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Income & Employment / 2013

La Loma Center: Green Education Environmental Resources and Job Training

La Loma Center: Green Education Environmental Resources and Job Training

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by La Loma Development Company

Our idea is to design, build, and operate a community center for the advancement of sustainable landscaping and permaculture jobs through green education, environmental resources, urban agriculture demonstrations and local food security programs. We would use $100,000 wisely to complete our center, ramp up programming, and open our doors to the broader public. We currently are located in a 30,000+ sq. ft. property in an Enterprise Zone, an underserved neighborhood (food desert), formerly a historic truck mechanic. For nearly six months we have been using our cash flow from La Loma to convert this location into a base of “post-industrial eco-renaissance.” We have also formed a non-profit, named Zanja Madre, to handle the education, training, and pro bono work we do for the community, schools, and institutions. For the La Loma Center, we have floated names like “Sustainia” and “Ecodepot,” but most importantly we have the place and people to do this now. The facilities would be perfect for job training, professional certification courses, events and even conferences. With creative reuse of the giant garages, mechanic bays, and grounds, we will be able to exhibit techniques and technologies, as well as provide the resources for the public to mimic the cutting edge demonstrations. We also have an adjunct vacant lot in LA where we demonstrate natural techniques on the land. Our idea clearly impacts nearly all of the indicators listed, however we will focus on income and employment after going through the rest of them. Education will be improved by providing classes at various levels in collaboration with local schools and universities, as well as professional certification and job training programs. We have active relationships with local high schools and community colleges, and the Art Center College of Design, Environmental Charter Schools, and LAUSD. Environmental quality will be impacted directly by the tools and resources we provide. Our jobs increase watershed awareness, irrigation conservation, rainwater harvesting, and planting appropriate trees. We design, build, and maintain organic gardens, as well as ecological restoration projects. We will demonstrate how individuals can improve their immediate surroundings through the landscape. Health has been shown to improve through environmental quality, practicing horticulture, and eating good local food. Our facilities and programs will improve people’s health by getting them to improve their lifestyles and connections to nature and community. Also, we are in contact with the director of the public health department to create the first local organic food commissary, hosting qualifying food trucks, food carts, and mobile farmers' markets. By providing access to local organic food we will eliminate food deserts and improve the health of the community. Social connectedness is one of our primary goals at the community center, networking between organizations and individuals to synergize the local sustainability movement. We already have become a hub for the permaculture world, making it feel like a small world with all of the relationships, and being invited to give talks at various conferences including Bioneers, Permaculture Convergence, Urban Ecology, and the Arboretum's Garden Show. Arts and cultural vitality will radiate from our center with the look and feel style of the place, arts exhibitions focused on land art, green building, and creative expression. We are a land based organization that believes our work is art and culture tied to the land. We are not your average mow and blow or construction contractor, we are a design-build firm with a social mission and a vision for the future. Moreover, La Loma provides jobs and income. This year alone we have created thirty jobs with no budget allocated to job creation, simply by employing and training a diversity of local workers in real green projects. We intend to dedicate our center to the creation of local wealth and sustainable livelihoods, by providing the tools and opportunities to do good for the local community and local environment. We are fully confident that La Loma Center will become the leading place to acquire knowledge, credentials, and opportunities for increased incomes and job creation. This is evident in our record of offering gainful employment, engaging workers' coops, and acting as an important stepping stone for dozens of careers.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Besides our latest project at our center…. La Loma is a critical partner in the creation of Arlington Gardens, a three acre, award-winning community garden. We were also awarded the Green Hero Award by Environmental Charter Schools for the greening of their campus, which also received national attention as a runner-up in the White House Race to the Top contest. We received the Pasadena Beautiful Golden Arrow Award for our classic terraced vineyard project and other front-yard gardens. We were published on the cover of Landscape Contractor Magazine for our use of recycled concrete in beautiful, monumental projects, as well as stories in LA Times, Sunset, Pasadena Star, and others. We had an acclaimed installation, the Public Fruit Tree Theater, at LACMA that unfortunately was replaced by “Levitated Mass.” We have been publicly commended by several council members for our work at schools and other community projects, such as Plaza Morazan (Ed Reyes), Main St. Elementary (Jan Perry), Pasadena Senior Center (Steve Madison). We bioremediated our site, eliminating the gasoline, oil and chemicals. We are leaders of converting toxic chlorine pools into Natural Pools, that create habitat and store drinking water. We were called upon as an emergency responder to the recent windstorms, and we pride ourselves as being a force of nature for our community. Currently we are finishing a large Demonstration Garden for the Chino Basin Water District. Marco Barrantes was formerly a Parks and Recreation Commissioner, as well as a member of Food Policy Council, he wrote a book called “Feed Your City: Urban Agriculture Food Systems.” We are a registered Small Business, Minority Business Enterprise, and pre-qualified for projects with LAUSD, MWD, among other major institutions. We have created jobs and income during a recession, what more can you ask?

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Education and job training partners include, but not limited to: The Pasadena Learning Garden. Flintridge Foundation. City of Pasadena, Department of Public Health. Larry Santoyo, Earthflow. Ray Cirino.

Marco Barrantes is the President of La Loma Development Company, with Masters of City Planning and Landscape Architecture. He is also a certified Arborist, Permaculture Designer, and Green Roof Professional. Marco founded La Loma as a General A and C-27 in order to do the big projects he envisions without being hindered by bureaucratic restrictions. As a designer and builder, with a standing team of skilled workers and professional staff, we are capable of doing amazing projects, as is demonstrated by our website.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

We will evaluate our projects by the number of jobs we create, the number of classes we hold, the number of job trainees we certify, the number of green projects we design, build and maintain, the amount of income we create for our workers and partners, the amount of income that goes back into the community through our non-profit arm, the number of members that join our community center and food commissary. The results will be easy to measure and straightforward. We will create good jobs, local wealth, neighborhood projects that can not be missed. Typically our gardens result in greater environmental awareness as is measured by testimonials and word-of-mouth. It is easy to measure our success by the gallons of water we capture or save, the number of trees we plant, the pounds of food we produce, the pounds of seeds we store and distribute, the tons of local waste we recycle into compost, mulch and building materials. By counting the number of visitors that come through our locations, the number of awards and publications we have received and will continue to win.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Our project will benefit Los Angeles in numerous ways as was discussed above. Specifically, we will have a major impact on the creation natural parks, beautiful gardens, and public spaces to organize community. LA has a shortage of green spaces, we solve that problem. We will empower the community with information and work, hosting regular classes, community workshops, and job training on a variety of relevant sustainability issues. Specific subjects include Arboriculture, Aquaculture, Beekeeping, Soil, Water, Seeds, School Composting, Compost Tea, Vermiculture, Xeriscape, Drip Irrigation, Dry-Stacked Broken Concrete Terracing, Masonry, Carpentry, Metalwork, Edible Gardening, Food Preservation (solar dehydration, canning), Fruit Tree Pruning, Green Roofs, Greywater, Living Walls, Natural Building (cobb, adobe), Natural Pools, Permaculture, Rainwater Harvesting, Urban Agriculture, Rocket Stoves/Ovens, Solar Power, Conservation Remodeling, and so much more.

Our facilities will provide a perfect location for school field trips, afterschool programs, regular farmers’ market, as well as special events. We will become the place to go for cutting edge information and resources to improve our environmental health and urban sustainability. Designers and contractors will depend on us for the dissemination of ideas and supplies, hopefully inspiring the replication of the model. DIY people will be empowered by our offerings, and commercial and institutional clients will turn to us for leadership in creating jobs and getting their environmental projects completed with beauty and integrity.

Los Angeles currently does not have a place like this in the entire county, there are many pieces to the puzzle, and we are putting them together to help accelerate our economic and environmental recovery.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Success in the year 2050 will look like our city has bloomed into a green urban paradise, transforming from industrial decay into creative rejuvenation. Our water shortages will be eliminated with a healthy watershed, an LA River that is vital and used for recreation and habitat. Aquifers will be recharged with smart use of rainwater and graywater, while intelligent landscaping will reduce our needs for irrigation. Urban agriculture will increase local produce, supplementing our diets while creating butterfly and bee habitat. People will have meaningful work that improves our public health and environmental quality. Community connectivity will be strengthened with regional hubs replicating our model.