More than 120 residents, business owners and elected representatives for East and northeast Los Angeles gathered in Eagle Rock on Thursday to begin crafting a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region.
Los Angeles must complete the plan to cash in on millions of dollars in potential grants from the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. The process is expected to take four months.
The eastern and northeastern communities include some of the city's most neglected--Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park and Eagle Rock among them. But they also offer valuable resources including a large work force and momentum from several developments now underway, said City Council officials who attended the event.
"We have a multimillion-dollar Blue Line being developed, [as well as] the whole [East Los Angeles] Sears Tower complex and Taylor Yard," Councilman Ed Reyes told the crowd. "We have many opportunities in the form of catalysts. The question is: Are we prepared to take advantage of them?"
The region has suffered plenty of bruises. Over the last decade, it has lost as many as 13,000 jobs, partly because of the exit of national retailers and some transportation employment centers. In addition, stricter air quality rules and other changes chased out some manufacturing, said David Wilcox, senior vice president of Los Angeles-based Economic Research Associates, which is helping to craft the strategy.
But Wilcox said those figures aren't bad when compared with some of Los Angeles' other neighborhoods. Downtown, for example, lost 53,000 jobs and South Los Angeles lost 30,000, he said.
The eastern and northeastern communities are the fourth city region to begin crafting the mandated strategy. Downtown, the Valley and South Los Angeles are finished. Hollywood still must complete one.
The plans eventually must be approved by Mayor James K. Hahn and the City Council before being submitted to federal officials, said Ralph Carmona, economic development specialist for Barrio Planners Inc., which received an $80,000 city contract to put together the eastern and northeastern strategy.
Among the themes to be explored: how to lure industries with good jobs to the region and train the work force for those jobs.