Public-Private Partners Break Ground on Affordable Housing Project in South L.A.

John Stanley, Southside Church of Christ and Innovative Housing Opportunities to build 50-unit complex on West Manchester Ave.

Participants in the groundbreaking ceremony included Saki Middleton (3rd from left), Chris Baccus (4th from left), Pastor Carl Baccus (5th from left) and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (2nd from right). (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

Members of John Stanley, Inc., Southside Church of Christ and Innovative Housing Opportunities broke ground on Monday, Sept. 19, on Serenity, a mixed-use 50-unit affordable rental homeless senior project in South Los Angeles.

Saki S. Middleton,  president of John Stanley; Dr. Carl C. Baccus, Southside senior pastor; and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD 8) were among the participants in the gala event held on Southside’s campus located at 1655 W. Manchester Avenue. The project, which will contain commercial space on the ground floor, will be erected on the former parking lot of the church.

The City of Los Angeles Housing Department provided a $9.22 Million Proposition HHH Supportive Housing Loan and issued $19,910,000 in Tax Exempt and Taxable Bonds for the construction of the project, and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles is providing 36 Project Based Vouchers for Chronically Homeless and Homeless Seniors.  It is slated to serve 18 chronically homeless and 18 homeless seniors and 14 non-homeless independent senior households.

“This is a true public-private partnership,” said Middleton. “It will provide homeless seniors with permanent housing and supportive services which will enhance their lives and improve the quality of the neighborhood.”

An artist’s rendering of Serenity Affordable Housing Complex. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

“Such a long-awaited development we are so grateful to God, the church members, community, and the city for joining us in providing quality housing and services in the neighborhood,” said Pastor Baccus.

“To whom much is given, much is required. We are thankful God gave us this opportunity to give to others with this project.” We look forward to continuing to serve our community,” noted Chris Baccus, executive director of Concerned Citizens Community Involvement, Southside community development corporation.

“Innovative Housing Opportunities is proud to be part of the solution to create more affordable housing for all seniors,” said Rochelle Mills, president and CEO of Innovative Housing Opportunities.  “It’s imperative that all of us address this growing population with homes that are healthy, beautiful, and safe.”

Designed by Withee Malcolm Architects, the mixed-use 50-unit affordable rental homeless project will consist of one, five story building comprised of 50 studio and one-bedroom senior units, 1,600 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial space, and two levels of podium parking located on .82 acres. The development includes the replacement of the church parking.

The project will have 20 Studio/one bath and 30 One-bedroom/one bath units and 1,785 Ground Floor Commercial spaces. Amenities will include a 3rd level outdoor courtyard that includes a bbq area, sitting areas, and 1,500 square feet of indoor community space that includes a lounge, kitchen, flex room, and computer/classroom.

The project also has a 4th Floor gym, 3rd-floor laundry facility, and parking for the residents. The units will serve homeless senior and independent senior households fifty-five (55) years and older whose annual household incomes are at or below 60% of the Los Angeles County area median income.

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Voters to decide whether LA hotels should house the homeless

Voters to decide whether LA hotels should house the homeless


The LA City Council voted 12-0 to send a measure that calls for the utilization of vacant hotel rooms for the unhoused to be put on the March 2024 election ballot. Under the proposal, hotels with 15 or more rooms would be required to continually report vacancies to the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD). The LAHD ran program would then commence referrals for individuals and families experiencing homelessness and pay “fair market rate” to the hotels through prepaid vouchers.
The initiative would also add additional affordable housing requirements for new hotel developments with 100 rooms or more that replace existing housing units. Developers would be required to provide a proportional number of affordable housing units at the hotels or in the surrounding neighborhood. To read the motion, click here.

Homeless Encampments Near Schools and Daycare Centers

Homeless Encampments Near Schools and Daycare Centers
The Los Angeles City Council voted to prohibit homeless encampments from setting up within 500 feet of all schools and daycare centers in the City. Every public and private school, not just the few dozen selected by the council over the last year, will be covered under the new restriction. This came about at the urging of Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho and the Council needing to provide safe walkways for students while making sidewalks compliant with ADA regulations. The second consideration will take place next week. To read the motion, click here.

L.A. Metro’s Transportation Project To Add 5.5 mile Bike Trail

L.A. Metro’s Transportation Project To Add 5.5 mile Bike Trail

Earlier this week city and county leaders gathered for the groundbreaking of L.A. Metro’s Rail to Rail Active Transportation Project, which will transform an unused freight rail corridor into a 5.5-mile bicycle and pedestrian path that connects cyclists and walkers to Metro’s A (Blue) Line Slauson Station, the Silver Line rapid bus station at the 110 Freeway and Slauson Avenue, and the future Fairview Heights station on the K (Crenshaw/LAX) Line. This project will create car-free mobility options, connecting Inglewood and the communities of Hyde Park, Chesterfield Square, Harvard Park, Vermont-Slauson, South Park and Central-Alameda in South Los Angeles.

Rail to Rail comes at an important time. As South Los Angeles recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, the importance of building equitable access to public transit and the essential role of mobility in the lives of people of color has been magnified. Metro officials said that the latest data from the 2020 Census notes that this segment of South Los Angeles has some of the county’s highest percentages of people who rely on transit, biking and walking to commute, with 19% of households in the area unable to access a car.

Lack of infrastructure investments in South Los Angeles has been a barrier for countless low-income workers to accessing jobs, training and other services such as childcare. “Decades of work are made real as we invest and transform these old rail tracks into a corridor that the Slauson community can be proud of,” said Metro Board Member and LA County Board Supervisor, representing South Los Angeles, Holly Mitchell. “We are focused on strategies to ensure these investments help lift our most vulnerable communities and preserve the fabric of communities who live here today.”

The $143 million project received funding from multiple sources, including a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, state Transportation Development Act funds, funds from L.A. Metro’s 2008 Measure R sales tax and a California State Active Transportation Program grant. Amenities and benefits of the project will include landscaping, lighting, security cameras, street furniture and signage.

Requests for concealed-weapon permits skyrocket

Requests for concealed-weapon permits skyrocket

LOS ANGELES — The number of people applying for concealed-weapon permits in Los Angeles County has begun to rise following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision easing restrictions on them, the sheriff said June 29, adding that the county could potentially see as many as 50,000 such permits ultimately issued.

Such a number would be a staggering increase over past years, when the county — following state regulations — required applicants to show good cause to obtain such a permit, and the number issued was traditionally a few dozen each year.

Last month, however, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a longstanding New York requirement, similar to California’s, requiring people to show a “special need” to carry a concealed weapon, beyond a simple desire for self-defense.

Gun-rights advocates have hailed the ruling as removing an undue restriction on gun ownership. Opponents said the ruling will lead to more guns on the streets, endangering the public.

Speaking in an online briefing June 29, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Los Angeles County has long adhered to the “good cause” standard when considering concealed weapon permit applications. He acknowledged that some counties have been more liberal about distributing them, operating under the premise that they “shall issue” the permits as long as applicants meet the basic requirements.

“Well, now we are retooling our operation to a ‘shall issue’ standard, so bear with us as we go through it,” Villanueva said. “We’re already seeing an increase in applications being submitted. And we had already moved in that direction since I took office.”

The number of concealed weapon permits issued has been on the rise under Villaneuva’s administration. He said June 28 the agency has already issued easing restrictions on them

“So our output is increasing,” he said. “I think when it’s all said and done, if we’re comparing our numbers to the surrounding counties, they might have anywhere from 8,000-10,000 ‘shall-issue’ permits in a county of maybe 1 million or 2 million (residents). So we’re probably looking at something in the neighborhood of 50,000 … permits in the county for a population of 10 million.”

He stressed that basic requirements are still in place to obtain a permit, including a training requirement and background check.

“You can’t be subject of a restraining order, mental illness or obviously a convicted felon, those type of things that disqualify you,” the sheriff said.

He said the sheriff’s department will be reaching out to neighboring law enforcement agencies to help expedite the processing of such permit applications, possibly through a sharing of personnel to work on reviewing the applicants — “to see how we can work out the logistics of this to facilitate the process for everyone involved.

Eso Won’s closure seen as crushing blow to Black culture

Eso Won’s closure seen as crushing blow to Black culture

By Janice Hayes Kyser

LEIMERT PARK — Residents, avid readers, authors and even competitors say the closing of Eso Won Books will mark the end of an era that leaves behind an indelible mark on Black culture in the city.

“It is heartbreaking news,” said Gina Fields, a Leimert Park resident and chair of the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council. “They are an institution, a bastion of Black creativity and a haven for self-actualization. Eso Won gives voice to the voiceless. I will miss it tremendously and plan to spend as much time as I can there before they close their doors at the end of the year.”

Over more than three decades, Eso Won’s owners — James Fugate and Tom Hamilton — have weathered economic ups and downs, social revolutions and the move to online book sales. Yet, Fugate says “there comes a time when time catches up with you.” And for him and Hamilton, he says that time is now.

“We have been in the book business for more than three decades and frankly we are tired,” Fugate said. “Still, there is no doubt we will miss the community and they will miss us.”

Fugate and Hamilton founded the bookstore, which is one of the oldest independent Black bookstores in the country. Since opening their doors in 1989, they moved locations several times before settling for the long haul in historic Leimert Park Village.

The store’s name means water over rocks in the Ethiopian Amharic language. Dr. Randal Henry, a Los Angeles-based author, describes Eso Won as a place where Black creativity flows and is celebrated. He says he benefited from Eso Won’s promotion of his books online.

He is certainly not alone; countless Black authors have seen their works elevated by Eso Won including a young senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison, who all held book signings at the store.

“Eso Won represents a mecca of Black people telling our story and that is invaluable,” said Henry, who is an expert on public health issues in L.A.’s historically Pan-African/Black communities and the founding CEO of Community Intelligence, an Afro-centric research and health policy consulting firm.

“We are a strong people and when one door closes, we open another,” said Henry, who is the author of two books on Los Angeles and its Black residents, including his latest work; “Born in South LA: 100+ Remarkable African Americans Who Were Born, Raised, Lived or Died in South LA.”

Jackie Ryan, owner of Zambezi Bazaar, an African-American clothing store and gift shop in Leimert Park, says the loss of Eso Won is impossible to calculate.

“As Black book sellers, James and Tom reached the pinnacle of success sharing with the Black community every inch of Black literature they curated for our people.”

“Thanks to them, my coffee table is overflowing with Black knowledge, pleasure and beauty, Ryan added. “Leimert Park Village has been thoroughly enriched by their commitment and presence. They have instituted a rich legacy for others to follow.

Malik Muhammad, owner of Malik Books with locations in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and Culver City, agrees.

“I have nothing but love for them,” said Muhammad, adding that Eso Won’s owners inspired him to open his book store in 1990. “I am a benefactor of Eso Won. They have created a legacy in our community that will not be forgotten.

“I had a degree, but I didn’t have a knowledge of myself and my people,” Muhammad added. “The books I bought at Eso Won contributed to my spiritual awakening and enlightenment as well as that of many others.”

Knowing that Eso Won made a positive difference for generations has been enormously gratifying, Fugate said. He also takes pride in knowing he and his business partner were able to create a safe space for Black voices.

“We always tried to create a warm and welcoming environment for the community,” Fugate said. “We kept our word; we were there when we said we would be there and we tried to help uplift everyone that we encountered. We had some very meaningful and deep conversations about Black literature and art over the years and made many friends along the way.”

Willowbrook Community Hold Prayer Vigil for Murdered Victims

Willowbrook Community Hold Prayer Vigil for Murdered Victims

Carmen Taylor Jones, in white, organized a prayer vigil in memory of Devin Pugh. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Vowing not to let the unexpected shooting of several people frighten their quiet neighborhood, the residents of Blakely Avenue in Willowbrook held a vigil on April 17 in memory of those who were killed and injured.

A tragic incident on April 10 resulted in the death of 17-year-old Devin Pugh of Downey and 40-year-old Timothy Ford Sr. of Moreno Valley. Also, a third person was critically injured, three others suffered minor injuries, and a seventh victim drove herself to the hospital with a non-threatening gunshot wound.

The vigil was organized by Carmen Taylor Jones, who has lived on the street for decades.  She rallied community members to gather at the intersection of East 122nd Place and Blakely Avenue to light candles and lift up prayers for everyone affected – both living and dead – by the sad episode.

“We did this for the entire neighborhood,” insisted Jones. “I was out of town when this actually occurred and my brother called and said, ‘Carmen, there’s trouble. There’re two men lying on the ground dying right now,’ and I almost threw up because I got a call like that before.”

In 2008, Jones was in Texas when her oldest son phoned to say that her 15-year-old daughter, Breon Symonne Taylor, had been shot and she died from her wounds.

“So, I know that pain and how that type of tragedy and trauma can be so destructive unless someone intentionally tries to lift it and bring light to it and find some good and purpose,” noted Jones.

“And I realized that God had given me that gift. I knew it had to be me because the enemy brought it to my door. I had to step over a body to get into my house, so I couldn’t avoid it,” she said.

Devin Pugh, 17-years-old, was killed April 10 in Willowbrook. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

On April 14, Jones and a few neighbors met at the intersection of the shooting and Pugh’s mother also visited the site where her only child was killed.  After praying with the mother, Jones suggested that a memorial be created and people volunteered to purchase the needed items.

“Every yard in the entire three blocks of Blakely has a memorial candle. Assemblyman Mike Gipson came out to view the yards and people from other nearby streets have asked us to help them place a memorial in their yards, so we’ll be doing that over the next few weeks,” explained Jones, who is the former chief deputy for the 37th Congressional District and former Southern California regional manager for the U.S. Census Bureau.

“But even with all of that, nothing precludes you from violence,” she admitted. Still undaunted, Jones joined Gipson on April 15 for his press conference about the danger of ghost guns and the following day, alerted her neighborhood that the vigil would take place on Sunday at 3 p.m.

“This was not about fault, this was not about blame – who shot John – and not about legislation. It’s about our hearts and our eyes that are filled with tears and our souls that were just wounded. For that reason, we came together,” Jones said.

“It was very important to us to send a message to our neighborhood and our community that it’s not business as usual. Yes, we cleaned up the glass and people are patching up the bullet holes in their walls and cars, but we hurt over here. We are in sorrow over here. It’s a huge loss,” she added.

“We know that only light can penetrate the dark. Our commitment to bringing light to this issue is a priority right now.”

Staff Writer E. Mesiyah McGinnis contributed to this article.

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