Pocket parks to come to South LA



imageThe City of Los Angeles is making a move to create more parks within walking distance.

The Department of Recreation and Parks’ 50 Parks Initiative aims to create 50 public parks, including at least nine in South Los Angeles. Many of the South LA locations have not been finalized, though desired neighborhoods have been identified (see map).

Green dots represent sites that already have funds and the red dots are pending funding.

“The idea is to build parks in communities where people don’t have green spaces,” says Darryl Ford who works in the city’s Planning, Construction, and Maintenance Division. The initiative focuses on densely populated neighborhoods that lack access to recreational services. “We want as many people as possible to live a walkable distance to open areas.”

More parks in a reasonable walking distance is a community priority, according to an assessment survey the city conducted in 2009.

The 50 Parks Initiative hopes to stabilize neighborhoods and property values by providing “innumerable physical, social, health and environmental benefits to those communities,” according to a press release from The Department of Recreation and Parks.

“This project really addresses the direct needs of a community,” says Ford.

The pocket parks will be open spaces. The majority wil be less than an acre and many will fit on residential lots. The parks will provide green space and recreational facilities. The city also plans to supply each with security features, such as gates and cameras.

Residents near Vernon and Central Avenues in South L.A. were welcoming plans for a pocket park in their neighborhood. The Los Angeles Times reported on December 10, 2011 that the city spent more than $600,000 designing and building the Vernon Branch Library Pocket Park, but residents never got to enjoy it. According to the LA Times, the Los Angeles Unified School District is using the property as part of a new school campus now being built. Apparently, neither the city nor LAUSD knew of each other’s plans.

The funding comes from non-profits and a variety of public sources, including bonds and grants.

As of now, 47 sites have been identified, 23 of which are already funded. Some of the lots are development sites; others are donated or formally foreclosed homes. The city is considering more than 50 lots and doesn’t know what the final count will be.

This is an example of a pocket park in East LA. This park will be built on a residential lot where a house currently stands.

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This is an example of a pocket park at Wilton Place in Torrance.

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Veteran South LA lawmaker Teresa Hughes dies



Former Democratic state senator and assemblywoman Teresa Hughes died Tuesday.  She was 80.

Hughes represented the 47th District that spans over South Los Angeles, Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Downey and Compton.  She was the second black woman elected to the Legislature.

Hughes may best be remembered for her crusade for education.  She wrote an “Assembly bill dedicating $800 million in bond for school construction and creation of a state School District in 1992,” writes the Associated Press.

A memorial will be held at noon Monday at the Holman United Methodist Church,  3320 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles.

Check out more information at the LA Times and the SF Gate.

Are LAUSD school lunches too healthy?  It depends who you ask.



imageLast August, the Los Angeles School District rolled out its revamped lunch menu in an effort to reduce students’ intake of sugar, calories, fat and sodium. 

The new menu, reports the Daily Breeze, is proving the age-old adage; You can lead your kid to healthy food, but you can’t make him eat.

Parents say kids are coming home hungry to avoid eating mystery foods, according to the Breeze, and LAUSD is scratching its head on how to deal with meals in such a multicultural region.

Have you noticed a change in your kids’ lunch?  Have they said anything? Let us know!

Check out the full article at the Daily Breeze, LAUSD school menu gets unhealthy dose of skepticism

LA Weekly makes their picks for the best LA rap albums of all time



Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageSome of the most popular rap music in the world comes from South Los Angeles. LA Weekly published a list of its top 20 LA Rap albums of all times. Not surprisingly, South LA artists were prominent. Check out the top five.

http://blogs.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2011/10/top_20_greatest_la_rap_albums_2.php

A Taste of Soul Videos



Thousands came out to A Taste of Soul on South Crenshaw on Oct. 16. We’ll walk you through it!


Video by Patrick Zheng

Check out some hip-hop – and the amazing crowds – on the Main Stage.


Video by Patrick Zheng

People at A Taste of Soul join in on a dancing game.


Video by Patrick Zheng

Check out the Gospel Stage.


Video by Patrick Zheng

Clap your hands – a dance line forms.


Video by Patrick Zheng

African dancers show the crowd what they’re working with


Video by Patrick Zheng

Come on a journey through the crowds to find our Intersections booth.


Video by Patrick Zheng

South LA residents rally to protect funding for community clinics



Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageMore than 300 South Los Angeles residents, politicians and health care providers packed into the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center Wednesday night to take a stand against potential cuts that would make health care less accessible to thousands of residents.

Over plates of rice, beans and taquitos, people sat and stood shoulder-to-shoulder, spilling out into the street on the corner of Hoover and 58th. The temperature rose as did people’s passionate pleas to the Los Angeles County Supervisors: don’t cut funding to community clinics in South LA. The event was the kickoff of a campaign to protect community health clinics. SEIU United Healthcare Workers organized it and numerous other health organizations showed up to offer their support.

The five Los Angeles County Supervisors will vote in January on whether to end or extend funding to community clinics throughout LA County. The vote is expected to be tight.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pledged to protect clinic funding in South LA, was greeted with a standing ovation. In a rallying cry, he commanded the room:

“SEIU in the house? Who got the power?”

“We got the power!” the crowd responded.

“We are not prepared to allow any of our programs to be defunded,” Ridley-Thomas said. “In other words, we need all of what we have and then some, because frankly in South Los Angeles we are over due. Somebody ought to say overdue!”

imageMany attendees would be directly affected if clinics lost funding. Hattie Walker’s daughter Khadiya Walker has down syndrome and autism. Walker’s work doesn’t insure her and she pays medical costs out of pocket. Because of Khadiya’s special needs, Walker depends on health care funding. If costs were to increase, that would mean less food on the table.

“It’s horrible, it’s already up high enough for me,” she said. “I’m barely making it from check to check. But we all need health care, so I don’t really have a choice.”

Marlene Brand, a mammogram technician, says that an increase in health care costs will result in fewer people seeking medical attention for really problems. She has already seen this since the beginning of the recession in 2008. She says that it makes a huge difference in people’s quality of life and, in some cases, can mean the difference of life and death.

“It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen,” Brand says. “And it shouldn’t. Ever.”

The word of the night was equality. The cuts would disproportionately hurt South LA, where about 70 percent of the community have no private health insurance and depend on community clinics. Diabetes and heart disease rates are higher there than any other part of the county and the life expectancy is 10 years less in South LA than the national average.image“I believe that everyone has a right to get their medicine no matter what your income level is, your education level is,” Brand said. “The thing about it that is it could be your mom, your sister, your uncle, it could be someone in your family. Would you want to see them waste away or die because they don’t have money?”

If the cuts pass, South and East Los Angeles, the poorest areas of LA county, will be hardest hiss. South LA will lose $11 million. Among the providers that stand to lose the most is St. John’s clinics, which would lose $4 million, according to UHW media representative David Tokaji. He says that four of St. John’s clinics will likely shut down.

“God didn’t make any mistakes. We are all created in the image and likeness of God,” Ridley-Thomas said at the end of his talk. “Therefore we want first-rate care, we want the first draw of resources at our disposal. If we do that, we will have served all of these children well. And every single adult in this room has a responsibility to stand up for these children.”

Compton Community College District Track and Football Field Reopen



imageThe Compton community can now benefit from the recent reopening of the Compton Community College District track and football field.

The track was temporarily closed last month to allow staff to make much needed improvements and upgrades to ready the football field for the Tartar football season.

Work completed includes turf maintenance and leveling, watering, irrigation system repair, outdoor lighting replacement and refurbishment near the restrooms.

Metamorphosis launches MetaConnects



Universities are troves of academic information.  But often, the fate of research is to collect dust in the filing cabinets of professors.  Meanwhile, community organizations struggle to get adequate research.  USC’s Metamorphosis Project from the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism aims to bridge this gap with the launch of their new website MetaConnects.

MetaConnects is an online platform offering a wealth of information on community patterns, relationships and media consumption.  It was created as a way for academic researchers to share this knowledge with community-based practitioners. 

“We are all devoted to social change and social justice,” MetaConnects says on its website,“ and MetaConnects provides a space to share research findings, strategies, tools, and innovative collaborative projects in pursuit of these goals.”

For over a decade, the Metamophosis Project has studied how residents from diverse Los Angeles neighborhoods communicate and what media sources they learn about their communities.  You can see the results of these studies on their website.

In addition to the website, MetaConnects has an e-mail listserv, ongoing discussions, workshops and events.

Neighborhood council addresses water costs, traffic concerns



image Martin Luther King Jr. Park was hopping on Thursday night. The smell of barbeque drifted through the air, teenagers created an impromptu dance floor to rap music, and light shined down on a baseball game.

Inside the community gym, there was a much different scene. Sitting surrounded by playground toys and board games, ten members of the Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Council Committees gathered for their monthly meeting.

The neighborhood council’s boundaries are roughly the 10 freeway to the north, the 110 freeway to the east, Martin Luther King Jr. to the south and Arlington Avenue to the west. The area includes all of USC, along with surrounding neighborhoods.

The group discussed community proposals and funding requests over sandwiches. Here are some highlights:

1. Water costs are planning to rise by approximately $28 per year for a single-family home. Lisa Mower, waste water division manager at the Bureau of Sanitation, gave a presentation explaining that many of the city’s sewers are operating on borrowed time – the average lifespan of a sewer is 80 years, and 30 percent of the city’s sewers are older than that. Mower said the rise in cost is necessary to ensure quality drinking water is available and no sewers overflow. To drive the point home, she showed pictures of Los Angeles manholes gurgling human waste.

Representatives from the City are going to all the neighborhood council meetings to explain the price increase. Neighborhood council members voiced concerns that the cost of city services have already skyrocketed over the past year and a half, and this increase would be another burden on families during hard financial times.

The rise in costs is dependent on how much water you use during peak times. To get tips on how to reduce your water usage, visit www.lacitysan.org.

2. Operation Confidence, a non-profit organization for people with physical disabilities, is hosting a Tribute to Our Disabled Veterans at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Nov. 19. Consuella Mackey, a representative from the organization, asked for funding from the council since the sports arena is located in the neighborhood.

The request brought up a reoccurring issue – the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena is within the neighborhood’s boundaries, but not all of the events that come are related to the neighborhood’s residents. The council said it isn’t able to bankroll events that are not directly tied to this community. The council recommended Mackey go to other neighborhood councils and request joint funding.

3. Ever notice the difference between neighborhoods west of Vermont versus east of Vermont? The council’s chairwoman in charge of beautification, Gabriela Garcia, said that USC’s beautification projects end at Vermont – but the community doesn’t. Garcia has met with USC, but the university has yet to commit to a plan.

The council voted to send a letter to the university expressing its frustration. The letter reads, “by providing a beautification project to what amounts to basically the University’s own back yard, and not extending the work into the community that identifies itself with USC, the University only alienates a community during a time it is looking to bolster relations. By extending the beautification project to the whole university ‘community’ you help to relate a unifying feeling within the community and creating a tighter bond with the residents and USC.”

4. A local developer recently revamped the Odd Fellows Temple, a historical building located at 1828 Oak St., two miles away from the Staple’s Convention center. It is now opened to parties and meetings and in some cases, may host community gatherings at no charge.

A representative asked the neighborhood council for a letter of support allowing The Odd Fellows Temple to serve alcohol. The building’s rep said the venue would create jobs and preserve a beautiful building. The neighborhood council expressed concerns about party-goers stumbling into residential neighborhoods. Additionally, with the Staples Center so close by and a NFL stadium on the way, the council fears more traffic in an already congested area.

In the end, the council agreed to write a letter of support on the contingency that Odd Fellows commits to hiring people from the local community.

Central Area Neighborhood Empowerment Council tackles pressing issues



imageThe hot afternoon sun dropped low over Western Avenue as members of the Central Area Neighborhood Empowerment Council filed into the community room of the Amistad Plaza Apartment.

Fifteen board members were present, along with about a dozen people and presenters from the community. The council meets on the fourth Monday of every month.

Over pizza and hot wings, the council discussed what’s going on in their communities, which spans between Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Florence Avenue to the north and south, and Vermont Avenue and Arlington Avenue to the east and west. It makes up a thin rectangle that runs west of the 110.

The marathon meeting was over three hours. But no worries, we have your highlights right here!

1. The police department says that the most prevalent crime in the neighborhood is street robberies, specifically “chain snatching.” Chain snatching is what it sounds like – when a person steals jewelry off someone else. Thieves hang around bus stops and main drags, such as Vernon, Vermont and Western. The crime is more prevalent now because of the high price of gold and the struggling economy. If you see anything suspicious, please report it!

image2. Water costs are going to rise by approximately $32 per year for a single-family home. Bob Irvin, Director of Systems at the Bureau of Sanitation, gave a presentation explaining that many of the city’s sewers are operating on borrowed time – the average lifespan of a sewer is 80 years, and 30 percent of the city’s sewers are older than that. Irvin said the rise in cost is necessary to ensure quality drinking water is available and no sewers overflow. To drive the point home, he showed pictures of Los Angeles manholes gurgling human waste.

The rise in costs is dependent on how much water you use during peak times. To get tips on how to reduce your water usage, visit www.lacitysan.org.

3. The city is planning to establish an indoor/outdoor sorting facility (read: recycling center) at 5921 S. Western Ave. The announcement was answered by negative feedback from community members who don’t want the project to happen. If you have an opinion, in favor or against, it’s not to late! Contact Keith McCowen at [email protected]gmail.com with your feedback.

4. Board member and youth representative Michael Martinez is organizing a youth poetry slam for the second weekend of September. The council approved funding for prizes, but it has yet to hammer out the details like a time and place. We’ll let you know the specifics when we get them – until then, get your rhymes ready!

5. Herbert Jones, Principal at the Barack Obama Global Preparatory Academy gave an impassioned plea for better education in South Los Angeles. Jones says disparities in education are keeping down youth south of the 10.

“There’s no such thing as an achievement gap,” said Jones. “There’s a resource gap. We are kept separate through the field of education.”

Jones said that when poor blacks and Latinos aren’t educated in a suffering economy, we will see more crime and violence. He recalled the political climate of South Central before the Watts Riots in 1965 and the Rodney King Uprising in 1992. Now, he says, things are even worse.

“If we don’t use education and bridge this gap, if we as adults don’t stop this political gang banging, if we don’t focus on making every child proficient in reading… and math, our community will pay,” he said. “We are just weeks away, months away from an urban rebellion. I just hope it doesn’t happen until Obama’s second term.”