Evermont Development is a Catalyst for Change in South Los Angeles

By Grant Slater

At dawn, more than 15 IBEW electricians circle up, begin their morning stretches and set to work reshaping the heart of South Los Angeles.

These IBEW electricians are working on the Evermont project, which is revitalizing a large lot that has stood vacant since the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Uprising.

The Evermont project at the corner of Vermont and Manchester is bringing affordable housing and economic opportunity to a neighborhood that has long been neglected.

The complex will also play host to a training school for LA Metro and a charter school.

IBEW 11 Business Manager Robert Corona visited the site and talked to members about the importance of the union in obtaining project labor agreements on projects like Evermont that are closely tied to Los Angeles city planning goals.

“How do we get these PLAs? Because we tell them, we’re going to put your constituents to work. We’re going to put your people to work,” Corona said.

Scott Gagnon, site foreman for Baker Electric, said the project is 70 percent complete and expected to finish in the next eight months. Once completed, Evermont will offer 180 affordable housing units.

Gagnon, who joined the electricians’ union a decade ago after 36 years in the field, said he had resisted becoming an IBEW member.

“In the beginning, I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to come into the Union, because I didn’t think I want to pay somebody to work,” Gagnon said. “But being in the union, being in the unit, I found that there’s Brotherhood. There’s someone that’s actually thinking about me and watching out for my well-being.”

At its height, the Evermont development employed 65 electricians who have been working on a complex that includes retail spaces, including a Target on the ground floor and a central plaza, designed to boost local commerce and community engagement.

Savonnah Branch, a new electrician who spent two years as a CE/CW apprentice, shared her personal journey into the trade and the impact of working on a project within her own community.

“This is the community that I’m from and being able to come and put something into my community and say, “Wow, this is my community. I built that,’ it feels amazing,” Branch said.

Branch came into the union through the Second Call program organized by John Harriel, and she has quickly become involved in many of the clubs and fellowship offerings of IBEW 11.

Rob Peraza, a project executive for Baker Electric, worked as an electrician for decades before transitioning from hands-on electrical work to management

Peraza’s father was an electrician and he loved putting on his belt and getting into the wires, stressing the value of union-led training and development.

“There’s like a social aspect to the Union that really kind of weeds out [those with] low character,” Peraza observed, suggesting a link between union training and the quality of workmanship.

The Evermont project, with its affordable housing units, is a step toward addressing Los Angeles’ housing crisis.

Peraza pointed out the reasonable quality of these units within the context of the city’s broader housing market.

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