They brought me on because they needed money to build
L.A. WEEKLY: Why did you begin working on urban-housing issues?
SHERRI FRANKLIN: I discovered we just needed people working day in and day out in our community to help structure deals, and build capacity, and lend their commitment to the community. And we could make anything happen . . . We got money out of the state, we got money out of the city the first money out of the citys housing fund that Mayor Bradley had finally set up.
And you did this working for what company?
I had gotten my real estate license, so I just operated under my real estate license. I think that was in 1990. We formed Franklin, Jones, Harteman and Jones. And then I worked with Concerned Citizens and a few others . . .
So Concerned Citizens of South Central was your client.
Were you doing this pro bono?
I did. In the beginning.
So they still called you staff?
I was director of development. They had negative five hundred in the bank when I started with them. And it was just me and Juanita Tate. I found an office, got us going . . . so we got a grant from LISC . . .
What does LISC stand for?
Local Initiative Support Corporation. And thats how I really got started. I had volunteered with Concerned Citizens on other things. I worked with them on the incinerators project where they fought at helping the community organize [to oppose an incineration plant]. I still work with them. Weve developed over $20 million in development together. And we have another 20 million that Ive raised money for that are under construction, or development. Weve done Central Avenue Village Square, which was a $7 million deal.
What is Central Avenue Village Square?
Its 45 units of affordable housing on 53rd and Central. We did 18 units of affordable housing at commercial space at 47th and Central. And we built Emancipated Youth Development for children who were in foster care, right across from Jefferson High School.
You built the headquarters for it?
No, we built 30 units of housing for youth that were . . .
30 units for the foster youth?
Right. Its like a dorm . . .
And they can stay there until theyre 18?
No, they could stay there as long as theyre in school. Up to [age] 25. And were building 77 new homes in South Los Angeles.
Are they single-family homes?
Single-family homes. Its four acres. I got 2 million from LAHD [Los Angeles Housing Department]. And we got money from [private donors] and a whole bunch of other people. The homes were building are going to be, theyre small lots, theyre not your typical lot there. We got a lot-size reduction.
And what is your role with the nonprofit Barrio Action?
They brought me on because they needed money to build. So I write the grants. I hire the architect and, and do the bidding process of hiring the contractor. And I train their staff on community development and financing. I have a group of young people there that I work with to help them understand the community organizing. I teach them the entitlement process. I teach them, uh, about anything regarding program development so they can meet the needs of their grant application . . . I know how to move the process. I know how to expedite things.
This raises an interesting question: Are the citys policies toward business so restrictive that nothing ever gets done in this city in terms of housing?
I would say that what we actually have is a lack of communication right now. The city actually wants to help move things. I love the new case-management division. Most people dont know how to do that. Most people dont know how to expedite, or what is the process, how do all the dots connect.
But is the process harder or more extensive than it needs to be?
I think that the process has been made more extensive by, by people who are lobbyists. And I think that the process has been made more extensive because of a lack of staff.
Chief Parks said the policies of the city were chasing developers out of Los Angeles, because of the restrictions of rent control.
Right. And that would be untrue. Because first of all, L.A. is a very economically diverse community. We really are driven by our market right now. The market is dictating what our rents are going to be.
Why are you running against Bernard Parks, given that hes going to be so difficult to beat?
I knew that he was going to do this, but he wasnt in the race in February, when I filed. On my 37th birthday. Im running because I think we have a very big gap between the level of resident expertise, true expertise, among our representatives at the city, state and federal level to represent South Los Angeles. It directly impacts my community . . .
Expertise in what?
Housing and urban development, or planning or in land use or in social-service delivery. Ive raised millions of dollars to help nonprofits provide programs for teenage pregnancy, gang intervention, for helping people recover after being incarcerated. I can name for you program after program after program good intentions and because you dont have people who have practical analysis [skills], its like, Oh, that didnt work. Oh, this isnt working. Were cutting the money." Enough is enough.
You once served on the citys Tranportation Commission, but you said Mayor Riordan asked you to step down. Why was that?
Yeah, he asked me to leave because he wanted to privatize parking enforcement. And so he sent one of his henchmen down for me, in the middle of my meeting, and he literally tapped me on my shoulder and said, "The mayor wants you to get everybody to vote yes." I said, "Oh, really?" And I went back and I sat down, and I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, my friend here told me that Riordan wants us to vote yes to privatize parking enforcement, get rid of all of our union jobs." So I said, "Well, you tell Mr. Riordan thank you, and I really appreciate being here, but you forgot I dont have a rubber stamp on my hand, and all my signatures are original, and, you know, Im not supporting it."
Why is Bernard Parks, in your view, the wrong person for City Council?
Well, lets talk about this two-ton Goliath, okay? Because Im David. And again, you know, one of the reasons why Im able to move things through, cause I dont see him as the Goliath. And once you change your point of view, then its easy for you to move through the process. So you have a Bernard Parks who has outside media helping, has outside money helping him. And he cant tell you where the Blockbuster is on 83rd and Western. I dont think hes the right person for the job, because I know for sure Parks is not in the community.
Why do you say that?
Because he was police chief for the city of Los Angeles, and the senior lead officers were the most important part of the Police Department, the most important work component of the Police Department for our community.
He said less than one in 10 people even knew who their senior lead officer was.
Well, those one in 10 people were block-club leaders. For people living in, like, where I grew up, University Gardens, we were calling our lead officers on a weekly basis. Because the 20 years that I lived in University Gardens, there were over 50 people shot dead in my neighborhood. So we knew who our senior lead officer was.
What do you make of the Rampart scandal?
Thats another thing. If you were a leader, and if you are the person who is managing a department, I dont think that you can stand up and say, I dont know anything about it. Because to me that means youre not an effective leader. You have to take responsibility for what happens.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.