Local Residents Work to Transform their Community

The sun hid behind the clouds early in the morning, but everyone was alert with their drills, buckets, or shovels in hand. Eager children as young as four hurried back and forth like ants carrying buckets of soil. Committed parents and friends shoveled heavy soil or helped assemble thick wooden planks together. Later, children and adults cradled seeds and small plants in their palms while carefully choosing the best locations for their future crops. Indeed, on Saturday June 7th, 2014 forty community members and Esperanza Community Housing Corporation gathered to finish their community garden project. Among the forty people present there was a sense of collective responsibility and unity. The day transformed from a cloudy morning to a bright, sunny day and the hours seemed to slip by- most of the community members arrived at the park by nine in the morning and worked until two in the afternoon.

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Children at Richardson Park
Courtesy of Sandy Navarro and Angelica Romero

Collective gardens create opportunities for individuals to network and share experiences, create a sense of community, and build community leaders. Especially in South Los Angeles, where access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs are scarce, the opportunities that gardens offer are invaluable. Recognizing their significance, Esperanza invested in their second community garden project to further promote the idea of eating responsibility and help establish a sustainable food system that serves their respective communities regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or any other background.

The community gleamed with the satisfaction of creating a garden for themselves. Their dedication was not only present that day; the adults and families already demonstrated their dedication by attending weekly meetings where they learned basic gardening skills. Looking around the finished product, Ruth Andrade, an active community member and the Richardson Park organizer shared, “It’s important that our children know how to plant, grow, and maintain seeds. They are tired and realizing how difficult this is, so I think they will want to invest and take care of the garden. (“Es importante para que nuestros hijos sepan cómo plantar semillas, como crecenlos, y cómo cuidarlos. Se estan cansando y saben lo difícil que es, entonces pienso que ellos van a tener esas metas para cuidar el jardín.”).” The garden at Richardson Park is yet another reason for neighborhood children to come to play, as well as a place for individuals and families alike to come together and grow fresh fruit and vegetables.

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Courtesy of Sandy Navarro and Angelica Romero

Esperanza’s Gardening Projects, Semillas de Esperanza (Seeds of Hope), is led by Coordinator Sandy Navarro.The project is an initiative to improve community health by educating community members on how to live a healthy lifestyle, and by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables by means of planting edible gardens in South Los Angeles. Over the past few months, Sandy has worked to engage community residents in creating their gardens and connecting them with the necessary resources to ensure project sustainability. The first garden was at the Villa Esperanza (Villa), and Richardson Park is Semillas de Esperanza’s second site.

For more information on how you can get involved in our Semillas de Esperanza Project, please contact our Project coordinator:

Sandy Navarro, Gardening Project Coordinator Email: Sandy@esperanzacommunityhousing,org.

You can also support the garden project by making a donation of plants, trees and gardening supplies or funding to sustain our gardens here: donations welcome.

Controversial urban oil field voluntarily agrees to halt operations

LA TIMES

Controversial urban oil field voluntarily agrees to halt operations       Allenco Energy Co. will suspend operations at a South L.A. oil field pending completion of investigations into health complaints.

Operations to be halted at L.A. oil field

November 22, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

Operators of a controversial urban oil field in South Los Angeles voluntarily agreed Friday to halt operations pending completion of investigations prompted by complaints from neighbors, who blame noxious vapors for persistent respiratory ailments, headaches and nosebleeds.

The move comes a few weeks after U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) urged Allenco Energy Co. to suspend oil production in the University Park neighborhood, half a mile north of USC, “until the experts tell us it is safe for our most vulnerable populations.”

In a letter to Boxer, Allenco President Peter Allen agreed and said the decision to suspend operations was made “to give you and the residents in our area a greater sense of confidence in our ability to operate responsibly and to appropriately address any concerns.”

Barry Wallerstein, executive director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said that it “doesn’t happen very often that an operator voluntarily shuts down in response to concerns expressed by the community and its elected representatives — in this case, Sen. Boxer.”

He added that Allen “had committed to make changes in equipment that was responsible for those vapors leaving the facility.”

“He was quite sincere in resolving the problems and making the necessary equipment modifications,” Wallerstein said of Allen.

Allenco is the focus of ongoing investigations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the South Coast air quality agency, the city attorney’s office, the county Department of Health and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which leases the 2-acre site to the company.

“I appreciate the company’s decision to suspend operations,” Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said. “Our investigation into the company’s compliance with the law continues.”

A team of federal and county environmental officers was recently overwhelmed by toxic vapors while touring the site, lending support to residents’ suspicions that odors from the facility are making people sick. The neighborhood surrounding the oil field includes homes and schools, as well as the Doheny Campus of Mount St. Mary’s College.

Complaints related to the facility increased in 2010, when Allenco boosted production at its wells by more than 400%. Neighbors complained to the air quality agency 251 times over the next three years. The air district responded by issuing 15 citations against Allenco for foul odors and equipment problems.

But frustrations over the air district’s inability to say whether fumes from the oil field are hazardous triggered the ongoing investigations aimed at determining the cause of the ailments, as well as the validity of Allenco’s operating permits and the archdiocese’s lease agreements with the company.

“Even while our operations are down, we will continue to work with the regulating agencies,” Allen said in his letter to Boxer. “We will continue to seek advice from the community, and we have already hired engineering firms and environmental consultants to help us improve our operations.”

Neighbors applauded the company’s decision.

“It’s a great victory for a community that has been living and suffering in the air plume of Allenco’s emissions,” said Nancy H. Ibrahim, executive director of Esperanza Community Housing Corp., a nonprofit affordable housing developer in the area bounded by the 110 Freeway, the 10 Freeway and USC.

Said Monic Uriarte, whose 12-year-old daughter is among neighborhood children suffering from frequent nosebleeds:, “What happened today is a lesson for neighborhoods across Los Angeles. Don’t give up.”

louis.sahagun@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-1123-oil-field-fumes-20131123,0,7551455.story#ixzz2llyEh3B4