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'All of Our Money Goes Out of the Community'

March 29, 1997

Housing czar Gary Squier has called for a major shift in the way Los Angeles attacks blight and decay, shifting from a bricks-and-mortar approach to broader support for quality of life projects. One of the neighborhoods named by Squier as being at risk is a stretch of South-Central east of Vermont Avenue between 76th Street and Manchester Avenue. Residents and businesspeople talked with DEBORAH BELGUM about how the area has changed and what could be done to improve it.

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ROBERT RUBIN

41, executive director of the Greater Bethany Community Church's economic development corporation, which recently built a 77-unit affordable housing project on Hoover Street

Growing up here, you had gang and drug activity, but if you had a fight, it was a fistfight. You were not worried about someone shooting you or stabbing you in the back. Everywhere you see a church now, those buildings used to be bowling alleys and movie theaters. You even had a go-cart place. The park always had something going on. It was safe. You could send your kids up to the park, have them play and come home by themselves. There was camaraderie and parties. Now you don't have that stuff.

And you could walk up to Vermont Avenue and actually spend your money on something.

It has taken this area 20 years to deteriorate and I think it will take another 20 years to fix. There are a lack of recreational services here, lack of educational services such as an alternative high school or a nontraditional school and a lack of job-training programs. There is definitely a lack of employment opportunities.

Someone needs to provide capital to develop jobs so people can become self-sufficient. If you can take this guy on the corner and give him a job that pays $6 to $7.50 an hour for working 40 hours a week, he might be able to afford to support himself and his family. I think this would alleviate some of the problems.

Do you know where the nearest fast-photo developing service is, or the nearest full-fledged drugstore? Inglewood. The nearest mall or something comparable is in Baldwin Hills. So all our money goes out of the community. We have no professional office space in this area.

We have replaced banks in this area with check-cashing services. So there isn't any capital generating investments in the area to help small businesses and homeowners.

A lot of your crime activity is in your apartment buildings and abandoned houses. So turn those over to people who are going to fix them up and get families in there. Have on-site managers to look after the apartments.

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RUTH JACKSON

Owner of Ruth's Beauty Salon and Ruth's Uniform & Variety Store on Hoover Street

It really is not a good area for business. There are lots of people who are on public assistance and a lot of homeless people. Most of my customers come from outside the area, such as Carson, Long Beach and the Valley.

There is not a lot of money in this area. That's one of the problems. Many of my customers come on the first of the month when their welfare checks arrive.

It really isn't a safe place. There are gangs and drugs and graffiti. But the city has done a good job in the last year picking up trash. They are quick to get the graffiti off. At least someone is making an effort to clean up.

One positive thing is we have two new apartment complexes down the street with over 200 untis. That is a plus.

When the beauty salon opened three years ago, we thought we could do something positive. We got the pool hall [next door] to move out last January and there is an antiques shop there now. We're trying to project a positive image here.

If they would push out the gangs and drug pushers, things would improve.

We have a lot of old apartments mixed in with the homes and that brings down the property value.

You have people coming here to live from a lower economic background. People who have the resources move out. I wouldn't live here. The problem is just too bad.

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ROGELIO OLIVERAS

Area resident four years; security guard

This area was worse before. There were more drugs and all that. Then about two or three years ago, everything started to slow down. Things have gotten much better ever since they built the new apartments on Hoover Street.

It's gotten better too because there used to be a barbecue place near my house and that closed in 1992. The dope people used to hang out there. And next door was a pool hall with people going in and out all night long. I complained to the police; that recently closed too. I think the guy lost his lease. So that has made things better.

There used to be a liquor store on 83rd Street. When it was there, there were a lot of people hanging out with drugs.

The area has gotten better because some of the bad guys have moved out. You also have more police protection at night. What you need around here the most are more policemen.

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