New Promise Zones Include South Los Angeles

South L.A.'s inclusion in the Promise Zones program marks a shift in the way the federal government measures poverty.
June 10, 2016, 8am PDT | Elana Eden
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The Promise Zone program designates low-income areas with priority for competitive federal grants, as well as support in navigating the relevant agencies.

Nine new zones announced June 6 include neighborhoods in Nashville; Atlanta; San Diego; Florida; Puerto Rico; and, after two unsuccessful applications, South Los Angeles.

Several neighborhoods in Los Angeles were selected for the program when it launched in 2014. But South L.A. wasn’t picked—because despite its high levels of poverty, it didn’t meet federal criteria:

South L.A.’s own brand of poverty, marked by overcrowded housing, underemployment, and high rates of homelessness, apparently wasn’t scoring well when held up against expectations modeled on poverty seen in cities like Detroit (where high vacancy rates and high levels of unemployment are the norm).

Sahra Sulaiman describes in Streetsblog how the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z) collaborative invited HUD Secretary Julian Castro to L.A. "so he could see and hear for himself how the residents defined need"—and convinced the federal government to take varying manifestations of poverty into account.

Through their efforts, SLATE-Z created a network and an action plan that would benefit the community even if it didn't achieve Promise Zone status, Sulaiman notes.

The collaborative's ambitious long-range plan tackles workforce development, transit affordability, investment in local entrepreneurs and infrastructure, education, youth programs, and more.

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