Advisory Services Panel Report — Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA

VermontAve_Cover

Date: November 13, 1992
Location: Los Angeles, California
Chair: Smedes York
Subject Area: Disaster Recovery, Economic Development, Sustainable Development

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The Assignment
In the wake of the April 1992 civil disturbances in South Central Los Angeles, ULI offered the services of its Advisory Service to the city of Los Angeles to help redevelop this troubled area. The first panel convened in response to this offer was held in August 1992 and focused on assisting the city and the banking community in establishing a multi-bank community development corporation (CDC) for economic development. This report is the result of the second panel, in which the city’s housing preservation and production department (HPPD) asked ULI to consider reuse options for obsolete and under-used strip commercial corridors in South Central Los Angeles.

South Central’s major commercial strips are populated largely by small businesses and characterized by inconsistent and incompatible land uses, old and deteriorated structures, and a large number of vacant lots and derelict buildings. The corridors contain numerous marginal businesses, such as liquor stores, check cashing facilities, and over-priced convenience marts that exploit community residents. Many of these businesses suffered serious damage during the riots. Eleven panel members and two ULI staff members were selected to accomplish this week-long study, with the panelists donating their time on behalf of ULI and the citizens and city of Los Angeles.

Summary

  • South Central Los Angeles needs to be recognized as an area of urgent regional importance. The community’s vitality—or lack of it—exerts a region-wide influence on the convention business, on company relocations and startups, and on the availability of new job opportunities.
  • Planning must be based on a strong, community-based process—that is, on a process generated from the citizens up, not from the top down. The revitalization process should involve, to the maximum extent possible, companies, community-based organizations, and citizens within the community.
  • Retail development along the Vermont Avenue corridor should be concentrated at key intersections, introducing mixed-use projects, and eventually replacing much of the existing strip commercial development with residential units. The panel hopes that its recommendations will help Vermont Avenue become an asset that will assist in defining the surrounding neighborhoods, giving these neighborhoods a sense of place.
  • The definition of neighborhoods must be aided by the addition of public investment in schools, parks, libraries, and other community services. And, to reinforce the neighborhoods’ stability, the panel strongly endorses efforts to offer programs that facilitate and sustain homeownership. The provision of additional needed community-based services is essential to the revitalization of South Central Los Angeles in general and of the Vermont Avenue corridor in particular.

Overall, the panel believes that the city needs to be much better organized to be able to implement any plan, and that that organization must be achieved on an interagency basis. The city must become proactive rather than reactive; it must provide incentives rather than disincentives. A shift into positive, effective action is long overdue and will require energized, highly motivated leadership. When it becomes evident that the city is truly committed to a well-conceived, realistic plan for the revitalization of South Central Los Angeles, private sector commercial and residential investment will follow.

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