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Crenshaw Boulevard: A Greener Space for the Community

The Crenshaw Boulevard Streetscape Plan, designed to go hand in hand with the construction of the Crenshaw-to-LAX rail line, lays out an ambitious vision that will transform the look and feel of this historic street from concrete-heavy and car-centric, to “green” and pedestrian friendly.

The plan, which was funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority but created by the Los Angeles Department of City Planning calls for renovations and street beautifications that will stretch for 8.5 miles– from I-10 Freeway to 79th Street – with the aim of supporting vibrant neighborhoods around transit stations, where people can live, work and shop, all within a safe and pleasant walk to transit stations.

Although residents and commuters will experience some inconveniences during the construction of the rail line, set to begin this year, there are efforts underway to heed community concerns, including the creation of a small business mitigation plan to help businesses affected by the construction.

For three years now, the Crenshaw Leadership Council as well as the Leimert Park Village Vision Initiative has helped to increase public participation in the process. Community meetings have been held and those who have attended made their voices heard. The plan for Crenshaw will have twice as many trees as there are currently on the street, in addition, street benches, lighting and wider sidewalks will give it a more pedestrian-friendly feel. Camphor Trees, Date Palms, Jacarandas and other tree canopies will line the boulevard in a unified look.

Residents have said that they want to live in a community that is green, walkable and safe, with retail, restaurants and other services for residents, visitors and workers. Special attention will be paid to efforts underway to preserve the unique character and cultural identity of the Leimert Park neighborhood.

The plans for Crenshaw will complement the West Adams-Baldwin Hills-Leimert New Community Plan, which is now moving through the City’s adoption process. For more information please visit: http://www.latnp.org/crenshawlax-line/crenshaw-draft-plan/.

Compton Campfire Site to Get Funding


For more than 50 years now, generations of youngsters have roasted marshmallows, told ghost stories around the campfire and learned camping techniques at the Compton Camp Fire site in the heart of the City of Compton.

Surrounded by mature trees, the campfire site has served as a reprieve, providing youth and teens with an outdoor space for overnight and day camp activities, seminars, trainings, community meetings, educational retreats, social and other events.

So when the 1.26 acre campground came up for sale by the current owner, the City of Compton agreed to pitch in $450,000 to buy and renovate it. But they needed more money to cover the costs. And so, on Tuesday April 1, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor approved $300,000 in Proposition A funds earmarked to improve public parks.

“These funds will be used to improve the campgrounds,” said Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion approved by the Board for the funds. “This campsite needs to remain in the community as a public recreational asset for future generations.”

Formerly a Camp Fire USA Compound, the City of Compton is looking to build on Camp Fire USA’s national “Teens in Action” program, which brings young people together to tackle real-life issues in their own community. These youngsters learn how to care for themselves, their environment and the people around them. Today, more than 100,000 teens participate annually in community service projects that develop their skills and make real differences in their communities.

How will you celebrate Earth Day?

On April 22, 1970, former Washington senator Gaylord Nelson called on Americans to observe a national “teach-in” to celebrate grassroots environmental education and remind Americans to tread lightly on this earth. Nelson’s idea appealed to Americans across political parties, economic classes, races and ethnicities, and millions participated in coast-to-coast demonstrations and rallies. And so the nation’s first Earth Day came to be.

Forty-four years later, the environmental movement has become a global phenomenon. Here in Los Angeles County, residents, community organizations, private businesses and government share a tradition of coming together to work on a variety of issues, ranging from neighborhood cleanups and restoring native habitats, to pushing for more public transportation in Los Angeles.

In recent years new challenges have emerged, including increased levels of pollution that have led to global warming. But Los Angeles County continues to strive to innovate in environmental stewardship.

And this year the Board of Supervisors continued to expand public transportation and explore the conversion of blighted, abandoned railways into bike paths and walking trails. The board also continued to expand parks and other green space across Los Angeles county and supported an official ban against plastic bags at supermarkets, small businesses, and convenient stores. The supervisors also recently voted to create a Toxic Threat Strike Team to monitor and coordinate inspections around environmental toxic sites around the county.

All residents are invited to join in celebrating and protecting our earth throughout the month of April. To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, there will be a variety of events around the county:

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Earth Day, we encourage you to use the day as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to protecting our planet during the month of April and throughout the year.”

Dodgers Dreamfield Dedication on Jackie Robinson’s Birthday

PHOTO: 14-year-old Chayanne at the dedication of Jesse Owens Park

At dusk, on what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 95th birthday, 13-year-old Kamryn Mercer practiced his pitch at the brand new Dodgers Dreamfield at Jesse Owens Park and reflected on the legacy of the legendary player who broke the baseball color line.

“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.”

County Strike Team to Help Protect Public from Toxic Threats

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Citing the dangers of arsenic, lead and other toxic exposures to Los Angeles County residents, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to create a Toxic Threat Strike Team to monitor and coordinate inspections around environmental toxic sites around the county.

The Strike Team, presented in a motion authored by Supervisor Gloria Molina and amended by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, would intervene and coordinate with state regulators to make sure communities concerns are addressed.[/raw]

“This is a fundamental quality of life issue,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “A dedicated investment may be required so that the county is consistently and proactively helping communities improve the quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink. The environmental and public health impacts of these types of industrial uses may vary, but it is oftentimes challenging for surrounding residents to accurately assess the facility’s impacts, given the high level of technicality involved in the review and analysis.”

The Strike Team proposal comes as elevated levels of lead have been found in the soil of homes and a preschool near the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon, prompting officials to issue health warnings and order more testing in adjacent neighborhoods.

“I will actually go out on a limb and call it environmental racism,” said Patty Bilgin of the Los Angeles County City Attorney’s Environmental Justice unit. “The quality of air you breathe and water you drink should not be dictated by the color of your skin….I believe in a coordinated collaborative approach that will combine enforcement, a revisit of land use zoning law, community outreach and the political will.”

A legacy of poor land use planning has led to a variety of industrial uses, ranging from urban oil fields in North University Park to scrap metal recyclers along the Alameda Corridor, operating in very close proximity to residential communities. The Countywide Strike Team could play a proactive role by supporting community outreach and education, and working with local community leaders to determine whether there are public health impacts or nuisances that need to be addressed. The Strike Team will also play a proactive role in developing mitigation strategies for the most highly burdened communities.

“We would much rather have earlier county involvement in state regulatory decisions,” said Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. “The state has the overall responsibility for most of these. But we have been called in generally in the late stages when there is issue of how to communicate risk to the public. So we want to get involved in the early stages.”

Little Angels Nursery School Saved by Angels

PHOTO: Little Angels Nursery School fundraiser in Monteith Park. Photo by Valerie Goodloe.

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

Have a pothole or fallen tree? A county App can help.

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.

Lead Paint Removal Coming to LA County Homes

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/

Environmental Victory for Lynwood

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.”

Site of the Rocket Gas station cleanup.

 

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.”

Recycle Your Christmas Tree

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.