Mervyn's, the first new department store to open at the South Bay Galleria mall, hired 25 local residents for its initial temporary work force that opened the store, according to the city, which is conducting a special program to help Lawndale people qualify for about 600 jobs at the new mall. The city has not yet received a report from Nordstrom--the second new department store, which will open later this month--on how many residents were hired.

Lawndale residents are entitled to special consideration for 50% of the new mall jobs because the city is a financial partner in the Redondo Beach development. But the jobs program got off to a shaky start in January. Mervyn's conducted a week of job interviews virtually without city involvement and Nordstrom initially declined to participate to the extent that the city desired, officials said.

Later, however, Nordstrom "became very cooperative and attempted to give preference and close scrutiny to Lawndale residents, made job descriptions available and their personnel person worked with our trainers in giving information helpful in training sessions," said Mark Winogrond, city community development director.

Winogrond said the bugs have been worked out of the program and the city is already gearing up for summer hiring by the 171 mall shops. Plans include specialized training in retail job skills and meetings with all tenants as they lease their stores.

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