Hear about LAEV and our new project on NPR’s KPCC

lois-arkinI was delighted to be interviewed by KPCC’s Al Martinez on “Take Two” last week. You can hear the seven minute piece here:

Let us know what you think. Thanks for listening. Lois

Mature Ficus Trees Felled on First and on Westmoreland

a former tree on First Street

The Los Angeles United School District is building a new school on what has historically been the Virgil Middle School playing fields. Those fields were recently relocated to a new site north of the school. The relocation and new construction are parts of a school project that initially proposed removing a great deal of housing in the eco-village neighborhood… but that’s another story.

Last week, as construction began, LAUSD removed about a dozen mature ficus trees along the sidewalk around the new school site. This includes large trees along the north side of First Street from Bimini to Westmoreland, and along the west side of Westmoreland Avenue from First to Council[edited 6/6/2011: and another half-dozen on Council Street, too].

The youth at Bresee Foundation created this video documenting the destruction of the trees. The vid features Los Angeles Eco-Village founder Lois Arkin.  Continue reading

Great News! Learning Garden Agreement Signed!

This vacant lot will soon become the White House Place Learning Garden

On January 20th 2011, the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust (BVCLT) signed the joint use agreement that enables a new learning garden at Los Angeles Eco-Village! The site is the currently-vacant lot at the north east corner of the intersection of Bimini Place and White House Place.

Continue reading

Why do L.A. schools need so much parking?

Some of my earlier posts (here and here) have covered some of Los Angeles Eco-Village’s struggles with the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD plans to build a large surface parking lot in the heart of our neighborhood. We think it’s not a good idea. Though we’ve heard some preliminary rumbles that there’s a compromise in the works, we’re keeping the pressure on until we see the actual plans and arrangements.

Getting to work: Your clean air commuteI am the primary author of Getting to work: Your clean air commute – a report released last week by the non-profit Coalition for Clean Air. It’s about what large employers are doing and can do to promote alternative transportation. One of the surprises that I learned in researching the report is that Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) rideshare rules don’t apply to school districts. Not even looking at student trips, the LAUSD generates a lot of car trips; it’s the second largest employer in Los Angeles County. LAUSD promotes using a car for these trips by providing lots and lots (pun intended) of “free” parking. So one of CCA’s recommendations is that SCAQMD reconsider their current exemptions for school districts.

The whole report is online here. Below is a selection from the report (from page 25) outlining recommendations for schools. I think that this helps shed some light on the conflict over the planned school parking lot:

Clean air commute to school

Two local school districts rank among the top 30 largest employers in the county, and with 75,000+ employees, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) ranks as the second largest. School districts are exempt from SCAQMD rideshare requirements. No district rideshare programs exist, other than a tiny program at LAUSD headquarters.

In addition to negative environmental impacts, lack of clean air commute incentives impacts the siting and design of schools. Without incentives for alternatives, school districts are more likely to site new schools farther from public transportation and build larger parking lots. Employees are then more likely to drive and park, leading to increased space requirements and costs for parking. This takes away space and funding for students and complicates the search for new school sites.

More than just large employers, schools are where the behavior of future generations is shaped. School teachers and staff can inspire the next generation of clean air commuters.

[Recommendations for]


  • Whether legally mandated or not, school districts should implement clean air commute programs for teachers, staff and students. It may be easiest to pilot these programs at administrative offices, yard facilities and older schools in the most densely urban neighborhoods, where parking is often insufficient and transit alternatives are most viable.
  • School districts should collaborate with cities to pursue state Safe Routes to School funding, which can improve biking and walking for staff and students.
  • SCAQMD loopholes exempting school districts should be reconsidered. New mandates should be employed judiciously and possibly phased in over time.


  • Parents, PTAs and students should work with their local schools to encourage programs and facilities that make transportation to school cleaner and safer. There are many programs for encouraging student clean air commuting which can dovetail well with similar programs for employees.
  • To read the full report, and to add your comments and questions, go here.

    New Design for LAUSD Parking – with Garden!

    Proposed Parking with Garden

    Proposed Parking with Garden

    Check out the new design above, done by architect Ian MacIlvaine of Tierra Sol y Mar, who sits on the board of the Cooperative Resources and Services Project (CRSP) which is the parent non-profit that started Los Angeles Eco-Village.  It shows the existing vacant lot at the northeast corner of Bimini Place and White House Place preserved and transformed into a keyhole garden.

    Here’s a birds-eye aerial photo from Bing maps that shows the site more-or-less as it is today:

    Existing Site

    Existing Site

    Below is the design that the school district is proposing.  There are 135 spaces and the project is going out to bid for $1-3 million… so that’s $7,400 to $22,200 per parking space. Providing free parking is a pretty topsy-turvy world, where the average parking space does cost more than the average car. For really great work on the myriad issues related to parking, see the work of Don Shoup.

    LAUSD's Plan for the Corner Parking Lot

    LAUSD's Plan for the Corner Parking Lot

    Both of these designs have 134-135 parking spaces… which, in my opinion is still excessive for a school in the thick of a dense urban neighborhood… located two blocks from a subway station and adjacent to some of Metro’s most frequent bus lines.

    We eco-village residents are pushing to preserve the corner area, for a garden, and to change the design of the parking lot, so that cars exit only onto First Street, and not directly into our neighborhood streets.  We’d, of course, prefer something other than a parking lot at that site (perhaps mixed-use housing), but at this point, we’re somewhat resigned that theere will be parking there, and we’re working to trim its worst excesses.  See this earlier post for more background on this latest round of Los Angeles Eco-Village negotations with the Los Angeles Unified School District. That post includes a letter you can write in support of preserving the corner lot as a garden.

    Action Alert: Please Write LAUSD to Preserve Our Corner

    Many long-time friends of Los Angeles Eco-Village are aware that we’ve struggled with the Los Angeles Unified School District and its plans to demolish homes in our neighborhood to provide additional school space. Some of the past story is on-line here.

    We worked with the school district recently to modify plans for Central Region Elementary School #20 (CRES#20) that would have taken out more than 40 homes in the eco-village neighborhood. Though we stopped that plan, the current designs still call for a large (137 spaces) parking lot directly across from our main apartment building. The lot would level an existing hill on a now vacant lot where eco-villagers began gardening in the early 1990’s, and would have driveways ushering more cars onto the streets we’ve been working to make more pedestrian friendly.

    There are some mixed opinions here about the school district. Many of us are sympathetic with the need for additional schools for the kids in our neighborhood. Many of us see it as a massive unresponsive governmental bureaucracy that has difficulties in working with communities. We have a lot of ideas on how the corner site might be better used. At this point, what we mostly agree on and what we’re most interested in exerting some political pressure for, are two goals:

    1. Change the design of the CRES#20 parking lot changed so that it fosters a safe, healthy, walkable community.
    2. Preserve the vacant lot / hill at the northeast corner of Bimini Place and White House Place, for future use as a garden.

    We’re asking our friends and neighbors to help us out by sending letters to our school board representative, the honorable Mónica García. A sample letter is below, though best to put it in your own words. Please keep letters brief, friendly and civil, as Ms. García has stated that she does support working with the neighborhood to make this project successful.

    Mail, email or fax your letter to:

    Honorable Mónica García
    LAUSD School Board President
    333 S. Beaudry Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90017
    Email: monica.garcia [at] lausd.net
    Phone: 213-241-6180
    Fax: 213-241-8459

    Please also CC both of the following:

    Honorable Council President Eric Garcetti
    200 N. Spring Street, Rm 470, Los Angeles, CA 90012
    Email: councilmember.garcetti [at] lacity.org
    Phone: 213-473-7013
    Fax: 213-613-0819

    Los Angeles Eco-Village
    117 Bimini Place, #221, Los Angeles CA 90004
    crsp [at] igc.org

    Here’s a sample letter:


    Honorable Mónica García
    LAUSD School Board President

    Dear President García,

    I write to urge you to support changes to the designs for Central Region Elementary School #20 (CRES#20) that will foster a healthier and safer neighborhood for students, families, staff and the neighborhood. At a recent school district meeting you stated your interest in working with the community on this project. Please make good on your pledge.

    Please work with school district staff to redesign the project parking lot, planned at the corner of Bimini Place and White House Place. Please ensure that the parking lot design will preserve the safety and walkability of these streets.

    Additionally, please preserve the existing vacant lot hill at the corner for use as a garden. In the past this site served as a school garden, and I urge you to preserve the existing hill so that it can return to that use. Preserving this site can reduce the school district’s expenses, improve security, provide healthy food, enhance student learning, facilitate inter-generational collaboration, and reduce pollution.

    I urge you to act now for a healthier future for our kids, our families, and our communities. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


    [your name]
    [your street address]
    [your email address]

    Thanks for writing your letters! Best to get your letters in as soon as possible – by no later than mid-July 2009. Keep your RSS tuned to the eco-village blog for future updates.