From Lead to Pipelines, Students Hone Research Skills

September 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A small group of community-based researchers in Southeast Los Angeles County is searching to find solutions to environmental issues ranging from lead contamination to tainted storm-water runoff, bike safety and oil pipelines, some of the issues in their own backyards.

For nine weeks, 14 researchers and assistants surveyed streets, studied city documents, conducted tests and interviews as part of the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Collaborative – a project of Commerce-based East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice, and named for one of the nonprofits most active members who died last year.

According to the collaborative, the program gives first-generation, undergraduate college students of color training to conduct social justice-oriented research in their communities.

“We live in these communities, we sense the urgency in finding solutions to the issues we face,” says one of the researchers, 24-year-old Suzette Aguirre of South Gate.

“It means something different, [more], to the researchers when they are testing the homes of their neighbors,” explains Floridalma Boj-Lopez, a USC doctoral candidate and project coordinator who told EGP she believes the program participants have a better grasp on environmental injustice issues in Southeast L.A. County.

Andrea Luna, left, and Suzette Aguirre, right, compile their findings on the impacts of lead contaminated soil, which will be presented Friday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Andrea Luna, left, and Suzette Aguirre, right, compile their findings on the impacts of lead contaminated soil, which will be presented Friday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Boj-Lopez adds that some of the data they collected could actually be used to inform the community about environmental concerns that have not yet been researched by larger institutions.

Working in four separate groups, each research team focused on a specific area of investigation, ranging from studying the impact of lead contaminated soil in the communities surrounding the now-shuttered Exide plant to the consequences of living near oil pipelines in West Long Beach. They also studied issues faced by female bicyclists traveling through truck-heavy traffic and the quality of industrial stormwater runoff into the Los Angeles River.

Each team will detail its findings during a public presentation Friday at the Westside Christian Church in Long Beach.

One group will detail how they studied the industrial runoff from sites near the Los Angeles River and found grease-like stains running from the facility to the river, East Yards Executive Director Mark Lopez told EGP. The group plans to share photographs and the results of lead level tests near river entry points, which will be handed over to the appropriate regulatory agency for possible legal enforcement.

“Every single project is extending the work of one of our campaigns,” notes Lopez.

Julius Calascan, 23, has been volunteering with East Yards for three years, speaking at community meetings about Exide contamination and plans to expand the 710 Freeway, but told EGP he always thought he could do more.

“I’ve been wanting to have a larger role in the organization and this is a different way of helping the cause,” he said about his research, adding he hopes the data collected will spur further investigation into local environmental issues.

(Left to right): Julius Calascan, Whitney Amaya and Javier Garay work on their reaserch projects that will be presented to the public Friday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

(Left to right): Julius Calascan, Whitney Amaya and Javier Garay work on their reaserch projects that will be presented to the public Friday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Using hand-held, lead detection devices and pH meters, Aguirre and Andrea Luna, 21, of Bell tested the soil at dozens of homes in East Los Angeles, Commerce and South Gate.

They were concerned that the brain-damaging chemicals spewed from the now-shuttered Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon had harmed their families and neighbors, who were warned by state regulators to avoid contact with the soil around their homes until tests determine it to be safe.

For some, the warning meant they could no longer grow the fresh vegetables they depend on for a healthy diet.

“Diabetes is already prevalent in this area, which lacks fresh food options,” explains Aguirre, a student at Cal State Long Beach studying nutrition and chemistry. “We wanted to change the situation and further explain the health and social impacts caused by Exide,” that have not been talked about, she told EGP.

Aguirre said they asked themselves what residents could do in the meantime to help remediate the problem while waiting for the more extensive cleanup that could take years.

“We wanted to find a short-term solution that could extract metal out of soil,” Luna told EGP, explaining they have compiled a list of plants and vegetables that detoxify contaminated soil which they plan to release when they present their findings Friday. Luna said they also plan to distribute reading material aimed at helping reduce the fear that comes from being in limbo.

Long Beach residents Whitney Amaya, 23, and Calascan focused their research on the oil and gas lines traveling below west Long Beach. They said the project gave them a better understanding of the types of research they could conduct if they choose to pursue graduate school.

“I was looking into going into grad school but had no experience in research,” explained Amaya, who graduated from UCLA last year with a degree in geography and environmental studies.

Amaya told EGP if it were not for the funding and training provided by the collaborative, it’s unlikely she would have conducted this type of research on her own.

Each of the participants were paid to conduct their research. Funding for the collaborative came from a $50,000 CAL EPA environmental justice small grant as well as $5,000 from individual donations.

The program and funding has grown significantly since last year, according to East Yards, which is now looking at how they can take what they’ve learned to further the research and possibly evolve the project into a community-based think tank.

Coordinator Jessica Prieto is a graduate of San Francisco State University and says she hopes each researcher walks away with an understanding of the issue they studied and now   feels confident in the role of community expert.

“Hopefully, they feel actionable and feel like they can do something about it,” she said.

Update: Sept. 16, 2016 3:45p.m. a previous version of this article did not have the correct amount East Yards received from CAL EPA and individual donations. The story updated to clarify how researchers were paid.

Pieces of Rock ‘Bridge’ Communities

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Some of the rocks were big, others were small, but to the hundreds of people who lined up Saturday in downtown Los Angeles, the only thing that really mattered was the chance to own a piece of Los Angeles history.

Bell resident Bertha Luna and her family were among those who made the trek downtown in hopes of getting a piece of the iconic Sixth Street Bridge that had for decades connected the eastside to the city’s urban center.

“We had to have piece of L.A. history,” exclaimed Bertha.

“There are other bridges but none have this view,” her husband Armando chimed in.

The one-of-a-kind keepsakes were distributed during “Rock Day L.A.,” a celebration held near what remains of the bridge that was demolished earlier this year to make room for safer structural expanse across Los Angeles River.

Since its construction in 1932, the Sixth Street Viaduct – as it’s officially named – has been a favorite among filmmakers, appearing in dozens of TV shows, music videos and movies, including “Grease,” “Terminator 2,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Furious 7.”

“There are few structures in the city that are as iconic and easily recognizable,” pointed out Councilman Jose Huizar, who hosted the event. “This bridge was one of them.”

Hundreds of people lined up Saturday to take home a piece of the 6th Street Bridge. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Hundreds of people lined up Saturday to take home a piece of the 6th Street Bridge. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Just 20 years after being built, engineers discovered that the bridge was succumbing to Alkali Silica, a chemical reaction that was disintegrating the cement supports holding up the bridge. A 2004 seismic study concluded the bridge would very likely collapse during a major earthquake, prompting officials to decide to replace the structure when other restoration attempts failed.

The city of Los Angeles has approved $449 million for the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project, the largest bridge project in the city’s history.

In February of this year, crews demolished the old bridge and began construction on a new one that is expected to open in late 2019.

The significance of the milestone was not lost on Boyle Heights resident Diana Del Pozo Mora, who along with her daughter and granddaughter each got their hands on a hunk of cement from the local landmark, and the certificate of authenticity it came with.

“We came because of what the bridge means to us; heritage, memories and infrastructure,” Del Pozo Mora said, recalling her many trips across the bridge. “It represents what L.A. was built on,” she said nostalgically.

Her 9-year-old granddaughter, Jessie Ponce de Leon, says she plans to share her rock with her fellow students when she goes back to school.

“I will keep it forever,” she told EGP, holding up the rock that caught her eye.

Hilary Norton was at the event handing out rocks. She said some people wanted to know what part of the bridge the rocks came from while others wanted a rock with graffiti on it. One resident even came prepared with a stroller to carry out the largest piece he could find, she said in amusement.

Most of all, “people wanted to talk about their love for the bridge,” Norton said.

The new Viaduct will have many more features then its predecessor that architects say will make the structure more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

In addition to 10-lighted arches, there will be bike lanes, wider sidewalks and nearly eight acres of recreational open space under the bridge that will be accessible by stairways and bike ramps.

Replacing such an iconic landmark is a big responsibility, Tim Williams, managing principal at Michael Maltzan Architecture, the firm that designed the new structure, told EGP.

“There’s a civic duty that goes along with designing a piece of infrastructure like this,” he said. “What is especially great is it connects and ‘bridges’ these communities.”

Huizar admits the new bridge has large shoes to fill but believes its design will ultimately be just as iconic.

“The new bridge will not just be about getting from point A to point B, [but] will turn into a destination of its own,” he told EGP.

Oscar Guzman and his daughter Isabella enjoy reading about the history of Los Angeles and specifically attended the event to get a hold of the certificate of authenticity that comes with the rocks. They hope the new bridge will not only last as long as the previous one but also generate the same type of enthusiasm among residents.

“Everyone in Los Angeles, from all walks of life, crossed that bridge,” noted Guzman. “That bridge will go down in history and we have a part of it.”

Stretch of L.A. River Bike Path Closed

July 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A one-mile section of a bike path along the Los Angeles River will be closed through November 2019 for construction, L.A.’s department of public works has announced.

The closure will impact cyclists using the LA River Bike Path east of Riverside Drive. The entrance to the bike path and the 134 Freeway will be closed, and bike path users will be instructed to exit at Zoo Drive and Western Heritage Way, according to the city.

The bike path is within the Riverside Bridge construction zone and the city is closing the path as a safety precaution. The bridge is being widened on the downstream (eastbound) side by 19 feet to make room for 4 more traffic lanes, medians, shoulders and sidewalks.

Other improvements include construction of an underpass along the south channel and an additional 400 feet of bike path.

Cyclist Shot Dead in Bell Gardens

July 7, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

Authorities Wednesday identified a man who was fatally shot while riding a bicycle along the Los Angeles River bicycle path in Bell Gardens in an attack investigators believe was gang-related.

The victim was Joseph Barela, 33, of Bell Gardens, said Los Angeles County coroner’s Lt. Ed Dietz.

The shooting was reported at 6:26 p.m. Monday along the bike path west of the Long Beach (710) Freeway and north of Firestone Boulevard, said Deputy Crystal Hernandez of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau.

The victim was riding a bicycle on the dirt path adjacent to the Los Angeles River just west of the Long Beach Freeway when “the suspect approached him on foot and shot him,” Hernandez said.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, she said.

The suspect was described as a man wearing dark clothing who ran to a vehicle on the Long Beach Freeway and rode off southbound and out of view, Hernandez said.

“The incident appears to be gang-related,” she said.

Homeless Man Shot in River Adjacent Encampment

May 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A homeless man was shot twice Wednesday morning inside an encampment near the L.A. River, but the victim was not cooperating with authorities, police said.

The shooting took place about 12:20 a.m. on Perrino Place, east of the L.A. River near Washington Boulevard, said a desk officer at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division.

“The victim was shot twice in the leg,” the desk officer said. “He was transported to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.”

The victim was not being cooperative with police, according to the officer.

“He said he didn’t see anything; doesn’t know anything and doesn’t know why he was shot,” the officer added.

Anyone with information on this shooting was asked to call the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division at (323) 342-4100. Tipsters can also call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS. All tips can be submitted anonymously.

Counselors Sent to Cypress Park School

May 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Grief counselors were on hand Monday at Sotomayor Learning Academies, where students returned to class following the weekend deaths of two classmates whose bodies were recovered from the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park.

The coroner’s office identified the boys as Carlos Jovel, 16, and Gustavo Ramirez, 15. Autopsies were pending.

The teenagers went missing Friday, prompting a search of the area of Division Street and San Fernando Road. The two teens were in a group of four people who went to the river after school. One fell into the water and another is believed to have jumped in after him, witnesses said.

At about 12:40 p.m. Sunday, firefighters and police responded to the river in the 1900 block of San Fernando Road, and police announced at 8:20 p.m. that divers had recovered two bodies.

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said district officials are “deeply saddened by the drowning of two student” from Sotomayor, 2050 N. San Fernando Road.

“On behalf of the district, I express my deepest condolences to the boys’ families and friends and to the Sotomayor Learning Academies community,” King said. “District crisis counselors and school counselors are available at the campus to provide support to students and staff affected by this tragedy.”

Río de Los Ángeles: ¿Qué Pasa con el Sureste?

August 20, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Continúan los arduos esfuerzos para revitalizar el río de Los Ángeles que en algún momento corrió libremente desde Los Ángeles a Long Beach, pero ahora está parcialmente cubierto por concreto y graffiti.

Mientras el alcalde Eric Garcetti promociona su plan de $1.3 billones en Washington DC para restaurar los elementos naturales en un tramo de 11 millas del río entre el parque Griffith y el centro de la ciudad, la legislación ha estado trabajando en Sacramento para hacer frente a la parte sur del río de 51 millas de distancia.

Read this article in English: L.A. River: What About the Southeast?

El asambleísta Anthony Rendón representa el Distrito 63, que incluye comunidades del sureste a lo largo del río: Bell, Cudahy, Maywood South Gate, Lynwood, Paramount, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood y North Long Beach.

Rendón espera que su más reciente proyecto de ley, AB 530 permita a las comunidades al sur de Los Ángeles y al norte de Long Beach tener una voz en el desarrollo de un plan para restaurar el río a lo largo de sus fronteras.

Si se aprueba, la medida de Rendón autorizaría al Secretario de Recursos Naturales, en coordinación con la Junta de Supervisores del Condado de Los Ángeles, a nombrar un grupo local para desarrollar un plan de revitalización para la parte baja del río de Los Ángeles. Los miembros del grupo provendrían de las comunidades del sureste.

“Las ciudades del sureste son muy densas, carecen de espacio abierto y el río ofrece la oportunidad de crear un espacio de recreación al aire libre para estas comunidades”, dijo Rendón.

En 1996, el condado de Los Ángeles aprobó un Plan Maestro para todo el río Los Ángeles. Desde entonces, la ciudad de Los Ángeles ha desarrollado su propio plan de revitalización para la parte superior del río dentro de los límites de la ciudad. En el sureste, sin embargo, los esfuerzos de revitalización han languidecido durante casi dos décadas, sin llegar a ninguna parte.

“Estoy a favor de los esfuerzos para revitalizar la región superior del río, pero creo que la zona inferior, a través del sureste del condado de Los Ángeles merece cierta consideración”, Rendón le dijo a EGP.

Con una nueva propuesta se espera que la revitalización del río de Los Angeles toque la parte sureste también. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Con una nueva propuesta se espera que la revitalización del río de Los Angeles toque la parte sureste también. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Mark López, director de Comunidades East Yards dijo que las grandes ciudades como Los Ángeles y Long Beach tienen más personal y más sofisticado para avanzar con sus agendas, lo cual no es el caso de las comunidades del sureste de menor tamaño.

“Nuestras comunidades son el hogar de bajos ingresos, personas de color con las barreras del idioma”, dijo. “No hay una gran cantidad de poder político percibido en el sureste, especialmente con toda la corrupción que ha ocurrido”.

La legislación de Rendón insta a los representantes del estado para actualizar el Plan Maestro con el fin de centrar la atención y recursos a la parte baja del río. Este mes, la AB 530 fue aprobada por unanimidad por la Asamblea y se espera que llegue al Senado estatal el próximo mes.

Esta legislación iniciará un diálogo muy necesario, dijo Rendón.

“La gente en estas comunidades está muy interesada en la revitalización del río más allá de Boyle Heights”, dijo.

Aunque ninguna financiación directa se adjunta a la factura, el director del Distrito de Rendón Raúl Álvarez le dijo a EGP que el grupo a cargo del plan de revitalización sería elegible para solicitar fondos de la Proposición 1, un bono del agua aprobado por los votantes en 2014—escrito por Rendón—que asignó $100 millones para un estudio del río de Los Ángeles. Álvarez dijo que la esperanza es que el grupo aplicaría para los fondos para pagar los estudios necesarios y de divulgación.

El personal de Rendón comenzó a hablar a la comunidad acerca de los planes para el río durante un paseo en bicicleta en Cudahy organizada a principios de este año por la Coalición de Bicicletas del Condado de Los Ángeles. Los residentes expresaron la necesidad de conectar los caminos de ciclismo en la región; el río Los Ángeles es el lugar para hacerlo, dijo Rendón.

“El río de Los Ángeles es un recurso natural al que todas las comunidades de nuestra región deben tener acceso”, dijo.

López le dijo a EGP que el grupo ecologista del lado este ya comenzó a armar una lista de servicios que les gustaría ver.

El grupo está abogando por más espacios verdes, puentes peatonales, rutas de bicicleta, parques y el acceso al agua para uso recreativo como kayak que proporcionaría “beneficios reales para estas comunidades”, dijo.

“La porción norte tiene acceso a más agua, nosotros no tenemos esa opción”, dijo Álvarez.

En última instancia, Rendón espera que el proyecto de ley dará lugar a un río que no está cubierto de graffiti o un imán para el consumo de drogas y campamentos sin hogar.

“No se trata sólo de un montón de espacio verde, se trata de mantener el río y limpiarlo”, aclaró Álvarez.

La legislación de Rendón ha recibido el apoyo de los funcionarios electos y organizaciones en las comunidades del sureste, así como de la supervisora del condado Hilda Solís, la congresista Lucille Roybal-Allard y el Centro de Conservación de Los Ángeles.

“Las partes interesadas de todo el condado tendrán la oportunidad de participar y vislumbrar un río revitalizado”, dijo Solís después que la Junta de Supervisores votó unánimemente para apoyar el proyecto de ley. “Cuando los diferentes niveles de gobierno trabajan juntos, la comunidad se beneficia”.


Twitter @nancyreporting

L.A. River: What About the Southeast?

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Efforts have been in full force to revitalize the Los Angeles River that once ran freely from Los Angeles to Long Beach but is now partially covered by concrete and graffiti.

As Mayor Eric Garcetti touted his $1.3 billion plan in Washington D.C. to restore natural elements to an 11-mile stretch of the river between Griffith Park and downtown, legislation has been making its way in Sacramento to address the southern portion of the 51-mile long river.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon represents the 63rd District, which includes Southeast communities along the river: Bell, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, Lakewood, North Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount and South Gate.

State bill would add Lower L.A. River to revitalization study. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

State bill would add Lower L.A. River to revitalization study. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

Rendon hopes his latest bill, AB 530 will allow the communities south of Los Angeles and north of Long Beach to have a voice in developing a plan to restore the river along their borders.

If approved, Rendon’s bill would authorize the Secretary of Natural Resources, in coordination with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, to appoint a local group to develop a revitalization plan for the Lower LA River. The group’s members would come from southeast communities,

“Southeast cities are very dense, lack open area and the river affords the opportunity to create outdoor recreation space for these communities,” says Rendon.

In 1996, Los Angeles County adopted a Master Plan for the entire L.A. River. Since then, the City of Los Angeles has developed its own revitalization plan for the upper portion of the river within city limits. In the Southeast, however, revitalization efforts have languished for nearly two decades, going nowhere.

“I am very supportive of the efforts to revitalize the upper region of the river but I believe the lower area, through Southeast Los Angeles County deserves some consideration,” Rendon told EGP.

Mark Lopez, director of East Yard Communities says large cities like Los Angeles and Long Beach have larger, more sophisticated staff to move their agendas forward, which is not the case in smaller Southeast communities.

“Our communities are home to low-income, people of color with language barriers,” he said. “There is not a lot of perceived political power in the Southeast, especially with all the corruption that has occurred.”

Rendon’s legislation urges state representatives to update the Master Plan in order to focus attention and resources to the lower portion of the river. This month, AB 530 was unanimously approved by Assembly and is expected to go before the State Senate next month.

This legislation will start a much-needed dialogue, Rendon said.

“People in these communities are very interested in revitalizing the river beyond Boyle Heights,” he said.

Though no direct funding is attached to the bill, Rendon’s District Director Raul Alvarez told EGP that the group in charge of the revitalization plan would be eligible to apply for funds from Proposition 1, a 2014 voter-approved water bond – authored by Rendon – that allocated $100 million for an L.A. River study. Alvarez said the hope is that the group would apply for the funds to pay for needed studies and outreach.

Rendon’s staff began talking to the community about plans for the river during a bike ride in Cudahy organized earlier this year by the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition. Residents expressed a need to connect biking paths in the region; with the L.A. River being the place to do it, Rendon said.

“The L.A. River is a natural resource that all communities in our region should have access to,” he said.

Lopez told EGP the eastside environmental group has already started to put together a list of amenities they would like to see in their backyard.

The group is advocating for more green space, pedestrian bridges, bike routes, parks and access to water for recreational use such as kayaking that would provide “real benefits for these communities,” he said.

“The north portion has access to more water, we don’t have that option,” Alvarez said.

Ultimately, Rendon hopes the bill will lead to a riverbed that is not covered in graffiti or a magnet for drug use and homeless encampments.

“It’s not just about green space lots, it’s about maintaining the river and cleaning it,” Alvarez clarified.

Rendon’s legislation has received support from elected officials and organizations in the Southeast communities, as well as County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and the Los Angeles Conservation Core.

“Stakeholders from across the county will have the opportunity to participate and envision a revitalized river,” said Solis after the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to support the bill. “When different levels of government work together, the community benefits.”

[An earlier version of this article misnamed the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition]

Garcetti to ‘Pitch’ L.A. River Plan In D.C.

July 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday he will urge a panel of top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials in Washington, D.C., this week to advance a $1.3 billion project to restore natural elements to an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River.

Garcetti told City News Service he will make a “final pitch” today to the Civil Works Review Board, made up of senior Army Corps of Engineers officials based in Washington, D.C.

The panel will consider a draft of the final environmental impact report for the project that is aimed at bringing back the natural ecosystem to a portion of the Los Angeles River that flows between Griffith Park and downtown Los Angeles.

Much of the 51-mile-long Los Angeles River was covered in concrete during the early part of the 20th century to prevent flooding and to serve as a drain during storms.

The proposed restoration project was prompted by the efforts of local river activists and elected officials who wanted to restore the river’s natural habitat, flora and fauna, as well as making it more inviting for public recreational use.

The Civil Works Review Board’s approval would be a key milestone for the project, according to Jay Field of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Los Angeles district.

If the board signs off on the environmental impact report, local officials hope to get final approval from the Army Corps’ chief engineer by November, Field said.

That would allow the Army Corps to begin pitching the project to Congress for funding authorization as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, he said.

Garcetti was also in Washington, D.C. to speak to journalists during a National Press Club event. He was the featured speaker at the press club’s “Newsmakers” event Wednesday at the National Press Building.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is a past Newsmakers speaker, event organizer Bob Weiner said.

Garcetti was headlined to talk about the recently adopted $15 minimum wage in Los Angeles, and his response to the historic drought in California, Weiner said.

Garcetti was also expected to talk about the role of local governments in tackling “immigration reform while Congress remains deadlocked on the issue,” according to the press club’s website.

Southeast Cities Team Up For Bike Access

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Four southeast cities are joining forces to encourage residents to contribute ideas to the development of a master bike plan for their region.

But rather than holding the usual round of in-door meetings, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy and Vernon are holding free, informal bike rides in April and May to gather feedback from area residents on how to make streets safer and travelable for cyclists and pedestrians.

The cities have some of the most heavily traveled roadways in the region and hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing the number of cars on local streets and increasing the number of people riding bicycles and walking, goals set forth in the Active Transportation Program (ATP).

Bell Gardens is spearheading the initiative that will also look at connecting bike and pedestrian routes between the cities.

Each ride will be about six-miles long with stops along the way to allow for discussion and refreshments.

Participating cyclists are required to wear a helmet.

Data collected during the rides will be used by the cities to apply for ATP grants to pay for enhanced safety measures in their respective cities.

The first of the three information gathering cycling events was held last week in Cudahy and focused on how to improve access from the southeast communities to the Los Angeles River and Downtown Los Angeles.

The next bike rides will be held:

—Thursday, Apr. 9: Riders will meet at Bell Gardens High School (6119 Agra Street) at 1p.m. The topic will be: “How can walking and biking support the bigger goal of creating healthier, safer and more livable southern region?

—Saturday, May 23; Riders will meet at John Anson Ford Park (8000 Park Lane) in Bell Gardens at 10a.m. Topic:  “How can walking and biking connect the people and places that make our neighborhoods unique?”

For more information, contact Bell Gardens Director of Public Works Chau Vu at (562) 334-1790.

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