Redistricting Ridiculousness: Parks and the 8th District Economic Assets

VOICES - In the current redistricting debate, one of the most tragically ridiculous complaints by LA Councilmember Bernard Parks (among many) is that the new proposed 8th District “lacks economic assets” necessary to revitalize the district.

What amazing gall.

As the former chair of the now defunct CRA Crenshaw-Slauson Project Area Community Advisory Committee I’ve watched Parks squander 8th district economic assets and opportunities for nearly a decade.

Since he came to office in 2003, Parks has failed to develop any strategy, push any policy, compose any plan or articulate any vision to leverage public resources to bring new quality development to the overwhelming majority of 8th district communities.

Instead, the district is littered with Parks’ devastating economic development failures:

● Vermont/Manchester
● Broadway/Manchester
● Slauson Corridor
● Western Avenue Corridor
● Industrial Hyde Park Corridor

I could go on, and on, and on, but I think you get the unfortunate point, which is that the key milestone for economically revitalizing the district is the 2015 election when Parks will be prohibited from running for office because of term-limits.

Contrary to the perception of the 8th District that Parks would like to paint as an excuse for his past and continued failure, much of the district features stable middle-class residential communities with sufficient disposable income to support thriving commercial corridors.  Take for example, Manchester Square where the median household income is slightly above Leimert Park, and Gramercy Park where the median household income is higher than West Hollywood.

Even in the most economically challenged parts of the 8th District, like Broadway-Manchester, there are “density dollars” where high residential density leads to sufficient collective disposable income to support major retailers like Costco, Target, Ross, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chilis, etc. -- you know the businesses that currently exist along Century Blvd in Inglewood!

The Redistricting Commission has proposed moving Marlton Square out of CD8 and into CD10.  Yes, that Marlton Square where it’s taken Parks more time to have a couple of buildings torn down than it took to rebuild all of Europe after World War II!  The blighted Marlton Square that still looks more like an area in the worst part of crumbling Detroit than the foot of Baldwin Hills, one of America’s most affluent African-American communities.

The bottom line is if Parks had provided the type of focus on economic development in his district over the past 9 years that he has recently given to redistricting, CD8 residents wouldn’t need to drive out of his district to access the businesses that we can support in our backyard.

Parks can’t even piggyback off the successes of his colleagues.  Three years ago, in an attempt to leverage South LA’s two new light rail lines (Expo Line and Crenshaw-LAX Line) into new business investment along Crenshaw Blvd, the CRA conducted an extensive visioning process and feasibility study to develop the “Mid-City Crenshaw Vision & Implementation Study.”  The visioning plan evaluated current economic conditions, economic trends, land use, community needs, resident desires, and public resources to propose policy changes and a pathway to revitalize Crenshaw Blvd.  

You can read the detailed study here.  The plan was soon thereafter adopted by the City Council and it serves as a basis for soliciting state and federal funds for public infrastructure improvements and development partnerships.

It is not a coincidence that the plan only includes the 10th District portion of Crenshaw Blvd and ends at the 8th District border.  We complained during the process that the plan should not end at the council district line - that it should extend into the 8th district all the way to the Inglewood border just south of Florence.  We were promised it would.  Of course, it never was.

I and many other residents in the vast majority of the Parks’ ignored district support the Commission’s proposed 8th District map.  By trimming the Crenshaw Mall and USC out of the district it ensures that our next councilmember won’t be able to “phone-it-in” and rest his economic development hat on private projects they have nothing to do with at best (a la Crenshaw Mall) or thwart at worst (a la USC).  Our communities need a councilmember who will focus on bringing the jobs and businesses we need, want and can support to our neglected corners.  We’ve waited long enough.

(Linda Ricks is a resident of the 8th district’s Hyde Park community, past chair of the defunct CRA Crenshaw-Slauson Project Area Community Advisory Committee, and Vice President of Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment.)

Tags: LA Redistricting, Bernard Parks, District 8

Vol 10 Issue 21
Pub: Mar 13, 2012