Residents Protest Housing Project : Century Freeway Relocation Complex Assailed as ‘Blight’
Homeowner groups in View Park, Windsor Hills and Baldwin Hills have denounced a proposal to build a housing complex for people displaced by the Century Freeway in their area, arguing that the project will lower property values, create geological hazards and increase crime in the neighborhood.
Moorson Partnership of Hawthorne has a tentative agreement with the state’s Century Freeway Housing Program to build the $7-million, 70-unit low- and moderate-income project at 4400 Stocker St., in the midst of three of the most affluent black communities in Los Angeles.
It is part of a state plan to fund construction of at least 3,400 homes and apartments to replace the 7,000 lost along the 17-mile stretch of freeway from Norwalk to the Los Angeles International Airport.
The residents will voice their opposition to the project when the county’s Regional Planning Commission reviews the proposal at a public hearing on June 3 at the Hall of Records, 320 W. Temple St.
No Hillside Ghetto
“We will fight those who would come here to exploit the area with shoddy projects that would spread crime, blight and worse into this quiet, affluent community,” Victor Parker, vice president of the View Park Community Council, wrote in a letter to state and local officials.
“This area has always stood for the values that home ownership has typified,” Parker wrote. “We will not allow the ghetto to be dragged up into these hills. . . .”
More than 200 residents crowded into the Windsor Hills Elementary School auditorium recently to protest the plan to state, county and elected officials.
Critics say the project will increase traffic congestion and add to the potential for geological hazards because the complex will be located on a fragile hillside near the Inglewood Fault line.
They also cite the need for increased police and fire protection in the unincorporated section of Los Angeles where the project will be located.
‘Clean Bill of Health’
Developer Bernard Belonsky said he and his partners, Willard Moore of June Construction Co. and Charles Quarles, have presented the results of an environmental impact report to the county.
“We have been given a clean bill of health,” he contended.
The project, Belonsky said, will require extensive grading of 18,000 cubic yards or more of the hillside in a “cut and fill” operation to create platforms to place the housing units.
Retaining walls also will have to be constructed to stabilize the hill to protect the houses on the ridge and the project below, he said.
Because of the slope of the land, the majority of the buildings will be constructed on stilts, the environmental impact report states, adding that the undersides of the buildings will be enclosed.
Belonsky said that by law he could build 15 units on the 8.8-acre site, but his plan calls for fewer than 10 units an acre.
“That is something that the residents should appreciate,” he said.
The completed project is expected to include 50 two-bedroom units and 20 three-bedroom apartments. Rents will range up to about $900 for a three-bedroom apartment.
The Century Freeway housing program is operated the state Department of Housing and Community Development and the state Department of Transportation. The freeway is expected to be completed by 1992.
Robert Norris, an assistant director of the housing program, said that his office determined that the Stocker project was “technically feasible.”
High Design Standards
“They provide high standards of design and other amenities,” he said. “There are some technical problems that they have to satisfy, but once those questions are satisfied the people will be pleased by the outcome.”
Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles), whose office is near the project site, said that she was concerned that too many Century Freeway housing projects were being planned for the Baldwin Hills and View Park communities.
She said that in addition to the Moorson project, there is another proposal to build 180 low- and moderate-income apartment units nearby on Stocker Street and Valley Ridge. A 55-unit apartment complex is under construction at Marlton Avenue and Santa Rosalia Drive, and another proposal calls for 110 units to be built in the vicinity.
“It is outrageous that this community is being overburdened with (Century Freeway housing projects),” Moore said.
Belonsky and his partner, Quarles, said the residents were not as concerned about the structures as they were about the fact that low-income people would be living there. Belonsky and Quarles described the neighborhood reaction to the project as “mistaken and elitist.”
Benefit to Poor
“It is my hope that the project benefits some poor families that couldn’t be able to afford decent housing,” Quarles said. “I would hope that I had something to do with that. I’m sure that some of those people on the hills marched in demonstrations at some point in their lives for fair housing. This project will only provide decent housing for people.”
Beverly Rhue, the acting chairwoman of the View Park Community Council, said the community’s opposition was not elitist but purely economic. Homes in the three communities range from $200,000 to $500,000.
“If they are allowed to build that project, it certainly would detract from the neighborhood and potential buyers would not be willing to invest in this area,” she said.
“Developers come in to do these projects, they make a lot of statements but then they leave; they never have to deal with the consequences,” she said. “It is the residents who are left to deal with the problems.” Parker, the council’s vice president, said the survival of the community is at stake.
“We are not opposed to low-income housing,” he said adding that the View Park, Windsor Hills and Baldwin Hills communities are surrounded by low-income apartments. “It is a fragile balance that would take very little to tip over.”
Parker said the developers “wouldn’t have the gall to suggest building a low-income project such as this in the middle of Cheviot Hills, Pacific Palisades or Palos Verdes. To propose it for Baldwin Hills demonstrates a complete lack of compassion for the residents here and for the investment we have made in our homes and our community.”