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East Valley Focus

PACOIMA : Ceremony Marks Start of New Center


Residents marked the start of construction of a long-awaited community center in the heart of the San Fernando Gardens housing development with a short ceremony Thursday, expressing relief that the project is under way.

"For us, this is a very important day," Luz Elena Tafolla, who heads the residents advisory council, said as she stood before a makeshift podium across from the construction site. "I'm very excited and very happy because it's finally going to happen."

Construction of the center, which will serve more than 2,000 residents in the federally subsidized housing project, comes nearly two years after city and federal officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on the Lehigh Avenue property.

Marshall Kandell, spokesman for the Los Angeles Housing Authority, said delays caused by problems with two contractors forced the agency to start the bidding process all over again. The third contractor, Culver City-based California I.B.A. Construction, started to grade the site this week.

"It's been a long haul. We appreciate all the work that's gone on," said Dushyant Rajan, who manages the 448-unit housing project.

Before thanking public officials for their efforts, residents gathered around Father Jose Olguin of the Guardian Angel Catholic Church as he blessed the ground and said a prayer for the center's successful completion by January.

The $941,00 center will contain a child-care facility and conference rooms to house a number of social service programs, such as job training and medical services. It will replace the center operating out of a four-bedroom apartment unit.

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