Urban farm bill could help transform South LA’s empty lots


A patch of dirt and weeds in an empty lot in South L.A. | Jordyn Holman

More farms might begin cropping up around South Los Angeles thanks to a proposed bill by the Los Angeles City Council.

Council members Curren Price and Felipe Fuentes recently introduced a motion to provide a property tax adjustment for private landowners who convert their vacant plots into “urban farms,” which the city council defines as commercial ventures that sell food.

The authors of the bill, entitled the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, said they see the property tax adjustment as a way to encourage landowners who are not using their property. Parcels of land between 0.10 and 3 acres in size would be eligible for the tax breaks.

The Los Angeles Food Policy Council, which has supported previous green initiatives taking place in South L.A., estimates 8,600 parcels in the city could be eligible. To get the tax adjustment, the land must be used for agriculture and educational purposes.

See also: Green alleys to take root in South LA

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Redefining environmentalism in South LA 

By gardening and keeping lights low, a family in Watts

challenges mainstream notions of “environmentalism.”


Ashley and her mother in the garden at their Watts home. | Ashley Hansack

“Turn off the damn lights! You act like I have money coming out of my ass,” yells my mom.

It’s not: “turn off the lights because you waste energy,” “turn off the lights because we need to reduce fossil fuels,” or “turn off the lights because we need to conserve resources.”

It’s: “Turn off the lights because I cannot afford to give up an extra ten dollars to pay the bill. I told you once and I don’t want to have to tell you again: turn off the damn lights.”

There are 13 light switches controlling the visibility and the mood lighting throughout my family’s house in Watts. In every bedroom, hallway and common living space, there is a light switch waiting to come to life and shine.

Enter the bathroom. Light on. Exit the bathroom. Light off. Enter the bedroom. Light on. Exit the bedroom. Light off.

Again and again, I turn the lights on and off without ever stopping to think about where this light comes from and how I have the great magical power to bring light into a room with the effortless flick of my wrist. [Read more…]

Community garden still going strong after five years

The music was blaring as residents walked the street fair on Raymond Avenue in South Los Angeles, on Saturday, to celebrate the saving of its community garden by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and philanthropist Erika Glazer, along with the City and County of Los Angeles.

imageErika J. Glazer Community Garden (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

A ceremony was held to announce the renaming of the the Raymond Avenue Community Garden to Erika J. Glazer Community Garden, and to unveil a new sign for the Glazer Garden, which was designed by its founder, resident Julie Burleigh.

Booths were set up along the street around the DJ for residents to receive information about everything from conserving water to making a worm compost.

Children lined up eager to get their face-painted, and many had their hand cupped around small, makeshift pot made out of newspaper.

“I planted beans,” said Melissa Ramirez.

The eight-year-old scooped dirt into her pot and planted her seeds, right before spraying some water on top of the fresh dirt.

imageMelissa Ramirez (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

Nkoli Udeorji, a volunteer with the grass-roots organization LA Green Grounds, stood behind a table to show other kids how to plant their seed of choice. She said being at the event is a great way to connect with the community.

“I thought we would bring the kids and let them run around,” said Karlyn Johnson, who heard about the event from another parent.

Johnson lives just a few blocks away from Raymond Avenue and said she had never known there was a garden so close to her residence.

“The more we can do stuff [like this] the more we can help the neighborhood,” said Johnson.

Julie Burleigh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, started the garden in 2008 out of a desire to be more involved in her community and create a space for growing food.

Inside, there are 35, squared-off plots. A total of 24 families grow their own food and plants, with some owning multiple pots.

Demand is high for a chance to own a plot said Burleigh, as she points to a waiting list on a table outside of the garden’s entrance. She said right now the garden is only available to the community gardeners, but she is looking to open it up for the whole community in the future.

Almost three years ago, Burleigh reached out for help to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), an organization that helps underserved communities develop and manage small parks and community gardens.

The 5,000 square-foot space that was being maintained by community gardeners was at risk of being taken away. The property owner owed $100,000 in back taxes, but LANLT was able to step in and also find philanthropist Erika Glazer.

Glazer donated $150,000 to pay off the taxes as well as upgrades to the garden.

Burleigh said she is surprised that the community garden has been able to survive.

“I’m also so surprised that an organization an come in and save it. It’s hard to manage a community garden – more failures than success,” she said. “It’s amazing…a total dream come true.”

“It’s a great way to be a part of the community and to get to know people and connect with people everyday,” said Burleigh.

LA Parks Initiative Opens South LA Park

Click here to read the story.

Los Angeles County sees first ‘green’ park

imageWhat used to be a devastated, vacant lot is now Los Angeles County’s first park with drought-resistant plants, permeable pavement, recycled materials for both park benches and tables, and solar lighting.

“Over the last few years, we have worked hard to get rid of eyesores like [vacant lots],” Gloria Molina, county supervisor, said. “We have transformed blight into much-needed affordable housing and community parks.”

About 100 students from Lillian Street Elementary School in Los Angeles participated in a contest to name the “green” park. Third grade student Natalie Torres submitted “El Parque Nuestro,” the winning entry.image

“We are very proud of Natalie and all of the kids,” Gloria Molina, county supervisor, said. “They [learn] early the rewards of civic participation.”

imageThe park is just a little less than an acre, but offers fitness equipment and a walking trail, something Molina referred to as the community’s “very own fitness zone.”

Before the park entered the community, an area often referred to as “park poor,” the nearest park in the neighborhood was Roosevelt Park, one that was about a mile away on Nadeau and Beach streets.

imageBut with the addition of private-public partnership housing, Molina felt it was necessary to add “green,” recreational space for neighborhood residents.

“We [will] save [on] energy, water and overall energy costs,” Molina said.

Proposition 40, the California Clean Water, Clean Air, image Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002, provided funds for the $2.1 million project.

“Now, there is a close and convenient park for everyone in the community to utilize,” Molina said.


Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation planned a summer of activities for Los Angeles county families and youth.

Youth summer camps will begin between the last week of June and the first week of July. They will run from Monday through Friday at about 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Hours and fees may vary from park to park.

Camps will be offered at the following parks, among others:

Belvedere Park: 4914 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, 90022

City Terrace Park: 1126 N. Hazard Ave., Los Angeles, 90063

Eugene A. Obregon Park: 4021 E. First Street, Los Angeles 90063

Ruben F. Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, 90023

Saybrook Park: 6250 E. Northside Dr., Los Angeles, 90022


Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will begin registration for summer swimming lessons on June 26, July 10 and 24, and August 7 and 21. The fee is $20 for a 10-lesson course.

The following pools, among others, will be open seven days a week during the summer, and all sites provide certified lifeguard supervision for swimmers:

Atlantic Ave. Park pool: 570 S. Atlantic Blvd., Los Angeles, 90022

Belvedere Park pool: 4914 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Los Angeles, 90022

City Terrace Park pool: 1126 N. Hazard Ave., Los Angeles, 90063

Eugene A. Obregon Park pool: 4021 E. First Street, Los Angeles, 90063

Ruben F. Salazar Park pool: 3864 Whittier Blvd., Los Angeles, 90023


For more information about park services, please contact (213) 738-2963.

LAUSD sustainability plan survives budget cuts

Plans to make Los Angeles Unified School District the most sustainable in the country continue to grow despite budget cuts across the district.

In February the district announced plans to move forward with a $350 million plan to install solar panels on eight district buildings.  The goal was to produce 50 megawatts of solar energy, the equivalent of removing 23million pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Since the solar project is funded entirely through local bond Measure Q, a 10-year bond totaling $7.2 billion, it is not affected by the statewide budget cuts.

Randy Britt, Director of Sustainability for LAUSD, said the project would ultimately provide thousands of green jobs without taking money away from the general fund.

“The completion of our projects will actually provide significant returns to the General Fund, which will ultimately relieve future pressure on the budget,” Britt said.

Recent graduates of one of LAUSD’s adult schools, the East Los Angeles Skills Center, will be the first offered jobs installing solar panels on district buildings.

Robert Salceo, a student at the skills center, said the new green jobs give him the job security he didn’t have when he worked in construction.

“We’re actually going to get a ‘We Build Green’ card when we finish the program. In order to get hired working for LAUSD working on those solar jobs, you have to have that card,” Salceo said. “Without that card you won’t be able to work so it’s a big step for us because we’ll be one of the first who will be getting hired for those jobs.”

With the “We Build Green” card Salceo said he could make between $28 and $36 an hour–$12 more per hour than his previous job.

While statewide budget cuts are not hurting LAUSD’s plan to install solar panels, the cuts are impacting students at the ELASC.

According to Brian Hurd, Director of the “We Build” programs at ELASC, the school has taken a 30 percent cut across the board, meaning less money for classes, supplies and teachers for a waiting list of more than 400 students.

“The biggest hit is the closing of our popular Saturday lab.  No more Saturday classes starting this summer,” Hurd said. “For teachers working Saturdays that is 6 hours off of their weekly pay.”

Hurd said they are looking at creative approaches to keep the classrooms open for students in the “we build” programs. One possibility is closing other less popular classes to make room for more “we build” classes.

Hurd is hopeful that the process will “work itself out” but said the cutbacks are a “definite interruption.”

Still, the first group of students will graduate from “We Build Green” on Saturday and move on to jobs with the district and other independent solar contractors.

“The new group of ‘We Build Green’ students started yesterday and the class is packed,” Hurd said.

Hurd has been working closely with partners in the solar industry to gain as much support as possible for the program during these tough economic times.

“We just received a donation of new modules and racking hardware from Solar Dock of $20,000,” Hurd said. “It’s like Christmas in April.  So, I think there is room for hope.”

Britt said architectural and engineering preparations are well under way for the eight sites already approved by the Board of Education.  Installation will begin as soon as the Division of State Architect approves the plans.

The Department of Sustainability has also finalized surveys for another 100 sites, meaning even more job opportunities for the hundreds of new “We Build Green” graduates.