Saturday, February 28, 2009

Can Jordan Downs - Or The Los Angeles Housing Authority - Be Saved?

First, the good news. One of the most crime ridden, dangerous, gang run housing projects may be demolished and replaced with a mixed income community - including the existing residents. This is a project that has long been asked by all of the Watts residents I know.

The bad news is that this will all be done by the Los Angeles Housing Authority - the single most corrupt, dishonest and incompetent of the local government agencies. And from my every dealing and encounter with anyone at this agency, I can verify that the corruption and incompetence in this agency has run from the very top to the very bottom.

It is also filled with people who are not there to serve the people of Los Angeles or the people who live in its housing - but only to push their own political agendas.

Supposedly, the revolving door of new leadership at the top has improved the situation - but some time ago I gave up dealing with the agency - after being unable to find even a single honest or competent person to deal with - so I can't personally speak for the present situation.

But merely changing the people who run the agency won't even begin to fix all the problems of that agency and - so far - I have not seen the slightest internal interest in even investigating much less fixing those problems.

So the only hope for the residents of Watts, is that the private developer is insulated as much as possible from any dealings with the housing agency's staff. Below is a brief description of the project - with the rest of the LAT story at the above link.

L.A. officials envision revitalization for Jordan Downs housing project in Watts
The city is making plans to replace the 700 rundown units with a $1-billion mixed-use development, in hopes that bringing businesses to the area will reduce the influence of gangs.
By Ari B. Bloomekatz and Jessica Garrison

February 28, 2009

Los Angeles officials are embarking on a $1-billion plan to tear down the notorious Jordan Downs housing project and turn it into a "new urban village" -- an effort aimed at transforming the Watts neighborhood that would be one of the city's largest public works projects.

The city wants to replace the project's 700 dilapidated units, which were built more than half a century ago, with taller "mixed-use" buildings that would house not just low-income residents but also those paying market rates. The new development could include as many as 2,100 units.

By creating a denser community that serves people of different incomes, officials hope to draw businesses to the complex, such as coffee houses, supermarkets and eateries. Officials believe this would help reduce the influence of gangs in an area that has long been the base of the Grape Street Crips and create better lives for Watts residents. Included in the price tag is a proposal to turn Jordan High School into what officials describe as a cutting-edge model campus.

"This will have a transformative impact not just on the Jordan Downs housing project but on the surrounding community as well," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "In order to make these communities thriving, you have to have a . . . retail component."

Already, L.A. officials have spent $31 million to purchase a 21-acre piece of land adjacent to the existing project on which they plan to expand. They have earmarked millions more for planning. The financing for the project would combine federal redevelopment money, state tax credits and private investments from retailers and developers of market-rate housing. Officials hope to get some money from President Obama's stimulus package and from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City officials plan to hold their first meeting between the private planning firm they have hired, WRT-Solomon, and community members at Jordan Downs today.

What remains to be seen is whether Los Angeles and its housing authority, which until recently has been plagued by scandal and mismanagement, can carry out such a bold transformation, especially in such grim economic times. Past efforts to modernize Jordan Downs have ended badly, with housing officials fired or forced to resign amid allegations that they broke rules or embezzled funds.

City officials argue that they have turned the authority, the largest housing agency west of the Mississippi, around in recent years. And they argue that the bad economy actually helps their cause, because in tough times, private developers find government-funded projects a safer investment than the vagaries of the open market -- a point on which real estate experts agree.

Again, the rest of the story is at the above link.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Gail I have a sister at live in the Jordan down house i so not think it's right for them to kick people out of there apt some of these older people do have the money to pay for a apt and mother's like my sister with kid's that can not afford housing I hope some one read is because it is not right Thank you Gail McCraney