New Produce Stand

04 Jul New Produce Stand

New Produce Stand to Open in King Estates Neighborhood

By Jesus Andrade

In a small pocket of South Los Angeles, big changes are happening.

On July 12, Community Coalition members and residents of the King Estates neighborhood in South L.A. will celebrate the grand opening of a produce stand on the corner of 39th Street and Western Avenue.

The stand, which will be open every Friday from 2-6 p.m., will sell organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, oranges and apples plus healthy snacks. It’s being sponsored by a partnership of Community Coalition, Community Services Unlimited and Los Angeles County. Organizers hope the stand will help fill the void left by the abrupt closure in mid-June of the Ralphs at Martin Luther King  Jr. Boulevard and Western Avenue.

“This produce stand represents another step in the right direction toward transforming our community and bringing better quality food options for our families,” said Dorothy Redmond, a longtime resident and mother of three.

Its arrival is one strand of a larger string of changes happening in the neighborhood over the last several years since residents came together to make their community safer and healthier.

Just a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine opening a produce stand at that corner, or even working with the Century Market liquor store owners, who are allowing the weekly event to be held in their parking lot.

Western and 39th was widely recognized as a hot spot for crime, violence and nuisance activity that often emanated from the liquor store and other problem businesses and spilled over to nearby Martin Luther King Park.

“It was too dangerous for my children to be [at the park] even with me supervising them and on top of this, the park facilities were in total disrepair,” Redmond recalled. The recreation center there was closed due to toxic mold. The restrooms were hiding places for drug use and prostitution.

Residents Organize

In 2009, residents got the city to place new mandates on the liquor store owners to clean up the business or face closure.  They also got the city to invest more than $1 million in the park to rehabilitate the recreation center and install new security and athletic equipment and playground facilities. They also successfully pushed to bring a range of programming to the park, including the popular anti-gang youth recreation program Summer Night Lights.

“Rebuilding the park and cleaning up the liquor store was important because we felt it would have a positive trickle effect on the surrounding area and it would again be safe for our families,” said Celia Castellanos, a young woman who grew up in the neighborhood.

According to Los Angeles Police Department data, violent, gang-related and property crimes have dropped significantly in the area since 2009. More families are using the park  now than before the improvements, and new small businesses have popped up along Western. Last year, Community Coalition and other nonprofits hosted a music and voter engagement festival, filling the park with more than 1,000 people.

“These changes speak to the power of what can happen when everybody comes together — neighbors, business owners, local nonprofits — to build a better community for everyone,” said Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition.

Community leader Karla Acosta is proud of the efforts, but she’s not satisfied yet. “We’ve worked hard to bring positive changes to our community, but we have a lot more work to do,” she noted. “We’re getting there piece by piece, block by block.”

Jesus Andrade is a community organizer at Community Coalition.

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