June 14, 2012
By Larry Buford
LAWT Contributing Writer
After pounding the pavement and knocking on doors to garner nearly a thousand signatures in opposition to a proposed low-income housing project, citizens of the Athens Park/Rosewood communities in South Los Angeles were defeated at a County Planning Commission hearing last week.
A developer called A Community of Friends (ACOF) presented a plan to construct a 55-unit apartment complex for lower income and very low income households on a 1.72-acre property located on Avalon Boulevard near 132nd Street, which is classified as a C-2 (Neighborhood Business) Zone. Seventy percent of the units are earmarked for heads of household who have mental challenges as a result of substance abuse for many of them.
During the meeting as pros and cons were brought before the committee, ACOF was commended by those in opposition for their cause in addressing homelessness, but that the proposed site – next door to a senior citizens home – is not the right place. Cited were concerns about diminished property values, lack of security services on the premise, and the enormity of the overall project placed in a community that already has a very fragile infrastructure. Residents along the stretch on Avalon from 132nd to 135th streets are perplexed by the fact that the parking issue with commercial trucks and households with multiple vehicles is a constant game of musical chairs. ACOF has been granted a discretionary housing permit which allows them to reduce the required parking spaces at the proposed site from 103 to 62 – presuming that the majority of their tenants will not own cars. Avalon residents sense that ACOF is under-estimating and that eventually the parking will bleed outside the complex onto the street adding to the existing problem.
In a neighborhood fraught with vagrancy and loitering, where policing is more reactive than proactive, there is even concern about the safety of the seniors and children who will be walking past the complex to go shopping or to school. Police protection for that unincorporated area bounded by the cities of Gardena to the southwest, Carson to the south, and Compton to the east is limited to three patrol cars, and there are no known plans to increase.
After hearing the arguments, one of the planning commission members moved to postpone the hearing because the committee member who represents the second district was not present. An ACOF representative retorted that if the hearing were to be postponed they may not qualify for a tax credit in July, and would not qualify again until March 2013. The move was withdrawn, and just as quickly, the project was unanimously approved by the commission.
Although several community meetings were held leading up to the hearing, Randy Hughes, President and Founder of Friends and Neighbors Community Club (FNCC) feels ACOF has not given sufficient notice to the community where he resides based upon the feedback from the signature campaign. In January 2012 ACOF by their own admission sent out only 50 notices and none of them were in Spanish for the Latino residents. The Public Hearing Notice posted on the fence at the proposed site is barely visible on Avalon, and visibility is usually blocked by trucks to passersby.
Hughes says, “ACOF made an unsupported statement that the multi-million dollar project would not affect property values, but in fact a low-income housing unit compounded with the discovery of toxic waste at nearby Magic Johnson Park and Ujima Village will eventually become a factor. We are appealing the decision, and we’re asking for donations to cover the cost.” FNCC’s monthly meeting will be held Saturday June 16th at 10AM at Greater Mount Hermon Baptist Church, 2302 W. 132nd Street near Central. Says Hughes, “We are asking all concerned citizens to attend not only to discuss the Avalon project, but also the Ujima Village building demolition that contains asbestos, and a requested code variance to establish a full-blown slaughter house on Figueroa – both of which will affect our air quality and our health.” For further information please contact FNCC at (310) 532-2761 and www.fnccla.com.