About This Newsletter What is an Ecovillage? Ecovillage Resources Diana Leafe Christian, Editor

L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers!

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L.A. Eco-Village founder Lois Arkin (far left) and Albert Bates, Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, Tennessee, being interviewed by local media.
Let’s say we’re standing on the wrought-iron balcony of the second-floor community room at Los Angeles Eco-Village (LAEV), looking straight east, directly down White House Place. On the left we’d see the playground of a public kindergarten. On the right, we’d see almost 30 affordable homes, wood and stucco four-plexes and a few single family homes. These were all built in the early 1900s as middle-class housing in what was then the outer suburbs of Los Angeles, adjacent to the former hot springs resort at the south end of the street, the historic Bimini Baths. While most ecovillagers rent housing in two adjacent apartment buildings where White House Place intersects Bimini Place, some also rent in these homes down the street. But Eco-Villagers consider the whole two-block Bimini and White House Place area as the L.A. Eco-Village neighborhood they’ve been organizing since 1993 as a coalition of socially connected, environmentally aware neighbors.
L.A. Eco-Villagers are ardent bicycle and public transportation activists.
The 40 or so residents of the yellow, Spanish-style, 40-unit apartment building built in the 1920s, and the similar 8-unit building next door, aren’t your typical city dwellers. In the midst of the greater LA area of more than 18 million, these fervent bicycle and public transportation activists ($20 off on your rent if you don’t own a car) have been growing organic vegetables and fruit trees in the apartment courtyard, running a neighborhood food co-op, and hosting green home-based businesses. They’ve been working to turn their rented buildings into a limited equity housing co-op and to have the land underneath the buildings become part of the Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust; pioneering the only already-built, registered, LEED-Neighborhood Development pilot project in Los Angeles; and attracting $250,000 of city money to create a “slow street” project out front on Bimini Place. Once laughed at by mainstream Angelenos for their passion for composting, recycling, and bicycling, Los Angeles Eco-Village is now famous: lauded citywide from ongoing positive coverage in the Los Angeles Times to friends in high places such as L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti.

So it was quite a shock when Eco-Villagers learned in August, 2007 that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) planned to use eminent domain to obliterate and bulldoze the affordable housing on White House Place and their neighbors’ housing the next block over in order to build a new elementary school. Not only would dozens of people in this densely populated working-class neighborhood loose their homes, but Eco-Villagers in the two apartment buildings would live across the street from a heat island of asphalt and a chain link fence. The heart of this renowned urban ecovillage project would be gone practically overnight.

This might have seemed reasonable if Los Angeles needed more schools, since after all, who can argue with the needs of children? But the number of children in this part of Los Angeles is declining, and many local schools have empty seats. Furthermore, a new LAUSD elementary school opened in 2006 one block away, and two new elementary schools recently opened about 15 blocks away—all with some empty seats.

LAEV hosts many events—like this urban permaculture workshop—in the courtyard of their 40-unit building.
Fortunately, the many environmental and social justice activists drawn to LA Eco-Village didn’t take this threat laying down. They proposed an alternate site spanning the two blocks north of LAEV. The alternate site not only satisfies the LAUSD standards for a new school, but would not involve bulldozing any houses, and potentially provided for an even greater amount of recreational space for the school. So through a massive campaign to friends and supporters, City officials, and a largely sympathetic L.A. press, Eco-Villagers mobilized hundreds of supporters to write letters, sign an online petition, and show up in person at LAUSD’s series of four public meetings to support the alternate school site. At the fourth LAUSD meeting on March 19th, the LAUSD site-selection representative announced that they would be recommending LAEV’s proposed alternate site to the School Board at its full board meeting. If the board accepts their recommendation, no homes will be bulldozed and the heart of L.A. Eco-Village will be saved.

However . . . LAUSD then announced that if they didn’t build a bigger school on White House Place they would replace the 1.25 acre-kindergarten in the heart of Eco-Village—across from the four-plexes—with a 137-car parking lot!

City Council President Eric Garcetti dedicating Bimini Place as one of L.A.’s Shared Streets, March 20, 2008.
A parking lot smack in the middle of L.A. Eco-Village? What irony! The very next morning, at the dedication of Bimini Place as one of Los Angeles’s premier Shared Street Projects, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti; officials from the City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, Street Services, and Department of Transportation; and representatives of the Beverly-Vermont Community Land Trust and Eco-Villages all showed up to celebrate the completion of the Project’s traffic-slowing features, increased access to buses, landscaped green space, food-producing macadamia nut street trees, and permeable sidewalks.

Our friends at L.A. Eco-Village certainly don’t want a giant asphalt auto-warehouse in the middle of their public-transit oriented neighborhood and its strong bicycle culture! So they are now proposing that instead of building a parking lot on the kindergarten site, LAUSD and the local Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) do a joint “green development” including:

  1. A year-round indoor swimming pool and spa facilities from geothermal springs below the streets, restoring the historic Bimini Baths).
  2. Approximately 50 units of “car-free” affordable cohousing built above the pool for LAUSD teachers and staff (since the site is within walking distance of about 12 public and many private schools) and has access to the subway and many bus lines.
  3. A row of small “green” retail businesses on First Street to provide jobs for local residents.
  4. Recycling hot waters from the Baths to provide some degree of geothermal heating/cooling to the housing development.
  5. Recycling and cleaning graywater through a series of “living machine” tanks.

Is it likely LAUSD and CRA will agree to build such a facility? Maybe not. But L.A. Eco-Villagers lose no opportunities to educate the mainstream with innovative, socially and ecologically sustainable visions. They’ve been educating the mainstream for years, and look what they’ve accomplished so far!

To help convince the full LAUSD School Board to choose the alternative school site, and the green development plan for the first site (when the kindergarten site is no longer needed), call or write the school board members. Get updated details, talking points, phone numbers, fax numbers on the LAEV website.


Related articles:

How Yarrow Ecovillage Got “Ecovillage Zoning” — this issue
Maitreya Ecovillage Keeps Its Domes — Oct '08


Also in this issue — May '08


Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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Newsletter Staff

Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US