In hopes of winning much-needed federal aid, the Los Angeles City Council approved Wednesday the final map for a proposed "empowerment zone" that would stretch from Pacoima to South-Central to Watts.
The map will be part of an application that the city and county of Los Angeles will jointly submit to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to take advantage of $100 million in special aid and tax breaks that the program provides businesses and residents in poverty-stricken areas.
Although HUD officials will not make a final decision on the zone applications until September, city officials said President Clinton has already assured them that Los Angeles will have an empowerment zone.
Early in the process, Pacoima was threatened with being left out of the zone to make room for other poverty-stricken areas in East Los Angeles and San Pedro.
But community development officials and Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose district includes Pacoima, rallied to keep the small working-class Latino community in the zone.
"I'm happy that Pacoima will be included in the application for an empowerment zone," Alarcon said in an interview. "This is a victory for those who will take advantage of the empowerment program."
He said other city officials who backed the inclusion of Pacoima realized that "helping Pacoima helps the Valley, and that helps all of Los Angeles."
Empowerment zones are the centerpiece of Clinton's urban revitalization program. Only six zones will be approved nationwide, and each will be limited to a 20-square-mile area with 20,000 residents. In addition to the empowerment zones, the program establishes 65 smaller "enterprise zones," each providing $3 million in social services programs.
But for city development officials, drawing the map has been a technical nightmare. Under the federal guidelines for the empowerment program, only 4.4% of the city's jurisdiction and 5.7% of its population can be included in the zone. The zone does not have to be contiguous.
The approved map breaks up the zone into three sections: a small area of Pacoima, a stretch that includes parts of Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights and South-Central and an area that stretches from South-Central to Watts.
The Pacoima section is home to 13,400 people and has a poverty rate that ranges from 25% to 40%. The area includes the Hansen Dam Recreation Area and the San Fernando Gardens, a low-income housing project that shelters more than 2,000 residents.
The map was the result of detailed census studies and 14 public hearings over several months. Dozens of community leaders representing economically troubled areas throughout Los Angeles urged the city to include them in the application.
County development officials have been working closely with their city counterparts to make sure the map includes the most poverty-plagued areas outside of the city.
County officials have not given the map their approval, but Bill Johnson, a manager at the county's Community Development Commission, said he expects no conflicts between the city's and the county's version of the map.
"The application will allow different political jurisdictions to work together in a unique opportunity to make some improvements," he said.
But the map is only a small part of the entire application. The city and county must now hold public hearings to come up with a proposal to demonstrate how the empowerment zone's benefits will be used to reduce unemployment and poverty and stimulate revitalization.
The first workshop will be held today at 6 p.m. at Pacoima Elementary School, 11016 Norris Ave., Pacoima.
Pacoima Empowerment Zone A map for a proposed federal empowerment zone was approved Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council. It would include a 2.4-square-mile area of Pacoima that has been plagued by poverty and high unemployment rates for years. The zone, the centerpiece of President Clinton's urban revitalization efforts, is expected to provide tax breaks, grants and social services programs.