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Wilmington Homeowners Fear Crime, Parking Woes : Group to Fight Housing Plan

Times Staff Writer

A community group has announced its opposition to the Los Angeles Housing Authority’s plan to develop seven units of low-income housing in northeast Wilmington, saying the proposal would increase crime and parking problems.

The Wilmington Homeowners’ Assn. has been circulating petitions and post cards against the plan. A spokesman said the group will come out against the subsidized housing project at a public hearing in Wilmington tonight.

“We are being asked to carry more of the burden than our population should,” said JoAnn Wysocki, vice president of the group. Wysocki said that Wilmington already has the nearly 400-unit Dana Strand housing project and that the city should seek an alternative site for the new homes rather than place so much of Los Angeles’ low-income housing burden in this small community.

Fear of Strain on Services

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Although the development is relatively small, residents living near the site--a vacant lot at 1102 E. Cruces St.--say even the seven homes would strain police, fire and other public services.

“Wilmington has done its share,” Wysocki said, “The city Housing Authority is just showing insensitivity to an area in Wilmington that already has problems.”

Joseph Gelletich, development director for the Housing Authority, said that neighbors have a misconception about the project. He said the agency will “try to allay any fears” by showing drawings and answering residents’ questions during the meeting, which will begin at 7:30 at the Canaan Church of God in Christ at 923 E. Cruces St.

Gelletich said those moving into the development would be “good tenants” selected from the 21 Los Angeles housing projects. It would give them an opportunity to “escape the project mentality” by moving into a smaller development in a residential area, he said.

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Only tenants with good rent payment and housekeeping records would be eligible for the Wilmington homes. This smaller development is the first of three “scattered-site” developments that the Housing Authority wants to build in the city.

The plan for the 15,000-square-foot lot on Cruces Street calls for a pair of 2-story buildings of 3 and 4 units. There would be one 3-bedroom apartment and six 4-bedroom apartments. Gelletich said that 14 parking spaces would be provided behind the two townhouse-style buildings.

Julie Mantron, legislative deputy to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, said that although the site meets planning and zoning requirements for the area, Flores will support the project only if neighbors agree to it.

“A failure of communications” about the project has led to misunderstanding about its nature, Mantron said.

She explained that scattered-site developments are different from other housing projects because they have fewer occupants and are spread throughout the community to prevent a concentration of low-income housing in any area.

Mantron said she believes that scattered-site projects create more well-rounded communities and prevent “economic segregation.”

Objections of Neighbors

Neighbors in the area interviewed this week said the development would worsen “problems,” and most said it is already difficult to park in the area.

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Several of the about 40 homes on the street do not have garages or driveways. Cars line either side of the street even during mid-morning hours. Residents say that many of their neighbors who do have garages use them for storage, adding to the parking demand.

“Sometimes you can’t even get into your own driveway,” said Icie McClendon, who opposes the project. McClendon, who has lived on the street for 55 years, said the parking problem is worst on weekends “when everyone is home from work.”

Jewell Irving agreed that parking is a problem, but was more concerned about the possibility of increased crime.

“To bring in those seven units is going to cause big problems,” said Irving, a homeowner who lives across from the vacant lot. “It will overcrowd our streets and bring in a lot of loitering and drugs,” she said. “I just don’t want any more trouble.”

Lt. Mike Markuliff, a detective with the Harbor Division, said the Police Department has had to increase patrols and gang enforcement in the area to deal with drug and criminal activity over the past 2 years.

Gelletich said the Housing Authority will finance the project with part of a $1.9-million grant earmarked for “scatter-site housing” that it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant is to pay for 23 low-income units to be built throughout Los Angeles.


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