Welcome to Streetsblog: Kris, Sahra and Carlos

Today is the day Los Angeles Streetsblog has been waiting for since our first launch in March of 2008.  Today, we’re expanding.  Everyone give a warm welcome to our two newest writers, Kris Fortin and Sahra Sulaiman.

Kris Fortin, photo:Rafael Cardenas

Streetsblog is happy to announce that thanks to a generous grant from the California Endowment, today we are opening two “local bureaus” in South Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.  These bureaus will each feature new writers who will bring us stories on how decisions on transportation planning, development, transit oriented development and open space impact the health and character of these communities.

There’s also a lot that everyone can learn from these communities.  Fortin and Sulaiman will be exploring how the culture of these communities impacts their streetscapes, architecture and local culture.  As we explored in-depth during our 2011 series on L.A. County Department of Public Health PLACE Grants, how a community is built has a dramatic impact on the health, well-being and life expectancy of the people living there.

In addition to publishing their stories on the front page of Streetsblog, all of the South L.A. stories and Boyle Heights stories will be published on special community sites at http://eastsidestreetsblog.org and http://southlastreetsblog.org .

Sahra Sulaiman; photo: Sarah Fiona Nikolovska

In Boyle Heights, Kris Fortin will be leading our local coverage efforts.  Fortin has been freelance writing about the Latino community for the past four years at the Los Angeles Times, the former Café Magazine, and currently at Boyle Heights Beat and Mis Neighbors. After getting his bachelor’s degree in journalism and urban studies and planning, Fortin wedded the two areas through an internship at Planetizen and hopes to continue to delve deeper into urban issues through journalism.

In South L.A., our lead writer is Sahra Sulaiman.  Sulaiman is a documentary photographer and researcher who has been 99.5% car-free since buying a road bike and riding it across Spain on a dare in 1996. A well-travelled M.A. and A.B.D. in International Relations, she also is deeply invested in LA as a regular volunteer with at-risk teens in local-area high schools and is currently working on a year-long photography project documenting the difficult circumstances which many of them endure. She seeks to use her skills for gathering unique stories to bring a more human dimension to discussions about the future of transit in Los Angeles.

Each writer will be publishing a story later today.  I won’t ruin the surprise for you, but they’re both great reads.

Carlos Morales PhotoFlying Pigeon

Speaking of surprises, we’re also proud to announce the addition of Carlos Morales to our team.  You may know Morales through his writing at The Voice/La Voz papers in East L.A. or you might recognize him as the founder of the Eastside Bike Club.  Morales will be writing a weekly column for us about his observations and views of life while pedaling through Los Angeles.  His first piece will run a little later this week.

But don’t worry, just because new writers are joining the team doesn’t mean that our original writer, Damien Newton, is going anywhere.  You might see his byline a little less frequently than several times a day, but the tradeoff is that you’ll also see longer stories and more original reporting.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and wondering, “Why does Boyle Heights and South L.A. get local coverage and not my community?  The good news is that we plan on continuing to expand over the next couple of years to provide more community reporting.  If you can help us find a source of local funds, we’ll be happy to provide regular local coverage in your community as well.