Public Land for Affordable Homes in South Central Los Angeles
The United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) Coalition calls on the City of Los Angeles to prioritize public land for public good by committing to use the site of the former Bethune Library, a vacant, 34,000-square-foot city-owned parcel located at 3685 S. Vermont Avenue, for the development of affordable housing.
For the past decade, community members and local residents have fought to ensure this land is not sold to corporate developers, but instead used for community serving benefits including affordable housing. The need to preserve public land for housing is even more important now, as Los Angeles faces a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis, and ongoing economic devastation from the pandemic.
The site of the former Bethune Library has a long-standing history in the community. The former Bethune Library opened in 1975, and was named in honor of Mary McLeod Bethune, a prominent entrepreneur, philanthropist and leader in civil and women’s rights. Like its namesake, the Bethune Library exemplified the value of equal access to education and equity for Black communities.The library offered crucial resources and a vibrant community meeting space to the South Central community until it was demolished in 2009.
In the absence of this integral community asset, the city and other local entities have over the years supported an affordable housing project in its place. In 2016, the city sought approval to convert the site into permanent supportive housing. Still, in 2019, City Council voted to prioritize this land for commercial development, and is in negotiations with a developer, to develop a luxury hotel.
The Bethune site had previously been slated for an affordable housing development:
In 2019, the city Council voted to approve an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between the developer of a hotel and the city to develop this precious public land into a luxury hotel. Other applicants were at the table including an affordable housing developer, but the city chose a hotel developer despite the current housing crisis in South Central LA.