South L.A designated a Federal Promise Zone

first_imgSeveral South Central neighborhoods surrounding the University Park campus have been designated as Promise Zones as part of the Obama administration initiative to improve quality of life and expand opportunities in under-developed areas.The South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone, also known as SLATE-Z, is home to almost 200,000 residents and encompasses the neighborhoods of Exposition Park, Central Vernon, South Park, Leimert Park, Florence, Vermont Square and parts of the Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills area. These areas have been identified by the federal government as in desperate need of fiscal and community-wide assistance due to poor economic growth in recent decades. In 2014, President Obama created Promise Zones to prioritize certain disadvantaged areas for support after the 2008 recession.According to a White House press release, workforce participation in SLATE-Z is low among residents; the unemployment rate is 11.8 percent in contrast to the 5.3 percent average across California. The education of locals is also suffering, with almost half of all residents dropping out of high school, and around 45 percent of SLATE-Z residents are living at or below the poverty line, three times the national average. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti came out in support of the federal program, and described SLATE-Z as necessary for the wellbeing of South Los Angeles.“The SLATE-Z plan is rooted in strategies for ensuring physical and economic mobility for geographically and economically isolated communities,” Garcetti said in a statement. “It will succeed by building strong public and private pathways between educational and job training agencies so more students receive a high-quality education that leads to long-term educational and career success.”Yet, the Promise Zone designation was not without its controversies. In 2014, other districts of metro Los Angeles were selected to receive federal assistance during the program’s first round of designations. The neighborhoods of Pico Union, Westlake, Koreatown, Hollywood and East Hollywood saw federal grants and support directed to their community, much to the chagrin of citizens and politicians in other impoverished districts. Developments in the initial Los Angeles Promise Zone included a local STEM high school increasing its students’ college acceptance rate to UCLA and the growth of the area’s scientific and technical industries to attract high-wage job opportunities.The South Central community only won Promise Zone status after years of unsuccessful attempts, and on June 6 it was selected as one of the final nine Promise Zones, alongside cities such as Atlanta, San Diego and Nashville. Los Angeles is the only area in the program to have two zones within its city limits. Two Native-American territories were also selected for the program: the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Councilman Curren D. Price Jr., representative of the Ninth Council District where SLATE-Z’s is primarily located, spoke on the struggle to gain eligibility for the program and to direct national attention to the impoverished neighborhoods of South Central.“This is a defining moment for South Los Angeles,” Price said. “Now, we have another tool to rewrite the South L.A. story and create the future we want for our children. The kind where one’s ZIP code or skin color does not determine the benefits or burden we bear.”Key support for the measure came from L.A. Trade Technical College President Larry Frank, who pioneered the SLATE-Z coalition to fight poverty in the area and organized multiple reapplications for Promise Zone recognition for the area. USC was also a key partner in pushing for the designation. Associate Senior Vice President of Civic Engagement and Economic Development Craig Keys spoke on the improvements to SLATE-Z neighborhoods and how they may promote change to the USC ecosystem.“The Promise Zone designation is important because it positions us to leverage new development in the area to foster local job creation and business expansion,” Keys said in a statement. “We hope the designation will help secure new and additional funding for job training, job placement and small business expansion services.  For example, our MBDA business assistance program is now better situated to extend its services through additional federal funding sources.”last_img

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