Sights and sounds from the Central Avenue Jazz Festival

The 19th annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival last weekend brought out crowds of L.A. residents to enjoy authentic Mexican and soul food, local crafts, and, of course, the sweet sounds of jazz. This year, the Jazz Festival was bigger than ever, with two music stages, kids activities and a plaza offering health screenings, stands representing local organizations and businesses, and artists making and selling a variety of crafts.

Watch the audio slideshow below for the sights and sounds of the festival. 

Visit our Flickr for photos from the event.

100 trees spruce up Broadway in South LA

A tree grows on Broadway | Daina Beth Solomon

A tree grows on Broadway | Daina Beth Solomon

Politicians and community members have made a concerted effort over the past few months to clear away trash and debris from South L.A. streets. Meanwhile, they are also working to give something back in its place — trees. The organization City Plants L.A. (formerly Million Trees L.A.) partners with the city, nonprofits, community groups, businesses and residents to plant trees in barren areas — often low-income, underserved communities with limited park space. The group’s aim is to create comfortable shady areas, combat pollution, provide fruit and simply bring natural beauty to blighted streets. In April, City Plants took its project to the blocks between Slauson and 69th St. on Broadway in the Ninth District, where it planted more than 100 trees.

Flip through the slideshow below to view photos from the planting. (Roll over each image for the caption.) 

[Read more…]

Green alleys to take root in South LA

Walk down an alley in South Los Angeles and you can expect to see old furniture and scattered trash piled on cracked pavement. You’ll hear dogs barking incessantly and smell standing water. And you’ll rarely come across a fellow pedestrian. An environmental initiative currently in the works, however, seeks to change this reality by turning those neglected alleys into clean walkways sprouting with native plants.

“If residents see that their city is investing in them, we can really build a better quality neighborhood all around,” said Connie Llanos, spokeswoman for councilman Curren Price of the 9th District.

The Green Alley Program, slated to break ground late this year, will transform alleys of blight into welcoming open spaces. The Bureau of Sanitation partnered with city districts within South L.A. and the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit that develops parks throughout the nation, to spearhead the program.

Los Angeles is one of the most park-poor cities in the nation, says a study by the USC Center for Sustainable Cities, with only 7.8 percent of the city devoted to open spaces. In other major cities like Chicago, according to the City of Chicago Green Alley Program website, 8.5 percent of land is devoted to park space. In low-income communities like South L.A.’s 9th District, the number of parks is significantly fewer, while the rate of poverty is among the highest in the city.

Meanwhile, South L.A. is home to the greatest percentage of the city’s alleys — nearly one third. That’s because South L.A. is one of the oldest parts of the city. At one time, alleys were used for garbage collection and goods deliveries as a way to reduce traffic on the main streets in the year’s following World War II. Today, because of the high poverty rate and the lack of a functional use for them, the alleys have become a place for drug dealing and other crimes, said Llanos.

“Right now [the alleys] are a tremendous eyesore,” Llanos said. “But we can utilize them and clean them up when we use them as a place for families to congregate and play.”

Two alleys have already been identified for transformation under the project. One is sandwiched between 53rd and 54th Streets in between San Pedro and Main streets. The other snakes between 51st and 52nd Streets between Towne and Avalon boulevards.

The alley between 53rd and 54th streets at San Pedro and Main streets is slated for transformation into a green space for residents to walk and play. | Jordyn Holman

The alley between 53rd and 54th streets at San Pedro and Main streets is slated for transformation into a green space for residents to walk and play. | Jordyn Holman

According to TPL, these alleys will be more ecologically friendly. Their new paving will allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground, preventing standing water. The permeable paving will also help nourish the fruit trees and native species that will be planted along the alleys, creating mini-parks. Streetlights and crosswalks will be added to ensure safe passage for pedestrians.

Planners hope the beautification improvements will encourage locals to get out of doors. Currently, several neighborhood organizations, like Challengers Boys and Girls Club of America, run their programs indoors because of safety concerns.

Challengers offers athletic programs and academic support to children in South L.A. The group’s building and its amenities give children a place to play that’s safer than they could find outdoors, said Diane Jones, director of development.

“Everything else is gloom and doom,” Jones said, referring to the surrounding community of Jefferson Park and West Adams. “The community needs someplace where [people] can walk and feel safe.” As it is, she said, “No one is going to go outside and take a walk.”

Jones said the plan for more green spaces within South Los Angeles would enhance the wellbeing of the residents, particularly children.

“People need fresh air because it’s healthier — mentally, physically and emotionally,” Jones said.

The Green Alley Program is not the first ecologically friendly project to take root in the area. The program joins a growing list of more than 14 green initiatives aimed at improving residents’ quality of life. L.A. Audubon’s Baldwin Hills Program, which educates South Los Angeles teenagers about the local environment, is among them. Stacey Vigallon, program director, said exposure to healthy outdoor environments within the city limits is crucial.

“Green space and open space, especially in the city, is essential to physical fitness,” said Vigallon. “Plus, it also makes people more accountable to their community.”

Though green alleys may benefit the environment, many stakeholders believe the ultimate accomplishment will be increased interaction amongst neighbors. In order to maintain the alleys, Kjer said, residents will form “green teams,” which will be responsible, along with the city, for the upkeep of their nearby alleys.

Kjer believes this element will be crucial in building stronger community ties.

“People who might not have talked to one another or paid attention to their community before are now active and paying attention to cleanup and taking ownership of their community into their own hands,” Kjer said.

Though TPL and the city are currently focused on rolling out the program solely in South L.A., planners believe the impact of the green alleys will extend far beyond the area. The Trust for Public Land said that, although not all of L.A.’s alleys will get a full renovation, many will be improved in some way.

“There are 900 miles of alleys in Los Angeles,” Kjer said. “Green alleys should become the standard.”

One of the alleys slated for greening:

Challengers Boys and Girls Club: 

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9th District Candidate Closeup: Curren Price

image Curren Price, second from the left, with County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Council President Herb Wesson and Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass.

When Curren Price opened his campaign headquarters to kick-start his race for the Ninth District Los Angeles City Council seat, he was joined by some of the city’s most prominent elected officials.

No other candidate running has taken photos with the City Council president, a Los Angeles County supervisor and a U.S. congresswoman – at least not all at once and while holding the candidate’s campaign signs.

Of all the candidates running to represent the Ninth District, Price has the most experience, high-profile endorsements and campaign cash, which makes him seem as the clear front-runner in the March 5 primary election. Price said he has experience making laws, something most of his opponents can not claim, and he has served a portion of the Ninth District before as a senator for the 26th District.

“I’m excited about the prospects of serving in the Ninth, of coming back home, and being a part of a process that’s going to really revitalize and rejuvenate the Ninth District,” Price said.

City redistricting in 2012 removed much of downtown from the former “Great Ninth” and added USC and L.A. Live to what Price now calls the “New Ninth.” Price said he is pleased that the redistricting “preserved the voting power of minorities.” He said making sure South L.A. gets its fair share of the city’s resources is a major priority for him.

In January, eight candidates filed their most recent finance report. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Terry Hara leads the pack with over $220,000 in cash on hand. Price is the only other candidate with over $100,000.

Some of his opponents have called Price a carpetbagger, a man seeking office wherever he is most likely to be elected. Supporters say those attacks are false and distract voters from what really matters in the race. On campaign materials and his websites, Price says he was “born and raised” in the Ninth District, which is true.

image Photos from Curren Price headquarters.

Price, who was born at Queen of Angels Hospital, attended Normandie Avenue Elementary School then Morningside High School, in what is now Los Angeles’ Ninth District. He majored in political science at Stanford University and graduated with a law degree from Santa Clara University in 1976.

In a district where going to college is far from a guarantee for many students, Price believes his own educational background should not unnerve voters.

“I think every kid growing up in the Ninth should have those options, should have those opportunities,” Price said to a group of supporters.

Price left California in 1979 and spent the next 10 years in Washington, D.C. working for international companies specializing in communications infrastructure. He returned in 1989 to become a deputy for two members of the L.A. City Council, Robert C. Farrell and his successor, present Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Current Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson began his political career as a council staffer as well. He said for Price and himself that experience was invaluable.

“We know how to do things hands-on and don’t have to rely solely on staff because everything we’ve asked our staffs to do we’ve already done it,” Wesson said.

Price found his first political break when he was elected to the Inglewood City Council in 1993. He was defeated for mayor of Inglewood in 1997, but then returned to his council seat in 2001. In 2006, he was elected to the State Assembly and overwhelmingly won re-election in 2008. Victorious in a special 2009 California State Senate election, Price currently serves part of the Ninth Council District in Sacramento. According to Wesson, the relationships Price has in the state capital will help him if he is elected because many residents call the city asking for things that are actually controlled by the state.

L.A. County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas described Price as a “consensus builder.”

“He’s someone who you can easily talk to,” Ridley-Thomas said. “He’s not standoffish; he’s not one who will put you off. He will listen to you and he will mobilize his staff to help you.”

At campaign events Price talks about improved public safety, more attention to public works including street cleanups and potholes and more incentives for local businesses. In 2007 and 2009, the University of California Student Association awarded Price “Legislator of the Year” for his work to increase access to Cal Grants for students, among other initiatives. For young voters, Price notes his efforts that led to laws allowing 17-year-olds to preregister to vote and dependents under 26 years old to stay on their parent’s healthcare plans before it became the national law.

With his past elected experience, Wesson believes the obvious next step for Price is a seat on the L.A. City Council.

“I think that it’s a natural progression for him to come home and back to the people that live in the area where he grew up and went to school,” Wesson said. “He is a homegrown product.”

Hara targets USC early in Ninth District council race

By Logan Heley

imageWalking down Trousdale Parkway or outside of the Lyon Center on the University of Southern California campus, it’s likely you’ve seen or even talked to the people working at Terry Hara’s city council campaign booth. It’s also likely you haven’t seen or talked with any of his rivals, at least not yet. The reason: Hara has made USC central to his early campaign strategy while his opponents have yet to establish much of a presence on campus.

The Hara campaign claims to be the only operation on campus “24/7” and its booths on Trousdale and the Lyon Center have been active for over a month. Go on Hara’s website and the first picture you’ll see is of him talking with young people in Trojan gear at the Von KleinSmid Center. With elections just under a month away, Hara’s campaign for the Los Angeles City Council 9th District seat has a commanding fundraising lead, with nearly twice as much cash on hand as the next candidate.

USC joined the 9th District last year after a contentious redistricting fight that took much of Downtown Los Angeles, and its political bargaining chips, out of its boundaries. One candidate running, David Roberts, a former USC employee, said the new 9th District might be the poorest in the city, if not in the entire state. The 9th District has been represented by Jan Perry for the last 13 years. Perry is now running for mayor.

Hara has been part of the Los Angeles Police Department for 33 years and currently serves as one of eight Deputy Chiefs, the first Asian American to hold that position. That’s one reason why his USC point man, Nick Paladines, who graduated from USC in December, said some people don’t recognize him.

“He’s been in the police, not politics,” Paladines said.

Involving the “top of the district,” referring to USC, in the election is important because it boasts the highest concentration of people and the university is the largest promoter of jobs in the district, Paladines said. Recent violence on and near the USC campus also offers an opportunity for Hara to show off his public safety credentials. In meetings with students, Hara likes to bring up the story of when he caught the serial rapist who had been targeting USC students in 1981 after going undercover.

Paladines believes it’s more important for students to be registered to vote at their USC address rather than in their hometown because students spend most of the year in school. Paladines said that only around 3,000 USC students are even registered to vote.

“It’s their neighborhood; we’re just trying to get them involved in it,” Paladines said.

Some USC students are taking that message to heart. The Hara campaign said it has about 30 USC students working for the candidate. In addition, the Beta Omega Phi fraternity, an Asian-interest chapter, decided to stick one of his lawn signs in their front yard and endorse Hara after he made a presentation at their house.

“He had some pretty good ideas and he has USC students’ safety in mind,” said Jeffery Liu, Beta Omega Phi’s president.

Hara’s rivals say they’ve reached out to USC students, but will step up their efforts soon with on campus events like a two-candidate forum at USC on Tuesday.

“You will definitely see an immediate increase (in on-campus campaigning),” said Mike Davis, council candidate and former state assemblyman for the USC area.

Other notable candidates in the race include Roberts, Ana Cubas, a former L.A. city council aide, and Curren Price, a state senator.

Thomas Wong, a second-year Price School of Public Policy graduate student and Hara staffer, believes this election should be important to USC students. “This election actually has more direct consequences on our own neighborhoods than a presidential election does, but (students) kind of tune it out,” Wong said. “So I have hopes that more people start to pay more attention to these kinds of races.”

Small park opens in South Los Angeles

By: Smitha Bondade


Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


The ninth district is one of most the populous areas of Los Angeles – one not usually associated with wildlife and marshlands. But now it will be with the opening of a wetlands pocket park. Councilwoman Jan Perry leads the way.

image “It was covered with asphalt and barbed wire and truck and machine parts and it was just pretty ugly,” Perry said. “But with a little creativity, some tenacity, some community support – well, this is where we are now.”

The 9-acre wetlands park is built on the site of a former Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus yard. Seventh grade students at Celerity Dyad Charter School, who live a mere mile from the park, were at the opening. Ricardo Gallo piped up with his plans for the park.

“At this park, I’m probably going to bring my friends so we could play football so we could do activities together,” Gallo said.

One of the residents of the community, Janae Oliver, has lived in the area for more than 30 years.

“My aunt is an avid walker,” Oliver said. “She walks every single day, so now she can come right here to this park and walk here. So I feel like the spirit of this community is back.”

The park is one of the first projects set up around Los Angeles in conjunction with Proposition O, a clean water bond program. Its mission is to clean up pollution, protect the public’s health and maintain beaches and oceans free of litter in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act. It’s funded by Propositions 12 and 40.

Gary Lee More works at the Bureau of Engineering and describes one of the park’s innovative and green features.

“And these lights, you don’t see any wires,” More said. “You don’t see any wires underground or overhead, and that’s because they’re all solar powered.”

While there is still much work to do on the park, Perry says this $26 million project will be open early next year.