By Johnny Magdaleno.

On Jan. 10, a new job training program started up in the South Los Angeles area that anticipates getting 900 unemployed or underemployed residents ready to work on a $1.2 billion mixed-use high-rise called The Reef.

The project itself has been a flashpoint for controversy over claims it will force up the cost of living — and therefore the risk of displacement — for poorer neighborhoods nearby. But even though local advocates like United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) have been pushing for developers and the city to look at its negative costs, Noreen McClendon thinks the benefits far outweigh the bad.

“We haven’t had anything like this since L.A. Live,” says McClendon, executive director of one of the new job program’s backing organizations Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles. She’s referring to an entertainment complex that came with a pioneering community benefits agreement that at least one researcher found has yielded mixed results for the neighborhood.

“It’s an opportunity for us to lift a lot of people out of poverty, with all this concentration of projects in the Ninth District in the next few years,” she says. Unemployment in the South Los Angeles region is around 12 percent, and nearly half of the population lives beneath the federal poverty line.

Los Angeles, like all major U.S. cities, already has a slate of job employment programs. The city’s Economic Development & Workforce Department says its efforts have put 120,000 Angelenos into jobs, and that it works with nearly 1,000 L.A. businesses to make those connections happen.

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