South Los Angeles residents asked the City Council to extend a comment period on an environmental impact report. (Caitlyn Hynes)
South Los Angeles residents asked the City Council to extend a comment period on an environmental impact report. (Caitlyn Hynes)
South Los Angeles residents asked the City Council to extend a comment period on an environmental impact report. (Caitlyn Hynes)

A new project to build two multi-use housing and business towers in South Los Angeles is moving along faster than city officials predicted. The development has many residents concerned.

Erendira Morales, a 12-year resident of South L.A., said, "we feel that they are playing with the life and the future of the people who live in this community."

Health Impact Partners, a research and advocacy non-profit, released a health impact assessment on "The Reef" development today in response to a 3,000 page environmental impact report published by the city in September.

The report found that almost half of the 84,000 residents around the proposed site would face a high likelihood of financial strain or displacement. "Some focus group participants actually thought they could become homeless because of this redevelopment project," said Dr. Holly Avey, program director of Human Impact Partners.

UNIDAD, a coalition of South Los Angeles community organizations, also asked the City Council to extend the comment period on the environmental impact report for another 90 days.

"In the immediate [future], we are concerned about the draft [environmental impact review] project that has only given us 47 days to respond to a 3,000 page document," said Benjamin Torres, president and CEO of the Community Development Technologies Center.

The development, which was slated to take roughly 15 years, has been a source of major concern for many neighbors because of the pace at which the project is moving. UNIDAD said the new predicted construction time is unknown at this point.

"We were told by the councilman's office that it would take years for anything to move on it, that we shouldn't be worried about it. This was in April of this year. So now we're from 'it's going to take a couple of years, don't worry about it,' to already at the draft [environmental impact review] process so it's moved pretty fast in our opinion," said Torres.

The fast tracking of the review process also moves up the timeline for raising rents in this working-poor neighborhood.

Yolanda Armon has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, and is worried that neighbors will be priced out once real estate in the area becomes more valuable to developers.

"It is getting crowded. Family members are having to move out of their places because of these developers and move in with friends and family which makes it even more crowded. Which makes your neighborhood more crowded because there are more people, more cars," Armon said.

UNIDAD said it doesn't oppose all development in their neighborhood. But it hopes city leaders will include the voices of those who live in the area now when they make decisions.

"Investments in South Los Angeles are needed and encouraged. We are pro-community development. We want to transform our neighborhoods, but we want to start with the people who live in them now," said Torres.

Going forward, Morales hopes the city will consider the community's welfare and perspective in the development process. "Our local representatives are not listening to us. We have our interests, we have our opinions and we feel that they are not paying attention to us. We want to participate, we want to be part of this process," said Morales.