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South LA

In an effort to show how transportation, open space, planning and other issues impact the health and character of a community, Streetsblog and The California Endowment teamed to bring Streetsblog’s coverage to a hyper-local level in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman is the Communities Editor for Streetsblog Los Angeles and is leading our coverage efforts in these communities. This page serves as a place to read Sahra’s and all of Streetsblog’s coverage of issues in South L.A. Contact Sahra at sahra[at]streetsblog.org or on twitter: @sahrasulaiman.

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No Más Deaths!: Stakeholders Demand Curren Price Support a Bike Lane for Central Avenue ahead of Mobility Plan Hearing

Posters created by South L.A. community members adorn the walls outside of TRUST South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Posters demanding safe passage for cyclists on Central Avenue adorn the walls outside of TRUST South L.A. They were created by South L.A. community members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Bottom line is, citizens want to be involved, they want to be engaged in the process of figuring out how we reprogram our streets, how we reprogram our communities, making it more livable, making it more desirable, making it safer.”

So said councilmember for the 9th District, Curren Price, when interviewed by KCET’s Nic Cha Kim at CicLAvia: South L.A. in December of 2014 (minute 4:20).

It is a perspective that many who live, work, play, and move along the Central Avenue corridor in historic South Central share.

Given that the corridor communities have a median income hovering around $30,000, an average household size between of 4 and 9 people, a median age of 23, and little opportunity for economic advancement thanks to limited access to higher education, area residents are very much at the mercy of their environment. Rapidly rising rents and the lack of affordable housing around the city make it nearly impossible for them to move anywhere else. And the high dependence of many families on transit, cycling, and walking to get back and forth to work and school means that just going about their daily lives entails constant flirtations with danger.

Central Avenue, boasting the highest number of cyclists anywhere in the city during peak hours (and a very steady stream in off-peak hours), has seen nearly 300 collisions between drivers and pedestrians or cyclists over the last decade.

That we know of, that is.

Many of those who have been hit by cars have never reported the incidents to authorities, either because they preferred to handle things informally with the driver, the injuries were minor, or the incident was a hit-and-run and they saw no point.

So, even though more than three-quarters of residents are renters, the vast majority would tell you they are deeply invested in the well-being of their neighborhoods and would like nothing better than to see them become safer and healthier places for all.

A father runs errands with his children along Central Avenue after picking them up from school. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A father runs errands with his children along Central Avenue after picking them up from school. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Thus far, however, efforts to get Councilmember Price to sit down and have that conversation with stakeholders about their needs and aspirations have proven futile.

Over the past year, the community has been shut out of discussions about Great Streets’ and the councilmember’s plans to remake Central Avenue in the image of Broadway (downtown) and to remove the Central Avenue bike lane planned to help bike commuters get safely between Watts, historic South Central, and jobs downtown from the Mobility Plan altogether.

The Great Streets plans for the street were only made available to the public after Streetsblog published an article complaining about the blatant steamrolling of the community. When local stakeholders tried to follow up by delivering letters to the councilmember’s office and approaching the members of the Business Improvement District, they were still not able to get any response from Price to their demands for a bike lane.

Fed up with failed attempts at peaceful engagement and concerned that Price would once again try to see Central Ave. removed from the Mobility Plan at tomorrow’s city planning commission hearing, residents took action. Gathering their signs, courage, a megaphone, and a banner to be hung on Price’s building, they stormed the councilmember’s constituent center at Vernon and Central yesterday.

Members of TRUST South L.A. hang a banner from Curren Price's constituent center. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Members of TRUST South L.A. hang a banner from Curren Price’s constituent center. Photo: Ashley Hansack

“We’re tired of coming to you!” said resident and safe streets advocate AsSami AlBasir El.

“When are you going to come to our* office?” he continued. “I’m asking…when are you coming down to have a dialogue?…What solution do you have?” [*He was referring to the conference room at TRUST South L.A., where residents, volunteers, and stakeholders regularly meet, discuss community problems and potential solutions, and plan community engagements as part of a mobility advisory council.]

Residents and stakeholders in the South Central community ask District Director James Westbrooks to help make their community safer. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Residents and stakeholders in the South Central community ask District Director James Westbrooks to help make their community safer. Photo: Ashley Hansack

Staff on site were not able to offer much in the way of reassurances.

When District Director James Westbrooks was asked by AlBasir El if he would be willing to tell the kids standing there — kids that are regularly transported back and forth to school by bike along Central Avenue — that “we’re not gonna have a bike lane,” there was not much Westbrooks could say.

Price made up his mind on the subject a long time ago.

Sadly, the logic used to reach that decision — detailed in a statement emailed in response to stakeholders’ action — seems rather questionable. Read more…

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South L.A. Art News: The Tenth Wonder of the World is No More

The Tenth Wonder of the World at 62nd and Budlong is no more. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The Tenth Wonder of the World at 62nd and Budlong is no more. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

While South L.A. does have its share of incredible murals, it doesn’t have much in the way of public art, as a general rule.

This is beginning to change. Councilmember Joe Buscaino recently celebrated the installation of several new sculptures along 103rd St. recently. In the 8th district, Community Coalition’s Power Fest and artivist events regularly feature live painting and art-making around community justice themes. In the 10th district, Leimert Park Village stakeholders turned the plaza at 43rd Place into a work of art grounded in African principles and symbols and cemented its role as ground zero for creative expression of all forms. And in the historic 9th district, Councilmember Curren Price is hosting a meeting tonight (at 6 p.m. at his constituent center on Central Ave.) as part of an effort to put together a strategic art plan for the area.

Sadly, South L.A.’s art scene lost one of its more unusual staples as 2015 came to a close. The Tenth Wonder of the World, located at the corner of 62nd and Budlong, is no more.

I first stumbled across the marvelous hodgepodge of sculptures and structures a few years ago. Dianne and Lew Harris — brother and sister, curators and residents in the home — were sitting outside as they usually did, and invited me to check out the space.

Dianne and Lew Harris sit outside the Tenth Wonder of the World and engage passersby. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Dianne and Lew Harris sit outside the Tenth Wonder of the World and engage passersby. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Read more…

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Well-Intended Proposal to Shame “Johns” Using License Plate Readers Could End up Shaming Entire Communities in South L.A., Valley

A teen walks along Western Ave. toward the Bronco Motel with a john. A woman watching the scene with me said she believed the girl was underage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A teen walks along Western Ave. toward the Bronco Motel with a john. A woman watching the scene with me said she believed the girl was underage. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

In the excitement of seeing the City Council rescind its vote on an amended Mobility Plan 2035 and re-adopt the plan in its draft form just before Thanksgiving, I managed to miss another item on the Council agenda from Councilmember Nury Martinez: a motion requesting that “the City Attorney report on issuing John Letters to the registered owners of vehicles that are seen driving around in high-prostitution areas in the City.”

As I write this, I realize you might be asking yourself why an effort to shame vehicle owners by notifying them that their cars were spotted in areas where prostitution was rampant and that they might be at risk for contracting a sexually-transmitted disease is a livability issue.

Quite simply, prostitution has a significant impact on the walkability and livability of neighborhoods.

If you are a female of any age in an area where sex workers regularly walk the streets, then it is likely that you or someone you know has been solicited on more than one occasion. And I can assure you that it generally is a less-than-pleasant experience. When it happens to me, it might be guys rolling up and making obscene gestures in lieu of verbal requests. Or it might entail being followed. If it’s my lucky day, I get both. The seekers of my imagined services range from delivery guys, to guys walking or biking along the street, to professional-looking guys in expensive SUVs. I’ve even been harassed by a pimp who thought I was an undercover cop — an experience that was actually more unsettling than being solicited.

Not only am I solicited every single time I either walk or bike through a known “stroll,” I find some men there are more likely to assume I am a service-provider, regardless of whether they are interested in my presumed skills at the moment. My mere presence on the street is enough for some to link me to the trade.

I am old enough to handle it, gross as it may be. But if you imagine me instead as a middle-school-aged girl living in the area who gets harassed by johns or a young boy who sees women and girls treated this way every day, you begin to get a sense of how treacherous and unfriendly the public space can be.

Families that live in these often-densely residential areas find themselves regularly waking up to condoms littered in the street in front of their homes, having transactions go down within view or earshot at all hours of the day, having johns cruising back and forth in front of their homes, fearing retaliation from pimps for calling the police, having to wait for a bus on the same bench that a sex worker is sitting waiting for customers, and watching (often very young) women parade up and down their block.

These are all things that can keep residents from feeling free to walk up the block to frequent a local business, catch a bus, or take the kids back and forth to school. It can also hurt the larger sense of community in an area — neighbors and shop owners may be more likely to keep to themselves, not wanting to cause trouble with the pimps (or, in some cases, gangs) that control the trade in their neighborhood. And the level of neglect by the city needed to create the conditions in which prostitution can occur so openly means that prostitution isn’t happening in isolation. Illegal dumping, gang violence and the associated trauma, the selling of drugs and substance abuse, domestic violence, lack of access to a viable education or work opportunities, and disinvestment feed off each other and conspire to keep a community locked in an unhealthy holding pattern.

Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Read more…

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City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak. Read more…

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South L.A. Residents Deliver Message to Curren Price Ahead of Vote to (Re)Adopt Mobility Plan 2035

Community members that regularly commute by bike ride toward Councilmember Curren Price's office to deliver a letter asking him to support a bike lane along Central Avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Community members that regularly commute by bike ride toward Councilmember Curren Price’s office to deliver a letter asking him to support a bike lane along Central Avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tuesday afternoon, a special joint meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management and Transportation Committees will be held to, first, “consider a Motion to rescind the August 11, 2015 Resolution adopting the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended by the City Council,” and, second, “adopt a Resolution adopting the draft Mobility Plan 2035 as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor on May 28, 2015 and June 5, 2015, respectively.” [Full text of motion is here.]

Sounds straightforward enough, right?

As explained in Joe Linton’s recent story on the rescind-adopt effort, the City Council’s approval of three amendments to the semi-ambitious plan to overhaul how Angelenos get around their city had not adhered to the procedures set out in the city charter. The procedural oversight quickly became the cornerstone of a lawsuit by Fix the City, the group perhaps best remembered for accusing bike- and transit-dependent commuters of luxuriating about in traffic lanes they had “stolen” from drivers.

“In order to cure the alleged procedural defect,” Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Jose Huizar, Felipe Fuentes, and Joe Buscaino stated in the motion put forth on October 30, “Council would first need to rescind the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended.”

Given the support for the Mobility Plan the first time around, supporters speaking in an Los Angeles Times article today sound confident that the city will adopt the Plan again.

But a few challenges still remain. Last time around, as noted here, several councilmembers jumped at the chance to try to remove planned bikeways slated for their districts. Efforts by Paul Koretz (to see Westwood Boulevard nixed from the plan) and Gil Cedillo (to essentially exorcise bikeways from his district in favor of pedestrian facilities) went nowhere. But community members in Curren Price’s district expect he will revisit his motion to remove Central Avenue from the planned bikeway network at tomorrow’s hearing.

And they’re not happy about it. Read more…

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Equity Advocates Discuss Needs of “Invisible” Cyclists on HuffPost Live

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians and cyclists both take refuge on the sidewalk as they head south on Central Ave. in South Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University published a story declaring that “Most Cyclists Are Working-Class Immigrants, Not Hipsters.”

If you spend any time in the streets and/or pay attention to cycling issues, this is something you probably already knew. At least, intuitively. It’s been a little harder to substantiate that claim using data, as the article explains, thanks to the way the Census lumps bicycle commuting to work in with motorcycling and taking taxis. The fact that the poor may also combine multiple modes to get from A to B (and C and D, depending on how many jobs or obligations they have) complicates the data. So does the fact that lower-income residents of color, particularly immigrants, are the people least likely to answer Census or other surveys or have habits that fit well into standardized categories.

The fact that the urban hipster persists as the face of cycling despite being the minority, author Andrew Keatts suggests, means that we aren’t dedicating enough time or resources to understanding and responding to the unique needs of the “invisible” majority — the cyclists that have the fewest resources or options at their disposal.

And then an interesting thing happens. Keatts reaches out to Adonia Lugo, former Equity Initiative Manager at the League of American Bicyclists, Sam Ollinger, who heads up Bike San Diego, the L.A.-based group Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), and Watts-based John Jones III of the East Side Riders Bike Club to ask about specific challenges that keep poorer cyclists from being seen, heard, or able to ride safely. He hears about gangs, fears of gentrification, lack of access to reliable transit at off-peak hours, lack of access to reliable bikes and safety equipment (e.g. lights), and the lack of time to participate in city planning processes, among other things.

But instead of broadening the analysis to think about transportation in a more holistic context that accommodates these issues, he seems to try to fit their needs back into a bike-specific box.

He ends the article by paraphrasing his conversation with Geoff Carleton of Traffic Engineers, Inc. (tasked with putting together Houston’s bike plan), who he says argues that “there’s a formula out there…for increasing bike safety and multi-modal access that fits what each neighborhood wants. In some places it’s better infrastructure, but in others, it’s finding a balance between safety, education and enforcement.”

But what if there isn’t a bicycle-specific formula out there? Read more…

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The Rail-to-(Almost)-River Project Gets Boost with $15mil TIGER Grant

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, and Metro CEO Phil Washington. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James Butts, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, and Metro CEO Phil Washington hold the ceremonial check granted to the Rail-to-River project set to run along Slauson Avenue in South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“[Let’s give] a big round of applause for Victor Mendez. He brought money,” quipped County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Turning to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mendez, he continued, “Come back soon and come back often!”

Preferably with another $15 million grant in hand, he joked.

He might have been referring to the fact that Metro originally anticipated receiving $21.3 million from the program — not $15 million. But the fact that L.A. got $15 million at all is still a pretty big deal.

There had been 627 applications from all 50 states and a handful of territories for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant (TIGER) VII program and only 39 grants handed out, Mendez told the small crowd of press and staff gathered in the east parking lot for the Metro Silver Line at Slauson and Broadway.

The Rail-to-River project, he said, had stood out as an opportunity to turn a 6.4-mile stretch of a “dormant” and “blighted” rail right-of-way (ROW) in a “historically distressed area” into a biking and walking path that could more efficiently connect people to transit while also bettering the local economy, health outcomes for residents, and the local environment.

The Rail-to-Rail-to-eventually-the-River project will turn a right-of-way along Slauson Ave. into a bike and pedestrian path connecting folks to the Crenshaw, Silver, and Blue Lines. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-Rail-to-eventually-the-River project will turn a right-of-way along Slauson Ave. in South Los Angeles into a bike and pedestrian path connecting folks to the Crenshaw, Silver, and Blue Lines. Source: Metro

Given projections that the U.S. population will grow by 70 million by 2045, that freight volume will grow by 45%, and that existing infrastructure will not be able to meet either of those demands, he continued, citing the USDOT’s Beyond Traffic 2045 report, the time for alternative transportation projects was now.

“Congratulations,” Mendez concluded. “Let’s get to work!” Read more…

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South L.A. Town Hall Ends in Protests but Residents Hope Dialogue with Mayor Is Just Beginning

Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Mayor Eric Garcetti tried to pacify activists by discussing his efforts to humanize policing just before the South L.A. Town Hall was finally shut down. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Really? A helicopter?? I sighed as I heard the aircraft swoop in low and fast outside Holman United Methodist Church Monday night as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first ever South L.A. Town Hall came to a rather unceremonious close.

It was a little after 8 p.m., and pleas from an exasperated Reverend Kelvin Sauls that those “interested in having a civil conversation…remain here” while the rest left in peace had fallen on deaf ears. When members of the Black Lives Matter movement — who, throughout the meeting, had turned their backs on Garcetti and his staff when they spoke, interrupted speakers, broken into chants of “Black Lives, they matter here!,” and ascended to the stage to take the mic — began shouting Garcetti down in earnest, dialogue was finally rendered impossible.

The next thing we knew, the mayor was being whisked off the stage and out the door, buffered on all sides by city staffers and police. The meeting was effectively over. Adams Blvd. between 5th and Arlington was quickly shut down as protesters surged outside to surround the mayor’s car and the aforementioned helicopter arrived shortly thereafter.

Exchanging glances with some of the South L.A. friends and community advocates in attendance, it appeared we had some of the same questions on our minds:

What were we supposed to make of what just happened? And, just how hysterical was the coverage of the meeting going to be the next day?

As for the latter: pretty hysterical.

Right wingers from Breitbart.com and The Blaze (neither of which was present at the event), wrote of the mayor being “forced to flee” the event and needing to be “escorted to safety,” giving their following the ammunition needed to declare the protesters to be (in some of the more G-rated comments, at least) jobless “thugs,” “racists,” and “terrorists.”

Local coverage of the event wasn’t a whole lot better, focusing on the “chaos,” the meeting as a “hotbed of civil disobedience,” the “aggression” of speakers, and the actions of activist Jasmine Richards, who jumped on Garcetti’s car, prompting viewers and readers to post many of the same kinds of ugly denouncements found on the right wing websites. Weirdest of all was seeing a Fox11 reporter, who had not been at the meeting the night before and who had absolutely no idea what was behind the protests he claimed had “nearly ambushed” the mayor, stand outside a city administration building the next morning and wonder on air why no protesters had shown up to heckle the mayor as he met with HUD secretary Julian Castro about homelessness.

None of which is surprising, of course, but is disheartening all the same.

As for the former query — what were we supposed to make of what just happened? — the answer was much more complicated.

These were South L.A. residents and advocates. There was nobody I spoke with that did not understand where the anger was coming from. While the core group of protesters may have been small (anywhere between 20 and 50 people), their concerns had the empathy of many in attendance. At least, up to a point.

When Melina Abdullah, a professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State L.A. and organizer for Black Lives Matter, had taken the mic toward the end of the meeting and explained why people were turning their backs on the man she called the “back door mayor,” there were nods and murmurs of understanding.

Black Lives Matter had consistently asked the mayor to sit down with them in quarterly town halls to work with them on addressing police brutality, police reform, and community empowerment. Over the summer (just prior to the Police Commission’s ruling on the fatal police shooting of Ezell Ford), they had even staked out Garcetti’s home trying to get him to agree to a meeting, only to have him sneak out his back door on his way back East to do some fundraising. Abdullah told town hall attendees that because all their requests had been ignored — they had not even been formally invited to the event, despite having been the ones that had asked for it — they were resolved not to sit down until they were given seats on the stage (which they eventually did with the help of transportation advocate Damien Goodmon).

“We are appreciative of this space,” she said, “but [Black Lives Matter] created this space.”

It was a claim many of the elders in the community might have disputed. Some I spoke with after the meeting were shaking their heads over the fact that they found themselves confronting so many of the very same issues they had gone up against as activists in their youth, that young men were still dying at the hands of police and there was still no accountability. And Reverend Sauls, an important advocate for the South L.A. community on a wide range of issues since his arrival at Holman in 2012, had been the one to moderate a meeting between the Black Lives Matter advocates and the mayor at Holman this past July.

But her larger point stood: they were being excluded from a process that they felt they had helped set in motion. And hearing the mayor talk about the importance of respectful dialogue and communication was only adding insult to injury. Read more…

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Urban Land Institute Assessment Supports Leimert Park Stakeholders’ Vision for Arts and Culture Hub

Stakeholders discuss what they would like to see replace the parking lots and warehouses in the Village area. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Stakeholders discuss what they would like to see replace the parking lots and warehouses in the Village area. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last month, when Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced criminal charges against BarKochba Botach, weapons dealer and owner of four properties in the heart of the Leimert Park neighborhood, I could practically hear the collective sigh the community issued from the Boyle Heights coffee shop where I was sitting.

As reported in the L.A. Times, Botach sold a civilian two 9-millimeter pistols and ammunition magazines under an exemption meant for law enforcement and the magazines held 17 rounds each, a violation of California law. One of the guns was later improperly transferred to a friend and used in a homicide in Riverside County.

If both charges stick, Botach could faces fines and spend up to a year and a half in jail.

Many in the community hope the case will serve as a turning point.

For years, they have lobbied to get Botach Tactical out of the area, arguing there was no place for an arms dealer in South Los Angeles, where gun violence has been an issue, or in a neighborhood that is actively courting investors to build partnerships with local artists, cultural caretakers, and black creatives as part of its 20/20 Vision Initiative.

But claims that the business violated zoning and land-use policies or was out of step with community plans were not defensible. Botach purchased those properties in 1990, well before the rules the community wants to hold him to — including one banning gun sales in the neighborhood — were put on the books. Read more…

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Los Ryderz BC Suffers Setback with Theft of Tools; Still Plans to Ride Saturday for Cancer Awareness

New public art pieces grace 103rd Street in Watts. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

New public art pieces grace 103rd Street in Watts. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As he often does, Javier “JP” Partida, president and founder of Los Ryderz bike club in Watts, took some of his club members for a bike ride on Saturday. When they returned from Torrance that afternoon, they locked up the bikes and called it a day. When he came back Sunday morning to work on the bikes and finish welding the Crank Award trophies to thank local community members for their service in and around South L.A., he found that someone had broken into their storage area and looted the place.

Someone broke into Los Ryderz' storage area and took the club's power drill, new welder, grinder, and other tools. And two bikes. Photo: JP Partida

Someone broke into Los Ryderz’ storage area and took the club’s power drill, new welder, grinder, and other tools. And two bikes. Photo: JP Partida

Gone were the power drill, a new welder, a grinder, and other tools he had purchased with his own funds, as well as two bikes.

The thieves had apparently intended to come back, Partida said, judging by the way they had lined up the rest of the bikes near the exit.

It was the second break-in at the complex in recent days. Last month, thieves broke into the boarded up fire station attached to the YO! Watts building, making off with donated toys the LAPD stored there, among other things.

For Partida, the bikes are not as much of a loss as the tools. Read more…