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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023


Hed — Awakening in Pacoima Pacoima has an awful image an area where gangs and drugs predominate, a place of low income, high unemployment and little hope. It’s not insignificant that the people who attach such labels to Pacoima tend to live far, far away from Pacoima. Talk to the business people and residents of that San Fernando Valley community, as reporter Jeannette DeSantis does in this month’s Spotlight feature, and you get a somewhat different perspective. Certainly, Pacoima’s bottom-line economics remain discouraging: Its per-capita income is among the lowest in Los Angeles County so low, in fact, that it was the only Valley community to qualify for a federal Empowerment Zone designation (established following the 1994 Northridge earthquake). It also has one of L.A.’s highest illiteracy levels. But as DeSantis points out, Pacoima has a vacancy rate for industrial real estate of just 3 percent, among the lowest in the area, and on the retail side, it’s a bustling community of grocery stores, auto shops and other mom-and-pop-type merchants. It’s also where the city of L.A. plans a major redevelopment project, in the area around Hansen Dam. Among the possibilities: a walking trail, sports facility or amusement park. An advisory committee chosen by Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon will consider the best of five proposals submitted. After that, any project still has several major hurdles to clear. But clearly, the redevelopment has momentum and if realized, it would go a long way toward providing the kind of cultural and recreational activities that are so much in demand in that part of the Valley. What’s happening in Pacoima is the result of several factors, including a much-improved economy and an activist councilman in Alarcon, who seems focused on turning around the area’s poverty-and-crime image. But it’s really more than that it’s the community itself, which, ever-so-slowly, is showing signs of empowerment. “There is a general sense that things are cleaning up here,” said Alarcon. “There is an improved sense of community and in turn that has an impact on such things as crime.” As could be expected, government is playing a significant role in this awakening. In addition to the empowerment zone designation and Hansen Dam development, Pacoima businesses can qualify for loans through the Community Development Bank, which opened a branch in the area in late July. Those and other government-supported breaks provide a substantial boost both to businesses looking to stay in Pacoima and those coming in from other locales. Such efforts seem appropriate. There’s nothing wrong with jump-starting a community with government funds especially one that’s been given up for dead by many in Los Angeles. But coaxing an economic renaissance through government-subsidized giveaways only goes so far. The tricky part is coming soon. At some point, Pacoima, like any other community, must show an ability to stand on its own and phase out the giveaways. Otherwise, it always will be left to depend on the kindness of governments an impractical approach in a capitalist world.

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