Empowering Communities to See Streets as Sites of Recreation: What does it Take?

Sin and redemption. Despite it's long-standing status as a stroll, Western Ave. has at least two churches on almost every block. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
Sin and redemption. Despite it’s long-standing status as a stroll, Western Ave. has at least two churches on almost every block. A passerby teased the elderly gentleman at the corner who had just left the church by suggesting he was hanging out along Western for other-than-godly reasons. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“We need to empower people to see their streets as sites of recreation.”

It’s somewhat of a city planner mantra.

And, it tends to drive me crazy.

Part of it has to do with my having been an academic in my previous life, where I spent years observing efforts to “empower” refugees, displaced persons, sex trafficking victims, genocide survivors, and the desperately poor to take charge of their circumstances. The focus on modifying individual behaviors precluded dialogue on the mix of structural and individual interventions that might have yielded more comprehensive solutions to what were, essentially, deeply-rooted structural problems. As a result, outcomes were often superficial and/or unsustainable at best and irreparably damaging to people’s livelihoods at worst.*

Yet “empower” soldiers on, both abroad and right here at home.

I hear it all the time.

I heard it most recently at the well-attended Community Planning Forum held at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center on Western Ave. in South L.A. at the end of March.

It was all I could do to keep myself from dragging the poor person outside to show them the street was already very heavily used for recreation. Just the wrong kind.

There are a few sections of Western — including areas in close proximity to the park — known as “strolls.”

Day or night, rain or shine, you can find a girl on the street that can help meet your “needs” for a few dollars.

They sit at bus stops, stand on corners, walk up and down the block, dance by themselves on quiet side streets just out of the glare of the main drag, brazenly post up like sentries at the driveway entrance of the Mustang Motel — they are ubiquitous.

While a number of them are older and may be working independently and/or feeding drug habits (especially north of King Blvd., according to some residents), many are just teens, coerced into the trade by men claiming to be their boyfriends, rapists that abused them and turned them out, or their own history of sexual abuse and neglect. The hold their pimps have on them can be tremendous. It is not unusual for girls show up in juvenile detention centers with their pimps’ names tattooed onto their ribs and so thoroughly victimized that they fight anyone trying to help them get out of the trade. Some don’t believe they could ever be valued for anything other than their bodies, especially after being abused. Others believe their pimps love them and refuse to say anything that would incriminate them.

But, the pimps clearly do not love them.

Spend any time along Western and you’ll see them, stationed in parked cars at corners (and, occasionally, on mountain bikes), perfectly positioned so that they can see everything happening on the street. They are ready to menace their girls or anyone who takes too much of an other-than-recreational interest in their charge(s) at a moment’s notice.

The intense level of neglect a street — and, indeed, a community — must experience (this was the stomping ground of the Grim Sleeper, after all) for it to be able to function so openly as a market facilitates other forms of unhealthy activity, too. While long-time residents tell me that things are much better than they used to be, gang activity and substance abuse, particularly that of those living on (or making a living on) the street, are still major issues in the area.

Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The combination of these factors can make locals paranoid about interacting with outsiders for fear of being seen as snitching.

And, it can certainly go a long way in keeping a family from feeling comfortable about taking a stroll through the neighborhood, waiting at bus stops, getting to know their neighbors along the Western corridor, or being outside too late in the evening.

“Everybody knows you gotta be off the street by 8, 9 p.m.,” a man living next to an abandoned home told me. “You do that, and you should be OK.”

A vacated home sits on the corner of 42nd Pl. and Western. It has been completely stripped of anything of value, says a neighbor, which, along with frequent police drive-bys, has cut down on the illicit activity there. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
A vacated home sits on the corner of 42nd Pl. and Western. It has been completely stripped of anything of value, says a neighbor, which (along with frequent police drive-bys) has cut down on the illicit activity there. It’s one of three vacant and vandalized properties I spotted on a walk yesterday. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

While it’s true you probably will be OK during the day, you can still be exposed to all sorts of unsavory things.

Yesterday afternoon, for example, I was propositioned for sex (while walking with my bicycle) by one man and treated to a very graphic description by another of how much he appreciated his prostitute not having any front teeth because it made it easier for her to suck him off. Another man talking about the pervasiveness of prostitution speculated that a recent hit-and-run of someone he knew was deliberate — that the woman might have been intentionally run down by her pimp.

“It’s a damn shame seeing all these girls out here,” he said.

Responding to the seeming intransigence of the problem in the area, the April 26th March Against Trafficking along Western (between King Blvd. and Slauson Ave.) was intended to begin the process of “empowering” residents to reclaim the public space for healthier activities and to make a statement that the people of this city cared about its children and young women.

Hundreds marched, brandished signs, and cheered their way down Western to a rally point near Slauson.

“We see you” speakers including Mayors Eric Garcetti and Aja Brown, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, State Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, Councilmembers Curren Price and Nury Martinez, and other notables said of the pimps. “Our children are not for sale!”

But, within hours of the rally, the protesters were gone and it was back to business as usual along the avenue.

Walking back up to King Park from the Slauson rally point, I spoke with two women from the area who volunteer with young girls about their thoughts on where solutions might lay.

A number of stretches of Western are almost completely treeless. Coupled with the fact that so many of the buildings are used as churches (and only open intermittently), the street can feel barren. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
A number of stretches of Western are almost completely treeless. Coupled with the fact that so many of the buildings are used as churches (and only open intermittently), the street can feel barren. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

They said they appreciated the efforts of many of the legislators present at the rally to address the issue through more programming for youth caught up in the trade (like Senate Bill 1388, which targets johns, or D.A. Jackie Lacey’s effort to create a diversion program for juveniles), but felt that the most important work lay in prevention and early intervention.

One mentioned that her group — which normally worked to build self-esteem in middle school girls and provide them with resources and role models — had recently been asked to begin speaking with elementary school girls. Waiting until they hit middle school, the woman said, was too late.

The other spoke of the importance of family support networks and the unfortunate reality that too many kids in the area had been in and out of the foster system since a very young age. The lack of stability and people to turn to for protection from predatory or abusive behavior was what was putting kids at risk. And, even once kids were removed from an abusive situation, they didn’t necessarily get the follow-on counseling and support that they would need to recover.

Educating and “empowering” girls could only go so far, the women concluded. The burden of warding off predators shouldn’t fall entirely on the shoulders of children.

The hourly motels sport some of the most inviting sidewalks on an otherwise largely filthy and barren avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
The hourly motels sport some of the most inviting sidewalks on an otherwise largely filthy and barren avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As we were about to part ways, one of the women held up the stick of her now-eaten lollipop and mused that she hadn’t seen a garbage can in almost 20 blocks.

We had passed piles of trash (including empty condom boxes), filthy bus stops, decrepit parkways, and even several “Our children are not for sale!” signs that had been tossed aside after the march, but few trash cans. And, ironically, the only stretch of the corridor with truly lovely landscaping and pristine sidewalks had been that in front of the Snooty Fox and the Mustang, two of the area motels with hourly rates.

The excessive filth and lack of amenities along the rest of the avenue, she and her friend concluded, made it clear that nobody was paying attention to what was happening there. Cleaning up the streets and monitoring the motels might therefore go farther in sending the pimps the message the march had tried to convey — that somebody actually was watching them. It wouldn’t be enough, they agreed, because the problem would just move elsewhere. But it could complement efforts to get at the roots of what facilitated the trade in children by providing them with a more pleasant and welcoming environment.

Suggestions for what makes a Great Street fails to include things specific to Western (i.e. fewer nuisance motels) or address how to get to a Great Street from where we are now. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
Suggestions for what makes a Great Street fail to include things specific to Western (i.e. fewer nuisance motels) or address how to get to a Great Street from where we are now. (Click to enlarge) Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

As I retrieved my bike from King Park, I wondered why some of these challenges that have long-plagued Western really hadn’t come up [at least from what I heard/saw] at the planning forum the month before. If the issues had come up, I didn’t see them listed on post-its or the comment boards around the room.

It certainly wasn’t for a lack of interest on the part of the planners there. Having several stations with different plans for people to engage was fantastic. While it could be a little overwhelming, it gave people lots to think about and made speaking to planners much less intimidating.

I think, instead, it was more a function of the challenge of getting genuine community feedback from a wide cross-section of residents — especially those whose street access and mobility are constrained by the community dynamics — and creating space for people to talk about where things stand now.

By the latter, I mean looking at the specific challenges that keep streets, parks, and neighborhoods from being “complete” or “great” at present. Not for the purpose of wallowing in why particular neighborhoods struggle, of course, but so that appropriate non-infrastructural fixes can accompany any new infrastructure that goes in, allowing residents to get the maximum benefit from them.

As I detailed in the story of a kickball tournament in Watts, the upgrades to Ted Watkins Park have made it infinitely more welcoming and transformed it into a jewel of the community. But, the intense gang activity in the area means that, unless there is programming for at-risk teens and young adults, it is still not a resource that they necessarily have the freedom to enjoy.

The Plan for a Healthy L.A. seems to be intended to begin to close some of those gaps by laying a blueprint for the kinds of programs and priorities the city should have to shore up the socio-economic foundations of its most vulnerable communities. But, the plan was also quite general, not exploring ways to link infrastructure improvements to programming often enough or recommending that the two go hand in hand. And, the bigger-picture approach meant that it privileged things like urban agriculture over the specific needs of corridors like Western, where services for foster youth and support programs for young girls (not mentioned at all in the plan) might be more appropriate, at least in the interim.

But, as someone who spends most of her time wandering around communities and pestering people about the specific challenges they face, I may be too deeply mired in what’s wrong and not spending enough time envisioning what could be right 10 or 20 years down the line.

I’m not sure what the right balance is.

That said, we tried to figure out what that balance and engagement process might look like with a series of workshops at Roosevelt High School over the past month. The second part of this piece (coming later this week) will describe that process, the knowledge we gained and how it might be used, what value it might have for those interested in reaching harder-to-engage residents, and how better approaches to engagement might even be helpful in, yes, genuinely “empowering” communities. Stay tuned.

 * * * *

*i.e. Cases in Malawi, where a major aid agency’s short-term agricultural program aimed at crop diversification “empowered” people to abandon growing maize in favor of new cash crops without factoring in the need for appropriate storage facilities, the lack of demand in local markets, or transportation to distant markets. As the agency felt that building a storage facility or helping with transportation would only create “dependency,” they decided to “empower people to find their own markets.” But because most people lack transportation outside of a rickety bicycle and markets can be days or weeks away by bike, 300,000 tons of nuts spoiled and/or were sold at a loss. And farmers found themselves dependent on the agency for food and seeds until the next growing season.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    Good work. When I look at the photo of the board from the Community Planning Forum though, it looks like a lot of them very much did respond to the “challenges facing long-plagued Western”. “Trees”, “lights”, “street furniture and art”, “trash cans”, “bike lanes”, “Green space”, “grass”, “landscaping”, “social, cultural and historical context”, “cleanliness”. If you wanted them to suggest, “more foster care resources”, I’m not sure that would be an appropriate response to “what makes a great street”.

  • P.

    Thank you for this. My wife and I live near MLK Park and feel helpless when we notice some of the issues in our neighborhood. My wife grew up near 47th and S Main. She though she’d be OK living here since it wasn’t as bad as where she grew up. Now, she has more anxiety about where we live than I do and wants us to consider moving back to the westside.

    I don’t’t know what to do. Calling the cops doesn’t seem like a good idea. I’ve met a few ad they don’t seem like the Officer/Social Worker type we need to work on the problem. Befriending the girls to try to lead them down another path seems dangerous especially if the pimps object to your actions.

    The community seems locked behind fences and guard dogs. I tend to feel that the group-think meetings bring out the same folks who spin their wheels with out getting anything real accomplished. I wish there was something else to do than sit idly by and hope that the LA Times prediction that gentrification is coming to our neighborhood happens. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-property-report-20140501-story.html

    The problem is, if that happens the disaffected will just move elsewhere and be someone else’s problem and that’s not a solution. I look forward to your next piece.

  • sahra

    Thanks for those thoughts. I think the last point you make is the one I’m always trying to figure out how to get around….How do you bring people along in the improvements of a neighborhood? Not just have them be at the mercy of change and potentially forced out by it…Improvements like those listed on the board I posted are wonderful and everyone wants things like those, but if they can’t be done in such a way that incorporates the needs of and makes space for current residents, or helps them take advantage of such improvements, then you are more likely to see gentrification… It’s really complicated.

  • sahra

    True. I think my personal problem is that I have a very hard disassociating the socio-economic infrastructure (and the constraints it imposes) from the physical. As I say above, everybody wants nicer neighborhood amenities. But usually when they come, the programming aspect is missing, be it more youth programs, jobs, aid for small business entrepreneurs to open shops or make improvements to their shops to keep up with changes, etc., that would help with questions of access. Like in the kickball case in Ted Watkins park, the park is fantastic — I adore it — but the older youth can’t really use the park that freely if they don’t have organized programming. So dealing with access is really important if people are to be able to take advantage of a great street, whatever physical form it may take. In many neighborhoods, I think it is hard to separate those two things.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    Far be it from me to argue the opposite, of course. But I will also say having really looked at all of this for a while, that I think the built environment alone can go a very long ways towards creating positive change. If you know of a place with: an extensive tree canopy; great public transit; tons of local parks and green space; streets with calm traffic, bike lanes, wide sidewalks, street furniture, pedestrian scale lighting; an absence of nuisance land uses, etc., that is also simultaneously a place with high rates of crime and violence, unemployment, poverty, etc., or vice-versa, a place without any of that, that has low rates of crime and violence, unemployment, poverty, etc., I’d certainly love to hear about it so that I could go and study it. I’ve not myself seen any examples of either.

  • Publichealthexplorer

    I agree that the best “interventions” for improving public health combine improving the social environment as well as the physical environment. That is why community gardens are so helpful in improving neighborhood quality of life…because they improve both the physical environment AND the social environment.

  • sahra

    I don’t disagree at all that infrastructure matters — truly I do not. Nor have I ever made the point that it doesn’t. I only argue it is more effective when coupled with programming specific to the community’s needs so as to deal with questions of access. So, I’m just thinking about two things… one being the kinds of programming that can help existing residents reap the benefits of new infrastructure (parks, bike lanes, etc.) and two (not explicitly raised in this piece, but something I am always looking to figure out), how can programming help bolster the socio-economic foundations of a community so that it doesn’t result in the pushing out of the poor along with all the other “nuisances”? And, let’s face it, the kind of neighborhood you describe above is usually one that is going through or has gone through a transition — it had to in order to trigger that level of investment in the environment. I know the mobility and health plans mention equity. But until there is a stronger impetus for directing investments first into communities with the greatest need, those communities will continue to wait for improvements until transitions are already underway… at which point it may be too late to prevent that turnover.

  • Peter E

    Sahra, I’m so glad you’re doing what you do. Really wonderful work.

  • DMalcolmCarson

    Agreed. The question is how do you get those improvements without displacing people, and a very good place to start is by focusing resources first on the areas that are furthest away from “transitioning” and working back from there. But preventing displacement is really a question of first, avoiding residential demolitions, rent control, and doing whatever’s possible to make sure that people have access to the jobs being created by the new investment and development.

  • ubrayj02

    How can LA’s streets and sidewalks ever be a place of recreation when it is a crime to kick a soccer ball between two people, or to throw a ball to your toddler?

    Playing is illegal on LA’s streets:

    “LAMC Section 56.16:
    “No person shall play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football
    or throw, cast, shoot or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow or
    any other missile, in, over, across, along or upon any street or
    sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park
    set apart for such purposes.”

    I haven’t checked but I am sure that chalk drawings for hop scotch count as felony offense as well.

  • sahra

    True, but I just came across youth playing soccer in the street in Boyle Heights on Sunday. Other kids whose streets back up against the freeway (essentially dead-ending them) have basketball hoops they drag out into the street or toss around a football. I only see that regulation being enforced around USC, where the police seem interested in pressuring the long-time residents (they don’t crack down on the frat kids tossing footballs around, and it is a sore point for many residents). It’s a stupid regulation, but I there are much bigger barriers to recreation than that. For me, at least in the communities I cover, the question is not whether or not people want to see their streets as sites of recreation…it is whether or not they have that luxury. I feel like too often that question gets overlooked in planning.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Thank you for bringing this to light Sahra. I really like your informative and thought provoking stories. I have lived in this area for years. I have seen it when this area had life and now the life has been sucked right out. I think the major issues is that the local council member does not regard this area as important and added the fact that we had no representation on our neighborhood council to bring our concerns to the table. I have heard that the neighbors complain about the traffic along Western but law enforcement will rather ticket and harass the community members and bypass the drug activity and sex activity on the same corner. We have major illegal dumping and illegal food vendors stationed on corners on the main thoroughfare and in front yards. The community is being disenfranchised and its very blatant. My son has run and won a seat in the Area 2 NANDC and wants to see this area come back to life. We do need clean streets, trash cans, trees, infrastructure and maybe a moratorium of the incredible amount of churches that occupy almost every inch of the community. We need businesses to come back and the way to do that is to have a city official work for us in our best interest. I would love to see more follow up on this topic. I suggest your readers that live in this area to link up on http://www.Nextdoor.com. We are trying to increase our numbers so there is a voice.

  • sahra

    Thanks for your thoughts. Your point about the churches is interesting. There are so many… I’ve often wondered why (outside of folks like Rev. Manns) they are not doing more in the community. Some of the elders that hang out at the Starbucks on Slauson gave me an earful about what they thought about the churches one day, and none of it was complimentary. And, because they are only open a few hours on select days, there are fewer eyes on the street to curb illegal activity. Congratulations to your son. And please do keep in touch if there are issues that come up. I’m in the area a lot and would be happy to chat with you about them.

  • sahra

    Thanks much!

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    I read that article. I kinda cringed of property taxes that may go up. If the current neighbors could communicate with each other and come together and be on the same page instead against each other we could really do some good. I have seen people move onto a block and after a while start calling the police on the neighbors that have been there for generations. Usual issues, parked cars, “suspicious” people and general dislike for the next man. I really don’t get it. When it comes to issue like this no one feels they can go knock on the neighbor door because they spend their time harassing others. Gentrification and needs of community are two fold. If the neighborhoods were in some sort of cohesive unit I don’t think the gentrification would be as blatant as it is now. The neighbors make the neighborhoods. I have come across people that outright refuse to go to a meeting even though it directly affects them. And some people that don’t walk one block radius from their home. Grown men scared to go to the park and integrate into what’s going on around them. Its really sad. So when others come in and make decisions no one can really complain because some don’t make the effort to safeguard their quality of life.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Oh and for the folks that are waiting for someone to do something. I am sorry to say that isn’t going to happen unless you make your wants and needs known. Show up to the neighborhood council meetings where they are making the decisions for you. Show up to the community town hall meetings, and show your face at your local constituency center rep your neighborhood and demand improvements. Join or start a block club, empowerment congress said that in order to get things done require more than one person to complain. Join a park advisory board. There is power in numbers. I really do think that King Estates and Chesterfield Square can make a comeback.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Thanks I will. The churches/Iglesias in my area have maybe 5 no more than 10 people when open. Makes me think other things are going on beside church service. But because we have such strict taboo about talking about so called religious organizations I will leave that alone until something pops up. Sat/Sun a little more attend and just think when all those churches open at the same time parking is horrible. don’t forget the charter schools that take up another large percentage of space. Of course property owners are not to keen, because a tax revenue generating company could be occupying those spaces. I am curious on how much revenue is generated in CD 8. Or if there is report point me in the right direction. I am sure the liquor/ 99c stores, nail shops, tire shops, check cashing places, fast food, pot shops and bogus traffic tickets shouldn’t be the only businesses generating revenue. I am still really upset we lost a grocery store.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    I think the the council leaders need to be actively pursuing new businesses/ infrastructure. When a company really wants to really invest in a place mechanisms should be in place to hire from within the community and provide investment in the local youth for paid job training and maybe social services. People know when they are being invested in and not preyed upon. They have feeling of inclusion and will take pride in their surroundings. Oh and neighbors should be on the same page before ALLOWING anything to be established in their community. Sidenote: Sahra you made a comment about how the motel areas are so clean. They stay that way so they don’t draw attention and be considered a nuisance business. The motels further up Western didn’t take notes and has met with community organizations and zoning officials to clean up or close up.

  • Guest

    If this area were to ever get to the point where gentrification occurred, that would represent a massive stroke of good fortune for those who lived in this community during that positive transition- even if they eventually had to leave. Worrying about gentrification is like fretting that a starving child might be at risk for obesity if you feed him. Feed the kid/improve the neighborhood first, then worry about your other problems.

    http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/05/the-overwhelming-persistence-of-neighborhood-poverty/371165/

  • sahra

    I don’t think that the point you make is valid if we look at gentrification as an all or nothing sort of thing, meaning, either it is gentrification or no improvements. I would like to think that city planning could evolve so that lower-income communities can also have nice things and be included in the development of their community. Instead of just creating business incentives for new development for ex., more assistance to existing businesses or local entrepreneurs might be one such avenue. Leimert Park is exploring that approach with their 20/20 vision strategy. They know change is coming and are trying to harness it…I’ve written a few stories on their efforts, but will be following that process there as it unfolds… http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/27/leimert-takes-steps-toward-re-branding-with-pop-up-plaza-and-more-this-weekend/

  • sahra

    *oops: erase the “don’t”in the opening sentence… I meant, I think the point you’re making fits better in an all or nothing scenario (which is usually how gentrification/community improvements seem to be talked about). sorry!

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Its in the works by starving this area of resources and by the school to prison pipeline and having a non-active council member. SAHRA not sure if you if noticed Parks promoted Park Mesa council elections even though there are more neighbohood councils in his district.

  • P.

    My wife and I do things in our neighborhood. We were 2 of the 14 voters for your son’s election and 2 of the 4 votes for the other Area 2 candidate’s election. We’ve been to a handful of the NC meetings and haven’t found them all that helpful, mostly because it was hard for them to get a quorum to start the meeting. Plus there has been no LAPD rep from the Southwest station available for months to start a thoughtful discussion about all of the “recreating” which is going on in our corner of the world. I do hope with the recent elections and possibly a new LAPD Liaison, things will get better.

    Speaking of the Police, We’ve only had to call them 3 times in the year and a half we’ve lived here, when our garage was broken into. The only “helpful” advice they gave us was: “Why don’t you get a big scary dog like a pit bull chained up in your yard to keep away the riffraff, like all of you neighbors.”

    Speaking of neighbors, it has been a slow process meeting them. Many of them hide behind high fences and the aforementioned big dogs. This must be from years of living in a place which seemingly requires you to live like a turtle in a shell to survive. But my wife and have be trying. it helps when we are fostering a puppy from one of the local rescues and get to walk the streets of what my deed calls Fenway Park [Pretty funny to me, coming from Massachusetts] Like Sahra, My wife has had some interesting propositions from folks in MLK Park. Beyond that we’ve met about 10 households of new and old residents alike who’re very nice and we can’t wait to meet more.

    I really want this neighborhood to become better for the residents who live here. Old and new, young and old. My wife and I are going to revaluate how well things are going after we’ve lived here 5 years. There are signs that a rejuvenation is possible but not enough of one yet in which I’d bet money on.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Thank you very much for the votes, P. My garage was broken into as well. I was able to address some of the neighborhood people about my concerns and eventually the drug users do not travel on my block at 2-4 am like they used to. I do understand what you say about the gates and the seclusion. I refuse to put gates up in front of my house. We have beautiful lots with trees and not going to hinder that with gates. I think the some people are still wary and still suffering with PTSD from the 1980s war on drugs and subprimes. I really do think the area can come back but has to be done with finesse and with equality.

  • MSJ sexy as ever

    Hi Sahra, I just wanted to let you know the Council District 8, NANDC and the community are having a Western Avenue Community Clean Up day Oct. 3. We are cleaning from Exposition to ML King Jr Blvd. it is taking some work but with the help of our new Councilman Harris-Dawson and grassroots efforts we are trying to bring some life back to this little area.

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