Residents Encouraged to Attend Community Meeting to Revamp Park

Residents who live near Magic Johnson Park  and the former Ujima Village in Willowbrook, once the site of an oil tank farm, soon will have an opportunity to give their input on the upcoming renovation of Earvin “Magic” Johnson Recreation Area in Willowbrook.

From June through October, three community meetings will be held at the Athens Park Gymnasium in Willowbrook. The meetings will be led by the County Department of Parks and Recreation, and residents are encouraged to bring their ideas to help create a master plan for the park.

“It is our goal to listen to the Willowbrook community and learn from residents what types of recreational amenities they would like to see housed at the park,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “This is an opportunity to do something big.”

The sky’s the limit, with county officials encouraging residents to think about turning the parkland into a community oasis by potentially adding new amenities such as a new equestrian park, splash pad, basketball court or baseball field.

As one of the largest parks in the Second Supervisorial District, the 104–acre Magic Johnson Park already has a wide Walking trail that runs around the perimeter of the park’s lake.

When the old Athens Tank Farm was removed in the 1960s, contaminants were left in the soil, a source of concern for many years. ExxonMobil, the former owner of the tank farm, has been ordered by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board to clean it up.   With clean up underway, members of the community are looking forward to giving the park a makeover.

Kim Alexander, 52, vice president of the Avalon Gardens Community Association is eager to attend the community meetings to share her ideas.   She would like to see more benches, barbeque pits, water faucets, a community recreation room and an emergency shelter full of supplies in case an emergency occurs.

“I hope to be part of the planning committee,” Alexander said.  “We are the heartbeat of the community. It’s important to give our thoughts to make the community grow.”

To view the flyer with a complete list of dates, please click here

Healthcare enrollment for former Ujima Village residents

The Department of Health Services (DHS) recently held an outreach and healthcare enrollment event for former residents of the Ujima Village housing complex in Willowbrook. The evening event was a follow-up to the well-attended community meeting with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas last November. During that meeting, held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health, some residents asserted that they suffered from ailments and conditions that began during their residency at Ujima Village, but that they lacked the means to obtain medical examinations.

In response to their concerns, the Supervisor arranged to have 450 of the complex’s former residents invited to the public health center, where DHS representatives screened them for eligibility in Los Angeles County’s program for low-income residents, Healthy Way LA.

Healthy Way LA provides access to primary and specialty care, mental health services, prescription medications, and urgent care to residents who meet income guidelines; the chart below outlines eligibility requirements for the program.

About 20 people accepted the invitation and earlier this month received free one-on-one consultations and assistance in applying for health care coverage. Also, clients were screened for other public assistance programs such as CalFresh, the federally-funded nutrition assistance program, and Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. With each Healthy Way LA enrollment, residents receive the health care they need and deserve and the Second District becomes a healthier community. For questions about the program or to enroll, please visit www.ladhs.org/hwla or call 1-877-333-4952.

Ujima Village community meeting

More than 250 people attended an informational meeting held by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to receive an update on the environmental investigation into oil-related contamination at the former Ujima Village apartment complex.

Officials from the Los Angeles Regional Water Board, the Los Angeles Community Development Commission, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the County Assessor’s Office also were on hand at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook, to provide the standing-room only crowd an overview of the ongoing soil, water and air quality sampling and to answer questions and address concerns. At the meeting’s outset, the Supervisor emphasized that there will be a series of community meetings to follow and that he is focused on relocating Little Honey’s Day Care Center, which is adjacent to the Ujima Village site, as quickly as possible. The meeting was often heated, with audience members expressing strong frustration and anger about the contamination at the complex where many said they had lived for decades. The former village residents asked a variety of questions concerning their health, the longevity of the investigation, and what they individually need to do in order to ensure their statements are included in the investigation.

Among the audience members were parents of children who attend Honey’s Little Angel’s Child Care Center.

Lynwood resident Cindy Alvarado has a four-year-old daughter who attends the day care center and said she came to the meeting to have the rumors set straight. “I’m trying to find out if there are chemicals around the school,” Cindy said, “Some people are saying that its dangerous for kids to attend the daycare, others are not.”

At the meeting, Executive Officer, Samuel Unger of the Water Board said environmental testing determined that contamination was far below ground, and that air quality for the neighborhood was consistent with that of the region.

Director of Environmental Health, Angelo Bellomo of the Department of Public Health said that the contamination does not currently present a threat to human health at the daycare site or at the former site of the village, but most of the audience greeted that assertion with a high degree of skepticism.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that the experts were on hand to provide information to residents — not to tell them what to think.

Click here to download an FAQ from the Los Angeles Water Quality Control Board.

Statement from the Supervisor on Ujima Village

As many of you know, there is an ongoing environmental investigation taking place in Willowbrook related to oil contamination at the former Ujima Village and Magic Johnson Park.

After the old Athens Tank Farm was removed in the 1960s, contaminants were left in the soil. Soil sampling ordered by the Los Angeles Regional Water Board have all indicated that the present levels of chemicals in the soil are not dangerous to human health, but nonetheless I am concerned.

My primary focus right now is to see that the Water Board and ExxonMobile, which once owned the tank farm, come to an agreement to relocate the daycare center, Honey’s Little Angels Day Care, which is still on the grounds. Out of an abundance of caution, I believe it is better to just move the children. My office has found a new location in Willowbrook for the daycare center, and it is my hope that months of negotiations between the County, the Water Board and Exxon, will soon come to fruition.

However, this won’t be over once the children are moved. We must get to the bottom of this investigation and find out the facts.

I am committed to making sure that you stay informed about this process, and will be holding a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30 at the newly opened Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health. It is located on the corner of 119th St. and Wilmington Ave. in Willowbrook.

With me will be officials from the Water Board to give the community an update on the investigation. I will also have officials from the County Department of Public Health and Department of Parks and Recreation there.

Also, if individuals have health-related concerns, we want to know. I have asked the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to set up a hotline specifically for concerns related to Ujima Village. You may call 211 and your call will be routed appropriately.

Please feel free to visit my website for more information – htttp://ridley-thomas.lacounty.gov. On the website you will also find a chronology and fact sheets related to the investigation.

I look forward to seeing you on November 30th.


Mark Ridley-Thomas