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Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood Join Move for Grants : Cudahy Volunteers Itself as 'Pocket of Poverty'

November 19, 1987|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

It is hardly a flattering label, but Cudahy and portions of Bell, Bell Gardens and Maywood were collectively designated a "pocket of poverty" Tuesday at their own request.

"We're realistic around here. We know we have some problems. . . . That's why we're trying to create some jobs within walking distance for our residents," said Maywood Redevelopment Agency official Ronald Lindsey after the County Board of Supervisors established the new poverty zone.

The designation allows the four Southeast-area cities to apply for federal grants to set up new businesses. It immediately allows Maywood to apply for a $1-million grant that would ensure construction of a small downtown shopping complex at Slauson Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard.

Lindsey estimated that the new $9-million, 50,000-square-foot center would create 170 permanent jobs while funneling as much as $150,000 a year in sales tax to Maywood, which has an annual budget of $3.2 million.

"We have a blue-collar work force. We have high unemployment. And we're trying to create employment for people who do not have transportation (to work)," Lindsey said. Federal regulations would require that at least 50% of employees at the new shopping center live within the poverty zone, he said.

About half of Maywood qualifies as a pocket of poverty under federal Department of Housing and Urban Development income guidelines. About a third of Bell and Bell Gardens are included in the poverty zone, county officials said.

At least 30% of residents within a poverty zone must have incomes below the federal poverty level and 70% of households must make no more than 80% of the median income nationwide.

County officials said that with the pocket-of-poverty designation, Maywood has a good chance of getting the $1-million grant, which should be announced by early spring.

"We've been told by HUD that this application is favorable," said Bobbette Glover, manager of the county's community development grants program.

What Bell, Bell Gardens and Cudahy will get from the designation is less certain. None of the cities has a grant application pending. But Glover said they could apply as new grants for poverty zones are announced.

The Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) program was set up in 1979 to create jobs in impoverished metropolitan areas. Los Angeles County, which applies on behalf of cities with fewer than 50,000 residents, established one previous poverty zone in the unincorporated Willowbrook area near Compton.

That zone received a $2-million federal grant in 1985 that helped build the $24-million Willowbrook Shopping Center, which opened last summer.

A number of Southeast area cities, including Maywood, Bell, Bell Gardens and Cudahy, also qualify for federal grants to small cities that need an economic boost. However, pocket-of-poverty zones have first call on such funds, and California cities traditionally have received little small-cities funding, Glover said.

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