It’s time and past time for thanks and recognition of many fine people who devote their time and resources to making this world a better place.

  1. The entire staff of the Office of Community Beautification.

They manage funds that provide much needed money for beautification programs throughout the city (e.g. parks, murals, mosaics, trash abatement and gardens) and are among the nicest, most helpful group of people I have ever worked with.

Thank You Community Beautification Staff!

They return calls, are always happy to provide help and offer free workshops in useful subjects such as using technology (website design, using twitter, facebook etc.)

One often hears complaints about the uncaring nature of government employees. I’m happy to report that the staff of City Beautification gives lie to such assumptions.

We will be using a grant from The City Beautification fund to restore the mural “The Meeting of Minds” (situated on Mercado La Paloma, 3655 South Grand Ave.) The Mural pictures many people important to our community, Lucille Royball Allard,  Rita Walters,  Sister Diane Donoghue ( retired Director of Esperanza), Bruce Saito (head of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.) as well as Health Promoters, Vista Volunteers, children and adults who are contributing toward making our community a welcoming, healthy, thriving, diverse, artistic place. These community figures mingle with great figures from the past millennium: Albert Schweitzer, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Aldous Huxely, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Ann Frank. The mural pictures the flow of ideas (represented by these figures) from the last millennium through to the present and into the future. From Leonardo da Vinci to the young artists and babies in our community, the mural personifies those who have and are continuing to advance the philosophical ideals that create and foster a healthy, diverse, peaceful and beautiful community into the next

millennium.

MURAL

When giving thanks to public employees, I must always include

  1. GERRY VALIDO, Management Analyst

Citywide Graffiti Abatement Monitor / Graffiti Court Liaison /Program Manager-Educational Outreach Program

Office of Community Beautification, Board of Public Works

Department of Public Works, City of Los Angeles.

 That’s a mighty long title, and he deserves it! He is always responsive and has helped keep “Meeting of Minds” graffiti free for 8 years.

After the restoration of the mural, he will once, again cover the mural with a protective coating, which provides defend against vandalism.

Thank you Gerry!

 I am also long overdue in giving thanks to those who volunteer their time and gifts to enhance life.

Margaret Sosa is one of those people.

I have known Margaret for many years. She is a paper cutter of extraordinary gifts and skill, she unselfishly and unfailing shares that talent with others. Her Papel Picado pieces are wondrous works of art, yet she is humble, humorous and generous beyond belief.

I (and the staff of Esperanza) are fortune to have the gift of such a warm, wonderful artist

Thank You Margaret!

 Papel Picado

 I also want to share with you my excitement about a series of new projects we are planning.

The Art & Science program, working with the Health Program is planning a series of public garden projects.

These will involve:

  • Creating an organic food garden in Estrella Park. This will provide healthy produce to those who might not otherwise be able to afford it. It will also promote a connection with the Earth and growing plants, which is often lacking in the city.

We also want to use companion planting to create a biologically healthy garden.

Companion planting means putting plants together in the garden that like, or helps each other out. Companion planting can have a real impact on the health and yield of your plants.

Sometimes, a plant is planted next to its “companion” because it’s more attractive to pests and serves to distract them from the main crop. An excellent example of this is the use of collards to draw the diamond back moth away from cabbage

Legumes—such as peas, beans, and clover—have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen for their own use and for the benefit of neighboring plants via symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. Forage legumes, for example, are commonly seeded with grasses to reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Likewise, beans are sometimes interplanted with corn.

Some plants exude chemicals from roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighboring plants. The African marigold, for example, releases thiopene—a nematode repellent—making it a good companion for a number of garden crops.

Allelochemicals are chemicals produced by one plant that is toxic to another. Allelochemicals such as juglone—found in black walnut—suppress the growth of a wide range of other plants. So if you are trying to plant tomatoes under your walnut tree forget it!

 A positive use of plant allelopathy is the use of mow-killed grain rye as mulch. The allelochemicals that leach from rye residue prevent weed germination but do not harm transplanted tomatoes, broccoli, or many other vegetables.

Planting tall-growing, sun-loving plants together with lower-growing, shade-tolerant plants can result in higher total yields from the garden. It can also yield pest control benefits. When corn is companion-planted with squash or pumpkins, it is believed to disorient the adult squash vine borer and protect the vining crop from this damaging pest. In turn, the presence of the prickly vines is said to discourage raccoons from ravaging the sweet corn.

Tall or dense-canopied plants may protect more vulnerable species through shading or by providing a windbreak.

Beneficial habitats—sometimes called refugia—are another type of companion plant interaction that has drawn considerable attention in recent years. The benefit is derived when companion plants provide a desirable environment for beneficial insects and other arthropods—especially those predatory and parasitic species which help to keep pest populations in check. Predators include ladybird beetles, lacewings, hover flies, mantids, robber flies, and non-insects such as spiders and predatory mites. Parasites include a wide range of fly and wasp species including tachinid flies, and Trichogramma and ichneumonid wasps. Agro ecologists believe that by developing systems to include habitats that draw and sustain beneficial insects, the twin objectives of reducing both pest damage and pesticide use can be attained.

 We hope to use create easement gardens using Phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants and trees to remove or neutralize contaminants in polluted soil or water.

The word comes from the Greek φυτο (phyto) = plant, and Latin « remedium » = restoring balance, or remediation.

Phytoremediation may be applied wherever the soil or static water environment has become polluted or is suffering ongoing chronic pollution.

It is a clean, efficient, inexpensive and non-environmentally disruptive method.

Below is a list of some plants and the toxins they can extract from the soil. (I find it pretty amazing!)

We also plan to plant butterfly attractors such as milkweed to attract butterflies and caterpillars to our garden. This would enable our children and ourselves to experience first-hand the miraculous process of metamorphosis.

 Not only would this teach the children about gardening, companion planting, healthy growing practices, horticulture and beneficial insects, it would help create within them a sense of person responsibility for their community.

 The residents of the Figueroa Corridor, are often totally removed from nature and its processes. We believe it is important for our children to experience the wonder of nature first-hand. How can we create environmental stewards of our children and youth, if the only world they see is a world of concrete, dirt and garbage? You cannot learn to appreciate and protect something you have no exposure to.

  In addition, a garden of plants and mosaics would beautify our community, creating art and a garden bursting with life.

 We are also working on a project to create a butterfly /phytoremediation garden and mosaic playground with (The Los Angeles land Trust, SAJE and The Promatoras de Salud.)

 gusanito

Pictured above is Milkweed (Asclepias species, named after Asclepius, Greek god of healing, because of the many folk-medicinal uses for the milkweed plants) and a monarch caterpillar. Milkweed is named for its milky juice, which contains alkaloids and latex. It is the only sole food source of Monarch Butterfly larva,

 I will not, cannot name all the wonderful people these projects have put me in contact with.

But I do wish to commend Julie An a graduate of the USC School of landscape Architecture who wrote her master’s thesis on redeveloping local pocket parks and streets to make them more user friendly.

She has and continues to work and provide research on soil testing, garden designs, phytoremediation and possible donations and grants to help these projects come to fruition.

If she is an example of our new generation, we are in good hands.

Thank you Julie!

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