L.A. Eco-Village Stops Bulldozers!
From EcovillagesLos 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.
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.
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!
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:
- A year-round indoor swimming pool and spa facilities from geothermal springs below the streets, restoring the historic Bimini Baths).
- 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.
- A row of small “green” retail businesses on First Street to provide jobs for local residents.
- Recycling hot waters from the Baths to provide some degree of geothermal heating/cooling to the housing development.
- 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.
- How Yarrow Ecovillage Got “Ecovillage Zoning” — this issue
- Maitreya Ecovillage Keeps Its Domes — Oct '08