While sullen Latino youths in gang attire looked on, city officials Monday pledged a new beginning for troubled Blythe Street as they broke ground for a $7-million low-income housing project, the first new residences built on the street in decades.
“I will not give up on this community,” Councilman Richard Alarcon said at a ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the 50-unit Regency 50 apartment complex on Blythe, a street more commonly identified with drug sales and poverty.
The units are to be built by a partnership of the city of Los Angeles with a private developer, the Nelson Network, and the Latin American Civic Assn., a nonprofit social services agency. Completion is scheduled for July, 1994.
In brief remarks on the sun-baked vacant lot where the building featuring two- and three-bedroom units will be built, LAPD Deputy Chief Mark Kroeker said he saw the project as reason for “tremendous hope for a street that has been better known for its despair,” and he praised local leaders for sticking to their commitment to help the area.
Alarcon said the project, which was largely shepherded through the city bureaucracy by the staff of his predecessor, former Councilman Ernani Bernardi, will not only provide much-needed housing in an area vexed by crowding but also, hopefully, bring construction jobs to local residents living in the shadow of the shuttered General Motors plant.
In fact, the next goal is for local residents to get jobs on the construction project, said Robert Moncrief, a top official in the city’s Housing Preservation and Production Department, which arranged the financing for the project. But this may prove difficult due to federal work-rule standards, Moncrief said.
So far, the city housing department has financed the rehabilitation of three apartment buildings on the long block, which is home to about 5,000 people, many recent immigrants.
Although no new housing production money is now earmarked for Blythe Street, the city is seeking additional federal money to rehabilitate more units and planning a vigorous campaign to force landlords to correct health and safety deficiencies in their units, Moncrief said.
A committee of local residents, landlords, city officials and police is helping devise strategies for coping with Blythe Street’s problems. It is hoped that the partnership will serve as a “model for neighborhood recovery” efforts in other parts of the city, Moncrief said.
At Regency 50, the city is loaning the developers $6 million for the project, with the expectation that $2.6 million of that loan will eventually be picked up by private investors seeking tax credits for investing in low income housing. The remaining $3.4 million of the city loan is to be paid off from the rental income of the project, Moncrief said.
However, the city is prepared to lose its investment if the project cannot generate sufficient income, he said.
The project, once completed, will be managed by LACA, which is best known for running the county’s largest Headstart program.
LACA also will provide the project’s tenants with child care services and some English language and job training.