Empowerment Congress West Holds Town Hall on Expo/Crenshaw Development Saturday

A rendering of the proposed project at Expo/Crenshaw looking south along Crenshaw. Source: Metro
A rendering of the proposed project at Expo/Crenshaw looking south along Crenshaw. Source: Metro

This Saturday, the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Development Council will hold a town hall featuring a presentation from Metro on the mixed-use project proposed for the two lots at Exposition and Crenshaw.

The site map. The project will straddle Crenshaw Blvd. south of Exposition. Source: Metro
The site map. The project will straddle Crenshaw Blvd. south of Exposition. Source: Metro

The County and Metro will retain ownership of the lots but will lease them to the developer WIP-A, LLC (a subsidiary of Watt Companies), assuming that the final version of the project the developer has proposed proves satisfactory.

As currently proposed, the project will feature 492 residential units, 73 of which will be reserved for families earning under 50 percent of the area median income (families of four must earn $45,050 or less to qualify, but also earn a minimum in the neighborhood of $30,000 or approximately three times the proposed rent). The remaining 419 units will be market-rate.

The project will also feature 47,500 square feet of commercial and retail spaces, including restaurant spaces intended for locally-owned and -operated businesses, a grocery store, open plazas, a bike hub and car-share connections, a business incubator-type space, and community-serving spaces.

The project may be best remembered, however, for the way that the project’s renderings had not only transformed the intersection into a white livability mecca but gave no indication to those that would be arriving by rail that they were at a de facto gateway to a historic black community. [See that coverage here.]

The transformation of Crenshaw at Exposition - the gateway to a historic black neighborhood - apparently also includes the rapture of the entire black population... save one undoubtedly confused person in cargo shorts. Source: Metro
The original renderings envisioning the transformation of Crenshaw at Exposition featured the rapture of the entire black population… save one undoubtedly confused person in cargo shorts. Source: Metro

There is still room for community input on the project.

This past November, Metro approved a six-month interim Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) – rather than the standard 18-month ENA – with WIP-A, LLC. The interim ENA requires the developer to do intensive community engagement, work to build partnerships with local community organizations and stakeholders, and adjust their proposals to reflect the input received. [Find the full text of the Metro staff report on the project (scroll down).]

To get a jump on that process, Watt announced at the November hearing that they were in negotiations with West Angeles Community Development Corporation (CDC) about bringing them on as a community-based partner. But what the West Angeles CDC’s role will be is as yet unclear.

Join neighbors in learning more about the project and engaging Metro on it this Saturday from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Community Room (3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.). Other topics that will be covered at the meeting include the LAFD Fire Station 94, planning and outreach around the King Day parade, the distribution of Space Shuttle funds, and general neighborhood updates. See the full agenda here. See past coverage of the project here and here.

  • Nancy Johnson

    If anyone wants to know why there is a lack of affordable housing in LA, this is a great example. The unnecessary fees and costs associated with development are astronomical, “The interim ENA requires the developer to do intensive community engagement, work to build partnerships with local community organizations and stakeholders, and adjust their proposals to reflect the input received.”

    So rather than just getting the project build for minimal cost and passing the savings onto the consumer, they have to incur substantial additional costs which are then added to the cost of housing. Then they have to create the concept of “affordable housing” to ease the costs that are artificially created. Given the geographic size of the City, there should always be a surplus of housing but for the impediments that are created by the bureaucrats trying to appease the activists. All housing would be affordable if they eliminated the bureaucracy, fees and taxes necessary to build anything in this city.

  • Oren

    Listening to the community is not bureaucracy.

  • sahra

    It’s a joint development project on publicly-owned land. Metro is adhering to the set of transit-oriented communities guidelines it created specifically to make these projects work – not just as housing but also for transit and for the communities they are set in. One would hope that public lands and dollars would indeed be approached in this manner so as to reap the greatest public benefit and so that all continue to be able to access transit over the long term.

    Also, mitigating the displacement of the very folks who are dependent on transit will result in both savings and a more successful transit system over the long haul. If lines continually need to be extended further and further out to reach those that have been pushed out, we will all end up paying for it.

  • Richard

    Such an awful project. Far too small and no office or hotel space in what could be a building 4 times larger.

    And the design! Yuck, seems to focus attention and pedestrian traffic to the gas station next door. Very LA Modern.

  • Matt

    Just because it is publicly owned land shouldn’t mean that Metro should sell land for millions less than its worth because of a mandate for low income housing. Those millions could have gone to boost the bus system, so Metro is having transit riders subsidize low income housing for people who may not even use the transit.
    Furthermore, people qualifying for low income housing can easily game the system by not reporting income and often do. You can have a drug dealer get a subsidized apartment while a couple where one works as a security guard and another as an office assistant and both use transit to get to their jobs gets to subsidize them indirectly through higher taxes (because the non-reporting person doesn’t pay income taxes on their income so the government makes it up by charging the real taxpayers higher rates), higher market rents (because the market rents need to subsidize the low income rents ultimately), and weaker transit (because Metro has diverted money for this type of project away from the transit system).
    At best, this is a horribly inefficient way to promote transit. Metro is spending tens of thousands of dollars on each of these low income units and there is no mandate or even study to ensure that people are going to use transit more than a market rate unit and even if they do it would take upwards of a century to make up those dollars.
    A more appropriate way to promote housing would be to work with the City on a parking maximum on these transit adjacent parcels. Metro would get a market rate return for their land and it would be much more likely that these apartment dwellers would opt for transit than a wild guess that they would because of their income. Also, this would set a great example for the rest of the City that you don’t need 2+ parking spaces for every apartment especially near transit.

  • sahra

    Metro isn’t selling it. It’s a joint-development project. As noted in the story and previous ones on JD projects, they retain ownership and reap the rents. Which is one of the reasons why they opted for the private developer’s project over those of the affordable housing developers… the revenue the project promises is attractive.

    The larger troubling implications of your thoughts on “gaming the system” aside, when subsidized projects open for applications, they receive thousands of inquiries and applications, even when fewer than one hundred units are available. It is very, very difficult to get into a subsidized unit, And harder still when just a handful are available in a mostly market-rate site.

  • Matt

    Same difference in that Metro reaps lower rents than they otherwise would have in a market scenario and this costs the system millions. This won’t be made up by low income riders so people in the rest of the system are subsidizing these apartments. Not exactly Metro’s mandate.
    No one said that a lot of people don’t apply for low income subsidized housing. Of course this is true and you just illustrate my point. Heck maybe I’ll quit my job and apply for low income housing. Life would be a lot easier. It is also easy for many to make money off the books and under the table (especially in CA with many regulations and high taxes) and there is no way to keep them out of low income housing and many apply and this is part of the reason why it is hard for the truly low income to get housing. It is not like there is a private investigator checking to see how people spend their money before applying to these units.
    It also takes the will out of people to work or gain promotions once they do get low income housing. Why work a few extra hours or work harder for that promotion if it will throw you over the edge of the income limits and you lose your subsidized housing? You can’t blame them. They’ll pay higher taxes and have to get their own market rate housing. If anything they’ll be worse off. Since they won the housing lottery they can work part time and enjoy life and watch the suckers work 50-60 hours per week.

  • sahra

    Not really, with regard to your first point. They are fully privately funded… the affordable units offered are the minimum required by JJJ.

    As for the really troubling and blanket assumptions you’re making with regard to those in need of affordable housing… I just can’t go down that rabbit hole with you, I’m afraid. The only thing I will say is that among the reasons it is so difficult for the truly low-income to get housing here in LA are those that have more to do with the fact that a sizable subset do not earn enough to meet minimum income requirements, often currently live in overcrowded conditions with extended family/multigenerations and could not afford the rent without those added family members (there are generally limits on how many can inhabit affordable units), and the fact that black and brown folks continue to be paid less and have struggled the most to be rehired since the recession, and they do not always have stable incomes and histories that meet documentation/income requirements. PIs may not be deployed to do verification, but checks are actually rather stringent.

    Gaming the system is human nature and we see it at all income levels and in all walks of life, and it does needed to be guarded against. But mocking the genuine struggle of so many in the city just to stay afloat – I myself was below the poverty line for many years up until pretty recently and I can assure you it was not nearly as fun as you suggest, and I had it so much easier/better than the folks whose concerns I documented for stories about the Reef project – seems beneath you. It certainly is beneath the kind of dialogue that we hope to see here.

    All my best,

    sahra

  • Nancy Johnson

    You didn’t actually address my point. You just reiterated what the bureaucratic process is. A housing unit, is a housing unit, regardless of the cost of bureaucracy that goes into it. And no, this is not necessary to make the project work. All that is required is building “x” number of housing units.

    In order to combat the housing crisis, they need to build as many units as possible, as quickly as possible, for as cheap as possible.

  • Nancy Johnson

    They’re requiring more than just listening.

  • Matt

    Well, despite those tangents you went on, I think you agree on the main points that there will always be a huge line of people for subsidized anything including housing, that some of the people that get the subsidized housing are not deserving, and those that are, are incentivized to keep their incomes low so as not to lose their subsidy, and that by attaching all these restrictions on new housing, we are limiting housing options for middle class blacks and latinos.

  • sahra

    So you don’t want to know that your public dollars will be leveraged to create the best possible outcome? That seems ill-advised as a general rule, honestly.

    The thing about transit and transit-related investments is that they’re natural multipliers – they impact so much more than just transit and they do it over the long-term. In lower-income disenfranchised communities of color, in particular, it is important that these investments be engineered in such a way as to uplift, not displace…especially because the potential for them to do is so great. And while it is also important because South Central communities are deserving of that engagement after all that their communities were deliberately denied by the city, but also because having to build transit to reach them once they’ve been displaced to LA’s outer reaches will counter any benefits that accrue to the project in the short term. So, being mindful of community needs is not only a way to address racial injustices, it’s also effective for Metro’s bottom line…which again, makes sense when you’re looking at a publicly funded project.

    As far the insistence that formerly red-lined communities of color that have endured decades of disenfranchisement, disinvestment, denial of opportunity, and repressive policing shoulder the burden of resolving the housing crisis for all of LA, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to go into that today. But I’d point you to other stories I’ve written on the Reef and on redlining in Boyle Heights or even the webinar I participated in on the Color of Law where I’ve both written about and responded to folks at length on the subject.

    Clearly we’ll never agree, but I enjoy this newer, kinder you, “Nancy.”

    -sahra

  • sahra

    No, as noted, I disagree vehemently with just about every thought you have ever expressed on the topic and I find the assumptions underlying many of the sentiments you’ve laid out here deeply troubling.

    That, however, is the beauty of our relationship. Until next time.

    -sahra

  • sahra

    *I should clarify that bit at the end of the 2nd paragraph. This particular project is not a publicly-funded project. I meant when public dollars are involved. Excuse the error.

  • Nancy Johnson

    The best possible outcome is to create as many units as possible, with as low a cost as possible. The best way to not displace people is to create as many units as possible, with as low a cost as possible. The best way to encourage transportation use is to create as many units as possible, with as low a cost as possible, near transportation hubs. At some point I hope that advocates like yourself realize that over regulation and increased costs are the reason why we have a housing crisis in the first place. You’re so focused on advocated for “people of color” (we can play a drinking game based on how many times you say it) that you don’t even realize your policy position actually harm them.

  • Matt

    Yet, your rant doesn’t counter any of my key points as it just goes on tangents. You just refuse to acknowledge the unintended economic consequences of increased regulations and arbitrary income limits. Rest assured that the more restraints and regulations we put on housing and new developed housing the bigger the problem will get as more middle class people with higher and higher incomes will find themselves in the same boat. It is just like rent control where a few people win out and everyone else is a loser as the net effect is to increase market rents.

  • sahra

    Lol. I spoke too soon, Dman. Bless. Until next time.

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