To start, I want to express my hope (no pun intended, I swear) for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative that was recently announced by the Obama Administration, and I personally feel that it’s correct to model the program on the HUD HOPE VI program process. To this effect, Boyle Height’s Pueblo del Sol HOPE VI project in East Los Angeles is testament to the fair coordination of stakeholders that the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative seeks to emulate.
Pico Gardens/Aliso Village was a place many avoided in the early 90s. However, despite gang violence, decrepit building and street conditions, and a fatalistic community attitude toward both temporary displacement and the revitalization process, Pueblo del Sol’s developers were able to both revitalize the surrounding community and create a more integrated neighborhood by placing the development near the Los Angeles Unified School District school, Utah Street Elementary, and Pecan Playground and industry across the street. The development is also attached to the Pico Aliso Senior Housing development, which was completed in 2002.
Since its completion in 2003, the Pueblo del Sol HOPE VI revitalization reduced the blight enough that the new Metro Gold line extension placed a stop right at the development’s door (which was part of the plan at its inception). Just as importantly, when driving through the neighborhood, the visible change is striking, the atmosphere is casual and service businesses have begun opening just south of the development to further enhance this (now) transit-oriented development.
Despite the fact that Pueblo del Sol had fewer units than were originally available, the degree of interagency coordination did the ever-evolving revitalized community a world of good. More prominently, it allows Pueblo del Sol to continually grow as the Gold Line extension further ties the community into the Greater Los Angeles area. Though the HOPE VI program itself has had its critics when measuring the success of some projects, Pueblo del Sol’s supervisory focus on the core principle of interagency coordination shows that a smart revitalization can be done in a progressive and synchronized way. As the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative focuses on incorporating economic development, housing and schools into the planning and building process, Pueblo del Sol could serve as a nice prototype for the Initiative’s wider implementation. Here’s hoping!
Tony Chavira is the Associate Editor of FourStory.org, a non-profit online magazine that advocates for integrative affordability throughout the communities of Southern California. He also has roots in East Los Angeles, so he’s especially passionate about revitalization projects like these.