South L.A. left out of Promise Zones

Garcetti announces millions of dollars to combat poverty in Los Angeles

City News Service | 1/10/2014, midnight

Los Angeles was chosen one of five “promise zones” that would receive millions of federal dollars aimed at combating poverty, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today from Washington, D.C.

The Los Angeles zone includes communities in East Hollywood, Pico-Union/Westlake, Thai Town, Little Armenia and Koreatown, according to the mayor’s office.

Mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman said the city likely will transfer the funds to nonprofits and other groups involved in anti-poverty efforts in those communities.

Garcetti was in Washington, D.C., to attend President Barack Obama’s announcement. The mayor is expected to return to Los Angeles tonight. “This is a historic victory for Los Angeles,” Garcetti said. “This gives the city of L.A. and its partners the opportunity to make real change in the lives of so many Angelenos who need it most by creating opportunity and strengthening our neighborhoods.”

The choice of communities drew criticism from South Los Angeles-area City Councilman Curren Price, who said he was disappointed to see “the city’s poorest communities excluded once again.”

“South Los Angeles struggles with the highest concentration of poverty in the city with more than one out of three households living below the poverty rate, a rate nearly 10 percentage points higher than any other region in the city. And yet our community will not benefit from this investment of up to a half a billion dollars,” he said.

“I urge federal officials, as well as our mayor as he lobbies Washington for more funding, to reconsider their selection process now and moving forward.”

The exclusion of South L.A. harkens back to the federal Empowerment Zone program introduced in 1993. The Empowerment Zone (EZ), Enterprise Community (EC), and Renewal Community (RC) Initiatives sought to reduce unemployment and generate economic growth through the designation of Federal tax incentives and award of grants to distressed communities. Local, Tribal, and State governments interested in participating in this program were required to present comprehensive improvement plans. To the dismay of many local politicians, Los Angeles was initially not designated an empowerment zone, but was added some time later as a supplemental zone.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell—whose 13th District Garcetti represented before becoming mayor said today the funding would benefit areas in his district, including parts of Hollywood, East Hollywood, Westlake, Little Armenia, Historic Filipino town and Koreatown.

“I am thrilled and appreciative that President (Barack) Obama has chosen these areas to be included in this community building initiative,” he said. “It validates what Mayor Garcetti and I have known for a long time, that considerable investment will provide that key ingredient to lift these neighborhoods up to the level our constituents deserve.”

In makibg the announcement, president said the awards were about helping communities that are helping themselves.

“. . . So these are America’s first five Promise Zones. And over the next three years, we're going to help launch 20 in all. And each of these communities is designing from the bottom up, not the top down, what it is they think they need, and we're working with them to make that happen. And each of these communities is prepared to do what it takes to change the odds for their kids. We will help them succeed—not with a handout, but as partners with them every step of the way. And we're going to make sure it works, and we're going to hold them accountable to make sure it is making a difference in the lives of kids.”