May 01, 2014
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LA's Flawed Oil Oversight System

Leslie Evans

Three oil company drill sites in the West Adams section of South Los Angeles, operating more than 100 underground wells, have been the center of recent citizen protests, ramped up government inspections, a City Attorney lawsuit, and complaints that the city's Zoning Administration has violated municipal code and possibly state law in fast-tracking oil company expansion plans. These events have raised broader questions as to the competence of the city's oversight of an industry that deals in toxic, explosive, and flammable materials but has been allowed, from the days in the late nineteenth century when there were few zoning rules, to establish thousands of wells in residential neighborhoods throughout the city. Since the early 1960s most of these have been slant drilled underground, with scores of pipes emanating in all directions from anonymous compounds hidden behind high walls.

The recent West Adams complaints first arose in 2010-11 around Allenco Energy's drill site at 814 W. 23rd Street in the University Park neighborhood north of USC, adjacent to Mount St. Mary's College. Allenco purchased the operation in 2009 and boosted production 400%. Soon, neighbors began experiencing chronic nosebleeds, respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea. By late 2013 the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) had received 251 complaints. Community protest meetings drew several hundred people. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent inspectors, who were made ill and determined that leaks of petroleum fumes from badly maintained equipment were the cause. Allenco voluntarily shut down on November 22, under pressure from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. On January 7, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a lawsuit to prevent Allenco from reopening until they comply with all applicable health and safety regulations.

Subsequently, two drill sites acquired last year by the giant Freeport-McMoRan Oil and Gas company became the subject of community complaints.

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February 01, 2014
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West Adams Oil Blues

West Adams Oil Blues

Allenco Energy Co. drill site in West Adams' University Park neighborhod 


Leslie Evans, in consultation with Michael Salman

My neighborhood is the West Adams section of Los Angeles, just south and west of Downtown. Its miles of historic, century-old Craftsman homes, interspersed with sixties-vintage apartments, house a mixture of recent Latino immigrants, older African Americans, and a minority of whites and Asians. We've been in the newspapers a lot recently in disputes with two oil companies over three of their urban drill sites. At one of them, run by the Allenco Energy company, children have been getting sick. Nosebleeds, respiratory problems, headaches, and nausea have been chronic, leading finally to protest meetings, one attended by some two hundred residents, intervention by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the County Health Department, and a lawsuit by the Los Angeles City Attorney.

At the other two sites, owned by Freeport-McMoRan Oil and Gas, concerns began over ill-kept property, or fears that plans for new drilling would generate noise and pollution. As news reports of the health problems at Allenco spread, neighbors near the Freeport sites heard about a gas leak at one of the well sites and a few accounts of people who may have been sickened by fumes in the past. One public meeting drew more than 300 residents. City officials responded by temporarily closing the Allenco site entirely, while at the Freeport sites routine pumping continues but scheduled new drilling has been put on hold.

Read more about West Adams Oil Blues

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June 16, 2013
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Maggi Fajnor, January 6, 1944 - June 5, 2013

We are deeply grieved to learn that our long-time friend and neighborhood activist Maggi Fajnor has died. Maggi was a founding member in 2003 of our local neighborhood council, the Empowerment Congress North Area Neighborhood Development Council, where she served for several years. For a long time she sent out weekly emails to a large list of community members about all kinds of issues that affected our neighborhood, from zoning and planning to crime and gang problems. She was a founder of PlanCheckNC (http://www.plancheckncla.com ), an ongoing alliance of neighborhood councils focused on land use matters. Warm hearted and always involved in the life of her community, she will be sorely missed. We offer our condolences to her husband Craig Fajnor. Below is the obituary that appeared in the June 16 Los Angeles Times.

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Maggi Fajnor, a devoted advocate for the North University Park and West Adams communities, and a founder of the community stakeholder participation organization PlanCheckNC, lost her courageous battle with cancer on June 5, 2013. Born the oldest of five children, Maggi grew up in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In the late 1960's, she moved to Los Angeles with her first husband, where she subsequently earned her Bachelor's degree from UCLA, and Master's degree in urban planning from USC, all while raising their young daughter, Rebecca. For many years, Maggi worked for various planning firms on several high profile projects, including the inception of Los Angeles' first Metro Rail line, Staples Center and Hollywood & Highland.

After retiring from professional urban planning, Maggi devoted herself to empowering neighborhoods Citywide to engage with City government through community-based planning. She was an early and active participant in the grassroots Empowerment Congress established by then-Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas and was an original elected member of her local Neighborhood Council. She founded PlanCheckNC to help educate and empower neighborhood stakeholders and promote participation in neighborhood planning and land use issues throughout the City. She was named the 2006 Pioneer Woman awardee for Council District 8 by Councilmember Bernard C. Parks and was a long-time member of the North University Park Design Review Board. Maggi is survived by her husband Craig, daughter Rebecca (Hugues) Marchand; sister Mimi Duffy; brothers Harold (Linda) Hofsommer, Ken (Mary Carla) Hofsommer, and Bill Hofsommer; in-laws John and Carolyn Fajnor; sister-in-law Lisa Fajnor, and many wonderful nieces and nephews. A family service was held on June 8th at the historic Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. A celebration of Maggi's life will take place at a later date. Donations may be made in Maggi's memory to the American Brain Tumor Association at http://www.abta.org/.

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May 05, 2013
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Raising Food in Your Front Yard

Our neighbors David Valentine and Jacqueline Hamilton decided to get rid of their thirsty front lawn. They invited in L.A. Green Grounds, a group of volunteers that specialize in converting front yards in South Los Angeles to edible space. Some thirty volunteers turned out on Saturday, May 5, 2013. They had the City deliver a mountain of mulch. They dug up the whole of the front lawn and the parking strip, then planted a wide variety of herbs (thyme, sage, etc.) and vegetables (eggplant, cauliflower). It was an all-day job. Our photos in the slide show below show the yard before, the volunteers working. Break time, with host Jacqueline Hamilton at left serving refreshments, and some shots of the new front-yard mini-farm.


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March 08, 2013
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Fears that Owner of the Elegant Manor Is Stealthily Seeking Its Demolition

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The Elegant Manor, 3115 W. Adams Blvd., the stately 1903 Italian Gothic mansion that has sat empty for almost a decade at the corner of Adams and Arlington, appears to be threatened with destruction by calculated neglect. Built by successful piano store owner James Taber Fitzgerald it served successively by a former opera singer, a group of women circus performers, and, from 1977, when it was bought by Arlillian Moody, as a important venue in the black community for weddings and other festive occasions. It was designated Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument #258 in 1982. Mrs. Moody died in 2001 and the house passed to her son Ronald Carroll. It quickly fell into decline. Mr. Carroll began to rent the house to gang members, leading in January 2004 to a double murder in the front yard during a party by members of the Black P Stone gang. That led in April 2004 to a Zoning Administrator revoking Mr. Carroll's permit to hold public events. According to city records, the house was solid in February 2008 for $1.7 million. It has remained vacant for the last five years, occasionally being put on the market and then withdrawn. It was most recently offered for sale in December 2011, but withdrawn in September 2012. The accumulating neglect has led neighbors to fear that the owners hope that deterioration will reach such a point that it will override the protections the house has as a historic monument and it can be torn down and replaced with something more profitable. The email below was sent by the West Adams Avenues neighborhood association on March 6, 2013, to Ken Bernstein, manager of the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.


The following email was sent on March 6, 2013, to Ken Bernstein, manager of the City of Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources.


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Ken Bernstein
Manager, Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources

Dear Mr Bernstein

Please find enclosed some history of this numbered city monument.

What is happening now is that the owner, who bought the property a few years ago, appears to be waiting for it to fall down so that he can proceed with his development plans. I spoke to City Attorney Asha Greenberg this morning, who suggested that I call Building and Safety. The problem is that Building and Safety has been "dealing" with this property for over 30 years, and there has never been anything close to a satisfactory outcome. We are about to lose a monument at the entrance to our community.

We believe that this owner should be cited under the Vacant Building Ordinance, for is the failure to file a Statement of Intent (which involves a timeline for lawful occupany and renovation). The code recognizes that "Structures that are vancant and unsecured or barricaded pose serious post serious threats to the public's health and safety and are therefore declared to be public nuisances." It also proves for judicial or administrative procedures to abate and rehabilitate these structures. We are hoping for more than fencing and barricading.

Frankly, the neglect of this historical structure is an absolute disgrace. There is no other word for it. The owner cannot be allowed to profit by breaking the law, and stripping the city of yet another monument. There are provisions in the code for this property to have been protected decades ago, and, as a neighborhood, we are asking ourselves why, three decades later, this property is still being allowed to collapse.

Please let us know what can be done by the city to help resolve this. I think that Building and Safety has been part of the problem here: the officials I have spoken to see their role as securing the property and having the lawn mowed. That is not going to save this building.

The Vacant Building Ordinance is there for a reason, and should be used to save this building.

Thanks for your time

Linda Marais
West Adams Avenues


The West Adams Avenues can be contacted through their chair, Donna Jones, at kidogo@aol.com.  Their website is: http://westadamsavenues.blogspot.com/


The reference in the email to previous history was to an article from 2004 on our website: http://www.westadams-normandie.com/index.php/newsarticles-menu/77-cleanup-elegant-manor



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February 13, 2013
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Letter from a Reader

Mason Bendewald's magnificent West Adams 1906 Four Square Colonial home.

Just wanted to say thanks for this great "resource". I refer to your site a lot for all sorts of qualified sources for our 1906 Four Square Colonial here in West Adams, as we lovingly continuing to restore much of it's luster.

So again thank you for maintaining and keeping the site up. If you're interested I'm happy to send on new resources I've found and used that I think are helpful.

Mason Bendewald


[Of course we welcome articles and information on craftspeople, stores, and restaurants from our West Adams neighbors. Drop us an email at vanburen-assoc@westadams-normandie.com  -Webmaster]

Read more about Letter from a Reader

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September 27, 2012
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L.A. Housing Dept. to Hold Meetings on 5-Year Housing Plans

We are passing on the following important message from the Los Angeles Housing Department. Please click HERE to see their flyer with more details.

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The City of Los Angeles through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Housing, the Community Development Department, and the Los Angeles Housing Department is planning its upcoming 5-year housing and community development plan. In order to meet all the requirements that the plan entails, the City is organizing a series of Consolidated Planning Community Meetings to solicit and engage the public in providing feedback of their respective neighborhood needs. Light refreshments will be provided.

We are requesting that you assist us with posting on your website/newsletter the flyers (English/Spanish) to help us outreach to the various neighborhoods where we will be holding the meetings. If you'd like to receive copies of the flyers for distribution or to have at your agency/public counters as hand-outs, please contact cdd.planning@lacity.org to request copies.

Thank you in advance for your assistance in disseminating this information within your neighborhoods/constituency.


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August 19, 2012
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Big Victory for Our Community Garden

[The following article appeared dated August 15, 2012, in the South Los Angeles. Report, an online project of USC's Annenberg School for Communication, reporting the success of the Raymond Avenue Community Garden in finally gaining legal title to the land and securing the popular garden's future. The Raymond Avenue Community Garden is a treasure in our neighborhood, and contains more than 30 small plots where neighbors raise vegetables and flowers. The Van Buren Place Community Restoration Association donated the funds to build the garden shed.  For many years until the community garden was created early in 2008 the location at  2632 S. Raymond Avenue had been a major nuisance. It had once been the site of a two-story historic Craftsman home. It had been turned into a boarding house by owner Angele Lang, who also owned several other downscale properties in the area. In 1990 she got into a major fight with her tenants and was barred by a court order from entering the property, which apparently was taken over by drug dealers. In 1991 there was an arson fire that left the house uninhabitable. It sat in that condition for five years. At one point the Van Buren block club came out and boarded the windows, as neither the city nor the owner would do so and transients were squatting in the ruin. Finally, in 1996, then-City Councilperson Mark Ridley-Thomas brought out a wrecking crew and demolished the structure, leaving the empty lot, which sat empty until Raymond Avenue resident Julie Burleigh succeeded in founding the Community Garden there in 2008.]

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Community Garden Victory in South LA

Julie Burleigh in the Raymond Ave. Community GardenThe green thumbs at the Raymond Avenue Community Garden are celebrating a big victory. As of Tuesday, July 31, 2012, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is the new owner of the land where nearby residents grow their fruits and vegetables.

For the past five years, Angela Lang, the property’s owner, allowed Julie Burleigh to use her abandoned property as a community garden, with the promise that they would leave should she want to sell it. The situation worried Burleigh, who came up with the idea of the community garden, tracked down Lang and negotiated the conditions of use of the land.

Lang owed $100,000 in back taxes and thanks to the generosity of a donor who stepped in, the Land Trust was able to buy the land to convert it into permanent green space in the city before it was auctioned off.

Listen to Burleigh talk about the garden:

Here is a link to Julie Burleigh on YouTube talking about the garden.

Photos of the empty lot and community gardeners courtesy of Julie Burleigh.

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August 13, 2012
Hits: 1,258

Our Website Renovation

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Our www.westadams-normandie.com website was begun in 1999 by the Van Buren Place block club, formally known as the Van Buren Place Community Restoration Association, here in Los Angeles' historic West Adams area. It was our way of telling people in the rest of the city about our neighborhood, and providing sources of old house restoration materials and craftspeople for our neighbors. Over time we added sections on nearby restaurants, theaters, historic photos of West Adams' past, and the extraordinarily rich set of museums clustered nearby.

Read more about Our Website Renovation

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August 12, 2012
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Native Plant Gardens in West Adams

[We first published this in April 2008. In revising our website in August 2012 we found that the text and photos had disappeared. We have located the material and are reposting here. The information about native plants is important for everyone in our dry climate who has a lawn or garden. Some of the specifics about particular West Adams gardens and their owners may be out of date, but the rest of the information remains current.]

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Some of the many reasons you would want to emphasize native California plants in your garden and some of the West Adams gardeners who do.

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