Van Nuys Corner Studied for 3rd Hiring Site

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The city of Los Angeles is studying the corner of Roscoe Boulevard and Balboa Place as a site where day laborers could congregate while searching for work.

If chosen, the Van Nuys site would be only the third so far funded by a $250,000 federal grant, officials said. Plans call for three paid employees to run the site, which could also be used to provide free medical examinations, legal services and even English classes, according to officials. Food and clothing could also be donated to workers at the site.

While a nearby homeowners association has reserved judgment on the proposal, several area merchants favored the move as a way to control the now-informal gathering place along Balboa where as many as 150 men seek work.

"It's been a problem," said Tom Bamford, operations manager for the Home Depot at 16810 Roscoe Blvd. "Mostly it's a safety issue. These guys are anxious to work so they bolt across the street when they see someone slow down. I don't want to see anybody get hurt. Either my customers or one of these guys."

Elliott Smith, owner of Lulu's Cafe and Bakery at 16900 Roscoe Blvd., said he has already been hurt. "It's cut our breakfast business in half," he said. "A lot of women get whistled at by the day laborers. I've been forced to hire a security guard at $1,500 a month."

The project could eliminate these concerns, said Danny Rosas, citywide coordinator for the City of Los Angeles Day Laborer Program.

"What we provide is a humanitarian approach to the problems of these corners," Rosas said. "It provides a clean, safe, environment," he said.

The city would hire three people, including one day laborer, to run the site from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Rosas said. The workers would register their names and trade skills for a raffle list, and workers would wait in the lot until they are called. Wages would be negotiated between employers and employees.

A city-owned maintenance yard now occupies the site.

The project, under the auspices of the Community Development Department, requires City Council approval. It could be in operation as soon as May, Rosas said.

Funding would be from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which gave the city $250,000 to run four day-laborer sites. North Hollywood and Harbor City in San Pedro house the other two sites, Rosas said.

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