Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

1 thought on “Letter to the Editor: How is Metro’s New Boarding School helping the residents in Council District 8

  1. Though I am a current Neighborhood Council Board Member, I am responding to the e-mail received by 2 Urban Girls as a resident of the Gramercy Park Neighborhood and a Council District 8 community member.

    The development of the vacant land on Vermont Ave. & Manchester Ave. has become very contentious and has created an atmosphere not very different than that of the current political divisiveness we all witness in the daily media. When two sides are at opposite ends of the spectrum unwilling to converse in an open, meaningful and respectful manner then arriving at some form of a middle ground becomes less and less likely.

    I would like to share my perspective on the Vermont & Manchester development as well as the e-mail being that there are always several sides to an issue.

    Let’s start by defining the purpose of Neighborhood Council’s. They were created to “advise” the City on how City policy impacts local communities. NC’s are mandated to hold at least one meeting every three months. The Empowerment Congress Southeast and Southwest both hold general board meetings once a month. Therefore there isn’t a possibility, as stated in the e-mail, that there were hundreds of people attending weekly Council meetings expressing their dissent regarding the County’s plan.

    A Community Impact Statement is a vehicle used by Neighborhood Councils to advise City department’s and officials on matters under consideration by City decision makers. Being that the County of Los Angeles was pursuing eminent domain, City of Los Angeles decision makers weren’t involved in the process. Therefore, Community Impact Statements weren’t a tool that could be utilized by Neighborhood Councils in regard to this issue.

    Though, as it would seem, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson was in support of the County of Los Angeles taking control of the vacant land, he was not a part of the formal process. Both the Empowerment Congress Southeast and Southwest Neighborhood Councils provided community members an opportunity at their general board meetings to express their concerns about the County utilizing eminent domain to take control of the land and to provide their suggestions on development. There were representatives from the Office of Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Office of Marqueece Harris-Dawson at both meetings. Although there were many folks that simply wanted to express their opinions, there were some that became disruptive and threatening making the meetings chaotic.

    Some community members were against the County taking control of the land, some were for the County taking control, and other’s were more concerned about what would be developed on the land by either party. Whether at the Neighborhood Council meetings, the meeting hosted by Representative Maxine Waters, public meetings held by the County Supervisors and Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, or letters sent to those representatives community members had the opportunity to be heard.

    Being that Neighborhood Councils are funded by the City of Los Angeles and managed by the City of Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment they are held to the same rules, regulations and standards as other City of Los Angeles Departments. Board members crossing those lines in the past have been held accountable by the Office of the City Attorney. Board Members, though elected, are volunteer’s and can’t just do what they want. In many ways, Neighborhood Council Board Members are handcuffed and can find serving frustrating.

    I, personally, had hoped that the Vermont and Manchester land would be developed into something sexy. Something grand and impressive that would go a long way in providing our neighborhoods an opportunity to do our business and socialize within our community. I never believed that Sassony would deliver on what I considered a Disneyland of a plan. Malls are closing down all over this country but we were to believe this development would be different? Sassony’s answers to questions were just too ambiguous for me. And when I drove to get a visual of their other developments in neighborhoods located in the Valley to the South Bay and places in between, I found nothing that would indicate I should take a leap of faith and support them. Sassony does strip malls like the one located on the southeast corner of Vermont and Manchester leasing to cell phone stores, water stores, massage parlors and such. Nothing sexy. Nothing grand or impressive.

    The County’s plan doesn’t fulfill my vision of sexy, grand or impressive either. And although I love the idea of a boarding school for at risk youth and other’s being built within our community I still feel some kind of way about it being built on that corner. It just isn’t what I had hoped.

    I’m of a family that has helped to raise four flourishing adults that were in the foster system. We had the opportunity to become friends with other foster parents, relative caregivers and children in the foster system. When some of those children don’t have the guidance or resources necessary to help them to become healthy, functioning members of society they can become homeless, gang members, single parents, addicts… and otherwise a weight on the community. Not providing these children a realistic chance should make us all feel shameful? It’s why I find some of the demeaning rhetoric about at risk children deplorable.

    The idea that some of our neighborhood and at risk youth throughout CD8 might be provided a world class education where wrap around services can be offered on-site could be a game changer. And the opportunity to develop a comradery similar to a fraternity that could not only provide some of the foundation to get them through school but also last a lifetime…well, that is worth becoming excited about. I believe the County’s position that this development, even with the boarding school, could generate an ecosystem that could cause a development reverberation within our community is possible. It’s worth a conversation.

    Vermont & Manchester isn’t the only property on those streets or in that area that are in need of development. It is not the end all be all. How about coming together, meeting in the middle and developing a plan for the larger community? Let’s prepare for the reverberation!

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