Bryant-Vandalden : Redeveloper Fights Crime With Fence

Times Staff Writers

A measure of protection for the blighted Bryant-Vanalden apartments was authorized this week in the form of a six-foot, wrought-iron fence.

The fence is "one piece of the solution to turning what is a war zone into a safe, attractive place to live," said a spokeswoman for City Councilman Hal Bernson, who represents the area. "Bryant-Vanalden has a terrible reputation, but Park Parthenia is going to rise out of that to be a good home." Park Parthenia is the new name for the apartments.

In December, the Los Angeles City Council approved a major redevelopment plan with developer Dave Vadehra. With $20.8 million in tax-exempt bonds, he has bought at least 48 of the 60 apartment buildings in the area of Bryant Street and Vanalden Avenue, and is negotiating to buy more. Using another $4.2 million in locally administered federal funds, Vadehra said, he expects to start a complete overhaul of the apartments later this month.

Protection for Tenants

To begin that renovation, the City Council this week authorized a building permit for the fence. It is supposed to provide a haven for residents by keeping out undesirables. It will take about three months to erect.

"The residents need and want this," said Vadehra, a Los Angeles developer with a record of fixing up run-down buildings. "We have found that most of the drug dealing and vandalism is done by outsiders."

The fence will enclose most of the development between Parthenia Avenue and Bryant Street east of Vanalden Avenue to the property line and west of Vanalden to Beckford Avenue. For interim security, a temporary chain-link fence will be put up within a few days, Vadehra said.

An electronic gate will restrict access to alleys, which the police say have become the scene of drug trafficking and violence. Residents of the 462-unit complex owned by Vadehra will be issued card-keys to open the gates, he said.

Aside from drug sales, the alleys have become a dumping ground for stolen, abandoned and stripped vehicles, creating a "dangerous hazard to the children," Bernson's spokeswoman said. "That is also a problem we expect to stop with the closure of the alley."

Police Capt. Mark D. Stevens said the fence will help a police task force that has operated since November, 1985, in an attempt to crack down on crime in the Bryant-Vanalden area.

"The fences will stop the drug buyer from having easy access to the area and the drug dealer from moving back and forth," he said. Stevens said he would guess that the 1,500 arrests made in the neighborhood in 1986 "quadrupled" the number of people arrested the previous year. About 40% of the 1,500 arrests were for drug-related offenses.

Some Still Skeptical

Like the police, most residents at Bryant-Vanalden are hoping that the fence will finally make a difference, although some remain skeptical.

"Right now, they come in and they drink. It's easy for them to come and go," said Angela Aragon, who said she was a chairwoman in the tenants organization called Padres Unidos (United Parents). "With the fence it's more security for us."

The balcony of Aragon's tidy second-story apartment overlooks an alley.

"I watch out my window and see vagrants, criminals," Aragon, 51, said in Spanish as she held her 3-year-old granddaughter, Maria Silvia Rivas, in her lap. "With all the problems, it frightens me to leave the doors open. I can't sleep peacefully."

Manuel and Geraldine Mendoza, standing with their two children on Parthenia Avenue where the gates will be, said they welcome the fencing because it will make the complex safer for their children, Juanito, 2, and Alex, 9 months.

"It's bound to make a difference," Manuel said. "It will if they just keep on top of things," his wife said.

But Luz Elena Castillo, who was walking down Vanalden Avenue with her 1 1/2-year-old daughter, said she thinks the problems will continue, even with the complex fenced in.

"Even with all the police they have, things don't change much," she said.

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