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El Centro del Pueblo Playground and the Politics of ‘Affordable Housing Opportunities’

THE CITY-On Sep 11, 2019, stakeholders from Greater Echo Park filled the John Ferraro Council Chambers to stop the LA City Council from approving Item 28, Report with Recommendations, that starts the process for Affordable Housing Opportunities at “1140 N. Glendale Boulevard.”

This location is comprised of four city parcels that would end up intentionally severing a playground that was created especially for intervention programs addressing negative activity among at-risk youth, ultimately preventing them from falling into homelessness.

About 100 Angelenos in red shirts, as well as others, rose to their feet while professionals from health care agencies and youth intervention centers spoke in support of preserving El Centro del Pueblo’s Playground. 

A representative of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority spoke about the need for affordable housing across the city, but he did not take sides on “the Item” at hand. He did, however, speak at the same time as others did in support of  “the Item.”

Stakeholders in support of Item 28 affirmed that Echo Park needed Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for the neighborhood’s homeless people living on the sidewalks and that the “under-utilized” playground would be a good location for a PSH. They voiced uncertainty as to the span of the proposed housing project.

I have not come across any city documentation assuring that persons experiencing homelessness in Echo Park would be housed at this proposed location. Also, there is no evidence on Council District 13’s webpage of a town hall meeting on this issue ever taking place in Echo Park pertaining to “1140 N. Glendale.”

LA City Council approved Item 28 report recommendations, with a majority vote.

In 2002, the City issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the playground as a “playground accessory to Philanthropic Youth Center located on adjacent lots.” 

Also, El Centro’s Board of Directors and staff worked for ten years to raise more than $2 million to create the Mark Taper Youth and Family Recreation Center. The playground includes handball, volleyball and basketball courts and a picnic area.

“[The] playground has had 14,252 visits per year for the last six consecutive years as documented under Prop K. The playground is an integral part of service provisions to youth especially for children with special needs. The loss of access to playground could result in $1 million in funds.” 

El Centro Del Pueblo has a long track record of serving over 5,000 families annually with over 90 staff members and a budget of $7 million; it has the fiscal capability to administer grants with LA City and LA County. 

For 40 years, El Centro has been providing community–based services. Its accounting procedures have been in compliance with the LA City Controller’s office and the LA County auditor-controller.

Recently, the LA County Department of Children Services has recognized El Centro del Pueblo for their collaborative efforts and has contracted with them to provide Family Preservation and Wrap Around services in lieu of foster care, as El Centro continues to provide an LA County-funded mental health, out-patient program.

Also, El Centro del Pueblo is recognized and receives funds from the LA County Probation Department to provide case management services for probationary youth in lieu of probation camp. Their current Youth Delinquency Prevention Program has been a major program for over 20 years. 

Referrals for El Centro’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development, and Family Source Center – programs that are city funded -- come from local schools, law enforcement agencies and LA County Probation Department “resulting in a juvenile justice system diversion.”

In May 2018, the blog Urbanize.LA identified “1140 N. Glendale Blvd.” as a city-chosen site for Permanent Supportive Housing. Written comments on the blog do not favor the location. One objection presented is the high noise level on weekends at Echoplex (a night club) that is adjacent to the proposed location with an entrance on Sunset Blvd.

There must be an alternative location for “Affordable Housing Opportunities” that would serve just as well, rather than removing the “Playground accessory to the Philanthropic Youth Center,” El Centro del Pueblo, that works effectively with youth from across the city to create a better and more prosperous city for all Angelenos.

 

(Connie Acosta is Co-Chair of the Planning and Land Use Committee of the EPNC and a member of the Los Angeles Press Club.)

 

  • Excerpt taken from El Centro del Pueblo Presentation to Echo Park Neighborhood Council on Jan 15, 2019.

    **  El Centro del Pueblo Historical Documents.