South LA hero encourages civic engagement in the face of adversity

Men of faith: Reverend Mark Whitlock, Dr. Varun Soni and Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray prepare to speak at the “Twice Tested by Fire” reception at the USC Doheny Memorial Library. Photo: Alec Faulkner

Members of the Los Angeles community gathered at the University of Southern California Doheny Memorial Library on October 2nd to listen to veteran community leader Reverend Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray discuss struggles faced by humanity and the efforts needed to overcome them. USC staff and faculty, congregation members of Dr. Murray’s First African Methodist Episcopal (F.A.M.E.) Church in South LA and other guests listened to the retired pastor and current USC Religion & Civic Culture faculty member reflect on the history of his own life and the United States as a whole while celebrating the publication of his 2012 autobiography “Twice Tested By Fire.”

Faith under fire

Dr. Murray has been known as a hero in the Los Angeles community for decades and has a name that has been attached to many titles and awards, but USC President Dr. Max Nikias stressed that “these titles don’t tell the whole story.” After being introduced by Dr. Nikias and USC Dean of Religious Life Dr. Varun Soni, who pointed out that October 2 was also the birthday of legendary Indian civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Murray deflected the praise and attention he received and pointed out that his struggle is part of a larger human struggle.

“Understanding (that) we are family is the challenge of the 21st century. The pain is not going to go away. The fire is not going to go away. The truth is we are not saved from the fire: we are saved in the midst of the fire,” said Dr. Murray in an analogy to his near-death experience which occurred when his Air Force jet caught on fire in 1957.

Community Catalyst: Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray receives a proclamation in honor of his community service and 83rd birthday from City of Los Angeles Community Services Officer Josefina Salvador on behalf of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Photo: Alec Faulkner

The next step

Despite being praised by members of the USC community and being recognized with a proclamation from the City of Los Angeles for his efforts thus far, Dr. Murray refused to focus on his awards and instead chose to discuss the dire need for social justice for South Los Angeles and other underserved communities around the world.

“All of us are constantly tested by fire. Half of the people of the world live on less than two dollars a day. We have a long way to go. Seeing that we are family, we will get there. But our chauffeur will be necessity,” said Dr. Murray, who added that all humans are “kin under the skin.”

History lesson

While also focusing on the future, Dr. Murray referenced the 1992 riots that swept across South LA and other underserved communities in Southern California and pointed out the set of root causes first highlighted by Dr. Martin Luther King.


“Poverty, racism and war were the combination that caused not only the 1992 riots, but the 1965 riots in Los Angeles as well. The poverty rate in underserved black communities is double the national rate,” said Dr. Murray, who recently celebrated his 83rd birthday and was inspired by the 1992 riots to create social justice for communities of color.

Civic engagement within South LA, which has been spurred by organizations such as Community Coalition South Los Angeles, was highlighted as a key component of the solution to social ills during the final moments of Dr. Murray’s speech.

“We have enough resources to change our neighborhoods. We have an obligation to rise to the occasion,” said. Dr. Murray.

“If we don’t do it, who will?”

This event was hosted by USC Spectrum.

Elias Kamal Jabbe is the Founding Editor of

South Seas House finds new life serving South LA community

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West Adams is filled with grand, old Victorian homes, but near the freeway off of Arlington Street, one of these houses sticks out like a sore “blue” thumb. It features Polynesian-style gables that seem to slope forever and pillars made with the same stone that line the streets. It was known for years as the South Seas or the Tahitian house.

imageIt is a landmark and a piece of history, but these days, it’s something else entirely: a recreation center.

“When I was told that I was coming here, I had no idea what this place was, so I said give me the address let me find out what this is so I driven up here and I said ‘it’s an actual house!’” said Carlton Stubbs, Recreation Coordinator at the South Seas House.

Stubbs’ job was to create unique programs for the unique house. The most popular include summer camp and computer classes. It’s a tight-nit group of kids, many of whom Stubbs hires back as counselors. Todd Hightower has been working there for six years. He says the South Seas House feels like home to all of the people who visit it.

“I grew up in the neighborhood so it kinda feels good to still be working in the neighborhood and it’s kinda good to be giving back,” said Hightower.

imageJoseph Depuy built the home in 1902 and it stayed in his family until the 1970s. The city bought it for a street-widening project that would never happen. When plans took shape to demolish the house in the mid-90s, the community stepped in. Laura Meyers formed the South Seas House Action Committee with many other members of the community. She says saving the house became something more during a turbulent time in Los Angeles history.

“It became a symbol if you could rebirth the house you can rebirth the community,” said Meyers.

After a $1.5 million dollar restoration, the South Seas House reopened as a recreation center in 2003. With the house revitalized, the surrounding area followed. The park next door became a place for families instead of gang members. Stubbs says in all his time working at different centers in the city, he’s never seen so much commitment from a community.

“A lot of what went into this house was community driven. A lot of love was put into it by the community so they have a stake in it, which is how all communities should be,“ said Stubbs.

Today, the South Seas House looks exactly the same as it did in 1902, but with a fresh coat of blue paint and yellow trim and with a few more kids running around.

Hidden gems in South LA for homebuyers

Everyone knows that real estate is expensive in Los Angeles.  And everyone knows how hard it is to get a home loan these days.  So you would think that real estate agents are sitting glumly at their desks waiting for phones to ring, drumming their fingers, watching their bank accounts dwindle.

imageNot in South Los Angeles, where property is selling in some areas.  Leimert Park-based real estate agent Heather Presha (pronounced Pre-shay) said that homes on the market in her neighborhood and neighboring areas of Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, View Park, Baldwin Village, Hyde Park, and Jefferson Park are getting 40 to 50 offers each.  Open houses are filled to capacity with prospective buyers.  “It’s so competitive now, I haven’t made an offer on a home in six months that hasn’t had multiple offers,” said Presha.

Reasons to buy in South LA
Real estate agent Natalie Neith, who specializes in historic homes in South L.A., echoed Presha’s take.  She said there are three main reason buyers are looking at South L.A.  Firstly, these neighborhoods have preserved a lot of older architecture.  Some of them need fixing up – Neith just sold an historic fixer-upper to a former writer/producer for the TV show “House” – but many are move-in-ready.

Population by ethnicity, 2010 Census (Source: Mapping LA, LA Times
Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw
Black 71.3% Latino 17.3% Asian 4.7% White 3.3%
Leimert Park
Black 46.8% Latino 44.9% Asian 2.9% White 2.7%
West Adams
Black 37.6% Latino 56.2% Asian 1.7% White 2.4%

Secondly, these neighborhoods are located in the center of Los Angeles.  The 110, 10, 405, and 105 freeways are roughly the eastern, northern, western, and southern boundaries, respectively, of South L.A.  Almost 1 million people use just the 10 and 405 freeways daily.  That central location starts to make a lot of sense if you’ve endured the clogged east-west and north-south commutes in L.A.
And finally, there is price.  Buyers who are finding themselves priced out of suburban neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley and other desirable areas of L.A. are finding they can get a lot of house for the same amount of money in parts of South L.A.  Or the same house for a lot cheaper.  For instance,  a home that would sell in Silverlake for around $750,000 might go for $337,000 in Leimert Park, according to Presha.
Prices are beginning to inch back up after the low prices of the last several years.  For example, as listed on the real-estate website Trulia, a small post-war courtyard bungalow in Village Green, an historic neighborhood in Baldwin Hills, sold for almost $400,000 at the height of the market in the late 1990s.  The list-price had fallen to $185,000 in April of this year.  The same bungalow sold for $195,000 this May.

Getting a loan

imageWith interest rates at historically low levels of 3% or less, it’s a good time to buy if you can get a loan.  Neith said if you’re buying an historic property – one that is in an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, or HPOZ, or one that is outside an HPOZ but designated historic – then you may qualify for significant property-tax reduction under the Mills Act.  The Mills Act allows tax reduction of 50 percent to 75 percent for ten years after purchase.  Owners can apply for renewal after the ten-year window.  However, all money saved under the act must be used for historical restoration.  The West Adams area alone has at least six HPOZs.

But even with good interest rates, Presha warned, it’s still a seller’s market.  Buyers need to be prepared to provide a deposit of at least 3% of the final price, and sellers aren’t likely to cover fees or closing costs.  But Presha also cautioned against being too pessimistic about one’s hopes of getting a home loan.  She said prospective buyers, many of whom are single women and young professionals, who have enough money to put down for deposit often significantly underrate their chances of being approved for a loan. 

Are these neighborhoods safe?

Conventional wisdom says that neighborhoods in South L.A. are unsafe.  And there’s no doubt that these areas suffer their share of crime.  LAPD Southwest Station Senior Lead Officer and community liaison Sunny Sasajima says it depends on how you look at the numbers.  (Southwest Station patrols the neighborhoods of Adams-Normandie, Baldwin Hills, Baldwin Village, Baldwin Vista, Crenshaw, Exposition Park, Jefferson Park, Leimert Park, Union Square, University Park, Village Green, and West Adams.)
According to the L.A. Times’ “Mapping L.A.” project, over the week from July 4 – 10, 2012, Leimert Park – Officer Sasajima’s beat – saw eighteen crimes:  sixteen property crimes (including burglary) and two violent crimes (robbery and aggravated assault).  Leimert Park had a population of approximately 12,000 as of 2008 (the figures used by “Mapping L.A.”).  According to “Mapping L.A,.” that gives a ratio of 14.6 crimes per 10,000 people.  Leimert Park “averaged 3.5 violent crimes and 16.5 property crimes per week” over the last three months.
But compare that to Koreatown, an area that has a slightly safer reputation.  Situated just a few miles to the northeast of Leimert Park, Koreatown is much more densely populated, with a 2008 population of approximately 100,000.  During the same week, Koreatown’s crime ratio was much lower:  2.9 crimes per 10,000 people.  But there were thirty-six actual crimes that week:  twenty-eight property crimes and eight violent crimes (robberies, aggravated assaults, and rape).  According to “Mapping L.A.,” Koreatown “averaged 10.5 violent crimes and 36.8 property crimes per week” over the last three months.  Regardless of ratio to population, that’s a lot of crime in one week.
When asked about the issue of crime, Neith said, “It doesn’t make sense for me to sell unsafe neighborhoods.”  Her business depends on word-of mouth referrals and repeat customers, both buyers and sellers.  And that goes for Presha, too.
Both Neith and Presha stressed the importance of block-councils and neighborhood cooperation to the sense of community that prevails in West Adams and Leimert Park, their respective home neighborhoods.  “[West Adams] is like a small town in a big city,” Neith said.

On the upswing

imageRecent improvements in South L.A. have made it a much more attractive prospect for homebuyers.  The recently-contructed light rail Expo Line, which follows an old rail-line cut, is part of what Neith said is an overall feeling of good things happening in the neighborhoods along it.  Even those who don’t use it think it’s “part and parcel of progressive improvement in Los Angeles.” 
The second phase of the Expo Line will extend it out to the Veterans’ Administration Hospital on the Westside.  As well, a line is planned to run north-south from Exposition and Crenshaw to the Green Line station at Aviation/LAX.  The Crenshaw Line is not expected to open until late 2018, but Sasajima says he’s already hearing a lot of interest in the community about the project. 

An unexpected and early side-effect is that Sasajima is losing leverage to get commercial property owners to make crime-fighting improvements to their properties, such as installing more lighting and cutting back trees.  “Property owners are sitting on their hands, waiting for Metro to buy them out and begin construction,” he said.
imageOne business that thinks South L.A. is a good investment is the top-rated restaurant Post and Beam, which opened near the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall in 2011.  With a star chef who also happens to be a local boy made good—Chef Govind Armstrong grew up in Inglewood—Post and Beam serves a locally-sourced menu driven by ingredients, many of which are raised in the restaurant’s own organic garden.  It would be perfectly at home in the moneyed environs of the Westside.  Yet it’s filled to capacity weekly by Baldwin Hills locals hungry for quality food and quality places nearby to spend their money in.  Real estate agent Presha said, “It’s what we deserved.”
The long-awaited Marlton Square project, which has been in planning stages for almost thirty years, is also finally underway.  Demolition of the ramshackle buildings which had been on the site for decades has been completed.  In June, Kaiser Permanente announced that it would be the anchor tenant of the project, bringing in much-needed medical services and economic stimulus to the area.  The project will also include entertainment and retail businesses. 
Other improvements in the Leimert Park-Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw-West Adams areas include the arrival of grocery chain Fresh & Easy at Crenshaw and 52nd Street and major renovations at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall.
There’s a sense of gathering momentum in these parts of South L.A.  Will they bring gentrification?  Some worry about being priced out, but real estate agent Presha said, “Everybody wants the basics of a good life”— more and better shops, more accessibility, more options.

Leimert Park, West Adams, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw.  Don’t believe the negative hype.  Things are happening, and these neighborhoods are ready.  Home buyers are taking note.

Music Man Murray’s holds a collection of records and memories

Murray Gershenz talks to musician son Irv, who helps him with the store.

Murray Gershenz has been a music collector since he was 16. He finally turned his hobby into a professional endeavor in 1962 when he opened his first record store in Hollywood.

As his record collection grew, he needed more space and moved to his current location in the West Adams area in 1986 at 5055 Exposition Boulevard just off La Brea.

Music Man Murray’s collection of 78-rpm discs, 45s, LPs, reel-to-reel, cassette tapes and CDs is now legendary.

He estimates the hundreds of thousands of records he owns are worth between $3 to $4 million dollars. He has been trying to sell his collection for the past two years, but hasn’t been able to get any offers. He’s looking to make at least $500,000.

Gershenz in an episode of “House.”

In recent years, Gershenz has been focusing on a new career: acting. He has landed small roles on movies such as “I Love You, Man” and “The Hangover,” and shows like “House” and “Mad Men.”

But the 90 year-old remains passionate about music and dedicated to his store, hoping a philanthropist will rescue his rare collection and donate it to a university, where his life’s work can be preserved.

Click below to watch an audio/slideshow of Music Man Murray tell his story and share some of his most memorable celebrity moments:

Garden offers unique escape in South L.A.

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Heat waves, smoggy days, and traffic jams. South L.A. is used to those things. But in the heart of the city is a place where everything slows down and you can take a second to breathe.

“A little peace of heaven in Los Angeles,” said Carol Jones, and she would know, she lives there.

There, is the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens. The Adams Boulevard house is home to a church called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.

“It’s all about knowing ourselves as one with God and becoming more aware of our soul energy,” said Jones.

The church moved into the West Adams house in 1974 to use as the headquarters for its 5,000 members worldwide. Secundo Guasti, an Italian immigrant who built one of the largest vineyards in the world to prohibition, had built it the house. It passed down many hands including that of famous Hollywood choreographer and director Busby Berkeley. At one point, it was a home for young girls aspiring to be actresses. In 2002, the church decided to turn the old, rundown orchards into a three-level meditation garden.

“The administration here said, ‘well let’s let LA in on this,’” said Jones.

With open hours almost everyday, anyone can come and enjoy the house, the gardens, or walk the labyrinth. One woman who didn’t want to give her name, found comfort in the gardens during a separation with her husband.

“During the summer, I was in quite a bad state. I was having anxiety attacks. So I’d come here at noon and talk to nobody and make a beeline for the back of the meditation gardens and just sit there for four hours. Within 5 minutes of being here my blood pressure would drop so it was palpable that it was having some effect. And I just came here all summer long,” the woman said.

The woman now volunteers at peace awareness to pass on everything it gave to her.

“And just having that open to me, I’m so grateful because it was such a calming influence for me and wasn’t the only thing that helped, but it was profound, it was profound for me,” said the woman.

The gardens include citrus tress, a koi pond, an avocado tree, water features, roses, lilies, and so much more. Jones calls herself the “mother hen” because she watches over every petal and every leaf. She says one thing that makes the gardens so peaceful is that there’s barely any street noise.

“The only interruption I remember is the ice cream truck,” said Jones.

Although the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens is home to a church, Jones says they don’t like to preach to visitors. They just want to share their treasure and give the public a welcome break from the chaos of the city.

Judge in West Adams cleans graffiti every night for safety

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

image“Wait a second, there was an urban legend that there was a judge that was painting out graffiti,” Totten said.

Judge Robert Totten’s not a stranger to someone calling him an urban legend. Every night, he walks the streets of West Adams with his three big great danes and cleans off the graffiti in his neighborhood.

Totten isn’t hired to do this. He does it purely to make it look better and safer for his family and neighbors. He summed up his beliefs by quoting former LAPD Police Chief Bill Bratton.

“It’s a broken window. If you allow the broken windows to remain, and the graffiti to remain up, then it attracts more,” Totten said.

He doesn’t need much. Only a couple of wash cloths, paint thinner and spray paint. If the graffiti is on a gray or white surface, he’ll just spray paint over it. Otherwise, he’ll scrub until it’s gone.

“So this will just take me two seconds and he’s gone,” Totten said.

Totten says the graffiti is gang related and he has caught people in the act.

“I remember stepping over and saying come on guys enough’s enough, and they go, white boy you’re next,” Totten said.

These types of vandals doing the graffiti end up in his courtroom. During the day, he is a commissioner for juvenile, ruling on cases like murder, robbery and vandalism.

One tagger I spoke with that wishes to not be identified says that him tagging an area illustrates his loyalty to his gang, their brotherhood and their territory.

There are some nights when Totten will clean an area, and the next day, there’s graffiti again. But, that doesn’t bother him. He just goes back and cleans it off again.

“I get satisfaction knowing they’re not getting anything out of it, except putting themselves at risk,” Totten said.

Totten has tried to bring the issue to police, but says police have to weigh what’s more important at the time: catching taggers or solving robberies and murders?

In 1990, LAPD created PACE, Police Assisted Community Enhancement Program. The program is designed to battle graffiti through different city agencies. When graffiti is seen, LAPD fills out a form and forwards it to the proper city agency to alleviate the problem. LAPD was unavailable for comment.

Totten hopes giving back to his community will slowly remove all the bad tensions in the area.

“Positive energy’s going to win out,” Totten said.

Until authorities can do more, Totten says he doesn’t mind people thinking he’s an urban legend.

Johnny’s Pastrami is a West Adams fixture

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageJohnny’s Pastrami on West Adams Boulevard has been described as a hole in the wall, scary and a “hood” landmark. If you search for it on Yelp, you’ll see a few meager stars and a whole lotta five stars. Whatever you think about the pastrami sandwiches at this South LA stop, there is no denying it’s a neighborhood fixture. Reporter Nick Edmonds paid a visit to see how the half-century eatery is faring.

Johnny’s Pastrami is located at 4331 W Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90018, just east of Crenshaw Boulevard.

West Adams neighborhood opens its doors for the holidays

(Scroll to the bottom or click here for a slideshow)

Story by Erin Leiker
Photos by Leslie Velez

This past weekend, six houses in a West Adams neighborhood opened their doors — and their kitchens — to a parade of visitors celebrating the holidays.

Put together by the West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA), the Silver Jubilee offered a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood, or a docent-led progressive dinner, with each house serving one part of an elegant five-course meal.

In the early afternoon, guests followed brochures printed with addresses and brief summaries of the houses on the tour. Inside each, volunteers guided them from room to room, explaining the history of the house; from the architect who built it to former residents who lived there and renovations undergone to maintain or restore the property.

imageLater in the evening, groups gathered at the Welcome House for the start of the progressive dinner. Volunteers from WAHA led them through each course of the meal which was set up in a different house; from the Atomic-Age Appetizer House through the Salad and Dinner Houses, ending finally at a Spanish-style villa serving as the Dessert House.

“People love old houses, and they just love to be able to have an opportunity to see the inside of how other people live,” explains John Patterson. The President of the West Adams Heritage Association is relatively new to the position, but has quickly grown fond of the group’s year-end event. “There are people that have been on the tour every year for the last ten or fifteen years, and it’s become the holiday tradition for them.”

Founded in 1983 as a local homeowners group, neighbors banded together to share the maintenance and restoration woes that came with owning classics like these. Their dedication to stay true to the style and intent of the architects led them to evolve into the preservation organization they have become today.

Working extensively with the LA Conservancy, the WAHA has had a hand in making sure preservation ordinances stay in place to help maintain the integrity of the buildings in the West Adams neighborhood. The Silver Jubilee is the biggest of four similar events throughout the year, which raise funds for the group’s preservation efforts. They celebrate these efforts by returning to their roots in the pride they have for their homes.

Patterson explains how the Silver Jubilee started, “twenty-five years ago, that little homeowners group – now that they fixed up their houses – loved to show them off. And so they’d done a couple of walking tours here and there, and they said, ‘let’s do a dinner party!’”

The Silver Jubilee’s progressive dinner is entirely run by volunteers and members of the WAHA. From planning the menu to cooking and serving the food, neighbors, homeowners, and even children from the local elementary schools help kick off the holiday season in West Adams.

But it’s not just about cool houses and delicious food for the Silver Jubilee.

“A big element of what we do is educational,” says Patterson. Several of the houses on this tour are listed with the name of Paul Williams. The prominent African-American architect was known for designing classic homes in the mid-century modern era – and for not being allowed to live in the areas in which he was building. That’s an important aspect not to forget,” Patterson warns. “We are doomed to repeat mistakes if we don’t remember our past. So we don’t brush over those facts in our brochures.”

imageThe Appetizer House is one example of this honesty. The swanky Atomic-Age residence is a Paul Williams design officially known as the Taylor Residence.

The guide brochure states that it was named for Dr. Jackson Taylor, who was prominent in the struggle for African-Americans to gain equal access to quality healthcare. It goes on to list his struggle to open “the first inter-racial, non-sectarian, non-profit hospital, open to every race, creed and color.”

Even with the backing of well-known figures of the time – Harpo Marx, Lena Horne and Benny Goodman to name a few – Dr. Taylor’s dream hospital was never built.

WAHA forges on today to preserve the community and its cultural heritage and history. Patterson muses, “this is a very very unique community. It’s very very strong.”

“Most of the people within the neighborhood – even if they’re not members of WAHA – are aware of what we do.” Outreach to more local levels of block clubs or homeowners associations allows the group to get to know homeowners personally. The ones who open their doors for the tours not only allow others to get a glimpse of the culture that thrives here, but also puts them in the position to become ambassadors to their neighbors.

With more than 100 visitors on the walking tour on Sunday alone, and another 450 guests at the progressive dinner, that’s a lot of opportunity for the people of La Fayette Square and WAHA to share their hope for their community.

South LA garden helps community “grow” in many ways

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


The community garden on Raymond Avenue in West Adams has been around for three years, providing space for community residents to grow fresh produce for just $3 per plot.

image In the spring sunshine, lush greenery coats the garden. This season, vegetables can be found throughout the space, including artichokes, lemon grass and lettuce. Along the wood chip path, a cage of bunnies and compost stations can also be found. But the garden hasn’t always looked this way.

“I think prior to my living here, it was kind of a gang hangout, and there was a building that burnt down 20 years ago, and apparently that kind of sat around for a while,” said Julie Burleigh, who originally came up with the idea for the garden. “It was just a big junky lot, lots of weeds, and people would dump stuff, and you know, people would let their dogs run around, and it was just kind of an eyesore in the neighborhood.”

Burleigh was tired of viewing the empty lot and decided to turn it into something for the entire neighborhood to enjoy.

“So I said, ‘Why doesn’t someone start a community garden?’ You know, that would be a good idea,” Burleigh said. “And had a desire to connect with people in the community and I really wanted to grow food. I got really into gardening after moving here.”

What began as an idea has grown into a reality. Now, the garden provides a place to grow for 30 families in the community. But getting a plot is competitive. Since its opening, the garden has always had a waiting list.

“People want to grow their food,” Burleigh said. “It’s a pretty tempting thing to want to do when you see it being done, like right in your neighborhood. You’re like, ‘How can I get a piece of that?'”

Being able to grow her own food was one of the reasons why Ashley Miller, a Raymond Avenue resident, first jumped on the opportunity of having a community garden.

“Knowing what you put in your own vegetables and you didn’t use no pesticides and anything like that,” Miller said. “Growing it all natural, really was like, ‘Oh, maybe that’d be a good idea instead of getting it from the store.’ That’s what baited me in.”

Despite its popularity, the garden has had its struggles. In particular, the garden has been watered down with a lack of volunteers and limited financial support.

“It can be hard,” Burleigh said. “It’s like managing your own non-profit.”

However, the garden’s influence continues to thrive in the community.

“People watch out for each other, I think, a little bit more,” Burleigh said. “And it’s like, obvious its cared for. So I think that affects everyone’s feeling of like, ‘Oh, this is a good place.’ And I think the garden helps spread the love a little bit.”

And that aspect is key to the garden’s success, which is why community gardens are sprouting up throughout Los Angeles.

Photos courtesy of Full Moon Pickles blog

West Adams artists open up homes during architectural tour

The West Adams Heritage Association (WAHA) hosted its second annual ‘Art in Historic Places’ tour Saturday.

Attendees toured 8 historic homes in the West Adams neighborhood. Each home was owned by a local artist, and his or her work was displayed throughout the house.

The ‘Art in Historic Places’ tour is one of four events hosted by WAHA throughout the year, each in an attempt to bring new visitors to the historic neighborhood and to raise money for the association’s preservation advocacy efforts.

“There are more landmarks in West Adams than the rest of the city,” said John Patterson, the president of WAHA.

In the late 1800s, the West Adams neighborhood became a destination for Downtown Los Angeles’ professionals. The “first suburb” of Los Angeles, West Adams grew exponentially with the installation of the streetcar.

But after Downtown Los Angeles’ heyday ended during the 1920s, several of the West Adams homes fell into disrepair.

imageIn 1983, WAHA was founded as a neighborhood association. Noticing that the majority of people moving into the area had an interest in historic homes, WAHA morphed into a preservation advocacy group.

“The sense of community here is really, really strong,” Patterson said.

Patterson moved to West Adams from the Hollywood Hills because he wanted to own a historic home. Previously unaware of the area, he said he marveled at the magnificent homes when he first visited West Adams.

With WAHA, Patterson works to encourage more people to move into the area and provide guidance on how to renovate and preserve its hundreds of homes.

Sometimes referred to as the “preservation police,” WAHA has been at odds with developers in the past. It lobbies for the landmark status of homes based on their architect.

“Preservation is the ‘greenest’ building you can do,” said Patterson.

During the mid-2000s, West Adams saw a steady influx of residents. Among them were substantial Korean and Mexican immigrant populations, said Patterson. He noted that WAHA has experienced language barrier issues.

In attempt to reach out to community members, WAHA is hosting a class in Pico Union this summer to teach youth how to renovate houses. The hope is that the youth involved will work to restore homes to their former glory instead of tagging them with graffiti.

“We want to encourage people to do good work,” said Patterson.

More information about WAHA can be found on its website.

Stephanie Guzman contributed to this story.