GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jogging path plan leads to possible landmark destruction

LA Shares inhabits the old children's theatre building behind the Mulholland Fountain on the corner of Los Feliz and Riverside Drive. The same architect that designed the Transamerica  pyramid in San Francisco as well as the LA Zoo and LAX supposedly designed this little gem in 1960 -- a gentleman named William L. Pereira. Although the inside has been re purposed as a warehouse for charities to use, this is still a historic building in Los Angeles.

Last Tuesday, Tom LaBonge held a quiet little meeting for a hand-picked group of his friends. In it, he spelled out his development plans for Griffith Park in 2010.

One of those innocuous sounding little plans - if you don't look too closly - involves creating a 600 yard "jogging path" for seniors around the Mulholland Fountain. LaBonge says this path will be built in the spirit of the 2.5 mile (4267 yard) Silverlake jogging path.  Yes, that's 600 yards vs. 4267 yards.  Of course, said seniors will need a new, safe way to cross the street from the temporary senior center behind Friendship Auditorium to get to the new workout path, which means a new crosswalk on one of the busiest, most dangerous intersections in the City.

This begs the question - why isn't LaBonge building his walkway on the Friendship Auditorium / senior center side of the street? Plenty of room for a longer jogging path there. No having to cross a dangerous old intersection. Plus, Mulholland Fountain is a favorite for wedding photos and professional photo shoots. Stuffing a jogging path into the area cannot help but impact that activity.

What is this really about, then? Previously, LaBonge had hinted at tearing down the historic LA Shares building and putting up a brand-new super-special senior citizens center in its place. This in spite of the fact that the DWP owns most of the property, and in spite of the fact that the building is a historic gem. Before that, LaBonge had offered to sacrifice the LA Shares site as the alternate for putting the Los Angeles Children's Museum redux there. That white elephant ended up at Hansen Dam. Funny, but it just seems like LaBonge is always finding a reason to tear down that little historic building, isn't he? Hm.

Well, the councilman is up for re-election in a year, and senior citizens vote.  Doesn't take a genius to follow this 600 yard path of eventual destruction, now does it?

More about LA Shares from
Sharing, Caring, Reusing. Repeat.

by Leon Kaye

Imagine that you are a school teacher or a non-profit, and you rarely have the budget for school supplies or office equipment. Suppose you own a business that either is relocating, or you have excess inventory for which you see no other choice but disposal. Finally, you are the administrator in City Hall struggling with rapidly-filling landfills.  

and this is just the beginning . . . Have I got the model organization for you. On Riverside Drive, at the edge of Griffith Park, stands a former warehouse where teachers and non-profit organizations' employees await an opportunity unique to Los Angeles.  I happened to visit last Wednesday afternoon, where about 30 teachers patiently waited.  Each of them sported a sticker--one of four colors.  Every 5 minutes or so, someone would walk out, call a color, and the teachers would line up, slowly file through a door, and was then handled a clipboard. What followed was amazing.

items and items everywhereWelcome to LA SHARES.  Boxes of binders stacked to the ceiling.  Envelopes.  Printer labels.  Reams of papers.  Pens, pencils, erasures.  Staplers, 3-hole punches.  I even saw cleaning and beauty products.  And piles of construction paper and art supplies. These teachers were spending the afternoon at LA SHARES, a non-profit materials reuse program.  LA SHARES works with businesses to obtain new and used office supplies and other materials, and then distributes them to schools and non-profits that desperately need them.  While serving the needs of the community, LA SHARES is also a great demonstration of inventory control and database management.  And while recycling should just be a natural reflex of ours, remember that recycling involves hauling and reprocessing materials--which involves energy consumption.  Rather than sending such materials downstream, why not move unwanted goods upstream and let someone who needs them use them?

Here's how LA SHARES works:  A school or non-profit visits the agency's web site and creates an online profile.  Once LA SHARES vets and registers them, the organizations can outline a wish list and their "top 20 needs."  LA SHARES' staff matches their needs to what businesses have donated, and through its customized database, the agency strives to match its inventory with what various schools and non-profits have requested.  Where the real magic happens is when LA SHARES distributes big ticket items such as shelves, video systems, and furniture.  As such items roll in, LA SHARES' staff matches them to the organizations' various requests.  Registered organizations can then view these items on LA SHARES' web site, view the dimensions, know how many people are needed to haul the items away, what size of car or truck is critical for transporting the items, and where the items are located.

LA SHARES is a win-win proposition all the way around.  Businesses don't have to deal with bulk trash fees, and can gain a tax write off.  The City of Los Angeles has less trash going to its landfills.  And teachers and non-profit administrators have access to quality materials.  While LA SHARES says it accepts new and used items, 99% of what I saw in its Griffith Park Reuse Center looked new to me--and many of those items are expensive at art supply stores and office superstores.  The teachers with whom I spoke on Wednesday were wide-eyed, beaming, and thrilled.  With budget cuts hammering the schools, teachers often pay for supplies out of their own pockets--yet many of them don't quite spend enough to get any tax break from the IRS.  They kept telling me, "I'm amazed," "This is overwhelming," "I didn't expect this," "How come I didn't know about this."  They followed the simple rules:  respect the maximum amount of each item that can be taken, list them on a clipboard so LA SHARES' staff can manage its inventory, and write a thank you note to the donors.  Teachers could take as much as they want . . . and as the minutes passed, the piles outside kept mounting.

Bert Ball, LA SHARES' Executive Director, sowed the roots of LA SHARES in 1991.  Appalled at the waste that movie sets generated, he believed that there had to be a way of salvaging all these materials, reducing waste while giving the studios a tax deduction.  Ball's idea then spread to local businesses, and partnering with the City of LA, LA SHARES prevents millions of pounds of materials from ending up in landfills, has supplied over 2500 organizations with $80 million worth of supplies, and received inventory from 1000 companies.  Ball and La Shan Branham, LA SHARES' meticulous Chief of Staff, keep LA SHARES humming with its dispensing of supplies year round, rotating the opportunities among Los Angeles' 15 city council districts. Learn how your company can donate to LA SHARES.  The site also has a great commercial you can view as well!

As far as we know there is no other city that has a program that can match LA's scope.  If you know of one, we'd love to hear about it.