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Jordan Downs tenants offer ideas on redevelopment project

L.A. Housing Authority holds its first meeting in a six-month 'brainstorming process' to hear from residents on a plan to tear down the Watts complex and replace it with an 'urban village.'

March 01, 2009|Ruben Vives

About 40 tenants at the Jordan Downs public housing project gathered Saturday to hear about city plans that could dramatically change their lives -- a proposal to tear down the tarnished Watts complex and replace it with a modern "urban village" with apartments, stores and restaurants.

Residents met at the Jordan Downs recreation center to hear about the ambitious, $1-billion proposal that could include as many as 2,100 units, with both low-income and market-rate housing. Financing would come from federal redevelopment money, state tax credits and private investment.

The meeting was the first in what was described as a six-month "brainstorming process" in which residents can speak out about the plan, said Larry Goins, director of development for the Los Angeles Housing Authority. "This is the listening stage," he said.

It was a scene of contrasting styles. At the front of the room, consultants used PowerPoint presentations and phrases such as "capital plan" and "physical plan," references to creating jobs and designing the new housing units.

Residents, mainly Spanish-speaking, listened with translation devices.

By noon, tenants had divided into discussion groups. Consultants listened and jotted down notes as residents pointed out concerns about safety, better transportation, traffic and the overflowing garbage at the housing project's many trash bins.

They said they wanted the redeveloped Jordan Downs to have a gym for residents, some of whom suffer from diabetes; bicycle lanes; a grocery store on site that features healthy food; a solar-powered lighting system; and a greenhouse where they could grow their own vegetables.

"I can't wait," said Sylvia Gallager, who has lived in the project for 27 years. "I hope it comes to fruition."

Some experts said that a project of this magnitude, which would be among the largest in Los Angeles, would face formidable challenges in the current recession, and that the Housing Authority may have difficulty carrying out such a complex project.

Officials at Saturday's meeting said they hope that, as word gets out about the plan, attendance at community meetings will grow.

About 2,300 people live in the project. The next meeting will be at the recreation center April 16.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

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