Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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9A: It's alive

Once created, the Creature from the Black Lagoon may as well be put to better use than just scaring people or, more specifically, driving them from their longtime homes. Build it and maybe it could be a middle school or something.

As you may recall, the LAUSD ran about 200 people out of 50 houses to build an elementary school in Echo Park that the community emphatically argued was not needed. The community lost in the end (after winning multiple lawsuits, but still); the houses were demolished; and a building is being constructed right this moment.

Now, the question is what to do with it. After prevailing in their fight to build an elementary school, the LAUSD has realized they didn't need an elementary school -- because, even with open enrollment and a dance charter, schools are under-enrolled in Echo Park, as they were when the project was conceived. In fact, Chicken Corner heard recently that one of the kindergarten classes at Elysian Heights Elementary has just 12 pupils. So recently LAUSD started looking for alternative uses for their new building. A meeting was called in the Westlake area.

At which point, realtor and Echo Park community activist Darren Hubert contacted the district and asked, Hey, dudes, why the meeting in Westlake? (Chicken Corner's phrasing) "We want to be included in the process."

Hubert found out that the reason the meeting was in Westlake was that the possible new school, a K-8, would serve almost solely communities to the south and west of Echo Park. LAUSD board member Yolie Flores was on board with this plan. The district would serve about one block of Echo Park. (The LAUSD staffer now assigned to overseeing the project said she was unaware of the ugly history of 9A: the people whose actions led to displacement and then neighborhood blight have wiped clean their fingerprints and moved on to other deeds/misdeeds.)

Conversations with the district began, and Hubert asked that a school at 9A specifically serve a radius of the school, rather than to the east and south. Further, that it be dedicated a middle school, not K-8. Asked if there were any other requests, Hubert said a desired focus for the school would be the arts, which would be consistent with the community and with the arts high school nearby on Sunset Blvd.

The issue will be discussed this evening at the Echo Park Improvement Association's monthly meeting. The LAUSD rep responsible for the future of 9A (and not its dismal past) will give a presentation and answer (or try to answer) questions. The public is invited: 7 p.m., Williams Hall at Barlow Hospital, 2000 Stadium Way.

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