs more parks, jobs for youth and support for family-owned small businesses. They would also like to see non-polluting businesses that pay well take over industrial facilities in the area. More "micro economies," like street vending, are needed, according to some.
Post-it notes said they want more health and public safety programs, such as nutrition programs for children, youth services and gang and crime prevention and intervention programs. They also called for enhanced DASH transit routes, healthy food markets and a movie theatre.
Yancey Quiñones owns Antigua Coffee House in Cypress Park. Over the next five years, he would like to see cleaner streets, less graffiti, more community pride and an increase in homeownership in his neighborhood. "Make your community look good," he said, sugesting this would help move things in the right direction.
However, Boyle Heights native and homeowner Irma Ramirez said many people are afraid to clean up the graffiti because it could lead to confrontations with taggers and gang members,
Vic Chaubey, who identified himself as a community organizer currently residing in Long Beach, said it's unfortunate that a lot of people feel city meetings, such as the one at Pico Aliso are a waste of time and that their opinions don't count. It's usually only people involved in organizing who participate, he told EGP.
Angelenos who missed the meeting can still chime in at one of the meetings to be held in West LA, South Valley, South LA, Watts and North Valley; the meeting schedule can be seen at http://cdd.lacity.org/home_report_ConPlan-meetings.html
The Commission will accept faxed comments for Community and Family Services at (213) 744-9061; or by mail at 1200 West 7th Street, 6th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017.
A second round of meetings will be held in January on the draft Consolidated Plan, before it is adopted and approved by the city council and mayor and submitted to the Housing and Urban Development Department, according to Rita Moreno, Analyst for the Commission for Community and Family Services.
In addition, an action plan will be developed for each year of the Consolidated Plan that will detail how funds will be allocated to reach the plan's goals, she said.
Gloria Angelina Castillo is a writer for Eastern Group Publications.
Photos from Eastern Group Publications.
This article originally appeared in Eastern Group Publications.
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