L.A. promised jobs for Watts but left weeds and shanties – Los Angeles Times

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Jobs

The manhole cover was pushed aside, and the opening in the abandoned street revealed the scorched remains of a bed 6 feet below.Crouched beside the hole, Juan Luis Gonzalez-Castillo described his brief habitation in the storm drain.“One day I walked into this property and found a drain,” he said. “I opened it and it was dry. I cleaned a spider web. So I started living here.”The manhole he called home is on a street the city of Los Angeles built on a field that was meant to revitalize a community bled of its economic base and traumatized by the 1992 riots. The road was the first step in a strategy to bring hundreds of high-tech jobs to Watts with the first industrial development in the area since the 1970s.Advertisement Jaquon Brown lives in a makeshift home that he constructed on the edge of a 10-acre vacant lot in Watts. Brown has been living in the structure since 2018 and has filled it with a bed, furniture, mirrors and a fan that gets its pirated power from a nearby lamppost. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times) Instead, nearly three decades of ineffectual city initiatives have left nothing more than a 10-acre vacant lot useful only to Gonzalez-Castillo and the shanty dwellers he thinks of as neighbors.There have been at least five proposals to build facilities for furniture construction, food processing and light steel manufacturing among other labor-intensive industries. Something killed them all — lack of financing, burdensome city demands and better offers elsewhere. Only weeds, trash and despair persist. Read more coverage Now, as the city struggles with a severe housing shortage and a growing homelessness crisis, the lot, known as the Lanzit property after the street on its south side, is getting attention as a potential site for homeless housing.Calling the city out for “a lack of leadership, accountability that has been lacking, of deficient priorities and siloed departments,” City Controller Ron Galperin used the property as a backdrop for a news conference earlier this year urging the use of city-owned land for interim housing, tiny homes, safe camping or trailers. Germán Manrique Magaña, the neighborhood’s unofficial neighborhood ombudsman, walks through a 10-acre vacant lot in Watts. Magaña is a partner of Castello Builders Inc., whose business is adjacent to the lot and has an ongoing relationship with the homeless who live there.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times) Advertisement“The property behind me can and should be used to help get people off of our streets and into shelter right away,” Galperin said. “What we really need to do is to cut through all of the bureaucracy to actually save lives and get people off the street.”Though the idea is winning support in some quarters, including an urban planning professor at USC who used it as the subject of a class project, others say the community has already absorbed too much homeless housing and are adamant that it deserves the jobs that an industrial development would bring.“More affordable housing at this location would cost this part of the city its last opportunity to have a job-generating industry,” City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said in an interview. “This is a part of the city that the economy has aggressively abandoned and, frankly, practiced apartheid on.”For nearby residents and business owners, the hope of any benefit from the land has long since died. To them, the Lanzit property is simply a drag on the industriousness of a community where vacant lots are turned into vegetable gardens and men labor with pride at jobs such as making cabinets and manufacturing pool-light housings.The property has become the focus of a spontaneous neighborhood watch. When two strangers were spotted on it, Germán Manrique Magaña, the unofficial neighborhood ombudsman, drove up in a black pickup.After learning the interlopers were reporters, Magaña handed over his cellphone to show a YouTube video he made of a community cleanup earlier this year. Volunteers in fluorescent T-shirts piled trash into 4-foot-high furrows down the ce …

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