Whistleblower hotline: (213) 785-6098

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Scandalous Conduct of Ecological and Cultural Desecration at Historic Hazard Park

A narrative on a tragic repeat of desecrating Boyle Heights Communal and Ecological Heritage, in the interest of "Progress".
The Hazard Park Wetlands 

In 1997, a Monica Guttman wrote the following regarding the historic Henry T. Hazard Park for "USC News", an official publication of  the City of Los Angeles largest employer. The name Hazard Park hardly suggests its bucolic rolling green hills covered with old growth pines and oaks. Zipping by between the trucks that ramble along Soto Street, it’s impossible to see the wading pool and picnic tables, the creek with crawfish, the view of downtown Los Angeles or the tennis courts and baseball diamonds. No wonder, then, that despite the fact that it lies literally across the street from a number of Health Sciences Campus buildings, for most who study or work here, Hazard Park is unfamiliar territory. And that, according to Hazard Park’s recreation director Raymond Huante, is a terrible waste. “People who come in and visit say, ‘This is such a nice place!'” said Huante. “People are just not aware of it.”
A USC-financed new view of Hazard Park.

But on the overcast morning of June 11, 2015, this historical gift of land via its namesake former Los Angeles Mayor Henry T. Hazard, was assaulted by the ecological and cultural destroying machines of its "Neighbor" that saw this sacred park space to many, as mere real estate for exploiting as part of its Master Plan goal of Conquest for its better tomorrow (the surrounding community be damned ....., or bought out).
Boyle Heights is no stranger to those such as USC who see its real estate as being a cutting board, to slash new roads, freeways and developments across its repeatedly, altered landscape. The need for development in Boyle Heights, especially by those with the resources to buy approval from the elective officeholders, was so acute that Hazard Park was placed with the boundaries of the formerly Community Redevelopment Agency's (CRA) Adelante Redevelopment Zone in 1999 due to the park be declared "blighted" ......., and who was waiting to carve into it? The events of June 11 answered that.
Sal Castro's crusade for Educational Equality finds sanctuary at Hazard Park.

But for many decades, a small "Band of Ecological Brothers" fought to delay what transpired on June 11 and their story merits revisiting. During the 1960s, Hazard Park saw its zenith as sacred ground, in the battle for ecological and educational justice on the Eastside. For seven years, the likes of the late Alex Man led the successful battle to preserve the green space of the park from becoming a Veteran Hospital when city officials gave up in 1969.
Previously in 1968, late Lincoln High School Educator Sal Castro, rally many to walk out and protest educational inequality in Eastside High Schools ......, and for the thousands that answered the call, Hazard Park was their sanctuary in gathering.
But come the 21st Century, a scared green space is again being eyed for its development potential. In a September, 2000, the now, much older "Band of Ecological Brothers", still led by an aging Alex Man, brought renew attention to those they perceived as having a "future craving" for park space, while espousing for the rehabilitation of the Hazard Park Wetlands.
On its southern boundaries, LAUSD expanded its Bravo Medical Magnet High School Campus which prompted concerns about future encroachment on to park land ......, and to the north, USC was buying up all the surrounding properties it could for its future Health Science Expansion Plans.
Still, the vision for a rehabilitated Hazard Park Wetlands was paramount among the aging "Band Of Ecological Brothers" as the Times article denotes.
Now, Man and other veterans of the fight to save Hazard Park are readying for a new campaign. This time, they want to preserve a heretofore little-known wetland area that bisects the park.
The 2-acre section, which was once part of a railroad easement through Hazard, has some vegetation that thrives in water, such as cattails, willows and sedges. In addition, researchers have found fresh-water snails and crayfish.
Several years ago, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members discovered a variety of birds, including the Anna's hummingbird, the northern mockingbird and the American crow, in Hazard.
"It has a tremendous potential of being developed into a nice wetlands area," said James Henrickson, a professor of botany at Cal State Los Angeles, who noted that some degradation has occurred in recent years because of neglect and use of the railroad.
Added James Campbell, a retired marine biologist who lives in Woodland Hills: "Any wetlands of an acre or more is worthy of preservation. I think this area, especially because it is in the inner city, has considerable recreational potential."
Henrickson, Campbell and others are not sure what the parcel's source of water is. One theory suggests that the old Arroyo de los Pasos, shown on maps drawn in 1894, is the source. Another hints that a section of the old Zanja Madre irrigation system, which was built shortly after the city's founding in 1781, provides the wetland's water.
Still another suggests that the Hazard water is from springs.
Whatever the source, locals have long known of the water in that part of Hazard Park. For years, children reported catching fish there. Man and others remember seeing pools in the middle of summer.
Indeed, a former workplace associate of this author, who lived on Lancaster Street, remembers seeing people swimming in what were called the 'Piss Ponds" back in the 1950s and its was my childhood remembrance of finding aquatic animals within the waters.
Those childhood adventures, mixed with adult appreciation for our communal and ecological heritage prompted myself and others to seek out Alex Man, but for those who new Alex, vetting out your true motives for getting involve, was his paramount priority and future events of betrayal will show him to be right in doing so ........, as this quote from then USC Vice President for External Affairs Jane Pisano ........., and photo from the recent June 11 episode illustrates, a certain neighbor's word cannot be trusted.

" the university has no plans to build on parkland. "The university respects and values Hazard Park,".
In 2005, Los Angeles elected a Latino Political Rock Star who knew all too well the layout of Hazard Park. The former City Terrace native Tony Villar, now Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was a politico on a upward quest in pursuit of a self-serving (and those who supported him), better material tomorrow. Many were the choreographed, photo ops/events, meant to market the latest political flavor that gave rise to the "LA Antonio Times Era" of non-stop, positive news coverage ........, and the positive future of Hazard Park, with the visions of its original "Band of Ecological Brothers (including those seeking to be its next generation)" was to play a central role. At the kickoff to his Million Trees Initiative at Hazard Park, then Mayor Villaraigosa announced to the large, choreographed gathering of politicos, eco-loving Hollywood Stars and assembled media, that in two years, Hazard Park would have a restored Wetlands ........, but many will remember that on this day he was not wearing his marriage band, for a reason which torpedo so many hopes for a better park tomorrow ........, but in reality, was it because a certain neighbor had other plans? 
 The Political and Hollywood Star Power that turns out for a choreographed (failed) Green Vision.
As Mayor Villaraigosa's pledge of a restored Hazard Park Wetlands came to naught, his hand-picked successor, and still current CD 14 City Councilman Jose Huizar, executed his role as enabler of Mayor Villaraigosa's true Hazard Park Plan as he sought to wait out the last of the aged "Band of Ecological Brothers" and remove from any oversight position (Park Advisory Board) any community members who did not agree with the agenda of USC and the new Mayor Villaraigosa-created "Connected Non-Profit" Legacy LA. Further, the work of Northeast Trees, who had become a ally in supporting the vision of Alex Man, in restoring the Hazard Park w]Wetlands, suffered a major blow when $700,000, originating from a lawsuit over untreated, storm runoff entering the LA River Watershed, that was earmarked for Hazard Park, was instead used at another park (due to ownership issues regarding the former railroad right of way). Thus, park users were exposed to federal law-violating untreated storm runoff, via a ruptured storm drain pipe under park space.
  "The Hazard Park Blowout"

 Historic Hazard Park Sycamores (some sadly loss to USC) in a previous time.
In 2012, with most (including Alex Man) if not all the original "Band of Ecological Brothers" having passed on ......., Notices of Public Hearings regarding the removal of historic Hazard Park Trees, begin to appear at Hazard Park. Soon after USC made it known that they would indeed encroach on current park space ..............., and the reaction was one of community empowerment against an out of line neighbor. USC was force to deal with an united community and offer up a supposed list on concessions, which included park improvements and pledges of funding (which during a re-election campaign get the maximum exposure). But beware what you are getting in return (especially when the leader of the coalition is a Councilman supporter and does not get a final agreement in writing).
  A Million Dollars of USC Money buys a nice photo op.

In a ideal world, the united campaign to preserve Hazard Park should of been the genesis of a large coalition, made up of multiple generations of community members, who put the preservation of the park, and its goal of preserving its heritage paramount. But since the picture above was taken, the self -appointed chairperson of the Hazard Park Advisory Board (and prominent Councilman Huizar supporter) Ray Rios, has sought to discard the coalition and those people who were so vital in the fight to preserve the park (including those with many years of selfless dedication) Thus, setting the stage for what happen on June 11, 2015.

 and somewhere above, a "Band of Ecological Brother", led by Alex Man, stand in disappointment, as the next generation of "true" defenders press on.
Your thoughts ..............
Scott Johnson in CD 14

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home