87.5 F
San Fernando
Saturday, Sep 23, 2023


By Jeannette DeSantis Contributing Reporter In Pacoima, English is a second language, fast food means a torta con frijoles and your neighbor is likely to be a co-worker at the local factory. Well-known for decades as the industrial backbone of the San Fernando Valley with a vacancy rate for industrial real estate of only 3 percent Pacoima is also a family-oriented community of mom-and-pop stores, auto mechanic shops and abarrotes, small grocery stores that specialize in Mexican food. “It is one of the most unique communities I have ever seen,” said Joe Salas, branch manager of Pacoima’s only bank formerly TransWorld Bank until the small Valley-based institution was bought out by Glendale Federal Bank. “There are a lot of businesses that could come to Pacoima and make a success of themselves,” Salas said. “There are the tax benefits and the people here who work hard. I think a lot of business people are really missing the boat.” Salas isn’t the only one who feels that way. Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon is struggling to change Pacoima’s reputation as a poverty-stricken and crime-ridden community. “There is the general sense that things are cleaning up here,” Alarcon said. “There is an improved sense of community, and in turn that has an impact on such things as crime.” Over the years, the blighted condition of Pacoima has worsened, with trash-lined streets, dilapidated storefronts and graffiti-scarred walls. But many business owners agree that conditions began to improve when Alarcon was elected to represent the Seventh District in 1993. And at about the same time, the L.A. Police Department took a more active role in cleaning up the streets through its new community policing strategy. Pacoima’s crime rate has fallen by about 30 percent over the past four years, but L.A.P.D. officer Carlos Solano said the area remains a high-crime district. “Gangs are still a big problem in Pacoima,” said Solano, who is a senior lead officer for the area and works with the community on a daily basis. “And with the gangs, you have the offshoot crimes of robbery, drugs and graffiti still happening. Things are getting better, but there is always room for improvement.” In addition to the safety improvements, Alarcon points out that three bars have recently disappeared in Pacoima and reopened as beauty salons and boutiques, and five new traffic signals have been installed during his tenure. Walter W. Mosher, president of Precision Dynamics, which manufactures health care products, agreed that the community is beginning to shed its “war zone” image. “At first we didn’t leave when things got bad because the cost of moving was too high,” said Mosher, whose company has been in Pacoima since 1989. “But the community has made progress and we figure it is better to get involved and try to fix things than just to leave.” Some incentives offered by the government to attract and retain business have been effective. First, there is the federal Empowerment Zone designation that covers 1.7 square miles. The zone was established after the Northridge earthquake in an effort to revitalize some of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles affected by the temblor. (Pacoima is the only community in the Valley that qualified for the designation, because of its high poverty level.) The designation means that local businesses qualify for loans through the Community Development Bank, which opened a branch in Pacoima July 28. The bank, backed by federal funds, provides low-interest loans on the condition that recipients hire from the local community. In addition, tax breaks are offered to businesses that fall under the state’s Enterprise Zone in Pacoima, located between Arroyo Avenue to the north, Foothill Boulevard to the east, Telfair Avenue to the west and Sheldon Street to the south. The benefits include tax credits for companies that purchase certain machinery such as equipment that cleans the air and water and a reduction in electrical charges from the Department of Water & Power. Despite such government efforts, Pacoima remains very much a work in progress. The district’s main retail corridors are less than inviting, with hand-painted business signs often misspelled cracked sidewalks littered with broken glass, and graffiti. In addition, some businers owners complain that the local Chamber of Commerce has not done enough to mobilize the business community. Javier Romero, lifelong Pacoima resident and owner of Romero’s TV on Van Nuys Boulevard for the past 40 years, says that though city officials have done their best to help the local business community, the business community has done little to help itself. “Just recently, me and a few others sent flyers to all the businesses about a meeting Alarcon was having here,” Romero said. “We should have had at least 40 to 50 people there, but only five showed up.” Another time, he said, a woman called the Pacoima chamber in search of a television repair shop and was told the community had none. “Now I have been here for 40 years,” Romero said. “That really made me mad.” Board member Gregory Viega said the group is working to make younger business owners more active members, and to gain the confidence of the older members. One sign of Pacoima’s recovery is the city of L.A.’s plan to develop a portion of Hansen Dam. Almost 80 percent of the dam property sits in the community of Pacoima, including the public golf course and banquet facilities of Tavern on the Green, while the rest of it is located in the communities of Lake View Terrace and Shadow Hills. The city has received several use proposals for the property including a water park, a sports complex, a sound stage and animation facilities and a high-tech business complex. But while the Community Redevelopment Agency and the DWP have each contributed $90,000 to create the vision, there is still no actual financing for construction of any of the projects, Alarcon said. “Anything we do with Hansen Dam is going to be a plus,” said Viega. “The water park would be perfect for Pacoima because Hispanic families typically don’t leave their kids behind and would probably visit the park with their children.” Alarcon is also fond of the water park idea for the family-oriented community but said that his main priority, and the biggest obstacle Pacoima faces, is convincing others that the community is a good place to do business. “Now what we have to do is gain the confidence of investors,” Alarcon said. “We have to let them know that Pacoima is ready to succeed.”

Previous article
Next article

Featured Articles

Related Articles