If there is a lot in CD 9 that is vacant, foreclosed, abandoned, or in severe disrepair, you can bet either Ana Cubas or Curren Price (especially Price) has found it and stuck a sign on it, like this lot (above) on Broadway and 48th.
Or this one just up the street, at 45th.
Cubas’ and Price’s staffers are to be commended for their intrepidness — tracking down the many vacant lots across the district is no small feat.
While intensely park poor, South L.A. has an abundance of empty spaces. So many, in fact, that the city doesn’t actually know how much land is out there. For some time now, organizations like Community Health Councils (CHC) have been working to get support for their effort to catalog vacant and foreclosed properties in South L.A. so that residents could start organizing for access to unused parcels.
The highlighting of the sheer number of lots gathering dust (and garbage) in CD 9 alone couldn’t come at a better time.
Why? Because the recently released proposed budget does not include funds for the park and tree master plans for South L.A., despite the fact that these were conditions of the Mayor’s Memorandum of Understanding with the parties involved in the Space Shuttle Endeavour Transport settlement agreement.
Which makes it is the perfect moment, says CHC policy analyst Mark Glassock, for candidates to step up on behalf of the area, and South L.A. as a whole, and commit to “addressing the problem of vacant and empty spaces through progressive policy in the New Community Plans, the strategic plan of the new Economic Development Department (EDD), implementation of AB 551 (if it passes), and of course, the city budget.”
We who live in, work in, and care about the health of South L.A. see these lots as potential opportunity sites for new and improved green space. As of now, however, I haven’t heard any specific plan from either Cubas or Price with regard to how they are going to transform blight into green spaces for residents. But, if they are even half as devoted to dealing with the problem as they were to finding every single available piece of land to put a sign on, we should be in good hands.
Just look at the obstacles they were willing to overcome just to get their message out.
Trash in the way? No problem here.
Swap meet? No problem.
Competition in the way? No problem. Just add more signs.
Or, go bigger.
Or add more signs and go bigger.
Elderly people in the area who can’t read small fonts? Use two big signs.
Tall constituents? They have you covered.
Tag-bangers? They haven’t forgotten you, either.
And, finally, they were thoughtful enough to disguise a sign as garbage so that archaeologists excavating vacant lots years from now will know that politicians were here and cared about blight in our community.
As many of these lots have sat abandoned since the riots — a full 21 years ago and counting, it is probably safe to say that many of our elected leaders have preferred to operate in denial of just how bad the problem is for the communities of South Los Angeles. And, it’s pretty bad — just off the top of my head, I can think of at least 9 vacant lots on Main St. alone (between King and 90th). Which is why it is so exciting to see that both Cubas and Price worked so painstakingly to make sure they drew attention to nearly each and every vacant lot in the district, of which only a fraction are photographed here.
Acknowledging a problem is the first step forward in resolving it, right?
Maybe 2013 can finally be the year of No South L.A. Lot Left Behind.
We can only hope.
All photographs (c) Sahra Sulaiman 2013