“Empowering the Community through Historic and Cultural Preservation, Youth Programs, Economic Development Strategies and Art Programs“
As a native of the Pico Union district of Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand the rich cultural and architectural heritage that can be found throughout the neighborhood. Pico Union lies within the original boundary of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, which was founded in 1781 and originally developed between 1880 and 1930. The neighborhood still looks much the same as it did more than a century ago.
As Los Angeles continued to grow, the area changed from an exclusive suburb on the city’s edge to an increasingly diverse, urban neighborhood. In 2004, the area became the City of Los Angeles’s nineteenth Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.
As is the case for many historic districts in Los Angeles, the neighborhood was once home to primarily white upper-class families (although Mexican-Americans have also lived here for quite some time), though this group eventually migrated to the suburbs. Because of the low rent and the proximity to manufacturing and the service sector, working-class communities of color and immigrants took their places. As the city government shifted its priorities elsewhere, our neighborhood received less infrastructural resources. Today the majority of Pico-Union’s residents are Latino with roots from Central America and Mexico. Korean-, Cuban-, and Greek-Americans have also made Pico Union their home for some time.
Pico Union Housing Corporation was born out of neighborhood residents’ ongoing socio-economic struggles. Since 1965 PUHC has aspired to meet local needs by providing facilities and social services that enrich our community. PUHC has been a recognized community economic development organization for over 35 years. 100% of the housing programs in the 885 units of affordable housing we presently own and operate serves low- and very low-income families. By reducing welfare assistance and unemployment rates as well as decreasing school dropout rates, we assist our constituents in creating and generating wealth. We prepare youth to enter the workforce through high-demand jobs which pay a living wage. Creating entrepreneurial opportunities for youth and adults strengthens economic growth in our multiracial, predominantly-Latino community.
Our mission at Pico Union Housing Corporation is to develop and preserve affordable housing. PUHC emphasizes home ownership, the establishment of effective community organizations and facilities, and the creation of economic development strategies that benefit low-income residents and preserve our rich cultural heritage. As an organization firmly rooted in the needs of the community, we see preservation as a powerful community development tool. It instills a sense of neighborhood pride while valuing residents’ contributions.
The latest task we have taken on in our effort to serve, preserve, and support our community is the development of the Casas Alicia. Restoration work is expected to begin in Spring 2010. Once the Casas Alicia project is completed it will take the name of Pico Union Economic Development and Empowerment (PUEDE) Center. Two turn-of-the-century homes that were relocated in 2006 from Arapahoe Street to an empty lot on Alvarado Street will house the PUEDE Center. The Jevne Residence was built in 1904 by architect Frederick L. Roehrig, known for many Pasadena landmarks including the Hotel Green. The owner of a grocery company who also Director of First National Bank/Southern California Savings Bank–Jesse Jevne–lived there. Built in 1908, the Newmark Residence, was designed by Sumner P. Hunt who is also responsible for the AAA Automobile Club building on Figueroa. Harris Newmark, who hailed from one of Los Angeles’ founding families, previously resided here. Newmark’s business and philanthropic affiliations included the Los Angeles Public Library, Congregation B’nai B’rith, Board of Trade, and Southwest Museum.
In the 1980s, the Alvarado site was one of several federal detention centers in Pico Union where immigrants were jailed. Many were deported back to their civil war-torn home countries they had originally fled. Now the site is a center of neighborhood hope Through its various programs PUEDE will instill social values, the importance of education, self sufficiency and upward mobility. Training in historic restoration techniques such as wood window repair and will also feature courses on plumbing, carpentry, electrical, lead remediation and masonry will be offered as well as Wealth Creation Programs such
as: First Time Homebuyer Education Program with Flexible Loan Programs, Down payment Assistance Programs, and Real Estate Development. Our Neighborhood Business Revitalization Program will provide services to help small business owners expand and grow their business. We will also have a college preparation center, a Money-Smart Training Program, and a Computer Training Course.
Public art – as seen in graff art (short for graffiti art) pieces and murals — provides a sense of ownership towards ones community. Young artists shape the built environment through their own cultural identity and, in so doing, they contribute to the neighborhood. Since the1930s, murals have played an important role in preserving and understanding the history of the Pico Union neighborhood.
Three years ago PUHC formed a Graff Lab center at its corporate office on Venice Boulevard. One of the programs that is offered by the Graff Lab is “Artists to Entrepreneurs” program. The “Artists to Entrepreneurs” program expands local artists’ talents by providing a safe place to sketch and display their work. This, simultaneously, keeps them off the streets. In order to have a healthy, vibrant community, we must invest in our youth.
At PUHC, we believe we can do this by creating opportunities for them to express themselves. PUHC works with all residents to foster pride in their communities. This is reflected in our efforts to preserve historic homes, public spaces, and residential buildings that enhance the quality of life for everyone. Pico Union Housing Corporation is always looking for new ideas and volunteers.