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Streetsie Awards

Vote for 2015 L.A. Streetsies: Advocacy Group of the Year

10:17 AM PST on December 31, 2015


[poll id=130]

Welcome to a brand new category to close out the 2015 Streetsie awards. SBLA already had an award for the individual advocate, and now readers will also help choose an organization to honor: Advocacy Organization of the year.

Voting starts right about now and will close on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at noon. Reader voting accounts for one-half of the scoring this year, with one-quarter going to SBLA staff voting, and another one-quarter going to a SBLA board vote. Click here to vote in all six Streetsie polls.

Here are our nominees for Advocacy Organization of the year:

Irvin Plata speaks about the importance of cultural markers in communities while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn to speak. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Irvin Plata speaks on the importance of cultural markers while Stephanie Olwen awaits her turn. Both are students at YouthBuild in Boyle Heights.

The Youth of CALÓ Youth Build - The students found finishing out their high school careers at CALÓ YouthBuild in Boyle Heights are generally youth whose personal struggles got in the way of their education at more traditional LAUSD schools. Meaning that by the time they get to YouthBuild -- a charter school that helps 16 - 24-year-olds get their diplomas -- they are pretty convinced that nobody believes in them or their future, including themselves. Which is what makes it all the more incredible that these very youth took the lead on engaging Metro over the future of Mariachi Plaza and other vacant lots around their community. With the help of dedicated educators like Genaro Francisco Ulloa, the youth put together surveys to gauge residents' financial circumstances, concerns about gentrification, and overall feelings regarding the neighborhood, engaged over 25 classes at area high schools (schools that some of them had dropped out of, incidentally) on the survey and about Metro's joint development projects, and presented their findings to Metro staff and representatives of elected officials at a policy forum YouthBuild hosted. Most significantly, they got Metro to extend the community outreach period for the joint development affordable housing projects and to make the advisory group more inclusive, and were instrumental in driving home the importance of incorporating culture, youths' needs, concerns about gentrification, and community aspirations into any future plans for Mariachi Plaza. Thanks to their advocacy, the community will have more control over the way the area develops in the coming years.

A map highlighting some of the toxic facilities surrounding the East Yards communities in Commerce. Screen shot from EYCEJ. Click to enlarge.
A map highlighting some of the toxic facilities surrounding the East Yards communities in Commerce. Screen shot from EYCEJ. Click to enlarge.

East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice - EYCEJ has tirelessly advocated for environmental justice for the communities of Southeast Los Angeles. You may have visited hazardous sites via their Toxic Bike Tour or heard them speaking up regarding the negative impact an expanded 710 corridor would have on their already pollution-burdened communities. If you have followed the closure process of lead-acid battery recycler Exide, then you know that EYCEJ (along with Communities for a Better Environment, Resurrection Church, and other advocates) has long been vocal in calling for the closure of the plant as well as for an investigation into the state agencies that allowed Exide to operate unchecked for so long. Their sustained advocacy was instrumental in getting the Department of Toxic Substances Control to finally change the way they were handling the Exide case. And their vigilance will ensure that community needs and concerns remain front and center as the closure process gets underway.

Ade Neff, founder of Ride On!, works on wheel. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Ade Neff, founder of Ride On!, works on wheel.

Ride On! Bike Co-op - Fed up with having to travel eight miles to get to a bike co-op from his South L.A. neighborhood and wanting to serve the lower-income cyclists in his community, Ade Neff launched the Ride On! Bike Co-op out of Leimert Park. Because he does not yet have a fixed space, the co-op has been a bi-weekly open-air affair, held on Leimert Park Village's People St Plaza and reliant on assistance from local cycling group Black Kids on Bikes. The tune-up sessions have injected some new energy into the plaza, brought a diverse group of cyclists together, and allowed for cycling to be incorporated into conversations around the Metro station (currently under construction) and the future of Leimert Park Village itself. Neff, along with Studio MMD and TRUST South L.A., was also a Challenge Grant winner and will be holding a Street Beats musical event at Crenshaw and Florence in Hyde Park in February.

Pacoima Beautiful efforts bore fruit in the July opening of Bradley Plaza
Pacoima Beautiful efforts bore fruit in the July opening of Bradley Plaza

Pacoima Beautiful - The north San Fernando Valley environmental justice nonprofit Pacoima Beautiful has been a visible and effective force in numerous local and citywide campaigns to improve peoples lives. Pacoima Beautiful has put its time and energy into campaigns for Clean Up Green Up, revitalizing the Pacoima Wash, sidewalk repair, efforts to pass Mobility Plan 2035, and much more. Most visibly this year, perhaps, though was PB's spearheading the conversion of one block of Bradley Avenue into one block of pedestrian Bradley Plaza.

TRUST South L.A. Riders ride toward Councilmember Curren Price's office to deliver a letter asking him to support a bike lane along Central Avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
TRUST South L.A. Riders ride to Councilmember Price's office to push for bike lanes on Central Avenue.

TRUST South L.A. – TRUST South L.A. has long been an important advocate on housing and, more recently, mobility issues in the South Los Angeles area. But this year they have stood out because of the advocacy work done by the small cadre of community leaders and volunteers that call themselves the TRUST South L.A. Riders. All residents of South L.A., they have cheerfully taken the lead on activating vacant lots, conducting mobility pit stops (where they handed out bike lights, bilingual safety pamphlets, and surveyed commuters about safety concerns), helped conduct outreach for Street Beats (as part of the Great Streets Challenge Grant project) and regularly spoken up at city hall on a variety of issues. Most notably, they have taken on both the city and Councilmember Curren Price in lobbying for the implementation of bike lanes on Central Avenue. Using the data gathered at their mobility pit stops and their own personal experiences transporting their children along the corridor, they effectively made the case that the city not only needs to invest in infrastructure to protect its most vulnerable constituents, but that the infrastructure must also be implemented where they are best able to access it (rather than along politically palatable alternatives).

Honorable Mentions: For many years, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has advocated for livability; it is great to see the AARP California increasingly on board locally, including a push for treating L.A. City sidewalk repair seriously. BlackLivesMatter has shown that racial profiling is real, and truly a mobility issue, with non-whites treated differently as they move through public spaces; this has broadened many critical livability discussions from law enforcement to Vision Zero to bike helmet laws, and more. Community Services Unlimited is bringing organic produce to South L.A. even as other grocers move out. Along with AARP, Investing in Place is taking the sidewalk transportation network seriously and, with the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, AARP and others, pushing for a ten percent bike and walk funding set-aside in any 2016 Metro sales tax measure. The L.A. Street Vendor Campaign is a broad coalition making inroads on legalizing street vending in Los Angeles.

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