By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The Friends of Los Angeles River’s vision came out of a series of 1998 urban-planning workshops called “The River Through Downtown.” What‘s sad is that a magnificent parcel of land that could be a great green swath leading to a river trailway for hikers, bikers, walkers and a talkers will probably yield only a sliver of land barely wide enough for public soccer fields and tennis courts.
The creation of jobs is what makes the project attractive to Councilman Mike Hernandez, who represents the area and supported the city’s application for a so-called Brownfields loan to clean up the polluted site.
Hernandez told a Planning Report roundtable in November 1999 that river activists stood by as the property lay vacant. “FoLAR has never proposed a project that could be funded,” he said. “And Majestic has a project that they believe can be funded. FoLAR has become more vocal because the project is up for approval. But we started considering this land as an Empowerment Zone in 1994 because the zoning already allowed for job creation -- through light manufacturing and industrial.
”There were public hearings at that time, but FoLAR didn‘t pay much attention,“ said Hernandez, who has not officially endorsed or opposed the Roski project.”Now that a development’s on the table, they‘ve come out of the woodwork.“
After constructing the Blue Line station and parking for 1,000 cars, about six acres -- including a steep hillside -- will be left for open space, Deputy Mayor Delgadillo said. He added that the hillside would be terraced. Part of the HUD loan would be paid back by the developers from property, sales and utility taxes.
So why has the fight gone on? ”I am frankly perplexed why so much energy has been targeted to a site that has always been industrial in a community that desperately needs jobs,“ complained Delgadillo, who was born in East L.A. ”I don’t understand why the opposition is here on this site,“ he said, ”instead of Wilmington, South-Central and East L.A.“ Robert Garcia told the hearing that the absence of parks in Chinatown creates an environmental impact when the last usable expanse of land is taken away.
And Chi Mui noted that L.A.‘s Chinese residents have suffered through a series of racially motivated evictions.
Established near Olvera Street in the early 1850s, the Chinese were demonized by the Alien Exclusion Act of 1882 and then burned out by a mysterious fire that forced them across the street to the future site of Union Station.
When the grand station was proposed in the 1930s, Union Pacific negotiated a replacement property with community leader Peter Soo Hoo. After rejecting a more agricultural community in Wilmington and some other options, Soo Hoo and the Chinese community moved again into the area west of Broadway and the Cornfields, which was then a train yard. The Chinese, who built America’s railroads, were some of the earliest Los Angeles residents but among the very last to arrive financially, Mui added.
Unemployment runs around 11 percent in the Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Solano Canyon communities that surround the Cornfields, and Delgadillo promises more than 1,000 warehouse and manufacturing jobs that pay at least $10 an hour for local residents who complete a city-sponsored, company-designed training program to qualify.
Mui doubts the promised warehouse and factory jobs will materialize, saying most workers will come from other operations of relocated companies. But Deputy Mayor Delgadillo said the city will ensure that industrial tenants in the Cornfields hire local jobless people, and promises ”a line of qualified residents lined up at the doors“ when the first factories and warehouses open. ”Be mindful of the fact this is also the area for the working poor,“ he said. ”The per-capita income is $7,000 per year.“
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