Bookmark and Share

One renovation is not enough, residents complain



Many argue that developing the Dunbar Village does nothing to solve the real problems in the area.

New Central Avenue| Above is a look at the future South Central Avenue. Shown is the proposed exterior of the new Dunbar Hotel and Somerville II apartment complex. (Photo Credit: Thomas Safron & Associates)

Welcome | LEFT: Front entrance to the Dunbar Hotel (Photo Credit: Jenny Chen)
Feel the Beat| MIDDLE: A tile in the Central Avenue Jazz Park (Photo credit: Jenny Chen)

Old Central | RIGHT: How South Central Avenue looks today (Photo credit: Jenny Chen)

df Conchas, Guyabas, Pan Fino, Oh My!
df A look ot the pastries available at Las Alondras Bakery.
sd (Photo credit: Jenny Chen)

Dunbar Village opening ceremony to be held on Monday
The former Hotel Somerville will be renovated as part of the Dunbar Village project, a joint venture by Coalition Responsible Community Development and Thomas Safran and Associates.
Dunbar Hotel: The Jazz Hub Over the Years [Gallery]
Get a glimpse of the Dunbar Hotel from the past, the present and the future.
Where jazz music was once at its finest
At the height of the jazz era, the Dunbar Hotel was the place to be. Learn more about its history and its current state.

By Jenny Chen
USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism

12.07.2011 7:54 p.m.

"Oh, I've never heard of the Dunbar Hotel," said Arlene Gutierrez when asked how she felt about the renovations just down the street from her job at The Baby Stop on South Central Avenue.

Even though the hotel is recognized by the Cultural Heritage Commission as a cultural landmark, not every resident can recall why it's stll standing.

Gutierrez later commented on the annual jazz festival held on Central, but insisted she didn't know too much about it either.

Nineteen-year-old Emma Reveles, daughter of the owners of Las Alondras Bakery just down the street from the Dunbar Hotel, agreed jazz history isn't talked about very much.

Even though she's attended the festival and says it's meant to help improve the community, music is no longer the string tying the South Central community together.

If the residents had a choice, the government would be fixing up a lot more than just a few buildings.

"There are potholes all down the street," said John Gonzalez as he walked up and down South Central Avenue. "And we need jobs. The closer the better."

Cesar Diaz, who was getting his hair cut in Juane's Barber Shop, concurred.

"Don't you think before renovating some buildings we should get the streets fixed?" Diaz asked. "[There] are just cones around the potholes."

Even new residents in the area think the streets could be cleaner. Fidelena Salgada, who is working in a beauty salon across from Somerville II Apartments, has been living in Vernon/Central for just four months.

"The streets and the houses could definitely be cleaner," Salgada said. But for her, it's the economy that is most worrisome.

"We need something to boost the economy," Salgada said with a shrug as she looked around the nearly empty salon. "There's hardly anyone'd be really nice if we had someone to help out."

Reveles said her family's bakery has had some difficulties too in this economic downturn. Even though they now have a steady stream of customers, it wasn't easy when it first opened four years ago.

Some workers wish the streets and local businesses could be spruced up so people wouldn't judge the area so harshly.

"We keep the streets dirty," Gutierrez said. "We need law enforcement and we need to get rid of the graffiti. Maybe people wouldn't judge the store so badly, worrying about rats and roaches."

Gonzalez and Diaz both agree that the general perception is that the area is too dangerous, but they don't think that's an unfair assumption. When asked what he'd say to an outsider lost in South Central, Gonzalez only had two words: "Better run."

"You see some law enforcement, but they don't patrol the streets they need to be in," Gonzalez said. "It gets a little crazy at night."

Change doesn't seem to be on its way just yet, as residents haven't heard of any plans on Central beyond the development of the Dunbar Village.

"It's probably because people don't do [anything] about it, then people don't care," Gutierrez said. "Maybe we could plant some good trees, like [the ones in] the Valley or Palmdale."





© 2011 USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism