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OW WEB EXCLUSIVE: Citizens ask for help

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 6/15/2011, 5 p.m.

A standing-room only crowd of at least 100 community residents and activists turned out for a meeting to hear how the Los Angeles City Planning Department can help continue the revitalization of the Western Avenue Corridor between King Boulevard and Foshay Learning Center.

Residents asked for three basic things from Planning Director Michael LoGrande: public hearings to address the alleged nuisance businesses in the area of 39th Street and Western Avenue--the Pine Tree Motel, W & W Recycling and Century Market--a public hearing to address how well the DanMar Motel has been complying with special conditions placed on the facility; and a chance to meet again with the director.

Residents presented LoGrande with a petition consisting of 300 signatures and various other documented and written complaints.

Saying that was exactly the kind of evidence needed to bolster the call for a public hearing, LoGrande promised to report back to the group within 30 days about the hearings.

He also noted that the DanMar will have a review hearing on its compliance on Nov. 20, and said he would come back to talk with residents within the next six months.

The meeting was held Monday in the newly refurbished Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, located adjacent to the renovated park of the same name.

In addition to being the recipient of a Dodger Dream Field, the park now has a soccer/football field, basketball courts and a children's play area.

This has all come at the urging of community residents, who worked with city officials, organizations like the Community Coalition, Brotherhood Crusade and Community Fathers, as well as the police department to clean up the park.

Celia Castellanos, who grew up in the area during the 1980s and 1990s, recounted how her parents sent her to Jefferson High School rather than nearby Manual Arts partly in an effort to have her avoid walking by the then-drug-prostitute-and-gang-infested park. She has returned to the neighborhood after attending the prestigious Wharton School of Business.

While residents are pleased with what has been accomplished thus far, they stress that more is needed. They feel the motels and recycling center continue to attract drug dealing and prostitution.

As they await the planning department's decisions, the coalition of organizations behind Monday's meeting will come together next Thursday (June 22) at 6 p.m. in the Exposition Park/Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Regional Library to plan its next steps. The library is located at 3900 S. Western Ave., L.A.