A freshly painted house unveiled Thursday amid the urban squalor of a South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood was perceived differently by different people--to Mayor Tom Bradley, it was a symbol of hope, and to some residents, it was a poor substitute for real progress.
The white frame house with iron window bars is in a 10-block area targeted by city officials for revitalization. City and private sector cash has underwritten new paint for 30 homes; another 170 houses will soon get a face lift.
"We're going to clean up South-Central Los Angeles," Bradley said. "We mean business."
Parked across the street was a new green sanitation truck. Down the street stood a black iron gate designed to create a cul-de-sac to discourage drug dealers. Bradley extolled his program across the street from St. Andrew Church of God in Christ Church, its stucco walls defaced with multicolored gang graffiti.
"We're going to keep out those who don't belong in this neighborhood, so people can live here with pride," Bradley said.
Joining the mayor was Rita Walters, the area's newly elected councilwoman. The neighborhood, she said, should be an area "where people want to move into and not out of."
Some neighbors, like the Rev. Bobby Eddington, 53, were impressed by Bradley's effort. "It's cleaner," he said. "He's trying.
Others were less uplifted. Shari Horn, 19, who grew up in a neat, one-story, five-bedroom house on 53rd Street, shook her head.
"So they paint a house, so what?" Horn asked. "I think it's a bunch of bull. (The politicians) need to come out here and make more jobs available."
She described the vicious cycle that she said grips the area--high unemployment which drives the jobless to sell crack cocaine. Hooked on drugs, they steal and turn to prostitution to feed their habit.
"If I was walking down the street and I got shot in the leg, no one would be surprised," said Horn, who works at nearby Jefferson High School.
At Central Avenue, a few blocks from where the mayor was speaking, she made her point. In an area that was once a thriving business and cultural center for the black community, she pointed to men she said were drug dealers, openly selling crack at noon. She nodded toward women loitering on the street, saying that they were prostitutes soliciting business.
"I say, 'Lord, let me get through the day,' " Horn said.
Back on 41st Street, Officer Ernie Jimenez, 28, of the Los Angeles Police Department's Newton Division sat in his patrol car. Motioning to blue and yellow wall paint of the 43rd Street Crips gang, Jimenez said the area's crime is overwhelming.
"You go into an elementary school and ask the kids if they've ever seen somebody who'd been murdered," he said, "and most of them raise their hands."