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Services Deficient to Justify Growth

May 12, 1991

I was deeply disturbed by the article on high-density development in the April 28 Long Beach Section of The Times. The author, Bettina Boxall, shows about as much insight into the problem as Planning Commissioner Tortorice. The commissioner and the article paint the Zaferia Neighborhood Assn. as a group of white, middle-class racists from the east side of Long Beach. This assertion is far from the truth.

The Zaferia Neighborhood Assn. comprises an area both east and west of Redondo Avenue. Census tract figures show that we are the third most dense area in Long Beach. The population is culturally diverse: 33% Hispanic, 28% Caucasian, 21% Asian, 16% black, 1% Native American, and 1% other groups. The median household income for our ZIP Code is in the 16th percentile, far below the state median income level. We ask not that the growth be kept out of our back yards, but that the Planning Commission start planning for growth, instead of just picking which under-serviced area it should go in.

There are not sufficient services in our area, or in the even poorer parts of town, to justify additional growth. Saturday evening, a high-speed chase ended in front of my house. The suspect was taken away in handcuffs. Two weeks ago, there was a riot on Molino Avenue that my neighbors could not get the Long Beach Police Department to respond to. That same weekend, there was a gang killing, with an Uzi, in front of the house of one of our members.

Our area has become a working area for prostitutes. My neighbors are now routinely finding condoms and "Crack Packs" in their front yards. Our tiny park is inadequate for the number of people in our area. The Long Beach Unified School District is busing half of the fourth-graders and all of the fifth- and sixth-graders from Lee School. The parents voted to make the school year-round so that the third-graders would not have to be bused.

With problems like these, and "leadership" like that displayed by Commissioner Tortorice and our councilman, Tom Clark, it is easy to understand why we are upset. An ignorant man is a shame in itself, but an ignorant man in a position of power is a dangerous thing. To paraphrase Harry Truman, "There will come a time when America will need to listen to its more outstanding members and not its more mediocre ones." I believe that time is now.

KEVIN BENN

Long Beach

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