Grant money will lay roots for tree planting in South L.A.

The goal of the grant KYCC received is to ensure half of the possible tree sites in South Los Angeles and Pico-Union are planted, creating consistent shade coverage. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

The goal of the grant KYCC received is to ensure half of the possible tree sites in South Los Angeles and Pico-Union are planted, creating consistent shade coverage. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

One community organization has a grant to plant trees in South Los Angeles, but first it has to convince local residents that picturesque, tree-lined streets aren’t just for neighborhoods in Beverly Hills.

“If you’re struggling on a daily basis, trees might not be the first things you’re thinking about. These communities deal with crime, a large homeless population, illegally dumped trash, graffiti, and gang violence … Most people are just trying to get by,” said Ryan Allen, Environmental Services Manager of Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC).

However, Allen and the staff at KYCC know that planting trees can have positive effects in low-income communities. The benefits of having densely planted trees include reduction of energy costs, creation of shade, and the beautification of neighborhoods.

In neighborhoods like South Los Angeles and Pico-Union, which both scored poorly in air quality evaluations, planting trees can help reduce the effects of pollution by removing toxins from the air.

“One tree on its own will do those things, but there is the idea of strength in numbers,” Allen said.

KYCC received nearly $330,000 in grant money from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to make the vision of dense tree cover a reality in the South Los Angeles and Pico-Union areas.

The funds stem from a cap-and-trade program passed in California in 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under cap-and-trade, companies have to pay for emissions over a certain limit, increasing the incentive to reduce air pollution. At least 25 percent of the revenue from the program is distributed to greenhouse gas emissions-reducing projects in low-income neighborhoods.

South Los Angeles struggles with high levels of pollution that are compounded by other problems. A case study of the area shows that the South Los Angeles area is “disproportionately burdened” by poverty, unemployment and linguistic isolation.

KYCC helped plant small trees between other trees to create shade cover on this street in South Los Angeles. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

KYCC helped plant small trees between other trees to create shade cover on this street in South Los Angeles. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

KYCC got the grant to plant 1,120 trees over a four-year period starting in 2016. Its goal in the project is to use the grant to see that at least half of the potential tree sites on neighborhood streets planted.

After the initial planting, KYCC will provide funding to maintain the trees for the first three years. After that, the trees will have grown substantially and will need less maintenance work. Despite the benefits of having trees planted, not everyone is on board with the plan.

Community members have voiced concerns about tree roots breaking up sidewalks, having to water, prune and maintain the trees, and the trees dropping leaves. Allen also cited a mental barrier that trees might not fit the culture of South Los Angeles neighborhoods. In the past, trees planted incorrectly caused sidewalks to crack and fall into disrepair.

That’s what the KYCC grant is for. Beyond buying trees to plant, the organization plans  to reduce barriers and address community concerns. If community members voice worries, then KYCC can use some of the grant money to remove stumps or invasive trees, repair sidewalks, check sewer lines, and other incentives.

“We are going to try to address different concerns people could have so they don’t have reason to say no,” Allen said.

KYCC is qualified to mitigate these potential issues because the organization has been involved in tree planting efforts since 1999, and has expertise in selecting the right tree species and planting them in the right places to ensure they won’t damage sidewalks.

The task of physically getting the trees planted is expected to be an undertaking that will require community engagement. Previously, KYCC has gone door to door knocking and asking if residents would like a tree. The new grant is based on individuals taking responsibilities for their own streets and talking with their neighbors to get trees planted.

KYCC also plans to help organize community planting events to help get residents’ hands dirty and encourage involvement with the cause.

“It takes somebody dedicated, and a certain amount of legwork to work with neighborhood and to get people interested,” Allen said.

KYCC will be working through community organizations to streamline the process. Allen said the team is just now beginning to work with other organizations from existing partnerships and make new connections.

One new organization KYCC could be partnering with for a tree planting project on a different grant is the Redeemer Community Partnership.

Redeemer has an independent initiative focused on Jefferson Boulevard to “Make Jefferson Beautiful” by beginning a tree canopy, repairing sidewalks, and integrating bike lanes for safer transportation. Niki Wong, the lead community organizer at Redeemer Community Partnership, said she wants all the area surrounding USC to benefit from the university investment.

Tree cover on Jefferson on the USC side versus the community side

“USC is right next door. Vermont Avenue kind of serves as this invisible line between two cities….Part of what we are hoping to do is kind of dissolve that line and make the closeness beneficial for folks in the neighborhood,” Wong said.

Wong said one of the most important benefits of partnering with KYCC on a tree planting project is the commitment to long-term maintenance and community engagement. The grant Wong applied for through the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative would maintain 15 trees, plant 14 new trees, and replace two dead trees. Although the shade will not be provided immediately, within a few years well-tended trees will provide the full benefits.

Besides the environmental advantages of having trees planted, Wong also said attractive tree cover could encourage residents to go outside more and help draw businesses to the area.

Niki Wong works with Redeemer Community Partnership to get grants to make Jefferson Boulevard safer and more beautiful.

Niki Wong works with Redeemer Community Partnership to get grants to make Jefferson Boulevard safer and more beautiful. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

Further, Wong pointed out that even though grant money is being set aside to help remedy these problems, under-resourced communities may not have the time or expertise to complete complicated grant application processes.

“This is for a community that has been overlooked, and at the bottom of the priority list for all sorts of improvements. Our crosswalks are faded, our sidewalks are broken, and a lot of tree wells are empty or have dead trees in them. It’s just very clear that there has been neglect,” Wong said.

Applications for annual grants will be available for the KYCC grant funds in the spring. Community organizations can apply and individuals can also get support to build up a tree canopy in South Los Angeles. Both Wong and Allen emphasized that in order to move forward with the projects, community support and engagement is essential.

“We want to be helping communities and residents to make their vision for a better neighborhood happen,” Allen said.

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Award $200,000 to Three Local South L.A. Nonprofits


Networks NBC4 Southern California and Telemundo 52 Los Angeles, in partnership with the NBCUniversal Foundation awarded three local nonprofits $200,000 as part of the 21st Century Solutions grant challenge.

The following organizations are this year’s recipients:

  • A Place Called Home was awarded $100,000 for its “Nutrition and Urban Agriculture Program” addressing the lack of affordable and healthy fresh food options in South Los Angeles by engaging the whole family in gardening, meal preparation, nutrition and vocational training.
  • Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley was awarded $50,000 for its “Los Angeles STEM Initiative” created in partnership with East Los Angeles College provides comprehensive training in STEM to Boys & Girls Club staff, which is then taught to thousands of youth members.
  • Clothes The Deal was awarded $50,000 for its “The Disabled Clothing Alterations Program” providing disabled veterans with business attire specifically altered for their physical disability.

CDC gives South LA’s Community Coalition $3 million grant

Karen Bass check CDC | Taylor Haney

Karen Bass hands over a check to Community Coalition. | Taylor Haney

The Centers for Disease Control gave the South Los Angeles-based Community Coalition a $3 million grant last week to improve health in the region.

The REACH grant, short for “Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health,” is one of seven awarded by the CDC around the country.

Community Coalition applied for the grant with the help of the L.A. Public Health Department. Now it falls to them to distribute the funds to deserving programs in the region.

Rep. Karen Bass came to the celebration at King Park to hand over the giant check from the CDC to Community Coalition. Local fifth-grade students also came to kick things off. [Read more…]

Funding goes to new building for patients at Compton clinic

By: Emily Frost and Dan Watson

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

It is 5:30 a.m., and we just pulled into the parking lot at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Compton. There is already a line of about four of five people. It is drizzling, and it is very dark.

Antonio, who goes by Tony, was first in line. He seemed pretty proud about it. When he had come before, he said he was about 13th in line; he had counted. This time, he told his wife he was going to be first, and he was. But he was expecting that about 8:30 a.m., when the clinic opens, that he would be in and out. He hoped it would only take about 15 minutes, so it would not shoot down his whole day.

Melvin Richardson arrived a little after 7:30 a.m.

“I had stomach problems one day that led me to find out I had a hernia,” Richardson said. “I just recently, in the last 90 days, got laid off. I was working for a big trucking company, and they closed down. I was there for six-and-a-half years,” Richardson said.

Richardson is now without insurance.

“It is a little crowded. And the wait time, personally it is a little long. ‘Cause I think I came like, last week, and I had an appointment for like, 1:30, and I didn’t get out of here until 4:30,” Richardson said.

Jesus Rios also waited quietly. He, too, was an out of work trucker.

“You know the line, look at that now, it’s growing,” said Rios, laughing. “You know, I come over here because I finished my medicine.”

At St. John’s, Rios’ diabetes medicine is free, unless the clinic runs out. If it does, his medication costs about $200 for a month’s supply at the pharmacy. That is nothing, though, compared to his visit to the emergency room.

“See, I go to the hospital for one day, forget it,” Rios said. “Those people have no heart. They send me a bill for $2,000, $2,000 for nothing,” Rios said.

Rios made sure to arrive early because if there are not enough doctors that day, the clinic will turn people away after the first 10 or 15 patients. If Rios does not get a chance to be seen, “You go home and try to find medicine with your friends,” he said.

And he will get there earlier next time.

By mid-morning, Richardson, who was coming in preparation for his hernia surgery, was running out of patience.

“This right here is outrageous,” he said. “I hope they get me out of here. It’d be their best bet to get me out of here because I will get a little louder again. And I hate to say it, but that’s what it takes sometimes. I don’t want to be up here eight hours. I have a life to live the same way they have.”

Tony was also reaching a breaking point. Though he was first in line and thought he would be in and out in 15 minutes, the clinic staff could not find his file. He was still waiting five hours later.

“He can’t find it,” Tony said. “He says he lost it. I can’t believe it. I no go to my work today, but coming over here. I was first, the first guy waiting outside. Five, yeah, I think it’s been five hours.”

By the end of the day, the clinic had seen 85 people; many waited all day.