It could be a two-fold endeavor. City officials joined members of the private sector on April 22 to break ground on the Paul Williams Apartments, a 41-unit affordable housing development on Jefferson Boulevard near 10th Avenue in the hope that this and other construction efforts can help to rebuild and modernize South Los Angeles and its adjoining neighborhoods, while providing badly needed housing in a densely populated area. Completion is expected in late summer 2018.
The timing of the project couldn’t be more appropriate as Los Angeles this week remembers the 1992 civil unrest that further tore apart an already underserved region. One of the participants at the groundbreaking ceremony, Councilman Curren Price (Ninth District), said the time had come for residents of South Los Angeles to see more major development projects to improve their quality of life.
“The groundbreaking for the Paul Williams Apartments marks another significant milestone in the revitalization of South Los Angeles,” Price said. “I am delighted to see that this project will not only provide much needed affordable housing in the region, but will also restore the Angelus Funeral Home, which is of great importance to the fabric of South LA history.” Price was referring to the famous architect Paul Williams who not only designed the funeral home on Crenshaw Boulevard, but also the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building at Adams Boulevard and Western Avenue, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (formerly May Co.) at Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave., along with numerous homes for Hollywood celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas and Lucille and Desi Arnaz.
The apartment complex comes at a time when Los Angeles County is experiencing a huge shortage of affordable housing, and a growing homeless population. Voters in March passed Measure H to try to address the issue by approving a quarter-cent increase in sales tax to secure about $355 million annually to implement various strategies to get more people off the street and into affording housing. While the Williams project is not the typical example of where Measure H funds will go, it is a further push toward more housing in South Los Angeles and gentrification in general. Both the 1992 uprising and the 1965 civil unrest left lasting scars on the area, but during the past 25 years major projects have been completed ranging from apartment complexes, shopping centers, secondary schools, etc. Two of the biggest developments so far are the USC Village at Jefferson Blvd. and Hoover St. (scheduled to open in the fall), and the ongoing construction of the Los Angeles Football Club Stadium at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Figueroa St., tentatively scheduled to open in 2018. Also, a major redesign plan has been approved for the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts.
Bank of America was one of the benefactors of the Paul Williams Apartments. Its representative, Charmaine Atherton, senior vice president, said the development is one of the institution’s continuing efforts to encourage investment in South Los Angeles.
“Bank of America is excited to continue our lending and investment efforts in the South Los Angeles community through the Paul Williams Apartments,” Atherton said. “It is the bank’s belief that affordable housing is the basic building block for creating health and sustainable communities that allow both residents and businesses to thrive.”
Also on hand at the ceremony was Rushmore D. Cervantes, general manager of the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department. They worked with Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC) and Bank of America to see that land acquisition, design of the complex, funding and, ultimately, construction be as seamless as possible.
“The Paul Williams Apartments will once again showcase the long standing and successful partnership between the Los Angeles Housing Community Investment Department and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation,” Cervantes said. “We are very pleased to cooperate with HCHC in the innovative development of this historic structure that will create much needed housing opportunities and advance livable communities in Los Angeles.”
The development will offer one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for individuals and households earning 30 to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (ranging from $30,800 along the Central Avenue Corridor to $32,700 in Jefferson Park according to the 2010 U.S. Census). The complex will feature supportive services such as financial literacy workshops, after-school tutoring, college mentoring and ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.