Environmental Quality / 2013

Van Nuys Blvd. Green Project

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Pacoima Beautiful

Van Nuys Boulevard is often referred to as the central artery of Pacoima. For the LA 2050 Challenge, Pacoima Beautiful would like to reinvigorate the 1.6 mile stretch of Van Nuys Blvd. between Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Glenoaks Blvd. There are over 60 small businesses on that portion of Van Nuys Blvd. These businesses range from independently owned and operated grocery stores, restaurants, mechanic shops, cell phone stores, flower shops, and many others. Many of these businesses are surviving on a month-to-month basis. They cover their payroll, and operating costs (rent, and utilities) without being able to invest in business improvements, much less streetscape improvements. If granted $100,000 Pacoima Beautiful would like to reward business owners in a manner that promotes environmental stewardship and saves them money. The funds from the LA 2050 Challenge would allow us to award 40 businesses, each with $1,000 in goods and services paid by Pacoima Beautiful to make environmentally friendly improvements to their business. The remaining funds would be used to make streetscape improvements to the 1.6 mile stretch of Van Nuys Blvd. and cover program costs. Making these green improvements will begin a shift in the way our business community thinks about environmental responsibility. Examples of eligible improvements are (but not limited to): Implementing the use of recycling bins, zero to low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint, energy efficient lighting, energy efficient windows, drought tolerant/native landscaping, green roofs, air conditioning system improvements, etc. Eligibility for the $1,000 (in goods and services) would be determined through an application process. Working in conjunction with groups such as the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Economic Development Center we would look into 1) Which environmental impact would the applicants improvement minimize? 2) How long has the business been in operation? 3) How will the business owner(s) maintain/sustain the improvement? We will also evaluate our award recipient’s awareness of environmental hazards and green business practices starting at the application process. This initial evaluation will be used as a baseline to gauge need for improvements and knowledge of environmentally safe practices. Awards would be given out from September 2013 through October 2013. Streetscape improvements would be completed no later than the end of April of 2014. In regards to the Environmental Quality indicator, our efforts would result in improved environmental quality due to creating a business culture that is less harmful to the environment, and more welcoming due to improved streetscapes. We also look forward to providing an increased sense of support for our business community and increased civic pride. In our community our people are our strength. Within our business community, business owners are very dedicated to creating jobs, and serving the needs of their customers. At Pacoima Beautiful we would like to include businesses into our culture of environmental justice and provide them with education and support to pass on to their employees and customers. At Pacoima Beautiful we create awareness in our community through engagement in our various free programs. To sustain the enthusiasm for maintaining improved streetscapes and business practices we welcome all members of the business community to learn how city planning and civic engagement can benefit them through our 12-week People’s Planning School. The curriculum focuses on city planning, public participation, environmental stewardship, advocacy, and leadership development which will help us achieve our vision of a better L.A. in 2050.

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

From 1997 to 2005, between 20 and 30 residents a year participated in six month trainings to learn how to inspect their neighborhoods, document environmental health hazards and how to support their neighbors in reducing and preventing those hazards. Residents learned to identify environmental hazards and access resources to address those hazards, how to increase awareness of environmental health issues and become advocates for change. From 2006 through the present, our Community and Environmental Planning work has focused on community wide environmental issues and to date program staff has engaged hundreds of residents in workshops and presentations in order to identify and prioritize environmental concerns. Most recently this has included advocacy to reduce the impacts of diesel pollution and to promote policies to transform Environmental Justice communities, such as our landmark Clean Up, Green Up campaign working with organizations throughout the city to reduce, mitigate, and revitalize communities like Pacoima.
We’re proud members of the Don’t Waste LA Coalition to create a more efficient waste and recycling industry in Los Angeles and ensure Clean Air, Good Jobs, and Recycling for All, and the RePower LA Coalition to lead LA into an energy efficient future with a plan to save money on energy bills, reduce dependency on dirty coal, and create local, career-path jobs. Through these coalition efforts, we are working to improve the quality of our local jobs and environment, while limiting the concentration of environmental harms and increasing the availability of environmental benefits. We also partner with UCLA Community Research In Cancer (CORICA) - the aim of the CORICA Network is to build community-university partnerships to conduct cancer prevention and control research in underserved communities in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. It aims to conduct research that will help eliminate socioeconomic and racial/ethnic disparities in cancer. We also have a long history of partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency. Our adult membership meet every month (on the fourth Thursday,6-8pm) to participate in advocacy, hone their public speaking skills, engage in environmental education, spread the word to their neighbors, and plan projects. Since 2002, our Safer Homes for a Healthy Community program has provide Pacoima families with information and support to reduce lead, asthma triggers, and home health hazards, including through Integrated Pest Management trainings. Since 2004 the Promotoras (community health workers) have reached hundreds of residents per year through presentations at schools, churches, fairs and other venues. The Safer Homes Program has been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency as a model program to prevent the impact of toxins. Revitalization - Increasing Environmental Benefits and Promoting Alternatives In 2008, Pacoima Beautiful was awarded a PLACE grant (Policies for Livable, Active Communities and Environments) from the LA County Department of Public Health, the only organization with an LA city-based project to receive such a grant. Through this grant, we worked with youth, community residents and experts to create a Vision Plan to revitalize the Pacoima Wash,a tributary of the LA River. The Wash holds amazing potential as an open space amenity for our community and we are continuing to work to realize our Vision with funds from Urban Greening and other sources. Pacoima Beautiful held over 20 community meetings to get input on the project with different community organizations including: parent centers, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations, and youth groups. • Held 2 large community events including a Pacoima Wash Mobile Charette where the community walked along the Pacoima Wash and gave input which over 100 people attended. • Successfully included our vision plan for revitalizing the Sylmar portion of the Pacoima Wash into the Pacoima Community Plan. • Received Urban Greening Grant to create a plan for implementing vegetated bio-swales along streets in Pacoima which will capture and treat storm water runoff before it enters the wash. • Cosmetic improvements to a pedestrian bridge over the Pacoima Wash used by over 200 students. • Plan to develop a 2 acre vacant lot adjacent to the wash which is currently blight into a new pocket park.

As part of this work, we also serve on the Disadvantaged Community (DAC) committee of the Greater Los Angeles County Integrated Regional Water Management group (GLAC-IRWM). Integrated Regional Water Management is a statewide effort to promote more efficient water resource management and planning by encouraging region‐wide collaboration. In spring of 2010, we were awarded a RENEW grant (Renew Environments for Nutrition, Exercise, and Wellness), also from the LA County Department of Public Health. This grant is part of the Center for Disease Control’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative. Through this grant, we worked to create a vision for Complete Streets based on community and expert input, and worked with our public partner, CRA/LA, to incorporate community priorities for more pedestrian/cyclist friendly streets into their proposed Streetscape Improvement Project for the Pacoima Town Center. Due to state budget cuts, CRA/LA’s funding has been closed, so we will continue to pursue other avenues to promote Complete Streets infrastructure, walking and biking. As part of this campaign, we also hosted a 12 session workshop series, People’s Planning School. Some accomplishments of the Caminos del Pueblo/Complete Streets Campaign include: • Gathered input from over 300 residents to identify priorities for streetscape improvements needed to improve Van Nuys Blvd. and promote walking, biking, and public transit use. • Presented the project goals to dozens of community organizations including: parent centers, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations, and youth groups. • Held 12 People’s Planning School workshops. • Participated in the Mayoral ThinkBike Summit with LADOT,LACBC, and others to create a vision for a more bike-able Van Nuys Blvd. • Received It’s Up to All of Us pedestrian safety advocacy grant. • Collaborated with LADOT to inform a Safe Routes To Schools grant application to improve Pierce and Herrick. • Grassroots-led improvement projects and events such as tree plantings, tile murals, public art, PARKing Day, and joint pro-bike and pro-walk events with Youth. • Joined the burgeoning equitable transit and transit-oriented development coalition, Alliance for a Community Transit, LA (ACT-LA).

Youth Environmentalists –Building the Future Generation Our Pacoima Beautiful Youth Environmentalists program (PB-YES) trains the next generation of community leaders, giving local teenagers opportunities for meaningful community involvement and promoting leadership development, civic learning and environmental awareness. Students get involved through year-round after-school groups, Youth United Towards Environmental Protection (YUTEP),and intensive summer service-learning Institutes on topics such as “Healthy Eating, Active Living”. YUTEP members have helped conduct surveys on key community issues and outreach to residents. Recent Institutes have drafted policy briefs, uncovered toxic contamination in a trailer park, and created open space proposals. Most recently, YUTEP has expanded its efforts by forming high school chapters in Arleta High School, San Fernando High School, Discovery Charter, and Vaughn International Studies Academy.

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

Possible partners are the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Economic Development Center

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

As an added component to this program, we would like to engage members of our youth program (Youth United Towards Environmental Protection) to assist us with the implementation and evaluation process. Our program success will be measured by the maintenance and additional understanding/investment of environmentally safe improvements at the 3 month, 6 month, and 12 month following the implementation of their business improvement. During the 12th month assessment, award recipients will be asked to answer a survey regarding the business and streetscape improvements, how they impacted their business, and if they will continue to look for greener ways of operating their business. Continuous follow-up will also create improved communication with our business community.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

The project will benefit Los Angeles in several forms, both direct and indirect. The direct ways in which L.A. benefits from our project is by making less environmental impacts. L.A. also benefits from the awareness and practice of environmentally friendly business improvements that don’t require investments of over $1,000. The indirect ways in which Los Angeles benefits from the proposed project is by creating a collaborative culture between environmental justice and business. Often, environmental justice organizations are thought of as wanting to keep business and industry out of their area. Pacoima Beautiful knows that in order for our community to thrive, we need to welcome business and take their investment in our community as an opportunity for collaboration. We look forward to engaging business into the environmental justice conversation. As a result of our program the rest of L.A. can have a model program to look towards when looking to bring business and communities together for the long-term benefit of our environment.

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

In 2050 Environmental Quality would like improved air and water quality for all communities, green industries in place of toxic industries, and complete streets for everyone to enjoy.