Bass seeks ‘cultural designation’ for Leimert Park

By Ray Richardson

Contributing Writer

LEIMERT PARK — Local business owners got a visit Dec. 5 from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.

Before leaving, Bass proclaimed “I will be back,” and promised to set up a town hall meeting, increase resources and public safety in the area and make a stronger push for cultural designation for one of the city’s most influential communities.

“Leimert Park is like home for me,” Bass told The Wave after her visit. “It was wonderful to hear the feedback and challenges. I heard them loud and clear.”

Bass spent about 90 minutes in Leimert Park, strolling down 43rd Place and Degnan Boulevard to talk with business owners and patrons who happened to be shopping in the area. The visit was part of Bass’ commemoration of her first year in office as mayor of Los Angeles.

Bass stopped in ORA, a delicatessen and book store on Degnan, and ended up conducting a mini-town hall meeting in front of approximately 50 people. It was inside ORA where Bass announced plans to schedule an extended town hall meeting to involve more business owners and local residents.

“We’re going to join forces with all the elected officials representing this community and set up a meeting to make sure Leimert Park has what it needs,” Bass told the group. “We’ve got the World Cup coming here in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028. We want the world to know about Leimert Park.”

Umaar Askia, owner of Nappily Naturals and Apothecary, a health and wellness store, said he’s been operating his business for almost 30 years. During that time, he said no previous Los Angeles mayor has come to Leimert Park.

Askia echoed a theme of most of the business owners that Bass’ visit was encouraging and needed.

“Her being here definitely has value,” Askia said of Bass. “The true value will be shown once the action is put behind the promises. Her visit shows she’s paying attention, and that’s important.”

Bass’ first stop was the Universal College of Beauty School, where she met the school’s owner, Ken Williams, and took pictures with many of the students.

While walking down Degnan, Bass went inside The Sisters Marketplace, a boutique with African attire for men and women. The sight of the mayor of Los Angeles browsing through Leimert Park had a significant impact on the business owners.

“It’s going to motivate business owners to work together more,” Alfred Torregano, executive producer of Leimert Park’s Juneteenth Festival, said of Bass’ visit. “Bass coming here is a message that we need to get our stuff together, so we can be a part of the plans she has for Leimert Park.”

Torregano, better known as DJ QwessCoast, said it was a “good day” for Leimert Park businesses that rarely benefit from the kind of attention generated by Bass’ visit.

The ultimate goal, according to most Leimert Park supporters, is cultural designation, a status given to Los Angeles communities such as Koreatown. Similar communities are promoted by the tourism industry in southern California.

Leimert Park business owners believe the cultural designation will increase awareness of the area and boost the economy.

The designation could be vital with other major events coming to Los Angeles, which has a steady stream of visitors from around the world throughout the year.

“We should be known as the Leimert Park Black Arts District,” said Khalifa Bey, executive director of the South Los Angeles Bureau of Tourism and Trade. “People are looking for literature and culture for their children and unique shopping. We have it in Leimert Park. Visitors always hear about Disneyland, Hollywood, Santa Monica … places like that.”

Bass indicated she will support efforts for Leimert Park to earn cultural designation status. The issue will likely be included on the agenda when the town hall meeting is scheduled.

No target date has been set for the meeting, but the fact that a meeting is being planned is viewed as a major step for Leimert Park.

“We’re not the same Black community we were in the past,” Askia said. “We’re more vocal now. We have access to technology to go viral with our businesses.”

Leimert Park supporters want to make sure the progress does not go unnoticed.

Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at