- Second District
In just minutes on a Saturday afternoon in late January, Little Angels Nursery School, a fixture in the Windsor Hills neighborhood where generations of children have learned how to paint and count, went up in flames. The roof on the east side of the school collapsed and classrooms were ablaze. Fortunately, in less than one hour a team of 75 firefighters put out the fire, which had started in the attic.
“We thank God that no one was hurt,” said Angela Massengale, the owner and director of the preschool. “My first reaction was disbelief”.
And then the devastation sank in. Massengale’s family has owned the pre-school for 46 years and rebuilding it seemed impossible.
Then the community stepped in. One local resident, Ben Kahle, suggested organizing a fundraiser to help the school. Community members Sovonto Green, Jeff Haber, Andre Gaines and Pernell Cox moved into action, and within days, the concerned residents had organized a donation drive in Monteith Park, a community park in the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood.
Together they raised $4,000 worth of gift cards, cash and classroom supplies. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas also helped out, by arranging permits for portable bungalow classrooms purchased from Los Angeles Unified School District for $1 each.
“It didn’t touch me personally, but it touched a lot of my neighbors,” said View Park resident Pernell Cox. “So neighbors helping neighbors is what it’s all about.”
In the meantime, the children are taking classes in two smaller buildings on the property untouched by the fire. Massengale said she could not have moved forward without the help and support of the community. In fact, only three weeks later, she is set to meet with a contractor to begin anew.
“The community has come out and supported us on a daily basis,” she said. “The reality is we now have an opportunity for a fresh start.”
For more information about events in the View Park-Windsor Hills community, visit Viewpark.org
Los Angeles County residents who want to report a zoning violation such as an overgrown front yard or an abandoned car on the street or even a fallen tree in a park can use a simple app to let county officials know about the problem.
“The Works,” a mobile application used by more than 2,800 county residents over the past two years to request graffiti removal, pothole repairs and street sweeping, now has been expanded to include the departments of Parks and Recreation, Public Health and Regional Planning.
Jesse Juarros, Public Works chief information officer, said that this app expedites services.
“Part of our mission at Public Works is to enrich the daily lives of the residents of L.A. County,” said Juarros. “With that in mind we sought to build an application that would provide citizens with an opportunity to easily report issues or problems that they may encounter when they are out and about.”
The Works application allows users to submit a detailed description, attach related photos and provide contact information for additional follow-up. Services are tracked in real time using Global Positioning System. The Works can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. The app will also allow residents to report an issue outside of L.A. County and automatically provide the contact information for the appropriate city agency.
“Jackie Robinson is important to me because he was the first African-American baseball player,” Kamryn said. “Also, he played for the Dodgers. And out of a million parks in the world, the Dodgers have chosen us. He’s looking down on all the hope-to-be baseball players and blessing them.”
The Dodgers Dreamfield at Jesse Owens Park, a 20-acre park in South Los Angeles named after one of the most celebrated African American Olympians of all time, is the latest of five fields built with funding from the Dodgers Foundation, LA 84, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Created in 1998, the Dodgers Foundation provides educational, athletic and recreation opportunities for children in the Los Angeles area, with a special emphasis in helping underserved youth. LA84 was endowed with surplus funds from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles to serve children through sports. Jesse Owens Park is the fifth partnership in the second district following the renovations of Athens, Lennox, Mona, and Campanella park fields. Dreaming in the batter’s box are Ted Watkins Park and Roosevelt Park, which Supervisor Ridley-Thomas hopes will be funded later this year.
Jesse Owens Park received $266,000 worth of upgrades including new bases, paint, scoreboards, signage, dugout roofs and fresh green grass.
For 14-year-old Chayanne, who was born and raised two blocks away, the park is a fresh beginning. Since she began playing at the age of five, baseball has held a special place in her childhood memories.
“I didn’t know how to hit the ball or catch or do anything like that. It was just running in dirt circles,” she said.
The field needed some help. She remembers one game — before the park’s recent renovation — where she accidentally ran past the bases because they were buried in dirt. And it became so difficult to play that Chayanne eventually stopped playing altogether.
But inspired by the professional Dodgers players and the 200 children invited to participate in the dedication ceremony, Chayanne might grab a bat again.
“It’s important to have this baseball field for the new up-and-comers,” says Chayanne. “Now there’s green grass and it looks way nicer. And it’s way bigger. And I might start playing baseball again because of this field.”
Los Angeles County is expected to receive more than $630 million to clean up homes that contain lead-based paint. The California Superior Court has ordered companies Sherwin Williams, National Lead and ConAgra to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to remove lead paint from homes in various counties and cities throughout the state.
The court decision is the largest public nuisance award in the history of the state and comes after 13 years of vigorous litigation. The case has already gone up to the Court of Appeal twice and the California Supreme Court once.
Children exposed to lead can suffer from neurologic impairments that hinder their ability to learn. Even though lead-based paint was banned in 1978, more than 1.5 million homes in Los Angeles County still have traces of it. In fact, the main cause of lead poisoning for children in the county is exposure to lead-based paint. From 2007-2011 there were more than 40,000 reported lead poisonings for children under the age of 21, with high blood lead levels. Nearly 500 of these children were treated for very high blood lead levels.
In 2007, while in the state senate, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored legislation that increased lead screenings of children at high risk of lead poisonings in California. The bill also improved reporting to ensure that children with elevated blood lead levels are appropriately tracked and are getting the help they need.
“Lead poisoning continues to be an issue for too many families,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “I am pleased that the County of Los Angeles can begin to take steps to remediate that and protect the health of our children with this court decision.”
Homes with a current or past history of lead poisoned children will be given priority. In addition to the homes where children have been poisoned, Los Angeles County plans to target more than 85,000 homes that are in low income neighborhoods. Those worried that their child has been exposed to lead can ask their physician for lead testing and parents who do not have a doctor for their child can also call the hotline for referrals to free and low-cost health services for children and teens.
“California Superior Court Judge Kleinberg’s decision is clear,” said, Dr. Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Companies that knowingly manufactured and sold lead paint for interior use in residences despite knowing that it poisoned children, must be held accountable for their actions.”
For more information call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Hotline at 1-800-LA-4-LEAD or visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/lead/
The Rocket Gas and Cleaners in Lynwood had been closed for two decades creating a toxic soup of leaky underground gas tanks and dry cleaning chemicals leaching into the soil. For the past 15 years, the city had been after the property owners to get them to clean up to no avail. But finally, the city took them to court, won a verdict against the owners and, taking advantage of federal and state grants, has begun cleaning it up.
Thanks to a recent state senate bill that allows new property owners to develop formerly contaminated sites with liability protection, the city even found a new owner to create a mixed use development that will be environmentally conscious. Northgate Markets has agreed to come in and build a 30,000 square foot supermarket below 68 units of affordable housing once the site is cleaned up. The apartments and store are within walking distance of the Metro Green Line, making it pedestrian and mass transit friendly.
A total of $1.5 million in state and federal grant money was given to Lynwood to begin the cleanup and so far, they have cleaned up 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel and built a compound to capture gasoline to get it off the water table. They are also removing toxins from the dry cleaner. It took some creative thinking and much cooperation between the city, the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, other county and state offices to find a way to clean up the blighted area without the use of once reliable redevelopment funds, which are no longer available to municipalities.
“This is a story about how we are turning our challenges into opportunities,” said Sarah Magana Withers, director of community development for Lynwood. “We are not saying ‘Oh my God the world caved in because we lost redevelopment. We are pulling ourselves by our bootstraps and making it happen.”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said it is critical to help communities become healthier for all residents.
“Making communities safe for all families and individuals is a priority,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We must find creative solutions to improve our region’s environment, air quality and land use.”
Lynwood faces more environmental challenges. Situated between the heavily trafficked 105 and 710 Freeways and the Alameda Corridor, the city was also the site of a bomb manufacturing factory, many furniture manufacturers, gas stations and other heavy industrial sites. Due to bad zoning regulations, homes, schools and commercial businesses like day care centers were built near or even on top of these toxic sites.
The city, said Withers, suffers from a 1 in 1000 cancer risk, a high incidence of autism, pulmonary disease and cancer. The city has also applied for a grant to study incidence of severely disabled children within Lynwood Unified and if it is related to their environment.
“This is an issue of environmental justice,” said Withers. “But this is a success and we want to get the get the word out. It’s been a roller coaster but we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Los Angeles County is once again providing county residents with the opportunity to recycle their Christmas trees and turn them into compost, mulch or ground cover. Last year, more than 350,000 Christmas trees were recycled, creating 3,500 tons of mulch to reuse in gardens.
From December 26 through January 18, residents in unincorporated areas of the county can conveniently discard their Christmas trees by placing their tree on the curb in front of their house on the same day as their regular trash collection day.
Residents living in incorporated cities within the county can drop off their trees at designated collections sites or curbside depending on the services their city provides.
Trees must be free of decorations, ornaments and tinsels; metal and plastic tree stands must be removed from the tree before it can be left at the curb or taken to a collection site.
To learn more about the county’s Christmas tree recycling program, to locate tree collection sites, or to see city-specific Christmas tree recycling guidelines, please visit dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/xmastrees/ or call 1(888) CLEANLA between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
It was a moment of reflection for families, elected officials and many others as they bowed their heads in silence at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, remembering that awful day, December 14, 1963 when the old Baldwin Hills Reservoir collapsed. More than 280 million gallons of water gushed into Baldwin Hills, scooping up homes and vehicles and killing five people and the tragedy forever changed the nature of emergency response in Los Angeles.
Although 50 years later, while birds sang in the sunny field now called Janice’s Green Valley, it was difficult not to contrast the view with the destruction that once blighted the landscape.
“It was a day of tragedy, but also a day where the true spirit and strength of Angelenos shone,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a co-host of the event. “Residents, families and communities came together – literally wading through the water and the mud – and rebuilt. And it was then that my predecessor, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, came up with the vision to turn a site of devastation into one of hope – and by 1983 he opened the beautiful park that we all enjoy today.”
The dam had been built on an active fault line and when it breached, it took only 77 minutes for all the water to pour out into Cloverdale Avenue, La Brea Avenue, La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards. The tragedy also marked the first time a television station—KTLA—used a helicopter to cover a disaster as it unfolded, something that is now a ubiquitous part of LA culture.
Following the disaster, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn began to set aside funding for a park that would include the former site of the reservoir. The 308-acre state-owned park opened as Baldwin Hills State Recreation Area on Nov. 14, 1983, and was officially renamed for Supervisor Hahn in 1988.
Tom Bradley, who later would become L.A.’s first black mayor, was the district’s new councilman at the time, and he went door-to-door warning residents of danger as the water-releasing crack was widening. Police cars were swept along rivers of mud as officers scrambled out to warn residents.
The father of Barbara Whitaker, a 76-year-old retired executive assistant from Irvine, was one of those who died.
“Mom got across to the car, but Dad went back to see if he’d locked the front door. The water just picked him up and carried him off,” Whitaker told the Los Angeles Times. “Mom held onto a tree and was rescued by a helicopter.”
Fred Kong, now an 81-year-old retired city inspector, was shopping in the nearby Fedco discount store when the dam burst. “Water started coming in, and I didn’t pay any attention until it got to my ankles. Then they announced over the P.A. to get out right away, and people started running,” Kong noted in the newspaper. The Baldwin Hills of 2013 looks quite different than it did 50 years ago, with more improvements such as upgrades to picnic shelters, and construction on segments of
the Park to Playa Trail that will run throughout the park and down Stocker Avenue and will one day connect the Baldwin Hills all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the design on a nature center in Blair Hills has begun.
At the end of the tribute, a plaque was unveiled honoring the five men and women who lost their lives in the flooding that followed the dam collapse at 3:38 p.m.: Hattie Schwartz, Maurice Clifton Carroll, Arch Young, Orra G. Strathearn and Archie V. MacDonald.
“This is a wonderful tribute,” said John Wicker, chief deputy director of the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation. “And this plaque will make a great addition to this park.”
Dozens of children will play baseball in style at the new Campanella Park Dream Field, which was recently inaugurated. The field at Campanella Park, in the community of Rosewood just east of the Harbor Freeway, has been in need of a new field for a while.
This public-private partnership with the Dodgers Dream Foundation and LA84, is one of a series of Dreamfields in the Second District including Mona, Lennox and Athens Parks, with Jesse Owens Dreamfields coming next month.
“We are grateful for this partnership and know that there many more opportunities to work together to ensure that the youth and families of the Second District are ready to play ball in style,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Thank you and go Dodgers!”
Residents of the Second District will soon be seeing green.
Nearly 3,500 trees will be planted in neighborhoods throughout the Second District as part of a $750,000-grant program sponsored by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Culver City, Mar Vista, Inglewood, Hawthorne, South Los Angeles, Lennox and Koreatown soon will have new plantations in their local parks. Residents at housing projects such as Mar Vista Gardens, Imperial Courts, Gonzaque Village, Pueblo del Rio, Avalon and Nickerson Gardens will all enjoy newly planted fruit trees as part of the program.
The grant is part of a continuing, multi-year effort by the Supervisor to substantially increase green space in the Second District as a way to spruce up communities and in general, to improve the quality of life.
The type of trees will vary but will likely be drought resistant or drought tolerant. In 2007, urban-forest researchers at the U. S. Forest Service estimated that planting one million trees would reduce storm-water runoff, decrease the city’s carbon footprint and through shading, cut the use of air conditioning (and thus of electricity). The aesthetic benefits of trees are obvious, making any community more beautiful and welcoming.
“I think this is fantastic,” said Bruce Saito, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps. “We need trees to sequester carbon and to provide beauty and shade. We don’t have enough trees in Los Angeles County and a project like this will go a long way toward getting the tree number and count up to speed.”
A little over a year ago, Monteith Park in the View Park-Windsor Hills area of Los Angeles, had inadequate lighting, frequent criminal activity and little sense of neighborhood engagement. But today, thanks to the work of three residents who decided to take back their community park, Monteith is a brand new place with movie nights, concerts and the proposed site for a temporary art installation.
The transformation was inspired by three residents, Pernell Cox, Sovonto Green and Jeff Haber. Cox, a father now in his mid 30s, grew up in Inglewood and moved to View Park in 2011. He lives just down the street from Monteith Park with his wife and one-year-old daughter and was appalled at the way the park had been neglected.
“People were using the park as a place to drink and smoke out. They would leave trash,” he said. “They would have sex in their car and leave condoms behind.”
Envisioning a park that would be safe for his growing daughter, he joined Jeff Haber and Sovonto Green at a community meeting at the park. He began showing up regularly at monthly Sheriff’s Department meetings and reached out to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office as well as the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.
“I asked questions, and I took people up on their invitations,” said Cox. “The more I showed up, the more they showed their appreciation by being more responsive.” The Sheriff’s Department responded by increasing patrols during hours of higher crime and as a result, crime in the park has decreased.
“We’re going to put some flood lighting in dark areas and additional lantern lighting,” said Joe Mendoza, Deputy Director for Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. “We’ve also purchased new benches, trash receptacles and lighting fixtures.“
Programming in the park has increased especially during summer months with movie nights and an upcoming August 25 jazz concert. Also, the Los Angles County Arts Commission has been engaged to facilitate a temporary art installation.
“The movie nights, jazz concerts, and this artwork are all products of their desire and initiative to make good things happen,” said Erin Harkey, Civic Art Project Manager for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.
During community meetings with the Arts Commission, residents talked about block parties, sharing fruit with their neighbors, about their kids, their homes and about their wish to have interactive artwork at the park.
“It very positive to have this kind of participation from community members,” said Mendoza. “It’s been a real group effort.”
Indeed, Cox said he hardly recognizes his neighborhood.
“As a result of our efforts, there is more programming in the park, a stronger partnership with our law enforcement and a stronger sense of community,” he said. “People are stopping me and saying, ‘hi.’ Now we start conversations in our community. And we act more neighborly.”
More information about View Park, visit www.viewpark.org, a website powered by community members and for community members.