120 attend LAEV 20th Anniversary Celebration Honoring Jackie Goldberg

And what a night it was a month ago on December 7th! So cold, we squeezed almost everyone into the lobby, which made us much warmer and cozier, like an art opening, as pizza appetizers circulated hot out of Ray Cirino’s astounding rocket stove with great local and organic veggies donated by Mud Baron and Camille Cimino.

Eco-Villagers Ana Paula Noquez Mercado, Jimmy Lizama (ctr) and Eric Roman

Eco-Villagers Ana Paula Noquez Mercado, Jimmy
Lizama (ctr) and Eric Roman (photo by Yuki)

While wine flowed to accompany Jimmy Lizama’s great rice, beans and veggies with help from sis Mayi Mauricio,  more great food was prepared by Lara Morrison, also chief server for the evening.  Nichole Schwab provided a popular wine pairing activity while Eco- Villagers Jordan B and Becca L. tended bar. To top off the food

Early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos (photo by Yuki).

Early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos (photo by Yuki).

part, 15 dozen fabulous homemade cookies were provided by early LAEV visionary Maria Davalos.                                                                                   

A silent auction and raffle event were  organized by members Claire Bergen and Laura Allen.  LAEV members Yuki Kidokoro and Ianne Lavigne took some terrific photos as did our cohousing consultant and friend Raines Cohen from San Francisco. Yuki K. and Irma Garcia along with our friend Tina Mata helped check folks in at the door.  Other Eco-Villagers circulating to host the event and welcome our guests included Eco Maya Festival producer Julio Santizo, Peter Ralph, George Patton, Melba Thorn, Randy Metz, Somer and Aurisha Walters, Eric Roman, and Michelle Wong.

Thiago Winterstein and friends provide mellow bossa nova

Thiago Winterstein and friends provide mellow bossa nova (photo by Yuki)

Eco-Villager Thiago Winterstein DJed for the event, and, with his musician friends, Elizabeth Perry Dickson, Matt Dickson, and Clark Skelton, provided mellow live Brazilian bossa nova. Los Angeles Country  Bicycle Coalition staff Chris Barnes provided volunteer bicycle valet service.  LA Walks’ Deborah Murphy couldn’t join us but graciously loaned us her catering supplies making our effort at holding a zero waste event very successful.

Midnight dishwashing party with LAEV Intentional Community members.

Midnight dishwashing party with LAEV Intentional Community members (photo by Lois).

We had planned to debut our outdoor courtyard kitchen (coordinated by LAEV member and Greywater Action co-founder Laura Allen) for the dish washing activities, but the cold weather resulted in our carting all the dishes up to our community room for the midnight dish washing party spearheaded by Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn and Ana Paula Noguez Mercado, then joined by members Nichole, Becca, Yuki, Eric, Michelle, Laura, Jordan and Randy who finished the job.

KCET’s “Engaging Spaces” blogger and LAEV friend George Villanueva describes the highlight of the evening as we honored our former LAUSD School Board and City Council member Jackie Goldberg “who fought side by side with LAEV to make the physical and social space for the Village that we see today.” George goes on to quote Jackie saying  “how LAEV members ‘not only talk about what to do, but live it and demonstrate it.'” Go here to read the complete blog post.

Honored guest Jackie Goldberg holds clock plaque award up

Honored guest Jackie Goldberg holds plaque award up (photo by Yuki)

We presented Jackie with a small crystal plaque with the engraved words “Thank you Jackie Goldberg for giving us a garden plot instead of a parking lot” to honor the many times she helped save the LAEV neighborhood from being razed for a new school, especially because there were better alternatives. Jackie set the precedent which ultimately resulted in the saving of the northeast corner of Bimini and White House Place for the White House Place Learning Garden instead of more asphalt.  Currently in development, the corner will eventually host gardening instruction for kids from eight schools within walking distance of LAEV.

Eco-Villagers Mayi Mauricio (left),  George Patton, Lara Morrison

Eco-Villagers Mayi Mauricio (left),
George Patton, Lara Morrison (photo by Yuki)

After the presentation to Jackie, I made a special acknowledgement to Lara Morrison, 15 year LAEV member who has been our buildings manager for over ten years, nearly half of that time as a volunteer.  She will be leaving that position in 2014 as she pursues a variety of other earth-related interests.  A key player in piloting the conversion of our two adjacent apartment buildings of 45 units from conventional nonprofit ownership to the Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana limited equity housing cooperative,  Lara also oversaw the

Eco Maya Festival Producer and BVCLT Board member Julio Santizo.

Eco Maya Festival Producer and BVCLT Board member Julio Santizo (photo by Yuki).

Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn (r) and Lois Arkin

Eco-Villagers Melba Thorn (r) and Lois Arkin (photo by Yuki)

development of the Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust, which now owns the land underneath that housing.  The White House Place Learning Garden has also been spearheaded by Lara’s boundless energy.  She will, of course, continue as a valued member of our LAEV Intentional Community.

Eco-Home Network Founder Julia Russell, now retired, chats with new ecohome  creator Avo Babian and former EHN board member Mary Proteau

Eco-Home Network Founder Julia Russell, now retired, chats with new Sherman Oaks ecohome creator Avo Babian and former EHN Board member Mary Proteau (photo by Lois).

More media coverage was provided by Koreatown News staffer Leyna Chon.  Referring to Jackie’s comments, Leyna states “Noting the recent natural disasters around the world and the unusually cold LA weather that evening, Jackie also emphasized the urgency of LAEV’s cause,”  referring to the increasing volatility of climate change.  Leyna’s article on LAEV is one of the most comprehensive in recent times, referring in some detail to our Housing Co-op and Community Land Trust, the LAEV membership process, the Arroyo SECO Network of Time Bank, and more.  See full article here.

Arroyo-Seco Network of Time Banks co-founder Autumn Rooney and Santa Barbara Time Bank activist Jonny Sacko

Arroyo-Seco Network of Time Banks co-founder Autumn Rooney and Santa Barbara Time Bank activist Jonny Sacko (photo by Lois)

Among some of our long time friends and activists attending were noted permaculture trainer Dr. Bill Roley, Eco-Home founder Julia Russell, LA Streetsblog founder Damien Newton, permaculture trainer David Kahn, environmental and political activist Hans Johnson; LAEV co-founder and CRSP board president Architect Ian McIlvaine and wife, architect Victoria Yust, both principals of Tierra Sol y Mar; City Planning staffers and CRSP board members David Somers, Priya Mehendale, and immigration attorney Jesse Moorman; Santa Barbara activist Jonny Sacko, Burbank recycling coordinator and long time friend Kreigh Hampel; Time-Bank founder Autumn Rooney, Time Bank activists Lee Conger and Kathie Adams; Cohousing coaches Raines Cohen and Betsy Morris,
affordable housing advocate
and consultant Ryan Lehman,
L.A. River consultant Jill
Sourial, Filipino-American cultural ambassador

Left to right: George Villanueva, Roque Bucton, Michelle Wong, David Kahn

Left to right: George Villanueva, Roque Bucton, Michelle Wong, David Kahn (photo by Yuki)

and environmental activist Roque Bucton, long time affordable housing activist Sheila Bernard; Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust co-founders and Board members Tina Mata and Helen Campbell; LA County Bicycle Coalition co-founder Ron Milam, popular permaculture activist Hop Hopkins, attorney and social activist Adalilila Zelada-Garcia, Cal State Chicano Studies and Urban Planning professor David Diaz, Sherman Oaks ecohome creator Avo Babian, and school garden activist Mud Baron.

Long time LAEV friend Hop Hopkins with daughter.

Long time LAEV friend Hop Hopkins with daughter (photo by Yuki).

Then Surprise–
The surprise of the evening was when Eco-Village members Yuki Kidokoro and Becca L presented a large framed LAEV photo collage with congratulatory notes from many LAEV community members to LAEV co-founder Lois Arkin (i.e., “me”) along with a very special native buckwheat plant.  I was so surprised and flabbergasted, I was speechless, a most unusual response from someone who generally has something to say about almost everything. It’s pretty hard to keep a secret in the

Yuki Kidokoro and Becca L present congratulatory photo collage to a speechless Lois Arkin

Eco-Villagers present congratulatory photo collage to a speechless Lois Arkin

LAEV community, but they really did it.  After the photo presentation, long time friend and colleague Julia Russell made some very moving  comments about our friendship, followed by Tina Mata’s words of appreciation.  Here are a few of Julia’s words:  “…In my opinion, it’s the most evolutionary project in all of Los Angeles, demonstrating a society of economic and social democracy rooted in ecological wisdom.  Yes, it’s true, as Lois never tires of reminding us, none of us do what we do, or did what we did, alone.  It’s the armies of people that catch the vision and the fire of inspiration and opt to become part of it and give it their energy and commitment that actually bring it to fruition.” (Do email me if you would like to see Julia’s entire comments crsp@igc.org.)  If ever there is a time to make you feel humble, it is when something like this happens, so completely unexpected.

So, yes!, what a night it was to remember.  As an old lady of almost 77, who knows if I’ll be around for the 25th or 30th Anniversary party or not, and/or what shape I’d be in by then, to appreciate such lovely warm and inspiring thoughts?  So a great big public thank you to a wonderful community, one that knows how to throw a great party and make the most brash amongst us feel a tearful and speechless humility.

But, ultimately, the message has got to be:  let’s not take 20 years to create thousands of transitional urban ecovillages.  We’ve got the tools, and, already, there are dozens of eco community initiatives happening right here in the greater Los Angele area. What we call them is not so important as what people are doing in their neighborhoods to connect, collaborate and cooperate with one another for creating an ever higher quality of life at an ever lower environmental impact.  We’re nearly out of time so better to make change happen deeply and rapidly and with all the justice we can muster in the process.

Meals Together at Los Angeles Eco-Village

New Years Eve Potluck Dinner organized by Yuki

New Years Eve Potluck Dinner - organized by Yuki - in the Community Room

Like most intentional communities there are frequent shared meals at Los Angeles Eco-Village. There’s been some discussion lately about guests attending these shared meals. For the really intrepid stickler reader there’s the more official summary of what we’ve discussed and decided about this, see meeting notes here and here on the LAEV wiki. For the rest of us, I thought I’d blog down some of my thoughts about meals and how they work for us and for me.

We have a whole spectrum of shared meals – from the more intimate to the downright crowded.

Many of the smaller meals happen informally and rather spontaneously, such as when Melba Thorn brought out a bowl of her vegan chili to be shared by a couple of us digging a hole to plant a jujube tree. Permit me to mention here that Melba is one of the best cooks at LAEV, though she may not want to be called a cook as her organic vegan food creations are nearly all raw also. I guess she’s called a food designer. Everything she makes is very yummy and very healthy. Melba’s vegan organic chocolates and desserts are sold at local health food stores and increasing all over – and can be ordered from her Native Gardens website. One of the most enjoyable smaller meals recently (other than Melba’s chili,) was a wonderful Korean dinner cooked up by Kwanwoo for a half-dozen neighbors (see the blurry cell-phone photo below which does that phenominal meal no justice.) These small meals happen relatively spontaneously and aren’t really part of any formal participation – they’re just neighbors hanging out with neighbors.

More formally, we have two main types of meals: potlucks and Super Suppah (which has a tradition of being spelled differently by different people – so I’ve had fun varying its spelling here.)

Potlucks take place each Sunday night, starting at 7pm… well… more like 7:10 or 7:15. Right now, in the Winter, these take place in the upstairs community room. In warmer weather, they take place in the courtyard, lobby, or in the street. Everyone brings a (generally vegetarian) dish and their own place settings. There’re no assigned dishes and very little communication ahead of time, so, once in a while many people will show up with the same stuff, especially when there’s an abundance of some vegetable in that week’s Food Lobby box. Nearly all the time, though, there’s an excellent and abundant mix of dishes. Frequently folks will incorporate food harvested from the LAEV Garden. Lara Morrison, one of our standout cooks, does this masterfully.

Souper Suppers, the brainchild of another standout LAEV cook: Dr. Ann Finkelstein, take place somewhat sporadically, though generally mid-week. For Supah Supper, one or a couple of eco-villagers announce ahead of time that they’ll be hosting, then others just show up. Soopah suppahs have been great. Really delicious, generally smaller than potlucks. And, other than when I am the host (every ~3 months,) I just get to show up and eat. Unfortunately they wax and wane. Some weeks/months nobody came forward and the mid-week meal just didn’t happen. It took some organizing (thanks Ann) to get folks to come forward and make them happen consistently.

There are some other shared meals that don’t fall neatly into the categories I’ve just outlined – such as the one pictured above, which was a potluck New Year’s Eve dinner potluck, organized by Yuki. We eat out together, too, whether at the Thai place in the local strip mall, or a short bike ride to Pure Luck.

Group meals are a part of LAEV’s official participation expectation, which states that eco-village members need to, at a minimum, do two out of three of the following every month: 1) attend one weekly community meeting, 2) attend one weekly meal, and/or 3) contribute four volunteer hours toward a community project.

So… what has the discussion been?

Let me premise this by stating that I am deaf in my left ear. It’s not a huge deal – though I have no sense of hearing direction, and I make sure I keep the person I want to speak with on my right. It does mean that I don’t hear well in a room with a lot of folks talking at once. So I am not all that comfortable in a really large group eating dinner together.

A few of us recently expressed some displeasure in that our Sunday potlucks have been very popular, with sometimes as much as 15-20 eco-villagers and another dozen guests. The thought was that we might set aside certain weeks for just us locals, with few to no guests. Most of the community wasn’t happy with this proposal. They expressed that not only would it be difficult to remember which week was which, but that it would also be bureaucratic for us to introduce rules about how we should conduct meals. The Sunday potluck is a place that many of us, myself included occasionally, introduce new folks to LAEV.

And… what did we decide?

Instead of placing restrictions on the Sunday meal, we decided to create an additional shared meal that would be limited to just eco-villagers – open to just members, candidates for membership, current short-stay residents and neighbors. The additional meal is currently slated for Thursday nights; sometimes it’s a sooper supper. If no supa suppa host comes forward, then it’s a potluck. The limitation is a soft one: generally don’t bring gaggles of guests, but if your mom/best-friend/favorite-blogger is in town visiting for a couple days and you want to bring her on Thursday, no problem – though invite your rugby-team/party-central-committee/book-club to visit on a Sunday.

(A short qualifier to members of the general public that may read this: just because we are open to guests at our Sunday potlucks doesn’t mean that you should just show up unannounced any Sunday. First of all, once in a long while, we’ll cancel or reschedule a Sunday potluck, such as when we’ve been in an all-weekend-long retreat together. So, we’d like you to come to a dinner, but I’d suggest that you contact one of us before you attend. If you don’t know anyone at LAEV, you could use the contact information here… though my suggestion would be that you’ll learn much more about eco-village by taking a tour first, before you attend a potluck. Up to you, though. If you come to the potluck, please bring food to share, serving utensils, plate, cup/glass, bowl and silverware – single-use disposable stuff discouraged. Please note that we have many vegetarians and a few vegans, so your dish will be much likely to be better received if it doesn’t have any meat in it.)

This shared meals set-up seems to strike a balance between the joint purposes of meals as times that we share our community with others, and times that we build relationships among ourselves. So far I think it’s working well. We’ve had two super supper Thursdays, and they’ve been delicious… so I am looking forward to more shared meals ahead.

Time to finish up, this blog is making me hungry…

Intimate Dinner in Kwanwoo's Apartment

Intimate Dinner in Kwanwoo's Apartment