By Nadine Ono
The 710 Corridor, otherwise known as South East Los Angeles (SELA), is an area of Los Angeles County that represents an opportunity for regional cooperation that could positively impact the lives of its three-quarters of a million residents according to the findings the study, “The Central 710 Corridor: An Asset Based Analysis.”
It was presented at the October 2016 “Summit of Possibilities,” which brought together state and local elected officials from the SELA as well as community leaders to discuss how to use the data to better the lives of its residents.
Eight months have passed since the summit and the release of the report. The landscape remains the same and civic leaders are hopeful that the data will encourage local elected officials to work together to create policies that affect many issues facing the region including access to public transportation, economic development, housing density, environmental concerns among others.
“We believe that the region has a lot of assets and opportunities and so much of the focus and so much of whatever the data has been available has been from a deficit perspective and our intent with this study is to change the conversation and pivot the perspective,” said Efrain Escobedo, California Community Foundation’s vice president of Civic Engagement and Public Policy.
South Gate City Council Member Alphonso Rios agreed, “There are efforts to mitigate some of the history and change the narrative for those communities in the region.”
Dr. Juan Benitez, executive director of the Center for Community Engagement at California State University-Long Beach said it will take work and cooperation from local leaders.
“The expectation can’t be that elected officials inherently will be working together. There needs to be some effort placed in that as well, because you have different coverage geographically and politically for the area being represented.”
The study area covers 11 different cities and four unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. It is also represented by five different state assembly members.
According to Benitez, there are three pillars to the research that will lead to effective change.
- First there must be community engagement with key stakeholders.
- Second, local leaders must participate in capacity building to understand how the data can influence policy and the implications of those policies as well as engage constituents and stakeholders.
- The third pillar is the data itself.
“Good governance requires data driven decisions, reports like this provide the data that municipal government needs to make quality decisions,” said South Gate City Manager Mike Flad.
“Data’s great, but the data has to be implemented, so what this provides is a tool and a data set that councils and local administrators can use to make policies.”
The data is already helping some of the smaller cities, according to Lynwood City Manager Alma Martinez, “The benefits of assessments like this are innumerable. Cities like Lynwood do not have the financial capacity to undertake such an exhaustive regional study due to limited financing and staff.”
“Some of the data included is utilized by the City,” said Bell Mayor Fidencio Gallardo. “It is utilized as part of our General Plan update.” He added that the data from this report is included in a market study for economic development purposes and added that Bell conducts its own studies.
Martinez pointed out the most important message in the report, “Lynwood can utilize the data presented at the Summit of Possibilities to build coalitions amongst the cities in the region to address issues like education, employment and transportation. At the regional level we can work to develop overarching goals and delineate objectives that can then be fostered into implementation.” She added that Lynwood can’t address these issues alone, but must work with the other municipalities to create regional objectives and strategies that improve the community.
“There is a SELA civic engagement collaborative that will be doing a lot of work around the summit,” said Raquel Beltran, associate director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs. “With emphasis on creating a platform for non-profits and residents to understand more about the research, it’s an effort to allow that research to be used to help shape data driven policy positions that they may want to pursue in their local community.”
Added Benitez, “Where there is a will, I think that is a huge opportunity and we do have electeds that take those things into consideration. I just think that we just don’t have a regional policy agenda and/or systematic ways to uphold those three pillars.”
Beltran is more optimistic, “There’s energy for it, there’s positive energy. If there’s anything that could be helpful, it is to demonstrate that there is positive energy and that’s significant.”
Nadine Ono is a freelance writer from Los Angeles who has written for outlets including CA Fwd, Pasadena Magazine and local television news programs.