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Juvenile justice center scheduled for return to South Los Angeles

OW Staff Writer | 3/29/2018, midnight

Los Angeles County officials have agreed to lease a former juvenile court building to a community justice organization set to be booted from its home in Inglewood.

The Youth Justice Coalition will sign a 10-year lease at $75,000 per year for the David V. Kenyon Juvenile Justice Facility on South Central Avenue in the unincorporated neighborhood of Florence. The center was shut down in 2013 and since then has been the target of vandals and has fallen into disrepair.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended the move in response to a decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to take back the building where the nonprofit organization has operated for the last six years. Metro decided that it needed the property for construction related to the Fairview Heights station on the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

It will take an estimated $1.8 million to make the Central Avenue habitable again. The Youth Justice Coalition has agreed to fund $1.5 million with some of the proceeds of a legal settlement with Metro officials. The county will pay the balance through a no-interest loan to the YJC and will accept the first four years of rent as repayment.

Dozens of community activists representing a wide range of organizations turned out in support of the motion, some in tears as they talked about how Chuco’s Justice Center, where the YJC is currently housed, changed their lives.

“It’s a melting pot of cultures, it’s a melting pot of ages,’’ YJC member Phal Sok told the Board of Supervisors.

It offers teens and young adults “a place where they’re empowered to speak’’ and is “a place where people can come home after being incarcerated and say, ‘I need some help,’’’ Sok said.

Transforming a court, where young people were punished and sent to detention, into a community center is a powerful symbol and a “tremendous opportunity,’’ said Alisa Bierria, one of several people who urged the board to waive rental payments.

Kim McGill of the YJC urged the board to think about other empty spaces that could be turned into community centers.