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EAST LOS ANGELES : Project to Yield Jobs at Estrada Courts

January 30, 1994|MARY ANNE PEREZ

If he were building a housing project today, Estrada Courts manager Phillip Chavez says the first thing to go up would be a community center and gymnasium, with a stage for community performances and classrooms to house programs.

But when Estrada Courts was built 50 years ago, that apparently was not on officials' minds.

"They didn't consider it important," said Chavez, former manager at Imperial Courts in South-Central and Aliso Village in Boyle Heights. "They didn't care."

After four years of planning and securing funding, Chavez and residents are gearing up for the construction of a $1.9-million community center in the middle of the 143-unit complex at 3232 Estrada St.

The Housing Authority of Los Angeles petitioned the city Jan. 20 to grant a conditional-use permit for the construction and operation of a child-care center and a variance for the construction of a gymnasium. The petition asks that the city allow the project to proceed with only six parking spaces instead of the required 80.

Zoning Administrator John Parker has not yet ruled on those requests. With Parker's approval, the Estrada Courts Resident Management Corp., a nonprofit organization formed to secure construction and maintenance jobs for the development's residents, will begin getting bids and training residents for at least half of the estimated 100 jobs that will be created in the first year of construction.

Plans for the 13,612-square-foot center include an 8,000-square-foot gym and adjoining rooms for job training, child care, senior citizen functions and a stage. It was designed by Martinez Architects of Playa del Rey.

When the construction is completed, residents hope to hire a job developer and have employment clinics, sports and youth programs, and more resources for seniors. They envision themselves working as tutors, recreation leaders, child-care workers, the center director and lab technicians.

"The programs will be open to our imagination and efforts," Chavez said.

Abraham Paez, director of the Estrada Courts Resident Management Corp., said the center's construction is but one project on a list of residents' proposals.

This month, residents unveiled a unique construction project that trained and hired 10 residents to replace the housing project's water and sewer system.

The majority of the funding, $1.3 million, has come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. An additional $200,000 was recently approved by the city Community Development Department.

"We're crowded for space and we have a lot of people who want to come in and develop programs for the residents. That's why the community center is a necessary adjunct to the housing development," Chavez said.

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