Environment, Parks, Libraries

Obama Boulevard Unveiled

City Council President Herb Wesson, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senator Maria Elena Durazo, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Urban League President Michael A. Lawson. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

In a ceremony that took place in South Los Angeles, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas joined by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles Urban League President and CEO Michael Lawson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and State Senator Maria Elena Durazo officially unveiled Obama Boulevard in honor of the 44th President of the United States of America. The ceremony, held where Obama Boulevard intersects with Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, was the highlight of a day long music and street festival that featured food trucks, an array of local vendors, and performers.

Thousands gathered at the unveiling. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“In this moment of political tumult on the national level, it’s important to take stock of the tremendous accomplishment that was Barack Obama’s presidency,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “His ascent to our nation’s highest office represents, in some ways, the fulfillment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.”

The newly named Obama Boulevard will replace Rodeo Boulevard, a 3.5-mile street that runs from Culver City to Mid-City Los Angeles. The boulevard is home to Rancho Cienega Park — the venue where Obama held his first campaign rally more than 12 years ago shortly after announcing his candidacy in February 2007.

Young community member at the Obama Street Festival. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“Those eight years in the white house — It was never about me. It was always about you. It was always about us and what we could do together to bring this county more in line with our founders’ ideals. We knew our work wouldn’t be finished in one presidency. But we believed that our efforts would make America more equal, more just, and a more hopeful place,” said Urban League President Michael A. Lawson reading a letter from Obama.

“The renaming of Rodeo Blvd. to Obama Blvd. represents a truly historic day for our city and country,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. “With this change, we are publicly documenting what Obama’s legacy as our nation’s first black President means to our city and our South Los Angeles community. For every child who will drive down this street and see the President’s name, this will serve as a physical reminder that no goal is out of reach and that no dream is too big.”

This is the first time a name change has been made to a street in Los Angeles to honor former President Barack Obama. The addition of Obama Boulevard will add to an area of the city known as President’s Row. Other presidential boulevards that run parallel to Barack Obama’s include George Washington Boulevard, John Adams Boulevard and Thomas Jefferson Boulevard.

Mayor Bradley Plaque Unveiled at Coliseum

Mayor Tom Bradley’s plaque at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

In front of family, friends, and former staff, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission inducted Mayor Tom Bradley into the Memorial Coliseum Court of Honor. Located within the iconic Peristyle arches, Mayor Bradley’s plaque joins an illustrious cadre of 61 individuals who have had a definite impact upon the history, glory and growth of the Coliseum. Previous inductees include Jesse Owens, John Garland, John F. Kennedy, and others.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the unveiling.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who championed this honor noted, “Mayor Bradley’s plaque is right at home in this Court of Honor alongside some of the greatest athletes and individuals who contributed to the success of this historic venue. Los Angeles owes a debt of gratitude to Mayor Bradley for his enduring legacy of not only what he accomplished here, but for the entire City of Los Angeles during his two-decade run as Mayor.”

The Supervisor added, “As (Mayor Bradley) liked to say: ‘Los Angeles is the city of hope and opportunity. I am a living example of that.’ I appreciate his faith, his dedication and his vision. And now, all who enter the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will also remember and recognize Mayor Bradley for all his stellar achievements.”

Mayor Tom Bradley was elected as the first – and only – black mayor of Los Angeles and served for an unprecedented five terms, from 1973 to 1993. He fought to bring the 1984 Summer Olympic Games to Los Angeles and forged an agreement with the International Olympic Committee. The Los Angeles games were the first privately financed Olympics and turned a huge profit. Debra Duncan, the chair of the LA84 Foundation, an organization formed to manage Southern California’s endowment from the 1984 Olympic Games, noted “[Mayor Bradley] helped ignite a flame that has lasted 30 years later.”

In honor of Mayor Bradley’s legacy as a tremendous booster of the small business and the Angeleno entrepreneurial spirit, Pink’s Hot Dogs, the famed Los Angeles hot dog stand, were served to attendees of the induction into the Court of Honor.

Our Athens

Kristin Sakoda dances with Vanessa’s Positive Energy Dance Troupe at the Book Launch Party.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas celebrated the launch of Our Athens, the latest in a series of books documenting and celebrating unincorporated communities in Los Angeles County’s Second District.

Creative Core LA, with guidance from the County’s Arts Commission, photographed more than 65 community leaders and members for the book, which will be distributed at various events and community centers in Athens.

Representatives of the West Athens / Westmont Task Force at the Book Launch Party. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“Let it be known near and far that Athens has a rich history and an even more dynamic present, and our mission was to have the book capture as much of that as we could,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the book launch, attended by more than 100 people including several who were featured in the book.

Members of the West Athens Taskforce, Vermont Manchester Collaborative andSouthwest Community Association also celebrated the launch of the book, together with representatives of local schools, youth centers, churches, businesses, senior centers, and others.

Athens has 40,000 residents spanning an area of 3.2 square miles. Among the neighborhood’s landmarks are Chester Washington Golf Course, where the book launch was held, and which was the home course for the great African American pro golfer Charlie Sifford. Other local destinations are Jesse Owens Park and Washington Prep High School, which had a movie made about its transformation in the late 70s, starring Denzel Washington.

Athens has seen more than $400 million in investments since Supervisor Ridley-Thomas was elected in 2008. This includes new affordable apartments; a renovated library; façade improvements for small businesses; transportation and street improvements; new and improved parks, walking paths, and a community garden.

“We are not done yet,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Our goal is to continue to ensure that there are high-quality assets in Athens, worthy of the civic vitality that is ingrained in this community.”

Our Athens is the latest in a series of books highlighting the Second District communities of Florence-Firestone, Lennox, Willowbrook and East Rancho Dominguez.

Left to Right: (Top) 88th Street Temple Church Pastor Anthony Williams, Southwest Community Association Director Henry Porter, West Athens Westmont Taskforce Founder Bruce McCall (Bottom) Washington Prep High School Principal Dr. Dechele Byrd, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Create Core LA Co-Founder Gennia Cuo, LA County Arts Commission Director Kristin Sakoda. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Undesign the Redline

Undesign the Redline, an interactive exhibition that traces the history and legacy of housing discrimination and segregation across Los Angeles and the United States, will be on display in April at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration to commemorate Fair Housing Month.

Created by the social impact firm Designing the We, the interactive exhibition traces how government policy going back to the 1930s, known as “redlining,” created racial segregation and disinvestment that, in some communities, persist to this day. The exhibition uses powerful narratives of people and communities, maps, historical artifacts, storytelling, photographs and activities to illustrate redlining’s roots and lasting repercussions.

Enterprise Community Partners and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas partnered with Designing the We to bring the interactive exhibition to the seat of Los Angeles County government.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “I encourage all to come and experience the exhibit, as we must know our history in order to avoid repeating it. It was not until 1968, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that the right to equal housing opportunities was guaranteed. As we grapple with this region’s housing crisis, this exhibition informs us of the historical impact of housing discrimination, especially redlining, that took place in all corners of our nation, including Los Angeles.”

Undesign the Redline puts into perspective the local community landscape and the history of Los Angeles, including the stories of:

  • The history of Watts as a visionary plan as a “free city” of blacks and other disenfranchised groups
  • Loren Miller & the fight against deed discrimination
  • The Federation of the High Cost of Living, which was formed to explore how rental costs could be lowered
  • The mothers of East Los Angeles
  • Bunker Hill redevelopment and urban renewal

“Undesign the Redline sheds light on how the explicitly discriminatory housing practices of redlining continues to influence the design and growth patterns of Los Angeles today. The relics of these practices are present in the form of displacement, gentrification and a vast homelessness crisis. Learning this history inspires us to change that legacy and advance a path forward that will transform our communities,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, VP and Southern California market leader, Enterprise.

The Los Angeles County Hall of Administration is located at  500 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. The exhibit is located in the Second Floor Atrium, Grand Park Entrance, and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

LA County Counts in the 2020 Census

 Leaders join together for a “Census Call to Action” rally in downtown’s Grand Park. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County, City, and community leaders joined together for a “Census Call to Action” rally in downtown’s Grand Park to the County’s unprecedented partnership and to raise awareness exactly one year ahead of the 2020 census in an effort to ensure that hard-to-reach populations are counted.

“The 2020 census will significantly impact how the federal government allocates funding and resources,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are raising awareness a full year in advance of the 2020 census launch to ensure that Angelenos are fairly represented in the final census count.”

Los Angeles County is considered the hardest-to-count county in the nation with over 10 million residents. A Census undercount could translate to fewer federal funds for transportation infrastructure projects, economic development, and programs that help support our most vulnerable residents.

“The 2020 Census is the first census that will be done primarily electronically, creating an additional barrier for low-income families and communities of color. I am concerned that the effort to add a citizenship question may discourage responses, especially among immigrant communities. Today was a clear demonstration that LA County will work with our municipal and community partners to support our vulnerable communities. We embrace LA County’s diversity and we will make every effort to count every resident,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis. “An accurate census count is not only foundational to representative democracy, but it ensures that schools and communities throughout LA County receive their fair share of federal funding. The federal government must not leave our vulnerable communities underfunded and underrepresented. Everyone counts!”

The 2020 census will launch April 1, 2020. The census can shape many different local community benefits such as hospitals, fire departments, schools, and highways. Each year, the results help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities. The census is mandated by the United States Constitution. The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.