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REGION : Upheaval at Top of Conference Agenda

November 13, 1994|SIMON ROMERO

Chaos can be good for a city, right?

Huntington Park city planner Jack Wong believes the massive demographic changes that have transformed his city and others in Los Angeles County have forced planners, architects and others on the bureaucratic rungs of the municipal ladder to formulate new ways of planning for their communities' futures.

"It took two big social upheavals--the Watts riots and what happened in 1992 all over Los Angeles--for people to start thinking about advocacy planning," Wong said.

"Now some planners have started to identify workable solutions to enormous, structural changes that have taken place."

Next week, Wong and his wife, May Ying, will share their theories about the usefulness of change with other city officials at the third annual Ethnopolis conference.

The couple are founders of Ethnopolis, a nonprofit education and research group specializing in ethnicity and urban planning issues. The conference will focus on demographic issues that Huntington Park and other cities are grappling with.

Ying, an architect with a business in the South Bay, is president of Ethnopolis. Wong, her husband of 17 years, is chairman of its five-member board. The title of the conference Friday is "Planning Within Ethnically Diverse Communities."

Topics to be discussed include recent demographic changes in Orange County, issues surrounding the English-only movement, ethnicity in mass media, immigration, and the effects of alcohol and liquor stores on ethnically diverse communities.

City officials from throughout the Southland are invited to attend, along with academics from area universities, legal aid specialists and substance abuse consultants.

For Sylvia Ruiz, president of Tierra Concepts--a Los Angeles-based urban planning and consulting firm, the Ethnopolis conference is a chance to exchange ideas about economic development strategies in minority communities.

"This is a very important forum for representatives from the public and private sectors to discuss the futures of their communities," she said.

Last year Huntington Park contracted with Tierra Concepts to develop a detailed plan for economic development. The city, once predominantly white but now 92% Latino, had lost thousands of manufacturing jobs when nearby steel foundries and manufacturing firms closed.

"We found upon researching the city that the general skills and educational levels were very low," Ruiz said. "Those are clear deterrents for industries looking to relocate or hire people."

Now, Huntington Park is home to a satellite center of East Los Angeles College. Following Ruiz's recommendations, the center concentrates on programs that quickly certify people in legal or medical professions, especially as nurses or legal assistants.

Ruiz, who will participate in an Ethnopolis panel that discusses the role that liquor stores play in a city's economic development, will relate her experiences in Huntington Park at the conference.

In addition to the better-paid and better-educated residents that the satellite will bring, Ruiz said, the restaurants and a bank that have located near the campus are examples of success stories in the city.

The city 's economic future, Ruiz said, is "brighter than it used to be."

The Ethnopolis conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, 5757 Telegraph Road, in the City of Commerce.

Admission is $95; students receive a $20 reduction in the registration fee.

Information: (310) 265-0016.

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