Congresswoman Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, held a congressional hearing at the Jordan Downs Recreation Center Saturday, March 15 to question a number of authorities regarding redevelopment plans for the housing project.
Hundreds of concerned residents crowded into the Jordan Downs gymnasium to listen as Waters presided over two panels of housing officials, business owners, community leaders, and civic representatives about the rumors that have created confusion and concern among residents who felt Jordan Downs was in jeopardy.
Rumors swirling among residents living in 720 units of the housing complex have ranged from Jordan Downs being torn down and replaced with condominiums, to residents being relocated to Palmdale or Lancaster after moving out of the public housing complex.
There have been a lot of rumors about what is being planned for Jordan Downs, said Waters. I wanted to get to the bottom of what is being planned for Jordan Downs and I am holding this hearing to get the truth out in the open once and for all.
Helmi A. Hisserich, deputy of housing and economic development policy, pointed out that due to Los Angeles housing crisis, the mayor is seeking opportunities to encourage the development of new affordable housing, but she dispelled the rumor that plans had been implemented for new housing in the Jordan Downs area.
Today, no money has been committed, and community engagement has not begun and there is no plan, said Hisserich. But when the time comes, rest assured, community involvement will play a key role in this process.
Hisserich said that Rudy Montiel of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles presented Mayor Villaraigosa with the concept of redeveloping 1950s-era public housing into mixed-income urban villages, and that Villaraigosa expressed interest.
However, before any idea can become a reality, the funding must be identified, the community must be engaged, and a plan must be developed. That is why it is important for all of us to begin at the same place.
Hisserich said that Villaraigosa has initiated a capital planning effort with all the city departments that have housing funds in an effort to determine funding sources. The purpose of this capital plan is to identify the local, State, Federal, and private resources available to support the creation of affordable housing in Los Angeles over the next five years.
She added that Mayor Villaraigosas principles for redevelopment of public housing will include connections to schools, parks, public transportation, and safe and green neighborhoods.
Panelists and community leaders who reside in Watts expressed their concerns over the proposed plans, including Reginald A. Pope, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Pope stated that it was vitally important that the community be involved in any planning process. Redevelopment will affect families in our congregation who reside in the complex. If redevelopment is being planned, who are the persons doing the planning, what efforts have been made to adequately inform and involve the entire community, what will happen to the residents of the complex, what will replace the facility, and what are the timelines for beginning and completion of the project? he asked.
Henry Broomfield, chair of the Watts Neighborhood Council, said, The Council is very displeased with the Housing Authority because they have allowed so many rumors to go unchecked for so long. In their consideration of redeveloping housing projects in South Central Los Angeles they have created fear and increased distrust in the community. Theyve caused dismay and made it difficult for active leaders to address resident concerns. How can you do that when people dont know where theyll be living month-to-month?
Keith Henderson, business manager of the Jordan Downs Resident Management Corporation, also expressed concern. We should immediately be informed and have monthly meetings telling us what is going on, who is involved, who is responsible for what, and what is to come in the future. Most importantly, if there are any jobs involved at any level, residents should be given first opportunity for those jobs.
Montiel, speaking on behalf of the Los Angeles Housing Authority, said that although no monies have yet to be secured, plans are being considered to expand public housing. Our goal is to expand and improve the supply of affordable housing by redeveloping Jordan Downs and the surrounding community, he said, adding that there are plans to triple the number of housing projects from 700 to 2,100.
He also said that in developing mixed-use sites, there will be an investment of $500 to $700 million in Jordan Downs with the project to be completed in approximately five years, which would include providing existing residents with new units pending construction.
Waters asked Montiel if he would be willing to participate in a series of regularly scheduled meetings with members of the Watts community so that they could stay informed of any new developments.
I would be happy to, said Montiel.
Surveying the audience, Waters then announced that no plans for redevelopment would occur without the participation of Jordan Downs residents. Her comment was met with thunderous applause.