Realizing the Promise of South LA

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Representing a cross section of non-profit organizations, educational institutions, business leaders, faith-based groups, labor representatives and advocates, more than 100 community partners joined to submit a South Los Angeles application Friday for a federal “Promise Zone” designation.

 The milestone comes nearly a year after Los Angeles earned its first “Promise Zone” designation, which did not include any portion of South Los Angeles – currently housing some of the poorest and most underemployed neighborhoods in the city, state and nation.

 “Many people said we wouldn’t be able to bring our community together for this effort, we heard all the excuses - you won’t get folks to support this, you aren’t going to win a designation, it’s just not worth it,” said Councilman Curren Price.

 Councilman Price helped bring key community organizations and local leaders to the table to collaborate on one unified South LA application. The Councilman secured the support of a host of South LA elected officials, including Congress members Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal Allard, Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, State Senator Holly Mitchell, and Assembly members Reginald Jones Sawyer and Sebastian Ridley Thomas, and also a resolution cementing the LA City Council’s support of this second Promise Zone application.

 “Not only did we come together, we have produced an amazing, competitive application that I am confident will get noticed and furthermore, we have laid the foundation for a host of partnerships that will change the way we work together towards positive changes in this community.”

 

Under the leadership of Larry Frank, President of Los Angeles Trade Technical College, the college took on the role of lead applicant for the proposal. Over the course of a few weeks, the college organized numerous meetings with representatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of Southern California, University of California at Los Angeles, among others as well as a host of community non-profits that included Community Coalition, Brotherhood Crusade, LA’s Promise, Urban League the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, CD Tech and the CD9 Coalition.

The sessions were used to gather vital information on current efforts to create jobs, improve educational opportunities and promote healthier communities and ideas for future projects with increased funding.

The result of the work is a thorough proposal that builds and expand on the effective strategies already taking place in this community and centers around leveraging investment along the Expo, Crenshaw and Blue Lines that weave together the region “for the benefit of all South LA residents,” said LATTC President Larry Frank.

Launched in 2014 by the Obama Administration and modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, the Promise Zone initiative is considered the nation’s top anti-poverty effort, designed to saturate low-income communities with a proven track record of success with the funding and resources they need to turn around their neighborhoods. In January it was announced that Los Angeles was selected for a Promise Zone designation that included East Hollywood, Pico-Union, Koreatown and Westlake, an area that has a combined poverty rate of 35 percent.

The proposed South Los Angeles Promise Zone has an aggregated poverty rate of 45 percent – three times the national average and more than 25 percentage points higher than the city’s average. The region also has an unemployment rate of 12 percent and drop-out rates just below 50 percent in most high schools.

"It is crucial that South Los Angeles be included in the city’s federal Promise Zone,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The need is readily apparent, and we know that with the proper resources and a collaborative approach to providing services, that we will be able to improve the lives of thousands of young people, their families and communities.”

As currently proposed, the South LA promise zone would serve Historic South-Central Los Angeles, including the communities of the Crenshaw Corridor, Leimert Park, Vernon-Central, South Park, Vermont Square, Exposition Park, the Alameda Corridor, and USC’s University Village.

The federal designation gives the selected community preference in competitive federal grant applications totaling up to $500 million. Organizations contributing to Promise Zone strategies will also receive technical assistance and other non-competitive support, subject to available funding and as permissible.

Recently, the current LA Promise Zone earned some $36 million in federal grants focused mostly on educational improvement efforts.

The South LA Promise Zone is physically connected to the City’s first zone and would build upon the first zone’s focus on K-12 schools, complementing it with career pathways and community benefit strategies. If the South LA designation is awarded, the area would make up one of the nation’s largest targeted anti-poverty zones. 

With or without the designation, community leaders said the work of bringing so many key stakeholders together to talk about the future of South LA is an invaluable exercise.

 “Even if we are not recognized by Washington, the greatest piece of anti-poverty work that is happening in the country today is taking place right here in our community,” said Marqueece Harris Dawson, Executive Director of Community Coalition.

 Councilman Curren Price echoed those sentiments, adding that he plans to make use of the application immediately.

 “While we definitely intend to do everything we can to secure a Promise Zone, the truth is this community has already won. This process has allowed us to craft a roadmap to success for our neighborhoods that can be used as we look to pursue development and investment opportunities and local and state funding,” Price said.

 “The promise of South LA will be realized.” 

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