"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved," said Ansel Adams, a master in the art of landscape photography.
Any dedicated photographer knows that to hold a camera in your hand is a powerful thing; through a camera's lens, we create a world based on what we choose to focus on.
Last summer, ten young Latinas from Boyle Heights were selected through applications to the leadership program Girls Today, Women Tomorrow to participate in Las Fotos Project, a non-profit community program that encourages creativity and self-expression by teaching them the basics of photography. The girls had the opportunity to create photographs that not only allowed a tantalizing glimpse of their own everyday lives, but also provoked questions about their relationship with nature.
Their works are now collected in the book "Nature: Double Exposed -- Boyle Heights meets the San Gabriel Mountains." In it, readers see haunting images of family members and friends playing in and around the neighborhood, juxtaposed with ghostly wisps of trees or leaves or water hovering over the urban landscape. Paired with haiku-like poems, their images allow readers to see the world through the young girls' eyes, even for just a few minutes.
The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information on the collaborative visit www.mylariver.org
After the originally scheduled date was postponed due to an unusually heavy rainstorm, a perfectly sunny Los Angeles morning greeted the attendees to the press event to kick off the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative.
The event was held at Marsh Park in Elysian Valley, where single family homes, industrial structures, and pocket parks share the only neighborhood that directly abuts the Los Angeles River. Curious local residents, conservationists, and city officials, as well as students from nearby schools who took a field trip to the event as part of our Youth Voices media literacy program, all gathered at the small but well-maintained park to show their support for the potential and future of the river.
"We have this wonderful effort that is transforming this corridor," said CD1 Councilmember Ed P. Reyes who, as Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the L.A. River, has been a strong supporter of the river. He will soon see a river-adjacent park named in his honor.
Two more public meetings have been scheduled to discuss the Glendale Narrows Recreational Program. Much of the details have remained the same, since we last told you about the program, with one major change.
"More likely than not, the recreational zone will begin at Fletcher Drive instead of North Atwater Park," according to Walt Young, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority Chief of Operations, who was a major part of designing the proposed program. The change in the trail is due to the progress of finalizing permits to begin the North Atwater Bridge project, which is downstream from the original trail's starting point on North Atwater Park. "We haven't gotten the final word on the bridge," emphasizes Young. Until then, organizers wouldn't have a 100 percent certainty of the final river trail.
During their first large public presentation at the Los Angeles River Center, some concerns brought up by residents of Atwater Village on the negative effects to their neighborhood due to increased foot traffic from the river trail. Should the revised zone push through, the Atwater neighborhood would no longer be part of the recreational zone.
Plastic bags are a modern-day convenience that can all too easily be abused. A quick inspection of many kitchen cabinets (including mine) reveals just how much we use without a second thought. In the near future, shoppers in Los Angeles would need to be more circumspect as the plastic ban ordinance is now making its way to full approval and implementation.
The Bureau of Sanitation has just completed its draft environmental review of the single-use plastic bag ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council last May 23, 2012. As one would expect, the review found no adverse effects on the environment from implementing the ban as proposed. It even found that the use of paper bags decreased alongside plastic bags in the longer term.
Preliminary data, as submitted by stores in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles following the implementation of the county's single-use plastic ban July 2011, revealed a reduction of 34 percent in paper bag use between 2009 and 2012. The ordinance, which is only in effect for the county's unincorporated areas, charges a 10-cent fee on each paper carryout bag. The data also showed a 13 percent reduction within the first three quarters.
One of the last remaining vestiges of a 2,000-acre expanse of coastal habitat, the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands has been a disputed subject with environmentalists, community groups, and public agencies all having divergent ideas of its future.
Just before the end of January, the Annenberg Foundation, a new player in the ongoing conversation on the wetlands, stirred up debate by signing a memorandum of agreement with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to build a $50-million interpretive center in the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve.
Conversations between CDFW and the Annenberg began sometime last year, according to Annenberg spokesperson Liza deVilla Ameen. "It's always been part of our mission to advocate through improved communication respectful stewardship of our environmental resources in this living city," she said. "We felt that the state had a similar goal and vision around the Ballona Wetlands project."
A meeting between conservation groups and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday turned out well, according to Kris Ohlenkamp, Conservation Chair of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society. "It at least established where we were in agreement. We are in agreement about removal of non-native vegetation, about the use of herbicide and about re-planting." The question now comes to down to the specifics.
Over the holidays, the SFV Audubon, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area Steering Committee (SBWASC), and other conservationists were taken by surprise at the extent of damage the Army Corps had caused clearing the south side of Burbank Boulevard. The resulting backlash resulted in the community and legislators calling for answers, as well as measures to prevent similar incidents.
Unlike eyes that can close, our ears cannot choose not to hear, nor can our noses choose not to breathe.
Ever since Tuyen Dinh moved into a Los Angeles River-adjacent home in Elysian Valley ten years ago, he had made a practice of guarding his children from the sinister effects of air pollution stemming from the Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility (CMF), also known as Taylor Yard, little more than 400 feet away from where we sat one afternoon.
"If I smell any diesel fume coming this way, I have to keep my children inside the house," said Dinh, who has a background in mechanics and understands the possibly harmful effects of diesel engine emitted by these trains, if left unchecked. Noise was also a problem. Trains would pull in, horns would go off at odd hours, waking residents.
Last year, the World Health Organization elevated diesel to a "known carcinogen" level. A 50-year study undertaken by the National Cancer Institute showed that nonsmoking miners heavily exposed to diesel fumes had seven times the normal lung cancer risk of nonsmokers. It could also increase the risk of heart attacks. The EPA has found that diesel fumes aggravate asthma, bronchitis and can cause premature death. Most worrying of all is that its effects are felt even more by children, the elderly, and those that already have pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.
A flock of birds flew overhead, almost like one dazzling, mercurial organism, soaring and skating this way and that. Then, suddenly, another flock appeared in the opposite direction, as if on a crash course. I couldn't take my gaze away. How would these birds negotiate such a confusion of wings?
I needn't have worried. As if guided by a second sense, the not-so-warring flocks kept on flying toward each other, like two waves in the sea meeting, greeting and finally dispersing. It was a marvelous sight, a testament to the amazing agility of avian navigation. And I wouldn't have seen it had I not been at the site of the ongoing Malibu Lagoon Restoration Project, just across the Malibu Country Mart.
A project led by the California State Parks (and includes the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation), the site sits at a neighboring watershed, but I couldn't help but be curious about the possibilities of restoring a wetland the Federal government has filed "impaired" for the last 20 years.
To most newcomers in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles River is much like a mythical creature--often spoken of, but never actually experienced. That has thankfully changed over the past decade.
With projects large and small, the city has repeatedly rallied in favor of reviving this waterway and, in the process, returning the 51-mile river back to Los Angeles guided by the Los Angeles River Masterplan. The masterplan outlined a 20-year blueprint for the development and management of the river. In it, Angelinos could see a different vision of Los Angeles. As a result, the city has seen a growth of projects around the river and interest especially in the Glendale Narrows.
On January 24, Los Angeles is taking another step forward to take advantage of the growing public interest in the river by launching the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative (NELA RC), a holistic, collaborative urban planning effort to take advantage of the River as an economic development asset. The collaborative takes up the mantle left behind when the state's Community Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved last year, but with added emphasis on inter-agency cooperation and community-based approaches.
"The idea here is to use the [Los Angeles] river -- which has historically been a flood control basin -- and envision it as an actual fully-functioning river and to use that to create a district where it'll be a unique feature," said Louis Morales of Tierra West, project manager of NELA RC. Morales came on board the project December last year.
If all goes to plan and permits are signed off quickly, this summer the Los Angeles River at Glendale Narrows will be the site of frolicking and river rambling, as Angelenos finally get to play on the river for free.
The proposal outlining a pilot recreation zone within a five-mile area of Glendale Narrows from Memorial Day to Labor Day was put before the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee (LARCC) -- a joint working group that comprises government bodies with interests in the L.A. River -- on January 7.
"This is an evolutionary step. It's not the same thing as the Paddle the L.A. River program," said Barbara Romero, Director of Urban Projects of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), who attributed much of the proposal development to the work of Walt Young, MRCA Chief of Operations, "It's not just about boating. It's more about access."