MAKING A DIFFERENCE: TRUST South LA fights for property in community

September 8, 2017

While downtown Los Angeles was booming with development projects in the 1990s, many families were being priced out of their neighborhoods and pushed out of South Los Angeles.

In the 2000s, the same again happened: as USC expanded, neighborhoods around the area started to change and people were again being pushed out of their communities.

“The second generation of displacement that started in the 90s was starting again,” said Malcolm Harris, programs and organizing director of TRUST South LA, about USC’s growth. “Almost 35 percent of community-based housing was converted to student housing.”

It was then, he said, that a group of Latinas partnered up with other organizations and realized that one way to stop the displacement of their families was to own the land they lived on. So in 2005, TRUST South LA was born.

“[TRUST South LA] is a community land trust that was created out of a model to stop displacement, specifically by owning low-end properties in the area,” Harris said.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has strived to give back land control to the working-class people so they can stay in their communities, all while protecting and supporting opportunities for them.

“All of our policies are focused on the history of folks who live in South L.A.,” Harris said, adding that the organization puts emphasis on the social and economic sectors of the community.

In the 12 years that the organization has been around, it has raised over $5 million in equity from both private and public sources for land acquisition. With it, residents have been ensured affordable and safe housing.

The nonprofit’s partnership with Abode Communities, for example, is helping build two multi-family, mixed-use projects. One of them, the Slauson and Wall seven-acre site, will be divided into a four-acre park and three acres of housing, which will be home to 120 families once it’s completed.

Another branch of the organization is mobility and recreation, which focuses on supporting healthy living through safe recreational activity. One of its efforts has been to improve South L.A’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure to better connect the community to its public lands and make alternative transit options safer.

Safety is a key focus, since the intersection of Slauson and Western avenues has the highest injury and death rate for pedestrians in the city, Harris said.

While Los Angeles expands and develops as cities do, one thing for the nonprofit will remain the same.

“We will continue to fight against the generational issues that continue to marginalize black and Latino communities,” Harris said. And TRUST South LA intends to do that by increasing affordable housing options in the area, creating opportunities for community members to own their own homes, building safer streets, lessening police enforcement and ticketing, harvesting more green spaces and tightening certain incentives throughout the city to increase local hiring, among other things.

The ultimate goal, Harris said, is to stop the displacement of families that have lived in South L.A. for generations.

“We hope to see something permanent so that families can maintain their housing and stay in South L.A.”


Interim executive director: Adrienne Lamar Snider

Years in operation: 12

Annual budget: over $500,000

Number of employees: 7

Location: 4331 S. Main St.

Los Angeles, CA 90037

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