Best Ways to Help the Community
One of the ways to improve Downtown is by helping beautify the Los Angeles River. Several organizations stage efforts to clean and green the troubled waterway. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Downtown can seem like a fragmented place. With so many distinct enclaves, from Little Tokyo to the Civic Center to City West, a growing residential population and a workday crowd that often commutes from far-flung areas, it might seem like a stretch to think of Downtown as a cohesive community.

That said, while Downtown is comprised of many neighborhoods and hundreds of thousands of workers and residents, it is most definitely a community. The area's diverse stakeholders are linked by a common investment in the city's urban core and a desire to see it become as vibrant as possible. Below is a list of some of the most effective steps you can take to help improve Downtown Los Angeles.

Go to a DLANC Meeting: Unlike most neighborhood councils, the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council doesn't just include local residents. The council's 28-member board of directors represents a vast swath of area stakeholders, with seats designated for residents and business representatives in specific districts, as well as local artists and social service providers. Last month's election attracted more than 60 prospective candidates, and approximately 2,000 people turned out to cast ballots. Already an influential voice in local land use issues and development, DLANC is primed to grow. To get involved, visit or call (213) 473-6451.

Volunteer at a Mission: Despite increased attention on Skid Row, including an effort by the County Board of Supervisors to house the area's 50 neediest residents, the 50-block neighborhood still has one of the highest concentrations of homeless individuals in the country. Local nonprofits, meanwhile, work every day to make a dent in the problem. Downtown's Midnight and Union Rescue missions (among others) have worked for years to feed and house thousands of homeless men, women and children, and both offer myriad ways to pitch in. Whether you donate money or goods, or take some time to dole out meals (try a day besides Thanksgiving), every contribution counts. Contact the Union Rescue Mission at or (213) 347-6300, and the Midnight Mission at or (213) 689-8980.

Start a Blog: Downtown over the past few years has become one of L.A.'s most read-about neighborhoods on the Internet, thanks to websites like and, which attract loyal readers by providing in-depth posts about local issues from development to transportation and the ins and outs of life in Downtown. Other blogs that have joined the mix chronicle everything from a family's move here from Silver Lake ( to the travails of a so-called certified beach dude and his little white dog ( Each voice helps bring Downtown into sharper focus while raising the area's profile. So get typing - on the off chance that you haven't already.

Get to Know Your Council Member: Ninth District Councilwoman Jan Perry and 14th District Councilman Jose Huizar represent the lion's share of Downtown L.A., while Ed Reyes' First District covers parts of City West and Chinatown, and Bernard Parks' Eighth District includes Exposition Park and surrounding communities. From Huizar's effort to revive Broadway to Perry's success in helping to criminalize hospital patient dumping on Skid Row, and her work to improve Downtown transportation by championing measures such as a six-month program that allows pedestrians to hail cabs, these officials are on the front lines of local change and our most direct connection to City Hall. Go to to see which district you fall into, then write, call, or check the district calendars for neighborhood events where you might get some face time.

Help Clean the L.A. River: The often neglected waterway that divides Downtown from East L.A. mostly looks like a glorified storm drain, but has the potential to become a local amenity. The city's long-term plan envisions greening, cleaning and reviving the river over the next five decades. In the meantime, proposed developments, like the Arts District's One Santa Fe project, are planned to rise nearby and promise to draw more people than ever to the river's banks. Help now by participating in cleanup efforts organized by nonprofits like Friends of the L.A. River and Heal the Bay, and by checking the organizations' websites for regular updates on river-related news and events. Contact FOLAR at or (323) 223-0585, and Heal the Bay at or (310) 451-1500.

Contact Anna Scott at

page 31, 7/21/2008

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