June 9, 2000

Community Nonprofit Transforms LA's Notorious Estrella Avenue

LOS ANGELES -- Three years ago, the dilapidated buildings on mid-Estrella Avenue were frequent stops for the city's health and building inspectors. The buildings' landlords were cited frequently for crumbling walls and ceilings, clogged plumbing and roach and vermin infestations.

Today, those very same buildings stand as beacons of hope for the community. A leading local nonprofit housing developer, working with the City and the county, is transforming these notorious slum buildings into quality affordable housing for area families.

Esperanza Community Housing Corporation (ECHC) today opened the doors to La Estrella, a formerly severely dilapidated 25-unit apartment building at 1979 Estrella Avenue that now features 11 two- and three-bedroom family apartments. "As bad as things got here, and that was pretty bad, the people of Estrella Avenue never gave up hope," said ECHC Executive Director Sister Diane Donog-hue. "This is their home, and we knew that, given half a chance, they would make their home something to be proud of."

"With the support of the Los Angeles Housing Department, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, Washington Mutual Bank, the Doheny Foundation and the Federal Home Loan Bank, we were able to get the financing we needed to proceed," Sister Diane added. "This beautiful building is the result. And we're not done. Just down the street are two more buildings we are working on that, when completed, will make Estrella Avenue a frequent stop for all, not just building and health inspectors."

The $1.6 million rehabilitation of La Estrella is the critical first step in the comprehensive redevelopment effort ECHC is pursuing on Estrella Avenue. Also under development are Amistad Apartments, at 1953-1959 Estrella Avenue, and Senderos Apartments, at 2141 Estrella Avenue. When complete, ECHC will have taken properties with a long history of building and health code violations and created in their place quality family apartment complexes that will anchor the community. In the process, ECHC will have transformed 97 severely dilapidated single units in three buildings into 46 mostly two- and three-bedroom apartments for low-income families, with a total development cost of close to $7.3 million. ECHC's commitment goes far beyond bricks and mortar. Since its creation in 1989, ECHC has pursued a multifaceted strategy to serve the families of the Maple/Adams-Hoover/Adams community. This includes housing development, childcare facilities, afterschool programming and Promotores -- a health promotion program that both teaches community residents about health and healthy living and provides education and career opportunities.

"ECHC, not only with this effort on Estrella, but with all the activities and developments it is engaged in, exemplifies the unique strength of community-based nonprofit developers," said Michael Woo, former Los Angeles City Councilmember and director of Los Angeles Programs for Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). "These neighborhood entrepreneurs target the toughest issues in their communities, because they know they cannot allow them to fester and continue to drag the community down."

"Moreover, groups like ECHC also know what solutions will work, and are determined to see these solutions through, because these communities are where they live and work," added Woo, who heads up the local office of the nation's leading community development support organization.

ECHC was created in 1989 to focus resources on increasing the amount of affordable housing to low- and very-low-income residents of Los Angeles' Hoover/Adams and Maple/Adams communities. The community lies three miles south of downtown Los Angeles and just north of the University of Southern California.

To date, ECHC has completed a half dozen projects, with two others under development. When complete, ECHC will have developed close to 200 quality affordable apartments. In addition, ECHC has launched the promotores health promotion program, has developed a very active afterschool program for area youth, and has developed two childcare centers.

ECHC's work on La Estrella and the surrounding properties is a notable example of the neighborhood change envisioned in the establishment of LISC's Neighborhood Turnaround Initiative (NTI). NTI, launched in1998, is a four-year comprehensive targeted community revitalization strategy designed to demonstrate a discernable metamorphosis in defined neighborhoods through the intensive investment of resources and technical assistance. ECHC is one of eight community development corporations (CDCs) selected to receive grant funding through this initiative. LISC is providing $300,000 to ECHC to cover staffing and administrative costs associated with implementing ECHC's NTI strategy.

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