South L.A. has mixed feelings about shuttle route

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    Vidal Cortez, right, owns Delicious Southern Cuisine on Crenshaw Boulevard in South LA. His nephew, Aaron Iglesias, helps out with the cooking and prep. Cortez says he isn't worried about losing that much business when the road closes -- Saturday is his slowest day. Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

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    John Brown cuts and styles hair at Cut N' Up Barber & Beauty on Crenshaw. Saturday is one of Brown's busiest days for clients and he worries about how he'll be able to keep up if he loses a full day of income. Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

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    The street closes down Friday night and will be blocked off for about 24 hours. Police are discouraging residents from congregating along the street to watch the shuttle pass by. Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

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    Jeff Limb owns New Star Beauty Supply near the shuttle route in the Leimert Park area of South Los Angeles. His busiest day is Saturday and he's afraid his customers won't be able to find parking on the street. But he's also excited to be able to see the shuttle close up. Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

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    Chris Boone, who lives in South Los Angeles, says most people living in his neighborhood don't care about the shuttle. He says they're more worried about finding work than learning about the space program. Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

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    L.A. cut down around 400 trees in and around South Los Angeles to clear the Endeavour's route to the California Science Center. Residents and business owners have complained that cutting down the trees will hurt air quality and turn off potential customers to local small businesses. But the California Science Center say it's replacing the trees 2-1.

    - Jolie Puidokas/Marketplace

Jeffrey Rudolph is the President and CEO of the California Science Center.

The South Los Angeles streets known as flashpoints of the 1992 L.A. riots will make history again, 20 years later. This time they will provide the route for space shuttle Endeavour’s road trip through the city to its new home, the California Science Center in Exposition Park. The hulking space craft will travel two miles an hour, which means road closures along the 12-mile route from the Los Angeles International Airport.

Some South Los Angeles residents are not excited about the historic event and see the weekend road closures as an inconvenience. Chris "Frost" Boone is one of those people. I met him on Crenshaw near 43rd Place waiting for the No. 210 bus.

"Most of the people on this side of town don't care about no space shuttle anyway," says Boone. "Why does it have to come this way?"

Boone is a military vet trying to cobble a living as a personal trainer and freelance graphic designer. He says he’d like to hear less about the space shuttle's trip through South L.A. and more about what the city is doing to create full-time jobs in the neighborhood.

"Anything that will provide more jobs for people and not just black people," he says. "There's a lot of Latinos who need jobs, and the 14 white people who need jobs, too, in this part of town," says Boone, adding, "no offense."

This part of Crenshaw Boulevard is dotted with small businesses. Right behind the area where Boone waits for the No. 210 bus is a soul food take-out joint and just a few yards from that there’s a tattoo parlor, clothing boutique, and a barber shop.

The barbershop, Cut N' Up, was open this morning, so I walked in and met with barbers Cleavon Bronner and John Brown. Bronner says he’s very interested in the shuttle's road trip down Crenshaw. "It's our busiest day which is Saturday," he says. "It's going to be hard for people to get to us, so it really is an inconvenience."

"That's going to kill my business for Saturday," says Brown. "I'm going to pretty much be sitting here all day, not doing anything."

For Brown, not doing anything means losing the $300 he makes on a Saturday. He says it costs him $100 a week to rent his booth, so he's taking a hit. Brown wants somebody to compensate the businesses in South L.A. "I don't know, the city, the museum," says Brown. "Whoever is doing all this, they should pay us for our day, at least."

The California Science Center is not compensating business owners and residents for the inconvenience.

"What we're doing," says president and CEO Jeffrey Rudolph, "is bringing to South L.A. an incredible, educational resource."

He says the California Science Center is very much a part of the South L.A. community. One, because it's physically located there; and two, because it's free and successfully serves economically and racially diverse Los Angeles. Rudolph adds that the addition of the shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center will be beneficial for the neighborhood. "It will be unlike anything in the world and will attract guests from around the world which will be a good economic support for this community," says Rudolph.

Back on Crenshaw Boulevard and 43rd Place at Delicious Southern Cuisine, a soul food take-out spot right behind the No. 210 bus stop, owner and chef Vidal Cortez says he's not mad at the shuttle or the road closures. "Saturday is our slow day," says Cortez. "So, for me, it's OK."

Speaking of slow, Cortez and his nephew Aaron Iglesias will have front row seats to Endeavour's two-mile-an-hour crawl down Crenshaw, right past Delicious, and into the pages of history.

About the author

Shereen Marisol Meraji is a reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

Jeffrey Rudolph is the President and CEO of the California Science Center.


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