THE THOMAS AND DOROTHY LEAVEY CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF LOS ANGELES RESEARCH COLLECTIONREBUILD LA COLLECTION (CSLA-6) :History of Rebuild LA
Rebuild LA (RLA) was formed the weekend of April 29-30, 1992 immediately following the civil disturbances sparked by the acquittals of four white policemen in the beating of Rodney King, a black drunken driving suspect. The civil disturbances left 55 people dead, thousands injured, more than 1100 buildings damaged or destroyed, and a repair bill of nearly $1 billion.
Former baseball commissioner and Olympics organizer Peter Ueberroth was called upon by Mayor Bradley to spearhead the 5-year rebuilding project which would spur investment in the neglected areas. (RLA defined "neglected" communities as those Los Angeles neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. In 1996, approximately 2.6 million people in Los Angeles County lived in neglected communities.) In response to public pressure for a more diverse leadership, Ueberroth added four co-chairs to the organization: a black man, a Latino man, a white man, and an Asian woman. RLA was also represented by a large board of directors that at one time had 96 members.
From 1992 to 1994, RLA took a "top down" approach in that it solicited investments from outside private- and public-sector investments with the idea that business, government, and the community together would help bring prosperity to neglected areas. (RLA referred to this partnership as the "three-legged stool.") In the fall of 1992, RLA structured itself into eleven task forces made up of RLA Board members, RLA staff, and community experts. More than 1200 individuals served on these task forces which covered business development; finance; construction; education and training; health, human services, and youth; insurance; media and communications; philanthropy; racial harmony; urban planning; and volunteerism. (The Volunteerism Task Force eventually helped to launch the Los Angeles Volunteerism Project that soon proved its worth when it formed a recovery program within 36 hours after the Northridge earthquake in January of 1994.)
Four strategies were employed to encourage inner-city investment during RLA's first two years. The first involved the creation of new jobs and local business ownership. Commitments were solicited and obtained to open new stores in neglected areas to provide both jobs and needed services to local residents. Four supermarket chains-Vons, Ralph's, Food 4 Less, and Smart & Final-committed to building 31 new stores. Other types of business such as Benjamin Moore Paints and Chief Auto Parts also committed to opening stores in neglected areas.
The second strategy included the improvement of workforce skills. Several corporations made commitments to job training. IBM donated computer hardware, services, and support to 10 nonprofit job training facilities. Shell established a youth services academy for high school students. Toyota partnered with the Los Angeles Urban League to establish the Automotive Training Program; and Pioneer Electronics partnered with Los Angeles Unified School District to form the Pioneer Electronics Academy to train students as electronic technicians. Arco contributed to 12 job creation and training programs.
The third strategy entailed the improvement of access to capital. Thus, Disney Company committed to infusing funds into a micro-loan fund run by First AME Church and ARCO; other corporations invested in minority-owned banks such as Founders National Bank, Broadway Savings Bank, and Family Savings. First Interstate Bank provided a recovery loan program and affordable housing construction loans. Bank of America provided a $25 million Small Business Investment Program to help finance the rebuilding of small businesses damaged in the riots.
The fourth strategy consisted of the creation of community pride in the inner city. To this end, many corporations pledged financial and in-kind support for community-based non-profit groups and their programs. For example, the General Motors Van Distribution program provided community groups with the use of 100 fully insured vans and trucks. The Rolling Readers program, funded by Pacific Mutual, provided volunteers for weekly reading sessions to thousands of school-age children in homeless shelters, daycare centers, community organizations, and public schools throughout Los Angeles County.
RLA achieved some measure of success with these strategies, receiving nearly $500 million in corporate commitments. However, progress was severely stalled by the recession and Northridge earthquake. (The repair bill from the Northridge earthquake was about 20 times that of the riots.)
Early in 1994 RLA streamlined its operation and refocused its mission under the leadership of its new president and CEO, former deputy mayor and restaurateur Linda Griego. The four remaining co-chairs were replaced with a single chair, ARCO's then-chairman Lodwrick Cook; the remaining RLA staff was trimmed in half. (Peter Ueberroth had resigned in May 1993 as a co-chair but had remained a member of the board.) As its new vision, RLA adopted a "bottom up" strategy which sought to foster the development of existing businesses rather than trying to lure major corporations to locate facilities in neglected areas. Thus the eleven task forces were dissolved or merged with outside agencies.
This new "bottom up" strategy consisted of two long-term economic development initiatives: a) the formation of manufacturing networks and b) the retail development of vacant lots. The premise was that opportunities for recovery and growth already existed within the neglected communities, and that business owners and residents must play a vital role in the revitalization of their communities. RLA also directed its efforts toward linking businesses in neglected areas with more successful ones elsewhere for the purpose of joint ventures. It also continued its work with encouraging major businesses to create after-school and summer apprenticeship programs for inner-city high school students. Another priority was encouraging minority entrepreneurs by identifying sources of capital and technical assistance needs.
RLA encouraged the formation of manufacturing networks composed of small to medium-size firms in the same industry so that the collaboration would enable network-member firms to gain the perks and efficiencies of larger firms, to help them increase local employment, and to improve wages. Industries targeted under this initiative included furniture, apparel and textile, toy, food processing, metalworking, plastics, biomedical, entertainment, and electronic. RLA worked with a consortium of community colleges, private employers, and public agencies to develop vocational and job training curricula that would meet the needs of manufacturing firms in the neglected areas.
For its vacant lots project, RLA developed a database that included over 170 vacant lots and buildings with information on the ownership, location, size and zoning of the property. Lists were made available to retail operators, real estate developers, public officials, and nonprofit organizations interested in possible development opportunities. Then over 1100 residents who lived near the vacant lots were surveyed by students from USC and other volunteers regarding what kinds of goods and services were needed in their community. The overwhelming response (made by nearly 50 percent of the respondents) was for quality supermarket and grocery stores. (By 1997, 16 new supermarkets had opened in the focus area, with six more sites in various stages of development.) RLA also developed a concept for small, full-service grocery and retail stores that would pool their purchasing power to keep costs down.
In early 1996, with the support of the Urban Land Institute, RLA played an active role in forming the Los Angeles Urban Consortium, whose initial focus was to expand retail services in South Central Los Angeles. The consortium included over 50 individuals representing public officials, community-based organizations, financial institutions, nonprofit and private developers, government agencies, and several members of the Urban Land Institute/ Los Angeles District Council. The purpose of the Consortium was to galvanize the requisite political, financial, community, business, and development support to create retail and business opportunities by assembling land. The Consortium's primary focus was on transforming obsolete commercial corridors to strategically planned shopping centers anchored by supermarkets. (RLA's successor, LA PROSPER Partners, is continuing to work with the Consortium on an urban retail development model that can be replicated in other underserved communities of Los Angeles.
The RLA project began in May of 1992 and ended in 1997, the last year of which was a "Transition" period. During this transition near the end of 1996, RLA transferred its assets and its databases to the Los Angeles Community College District which hoped to link industries with classroom programs through its own Community Development Technologies Center. The new agency called itself LA Public Resource and Occupational Support Program for Economic Revitalization, or LA PROSPER Partners.
The Los Angeles Community College District received RLA's cash assets, computer hardware and software, and all of its active records. The remainder of RLA's records was transferred to Loyola Marymount University's Center for the Study of Los Angeles Research Collection.
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