Marginalized communities in Los Angeles arenâ€™t concerned or bothered by the recent California Supreme Court decision to dissolve redevelopment agencies. They havenâ€™t reaped the benefits of improving urban decay or spurring economic growth compared to other areas of influence. Like Governor Jerry Brown, there is no love lost over their closing. There is a new wave of support to welcome new money that will help education.
Redevelopment agencies in theory were designed to remove blight. They had power to use eminent domain to seize property, relocate people, designate areas for redevelopment, and select developers for projects to foster urban renewal. Although in theory this was supposed to happen, the reality is that urban renewal happened for some areas of the City of Los Angeles faster than it did for severely impoverished communities. The inequitable allocation of urban investment has left a bitter taste in the mouths of predominantly minority neighborhoods.
The 20 year anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots is nearing. This period brought great travesty to the City and South Los Angeles who saw buildings burn and people rebel against social and economic injustice. Since 1992, there have been promises to rebuild South Los Angeles and to target areas for business growth and job creation. Those promises have been modest at best or maybe even lip-service to appease community members.
Crenshaw Boulevard has seen growth with the new stores, the renovations of the Baldwin Crenshaw Mall, and new restaurants like Post and Beam and Buffalo Wild Wings. The USC area has had a total makeover because of its proximity to downtown. These areas because of their political influence and middle class residents have been able to wrangle in businesses and housing developments to position them for more growth in the future.
However, the most blighted communities are still struggling due to the remnants of the 1992 uprising and have been fighting for a piece of the redevelopment pie for years to rid themselves of high concentrations of liquor stores, smoke shops, or problem businesses that prohibit economic progress. No one is talking about how to get these areas booming besides telling the locals that the lots are too small or businesses are scared because it is not safe. One can understand why the loss of redevelopment agencies isnâ€™t causing an uproar.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the opportunity to concentrate on ensuring that money gets into the Stateâ€™s education pot. Solving the education crisis in California and in South Los Angeles is top priority. Schools are striving to meet high academic achievement objectives and need the resources to meet those goals. A repositioning of the $1.7 billion revenue due to the elimination of redevelopment agencies seems like a catalyst to refocus priorities to save our educational system.
A redevelopment agency isnâ€™t the be-all end all of urban revival. Public-private partnerships can exist to reduce or eliminate urban decay, such as, new market tax credits, Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFI), and a host of private sector or philanthropic agencies. Moving these from â€œthink tanksâ€ to â€œdo tanksâ€ is necessary for revitalization efforts.
There have been studies that suggest over $5 billion dollars is spent outside of South Los Angeles in goods and services. Thatâ€™s a whole lot of money and buying power within. Redevelopmentâ€™s departure is not a big loss. Itâ€™s a chance for companies, banks, and investors to be true partners in urban renewal in impoverished communities.
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