City leaders want South L.A. to get Promise Zone federal grant status

Garcetti, City Council support bid to include South Los Angeles in Promise Zone

Stung by South Los Angeles' exclusion from a program that gives communities a leg up in qualifying for millions of dollars in development grants, business, education and religious leaders from the region are banding together for a second try at winning a federal Promise Zone designation.

Such a designation gives a community a better chance of getting federal money aimed at relieving poverty through education, jobs training and economic development initiatives. President Obama created the designation as a way to help struggling communities recover from the Great Recession.

Los Angeles was one of five Promise Zone recipients selected nationwide this year. But the boundaries focused around Hollywood, MacArthur Park and Koreatown, leaving out South Los Angeles, which federal census data show has higher rates of poverty.

South L.A. leaders are now applying for a second round of designations being considered by the Obama administration. The proposed Promise Zone would include about 200,000 residents of South Los Angeles straddling the Blue Line and Expo Line transit corridors.

South Los Angeles backers got a boost Friday when the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to state its support for the effort. Larry Frank, president of Los Angeles Trade Technical College, is leading the application push with support from USC, the Los Angeles Unified School District and more than 40 other community partners.

The motion to approve the resolution came from Councilmen Curren Price and Bernard C. Parks, who represent much of South Los Angeles, as well as Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Gil Cedillo.

The resolution now goes to Mayor Eric Garcetti for his signature.

"This is an area with a high rate of poverty and unemployment,'' Price said. "That needs to be reduced with concerted resources to help turn around the quality of life for residents in South L.A."

In a statement, Garcetti confirmed his support. "I will aggressively pursue this in Washington to help lift Angelenos out of poverty and transform some of our most underserved communities."

Garcetti's backing could help resolve a lingering bitterness in South Los Angeles at being passed over in the first selection round. At the time, the mayor said his hands were tied because restrictions on eligibility left out that part of the city.

Friday's resolution "put the city's official stamp of support" on the expansion request, Price said. "We are trying to establish that there is a broad coalition to support our efforts."

Selection does not automatically qualify an area for federal money but gives projects priority status when applying for funding on specific projects. The first round was expected to bring about $500 million over 10 years to schools, businesses and nonprofits within the Promise Zone boundaries, said Connie Llanos, a Price spokeswoman.

Price said that even if South Los Angeles is unsuccessful with its application, the process has pulled numerous community groups together to focus on common goals.

"It builds an infrastructure and consensus on ways to proceed,'' he said. "It had been awhile since that consensus had been achieved."

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