The mission of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) is to improve neighborhoods one block at a time. They do so by enhancing streetscapes, designing monuments and building green spaces in underserved communities. Their work is undertaken in partnership with neighborhood residents who bring vision and enthusiasm to the project.
Several years ago, LANI received a grant from Bank of America to develop Evergreen Park, a well-used space in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles. They invited business owners, council members, school and church leaders and families to suggest improvements to the recreational area. The end result was a project plan, which the committee used to raise nearly $1 million for the development of the park.
“I think one of the most important factors is that the community involvement builds hope,” said Monica Carlos, program manager at LANI. “People need to realize that their community is important and, when you see any level of investment, that tells them that it is.”
Today, Evergreen Park features an auditorium, lighted basketball courts, a children’s play area, a community center and an indoor gym. There’s also a jogging path that weaves around the cemetery that’s part of the park. The rubberized, five-kilometer route provides residents of all ages with an accessible venue for physical activity. That’s important to the sustainability of Boyle Heights, which reports high rates of obesity and diabetes.
The bank also partnered with the L.A. Dodgers to designate Evergreen Park a Dodger Dream Field. This means that additional resources were provided to make baseball a core activity in the park and in the community. The designation was of great significance to long-time residents of Boyle Heights, who grew up idolizing the diverse players at nearby Dodger Stadium.
“No one entity can solve all of a community’s problems,” said Garrett Gin, senior vice president of global corporate social responsibility for Bank of America. “So having a partnership between the city, a nonprofit like LANI and the bank—they’re like three legs to a stool. You need all of them to work together to help meet a community’s needs.”