ELF Quarterly Updates

The main project for CRSP’s Ecological Revolving Loan Fund the past few years, and anticipated for the next several years, is the redevelopment of the quarter acre Song property, an old auto shop and café which CRSP acquired in late 2016.  We are retrofitting the property for  a variety of co-op oriented uses.  Below are quarterly updates to our lenders starting December 1, 2016 with the most recent report immediately below


December 1, 2018

Greetings ELF lenders and friends,

 

Another three months have flown by, and we find ourselves suddenly in the busiest of busiest – the holiday season! Dun dun dun! We hope during this time, that you are all able to take a moment, breathe, and appreciate the little things while tracking what’s big, and remaining hopeful for our collective, more resilient future.

 

One thing that is not little is the importance of your loan and gifts to the ELF. CRSP has and will continue to demonstrate a more sustainable cooperative community and facilitate the design of environmentally sensitive spaces where the LAEV community can gather and thrive in the process of “reinventing how we live in the city.” Your ELF loan is vital to that mission and for that, we thank you.

 

We are still in the process of connecting with some of you who haven’t deposited your past quarterly interest checks, and/or who might want to receive your interest payment annually instead of quarterly, and/or if the principal on your loan is due or coming due, if you want it returned or to let it ride for another year. Please feel encouraged to call or write Lois to discuss any of these items: 213/738-1254 or crsp@igc.org.

 

There have been a few very impactful activities this past quarter. First for Bike!Bike!, an international annual gathering organized by and for community co-op and collective bicycle projects. The conference is a space for participants to converge in a different city each year over a four day period to have workshops and strengthen their social networks. This year, that city was Los Angeles. Thanks to LAEV intentional community USTU co-op member, founder of the Bicycle Kitchen and Relampago Wheelery, Jimmy Lizama and a whole crew of co-conspirator-volunteers, one of those days, Saturday, September 29, was spent here in LAEV. During the day, workshops crammed full of international bicyclists were held in the community room in our big USTU Co-op building, Jimmy Lizama’s Relampago workspace, and of course at Songs. Our neighbors down the street made incredible vegan tamales. Many Eco-Villagers participated in ways too numerous to name. Former LAEV USTU co-op member Adonia Lugo was the evening’s keynote speaker. Other speakers and bands, karaoke, dancing, socializing, connecting and fun took the event well into the wee hours of the morning with more than 300 people attending the conference closing and celebration. It was a beautiful experience and a way for LAEV folks to demonstrate community and inclusion in a variety of ways.

 

Some of you may have heard that several Bike!Bike! participants and Eco-Villagers also did an intersection repair that day, that is, we painted a street mural on the intersection of Bimini Place and White House Place. Inspired by Mark Lakeman of City Repair in Portland OR, who first worked with us in 2005, this was our fourth “intersection repair”, the idea being to transform intersections made for cars into public plazas made for people.

The playful mural depicts a variety of animals on bikes, animals that can be found in our neighborhood:squirrels, birds, possums, cats, snakes, chickens, skunks, raccoons, coyotes and more. It’s quite amusing and stunning too. Come take a look when you’re in the neighborhood, if you haven’t already.

 

Other volunteers upgraded the electrical and lighting in the Hall (formerly the auto shop), installed a digital projector and large movie screen. The event was among the most memorable gatherings in LAEV during our 25 year history. Monies raised went to a fund for next year’s Bike!Bike! conference scheduled for Tijuana.

 

Most importantly, from the perspective of a lender, Songs functioned beautifully as a venue! Professional security was hired, port o’ potties were brought in, and a Special Event ABC license was obtained for the sale of alcohol. Volunteers in the month leading up to the conference built about 150 bike racks out of scrap wood. These lined the west end of Songs’ rear yard, and they quickly filled up with bikes loaned from folks across the City to the international visitors. A fabric fence delineated the front yard of Songs. Volunteers had also constructed a substantial stage which we hope will soon have wheels installed on it for use outside of the Hall.

 

Another significant activity on the property has been the SPOTVIL project (Small Pilot Tent Village). For the past few months, small groups of homeless persons have been occupying the in-between space between the old café and the Hall. It’s about 1200 square feet. Among permaculture folks, it is often said that “the problem is the solution.” So taking that guideline literally, after posting a number of signs for “no trespassing”, and “no entry without permission” to no avail, and getting to know the folks who were encamped there, and following the news on the extreme NIMBYism associated with the Mayor’s efforts to install Bridge projects in each of our 15 council districts, starting here in Koreatown followed by equally extreme pushback in Venice and other neighborhoods, I, Lois, had to ask what we could do! Small, beautiful, sanitary, secure ecological encampments, either with tents and/or tiny houses might be a solution. Let me know if you’d like to see the draft proposal that we are circulating. Feel free to make a date to come by and visit. We are still seeking a variety of resources. Let us know if you’re able to help.

 

We attended an amazing conference on Brownfields sponsored by CCLR (Center for Creative Land Recycling). We are still working toward the use of phyto-technologies for remediating contaminated soils on the property, and we are still studying the resources we gathered at the conference in that subject area. It is likely that the remediation will be done in phases over the next few years. More reporting to do on this as we work our way toward a plan, continuing our connections with the City’s Brownfield Department, the CCLR resources and connections we made at the conference, UCLA Institute for the Environmental, the Permaculture Academy and potential grant monies.

 

The weekly project update calls among CRSP, our lead architect Ian McIlvaine with Tierra, Sol y Mar and Gideon Susman and Patti Harburg-Petrich, part of the engineering team at BuroHappold, continue to be very helpful and keep us on track. Though we still have no answers on whether we will demo or retrofit the café, we are awaiting further cost estimates to determine whether to proceed with the retrofit or not. Our hearts are into saving the café. Through the help of Patti at BuroHappold, we’ve also been in talks with Swinerton, a prominent national construction firm, and should hear by mid-December what the extent of their involvement might be. Though the possibility of demo’ing the cafe and using that space for other related activities looms on the horizon. The BuroHappold team’s efforts on our behalf, led by Gideon Susman, have also progressed on updating Phasing of the project, eco building materials, eco-technology systems, renewable energy projections and assumptions concerning space and embodied energy

 

Thanks again to all of you for hanging in there with us. Please feel free to come join us any Sunday evening for our weekly veggie potluck dinners about 7pm. Let us know if you plan to attend.

 

Warmest Regards,             Questa                                                                              Lois

 

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September 1, 2018

Greetings valued ELF lenders and friends,

It’s that time again for a check-in and potentially a chat. We may be getting back to a few of you during the next quarter to see if more of you would like to be paid annually, rather than quarterly, as well as to determine if it is time to return the principal on your loan or if you might be interested in letting your loan ride for another year.   We also want to determine who among you has simply not deposited some of your prior checks, or if they have been lost in the mail. And, of course, if lost, we will replace them.

So, here are a few updates:
The phytoremediation project for the soil at Songs in conjunction with the city of LA’s Brownfields Program and the UCLA PhD Restoration Ecology candidate, Peggy Nguyen, awaits funding. Peggy has indicated she has some leads for funding, which may materialize next year. Meantime, we will also be continuing a dialog among members of the Design Team around the question of whether remediating the soil is our best direction, or should we simply further encapsulate or mulch the existing asphalt and concrete surrounding the buildings and use raised beds and tree containers for the gardens and other greenery. It’s a tough question. Please share any thoughts you might have about this issue.

Peggy did, however, speak at our Soul of Soil Conference, July 14, held at Songs along with CRSP Board President and Architect Ian McIlvaine, BuroHappold Engineering Team Leader Gideon Susman; and LA Eco-Village members Jimmy Lizama, Yuki Kidokoro and Jessica Ruvalcaba. Plus our keynoters Burbank Recycling guru Kreigh Hampel, Ecocity world leader Richard Register, and Economic Anthropologist Christian Arnsperger from the U of Lausanne in Switzerland. Not to worry if you missed it. Our L.A. Eco-Villager award-winning filmmaker, Samantha Bode, got most of their talks on video, and, soon we will have a place for several of them on-line, so stay tuned.

With the help of several more Eco-Villagers, the Soul of Soil Conference was a success, with 60 attending the 12 hour event. Despite the stifling heat, people stayed inside the old auto shop garage (which we now call the Hall) to hear the engaging talks and enthusiastically connect with one another during breaks. The vegan cuisine was provided by Eco-Villager Anaisabel Mercado to rave reviews, and LAEV’s Julio R. Santizo provided technical services. Many other LAEV members and visitors helped out as well. The community truly came together to make this conference successful.

Weekly update calls among our Songs Design Team have been very helpful. The team includes Lois and Questa from CRSP; our architect and CRSP Board President Ian McIlvaine with Tierra Sol y Mar; and Gideon Susman, Patti Harburg-Petrich, Kathleen Hetrick, and Lucus Lieberman from BuroHappold Engineering. Thanks to Gideon’s comprehensive outline, we have been moving along in deciding on our Sustainability Targets in the areas of Materials, Habitat, Waste, Water, Energy and Carbon, and General Areas. And thanks to Ian who has created a set of drawings indicating options for the eco-hostel, business spaces, landscaping and more. We hope to have these Sustainability Targets and Architectural drawings up on our website in the coming month. We will notify you when they are up.

One primary decision in the next week or so is whether to demo the cafe or not. The café, built in 1925, is unreinforced masonry, and is quite a bit worse for wear. It needs some pretty serious structural reinforcement including a new slab. But it may have life in it yet. We expect three bids during the coming week from general contractors specializing in earthquake reinforcement work, and will, hopefully, be able to decide to keep it or de-construct it. If the latter, we’ll save the most iconic pieces of the café for later use.

Evidence of Jim Bledsoe’s fungi experiments remain on the floor of the Hall but, unfortunately, with Jim leaving to pursue other dreams in Oregon, no further efforts have taken place. We may revive the fungi experiments in the coming quarter, along with some other biological methods we’ve been learning about. To add interest in that area, along with a permaculture approach to landscaping and other elements of design, we anticipate having Permaculture Guru Larry Santoyo added to our Advisory Team. Larry will soon begin his 25th Permaculture Design Certificate Course.  Some of you may recall that Larry’s very first Los Angeles PDC course was held right here at LAEV a few decades back.

Other aspects of the interior remediation went very well. Sensitive Environment has a great team that kept us looped in at every stage of the process. We could go into greater detail but the long and short of it is that the lead in the interior of the auto shop is encapsulated, and the asbestos in the cafe is mostly gone. The light ballasts, assumed to contain PCBs, are gone. The next phase of building remediation will involve figuring out what to do with the roofs on both buildings.

Though we’ve gotten rid of about 98% of the stuff in and around the Hall, the remaining 2% is still here. Much of that is tempting to save for re-purposing, including various metal, wood and plastic “junk” in the rear yard, along with several nicely organized items in the shed. One idea I (Lois) have floated is to have a junk sculpture art workshop. Let us know if you or someone you know would be up for that.

We continue to work on trying to lower Song’s property taxes. We were, unfortunately, denied a property reassessment by our Hearing Officers. So our next step is to go before the Los Angeles County Assessors’ Appeal Board. Hopefully, we will have a legal expert with us for this next round. Let us know if you have someone in mind.

Finally, after more than 1-1/2 years of informal discussions and more formal meetings with the BuroHappold engineering team, they are getting ready to wrap up their report with this initial planning phase for Songs. They have gone above and beyond for us, and we hope to continue our relationship with them in the future.

As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns that may come up.

Best wishes to all for a safe and pleasant Labor Day weekend.

Questa                                                                               Lois

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June 1, 2018

Greetings valued ELF lenders and friends,

It has, as always, been an eventful few months. Work on clearing out the shop continues. The great news is that ALL of the major equipment is gone: the three auto lifts, the tire changer, the air compressor, the iron press table. The shelves are cleared. Our guess is that the task of clearing out the garage is 98% complete. We’ve had two very productive “clearing out” work parties the past two weeks, and another one scheduled for Sunday June 3 from noon to four in case any of you are available and would like to join in the fun. Let us know if you plan on coming.

The contractor selected for the remediation of the interior lead, asbestos and PCB’s is Sensitive Environment. It is a local, woman-owned company with 5-star reviews on Yelp. They were thorough in their initial walk through and the only company who said that they could deal with the PCB’s in the light ballasts. They have been patient and professional in all of our dealings so far, and we are excited to work with them. The target date to begin the remediation is June 11. This will be the first of two rounds of remediation that we plan to do with Sensitive Environment.

We are working closely with BuroHappold Engineering and Tierra Sol y Mar Architecture to identify how we want to change the roof of the auto shop, e.g., skylights, solar paneling, gardens, green roof, etc. When roof treatment and other design related issues are decided, we plan to have the roofing contractor work with Sensitive Environments on this second phase of remediation, which includes asbestos in the existing roofing

Many of you will remember the myco-remediation experiments, led by LAEV associate, Jim Bledsoe to see if oyster mushrooms can lift the petroleum off the garage floor. Two such patches were created on Songs floor in public workshops.

Mushrooms grown on Songs floor by Jim Bledsoe

Preliminary data is inconclusive but the mushrooms aren’t through growing. The sad news is that Jim plans to leave Los Angeles for greener pastures. We are actively looking for a team to take up the mantle of these local experiments! If you know someone or if you ARE someone interested in being on the front lines of mycological research, please let us know! We plan to frame these beautiful specimens and credit their creation to Jim.

CRSP, our architect Ian McIlvaine with Tierra, Sol y Mar and the engineering team led by Gideon Sussman at BuroHappold continue to make headway on the future design of the property. BuroHappold has hosted two design meetings. One more will be held and then a final meeting to officially present their ideas.

We have not moved as quickly as we would have liked, so the phasing matrix developed at the end of last year is a bit behind. I (Questa) and Gideon have set up a regularly scheduled online call to jump start and help move the phasing forward. BuroHappold hopes to wrap their initial volunteer commitment to this project by the end of summer. And may consider moving forward with CRSP on the project after we see how it wraps.         

In regards to the property taxes, there’s just a little to say. Though we were rejected for exemption on the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 tax years, Lois is working diligently on the 2018-2019 request for exemption. The re-assessment hearing has been delayed a couple of times now and Lois is looking into finding representation for when the County re-schedules our hearing. The process is a very complicated one and she’s come to the mind that we need an expert. If you know a property tax expert who has worked with nonprofits on reducing property taxes, please send them our way.

Now more exciting news. Recently, Nuna Tersibashian, Brownfields Program Manager for the City of Los Angeles, asked if we would be interested in working with one of their program management staff on our remediation efforts. We later learned that the Brownfields staff person Nuna had in mind was UCLA PhD candidate Peggy Nguyen. In the most truly “small world” experience we’ve had in awhile, Peggy is currently working with Gideon at BuroHappold on a completely different project! We met with Peggy, Nuna, Brownfield staff person Collette and City of L.A. urban planner Claire Bowen on May 3rd. We were excited to learn of Peggy’s optimism for remediating soil contaminants as quickly as a year. She proposes to lift the asphalt/concrete, lay down a layer of compost, and plant a combination of plants known to phytoremediate the soil of both organic and inorganic materials. This will be a publishable study. Peggy plans to prepare the grant proposal that will bring funding to the work to be done. While we can’t count this chicken until it’s hatched, this may be the deus ex machina to show that heavy metals can be phyto-remediated as an alternative to the conventional and expensive “dig and haul” methods currently in use.

One of our goals, in alignment with our public interest purposes, will be to use the resulting science from Peggy’s proposed study, and the potential changes in regulations, to form co-ops of neighborhood groups which can begin to remediate their own contaminated communities without waiting for years of public funding unlikely to materialize.

As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns that may come up. And watch for upcoming summer events at Songs. Hope to see you all soon.

Questa, CRSP Special Projects Coordinator

and

Lois

*Our dear friend and lender, Marshall Burns, came up with this comment which I thought made a nice motto:

ELF: Green investing with an adamantly personal touch!*

What do you think?

 ________________

March 1, 2018

Greetings valued ELF lenders and friends,

It’s been an eventful few months! Amongst the workshops, CCLR (Center for Creative Land Recycling) webinars, clearing, cleaning, planning, bidding and design, Lois had a death in her family and was in Florida for two weeks.

Work on the property continues. Though we have cleaned out literally buckets of stuff, there is still piles of old brake pads, gaskets, sound equipment, office equipment, books and unrecognizable plastic and metal bits of all sorts. We intend to have it all cleared out for lead and asbestos remediation in the coming month.

There is still some large and valuable auto equipment to get rid of as well. Of three lifts, one is gone at a fair price, considering the purchaser came and broke it all down and hauled it away themselves! The air compressor is gone as well. The tire changer remains. All items are up on E-bay and craigslist, and I am daily interacting with prospective buyers.

Now to some really interesting stuff! We have held two workshops in the garage, led by LAEV associate Jim Bledsoe, to experiment breaking down hydrocarbon residuals on the auto shop floor with oyster mushrooms. We are not aware of any others doing this kind of work here in Los Angeles. Hopefully, our results will be able to influence regulations, and help other neighborhoods with inexpensive remediation strategies.

Our engineering firm BuroHappold continues to be among our heroes, along with Architect Ian McIlvaine. Last month, B-H hosted the first of several design meetings to discuss the many sustainability options. For example, a black glass pane on the exterior south wall of the auto shop to trap cold and hot air for heating and cooling.

BuroHappold structural engineer Patti Harburg-Patrich-(left) and intern Channel check out 1930 café wall for structural integrity

BuroHappold structural engineer, Patti Harburg-Petrich, joined by her intern Chanele, walked the two buildings last week to gather further information for retrofitting. Their work gets us a step closer for interim uses of the buildings!

All of this fits into the ever evolving phasing matrix, which I initially developed, and BuroHappold’s Team Leader Gideon Sussman took to the next professional level with input from several of us. Please let me know if you’d like a copy.

After all this exciting news, here is the frustrating news: The L.A. County Assessor’s office rejected our request for a property tax appeal on the grounds that we are not currently using the property to further our public interest purposes. Once we have more workshops and classes happening, we will try again. Our request for a property tax exemption was also rejected on grounds that we did not have a current Organizational Clearance Certificate from the State. We will be continuing to pursue the necessary process for these tax advantages.

We’d be delighted to hear what your visions are for the property. As always, please feel to contact us with any questions or concerns that may come up. Also, please let us know if you’d prefer to get your interest checks annually instead of quarterly, in which case, we would still send you updates.

Questa Gleason CRSP Special Projects Coordinator
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12/1/2017

Dear Lenders and Friends,

About working with the US-EPA:

Well, our year-long engagement with the US-EPA came to a close in late October with their three final reports:

  • a Phase II Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA) 100 page report completed in July which we wrote about in our September update to you
  • an Analysis of Brownfield Clean-Up Alternatives (ABCA), a 43 page report completed in October
  • an Appendices to the Phase II TBA of 149 pages completed in April

We felt like we had enough info and a number of interested and dedicated folks to create a brownfield grant writing team, including a professional grant writer, a former employee with the EPA, a few with comprehensive science backgrounds, and several of us with a good history of the site, good writing skills, plus lots of good contacts for garnering support for a US-EPA Brownfield Clean Up grant.

So, without a lot of thought or initial homework, our team came together and decided to go for a $150,000 grant for our Project. Our decision was made in mid October. The deadline loomed at a very tight November 16. The 71 page long Grant Guidelines were intimidating. So it took the next few weeks to get a handle on understanding how to respond to the Application, and we were already more than a month behind since the Guidelines had been released in early September.

Some exciting meetings with our grant writing team followed, and we were putting together a lot of resources for the proposal: commitments for letters of support from a dozen organizations, including the California EPA, the City’s Brownfield program, our Council office, local schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations; demographics, pollution issues in our neighborhood, and more! Wow! We were cooking.

We were learning about the contaminants inside the buildings and in the soil and what their potential effects could be on human health. We were beginning to envision being a resource for other disadvantaged polluted neighborhoods, several of which have been reported on in the mainstream media the past few years. Imagining that our experience and experiments with soil contaminants would give us increasing expertise that we could then share with other disadvantaged neighborhoods to do their own contaminated soil remediation. We knew that additional public funds may be drying up in coming years. There have to be viable alternatives! And our growing expertise could be one of them!

The big day of the Grant’s required Public Meeting arrived: November 11th, less than a week before the deadline, but the earliest we could manage to get it together enough to conduct such a meeting. A public notice was sent out about the meeting to a thousand people in ours and nearby zip codes and flyers posted on the property and on our two blocks, face to face invitational discussions with adjacent school principals were made, and meeting flyers in Spanish and English handed out to the parents who walk their kids to school.

The public meeting did draw about 25 people, and our good neighbor, AnaPaul Noguez Mercado with AntenaLA, provided interpretation for Spanish speaking neighbors. But, the three day Veterans holiday pretty much killed attendance for lots of other folks.

Each of our eight grant writing team members made a brief presentation or played an essential role in the public meeting. Together, we publicly chronicled our vision for the project, and what we planned to do about the contaminants before we could substantially manifest that vision. We answered and recorded questions and comments from the participants, as required by the grant guidelines. Our presentations focused on remediating the contaminants inside the buildings (lead, asbestos and PCBs) in a fairly quick and conventional way. We decided that it would be these contaminants that we would seek the US-EPA grant monies for. And we would look for other monies for remediating the soils.

Together, the team felt strongly that the soil remediation should be done using plants, trees, microorganisms, mushrooms and other on site phyto-technologies. The US-EPA’s ABCA did not support this alternative, so we didn’t feel it worthwhile to include these technologies in the grant proposal.

After the crunch of preparing for the Public Meeting, when I finally got to read so much of the back and forth emails among our amazing grant writing team, I realized that without at least 3 or 4 of us being on a 24/7 schedule working on this for the next four days, there was no way we would even meet the Grant’s “Threshold Criteria,” And, if that didn’t happen, there was no way the Agency was going to look at anything else we had to say in our proposal.

That night I finally took a look at the bids for removing the contaminants inside the buildings, and, by golly, they were a pittance compared to what we were planning to ask for in the Grant! Plus the Grant was going to require us to put $20,000 of our own money, and it didn’t appear that the removal of these building interior contaminants would cost more than that. When, just a week or two earlier, we were still considering including the soil remediation in the Grant proposal, $150,000 made a lot of sense based on the ABCA’s estimated costs that included soil removal. Now, however, it became clear that our month’s effort on this proposal was a huge success in putting a committed team together in a hurry, learning a lot, and becoming clear that money is great, but being true to our values and our vision is more important. I concluded it was time to halt the effort on this US-EPA proposal.

The calls I made that night and Sunday morning to each of the seven other team members were heartening. Each was glad we had worked together the preceding month, and looked forward to our next grant writing project. Everyone on those calls also had enthusiastic ideas and actions to share. From contacting local college and university graduate programs in Environmental Science, to taking our “dog and pony” show on phyto-technologies for remediating contaminated soils to Neighborhood Councils and other civic organizations throughout the City, to setting up a consulting team on phyto-remediation of soils. Over and over again, I heard “Nothing was wasted; we learned so much!”

And Other Happenings:

So, in addition to that, architect Ian McIlvaine has worked on some renderings showing potential locations of the hostel in the rear yard of the property,  a new ELF loan came in, Questa has been drafting a Gantt chart showing phasing of the project, we had a professional survey done on the property so architect Ian McIlvaine could begin to proceed with accurate drawings, and our friend Jim Bledsoe is proceeding with a micro experiment using mushrooms to remediate the hydrocarbons accumulated in the southwest corner inside the garage.

About your quarterly interest checks: Several of you have still not deposited your interest checks from September. Please let me know if these are lost or not received, or just that you haven’t gotten around to it. Also, let me know if you’d prefer to have your interest checks just once a year instead of quarterly. If so, we’ll still send you quarterly updates. Much appreciate your responses on this.

Open Invitation to you all ELF lenders:
As many of you know we have veggie potluck dinners every Sunday evening from about 7 to 9pm. Please feel free to join us on any Sunday. Call me if you plan to attend, so I’ll be sure to be there.

Los Angeles Eco-Village to celebrate its 25th Anniversary in 2018:
Stay tuned for celebratory activities, and let us know if you’d like to be on our planning committee.

Thanks everyone for your continuing support.

Love, Lois
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9/1/2017

Update on your ELF loan for September 1, 2017

Greetings! Things are moving along now, but, as usual, ever so slowly. Here’s Questa again to give you the update below. We are excited to share this with you on the one year anniversary of several of your loans. We are delighted to report that nearly all of you whose loans were for one year, have requested that the term of your loan be changed from “due in one year” to “annual review.” But, do keep in mind, it will not be a problem at all, should any of you request the return of your principal prior to the term on your agreement or the annual review next year. Let us know if your need arises. Also, if you have friends familiar with LA Eco-Village who might be interested in making a socially responsible loan to ELF, please share info with them or refer them to our website for more info on ELF: www.laecovillage.org under the <CRSP> top menu item. Gratefully, Lois.

Dear ELF Lenders,

Report on first events on the new property, June 17th: Tri-Board gathering, but first… Although the auto shop is almost completely cleaned out, there are still a few large pieces of auto equipment, several shelves of small auto parts in the office and a pile of miscellaneous junk adjacent to the shop outside. Feel free to make a date and come by to take a look if you think you might be interested in having any of it for a junk sculpture (it’s perfect for that purpose!) or other re-purposing.

The Tri-Board (CRSP, USTU, BVCLT) social gathering at the new property with lenders, USTU community members, friends and neighbors was an unquestionable success! About 30 attended, including 8 of you, our lenders. There were countless opportunities for connections and cross pollination between the groups. For those of you who were unable to attend, we created a five-dot survey for participants to prioritize their favorite potential interim or permanent uses of the space (assuming, at that time, that housing was a given). The most popular items and the number of dots each garnered are as follows:

  • Vertical organic hydroponic farm – 18 dots
  • Event Venue – 16 dots
  • Fair trade coffee (Un-Gentrified) – 11 dots
  • Music lesson studio and Tiny House Village – 10 dots each
  • Seedling plant nursery, Place based school – 8 dots each
  • Art Gallery, Veggie café, Bike shop, Used book store – 7 dots each
  • Food co-op bulk bins – 6 dots

Several of these potential uses are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a veggie café could also accommodate an art gallery, fair trade coffee, and bulk bins.

The CRSP Board will be continuing to explore these and other options using a planning process that will generate input from the community and neighborhood. One idea, discussed below, is an eco-hostel instead of a permanently affordable cohousing development.

In the interim, we opened the space once more on July 27th for James Rojas’ internationally renowned and award winning “Place It” workshop! Nearly 60 people attended the event which was co-sponsored by the LATCH Collective and the “You Are Here” Meet-up Group. Watch for photos of the event on our LA Eco-Village blog.

US-EPA Phase II Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA), scoping document and remediation direction.

The results from this report are in. In summary, the property is below the contamination levels for commercial/industrial uses but too high for residential uses. There is asbestos in both roofs, lead paint and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) in the light ballasts. In the soil, there is lead and other heavy metals, diesel, chloroform and ethylbenzene. While all of this sounds pretty dire, it is actually much better than we had hoped for. In fact, we believe that if we chose to use the site only for commercial ventures, conventional clean up could be as short as 2 months and relatively affordable! Let us know if you would like to see the full report.

Christian Arnsperger’s Perma-Circular talk and the Emergence of the Eco-Hostel concept. On July 19th, Swiss Professor of Economic Anthropology Dr. Christian Arnsperger, graced our lobby for a talk on L.A.’s Perma-Circular Future. Earlier results on the Phase II TBA were beginning to make our vision for permanent housing look longer, more costly, and more difficult to move forward on bio-remediation with plants and mushrooms. Lois had been thinking about an appealing alternative use for the property. Then, inspired by Christian’s talk, Lois had an epiphany. Concept: a cooperative eco-hostel! Members would be other ecovillages, intentional communities and academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Although other prominent ecovillages around the world sponsor immersion programs, they are all rural. An eco-hostel could use the existing buildings, be remediated to the more lenient commercial standards, and provide an urban sustainable living immersion program to visitors and academic groups from throughout the world. Our USTU members and colleagues have a wealth of knowledge to share, and a curriculum would not be difficult to develop. This direction would not preclude the possibility of permanently affordable cohousing in some future scenario. And, incidentally, we are happy to report, about 600 units of affordable housing are already slated for development within about one-quarter mile of LAEV, and probably more planned that we don’t know about yet.

CRSP board meets with BuroHappold’s LAEV Engineering Team. We reported on BuroHappold, an international engineering firm specializing in sustainability, in our last update. Since then, a team of four BuroHappold engineering staff, were selected by their corporation’s internal grants process to provide volunteer engineering services to our new property! The team, led by Gideon Sussman, met with the CRSP Board last month, and we were inspired by their visionary thinking. It promises to be an exciting partnership, and they have indicated their early support for the eco-hostel concept.

International exposure.

Our dear friend and lender from Singapore, Sarah Ichioka, is curating an L.A. Eco-Village exhibit in Seoul this month at the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. For other media about L.A. Eco-Village, current and past, visit our blog https://laecovillage.wordpress.com/category/media/

CRSP board expansion CRSP is currently in the process of expanding its board of directors and re-establishing an Advisory Board of prominent people in the urban sustainability and co-op worlds. If you are interested in being considered for either, please forward your bio to Lois and call her to discuss. If you have recommendations for candidates, please pass them along.

Please continue to feel free to join us here at the Village any Sunday evening for our veggie potluck dinners at 7pm. Let us know if you plan to attend, so we can be sure to meet you here.

Again, we are grateful for your continuing support. Stay tuned. And best wishes for a safe Labor Day weekend.

Questa Gleason CRSP Special Projects Coordinator
_________________________________________________________________________________


June 1, 2017

Re:       Update on your ELF loan

Greetings dear lender-friends,

Let me introduce you all to Questa Gleason who has been helping out on a variety of CRSP activities, but especially on the Raisin’Songs auto shop project. She’s among our newest Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana housing co-op members in the big building adjacent to the auto shop. And her balcony looks out over the entire south side of the corner property, so she provides extra security as well. I asked her to write this update. I hope you enjoy it and get a chance to meet her in person soon.

Love,

Lois

Dear ELF Lenders,

First and foremost, please SAVE THE DATE and keep a lookout for an email invite to a social event on the RaisinSong’s property at 3554 W 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90004 on Saturday, June 17 from 11am to 3pm. We would love to see all of you there! There will be food, fun and friends!

Oh my god there’s going to be a party! What does this mean, you may ask. It means that things are moving right along. Though it’s been an arduous process, there have been significant changes on the property since the last lender-friend update, a mere three months ago!

The US-EPA’s sub-contractor, Weston Solutions, spent a few days here doing their core drilling, collecting soil, gas, groundwater and air samples. With the completion of the Phase II Environmental Site Assessment actual testing, we expect to receive some preliminary results within the next two weeks. As we wait for the final report, we’ve gotten some great news: the geophysical survey utilizing magnetic and electromagnetic instruments to determine if there were any underground storage tanks from the gas station that was there in the 1920s/1940s came up negative!  This is great news, and means we may be able to utilize the property much sooner than we had originally thought.

Some of you may remember the issues with trash, graffiti, and inoperable vehicles on the property described in the last update letter. While CRSP did pay one fine to the L.A. City Building and Safety Department, we were determined not to pay another. With the help of our dear friend Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, we were able to establish two time extensions from the Building and Safety Department for getting rid of the vehicles. Graffiti is now being reported to 311 almost daily. The city comes and cleans it up within 3 days. Trash is also being picked up almost daily, by me personally, and sometimes by Lois. And new ownership signs have been posted in English and Spanish.

In addition, it’s bittersweet but a major win nonetheless – (drum roll please) – the inoperable vehicles plus the moldy camper shell are gone! Two amazing members of the LATCH collective (www.latchcollective.org) tiny house advocacy community, disabled veteran and mechanic extraordinaire Jason and his wife Taylor, spent several days here sorting through what appeared to be an endless sea of car parts, advising on what is useful and what is recycling, and carting away about a ton of scrap metal. In exchange for this invaluable help, Jason and Taylor hooked the inoperable RV to a hitch and hauled it away. They will be using it for their own tiny house with their service dog Lady.

The camper shell went to a lovely couple who are also with the LATCH collective, Mario and Siara. Our local architect/handyman Jim Bledsoe spent something along the lines of 5 hours getting it on the back of Mario’s truck. It was quite a saga.

The bittersweet news is that the step vans (think of a FedEx or food truck van) are gone. While we had wanted to do something creative with them, a constituency of Eco-Village members agreed that if we wanted tiny homes on the property, we had all the in-house knowledge we needed to create something much more interesting than what the vans could provide. Lois and I still saw potential in them, but the deciding factor came from the CRSP Board of Directors who sent the word out to get rid of them and avoid further fines and potential struggles with the city. We tried to give them away to a tiny house advocate or to any other friend or ally, but, in the end, we called a tow company and had them taken to the junkyard. End result, they are gone and the outside yard is practically cleared!

Now the really exciting news! Thanks to Lois’ tenacity, Jason’s mechanical know-how, and the help of countless others, the inside of the shop is practically cleaned out! When I first walked in there several months ago, it looked the exact same as the last day of business as an auto shop. All of the machines still sat there, and the shelves were completely full of parts, tires, dust and oil. I thought we should hire someone to clean it out, but Lois persisted, and I am proud to say that approximately 2 to 3 tons of scrap metal, tires, odd sized plastics, oil, and trash has been disposed of in an environmentally sensitive way. The next step is a power wash, some air filtering plants, a solid airing out and a PARTY!

While it is still likely that some bio-remediation will be needed, we are excited to begin considering proposals for revenue generating interim uses of the property. There are many diverse ideas on the table including (but not limited to) an open air market/mercado, thrift/consignment shop, farmers market, office space, bulk organic foods outlet/co-op, art gallery, book store, computer repair, bike shop, yoga studio, plant nursery, healing arts studio, juice bar, vegan or veggie cafe – any of which would be implemented in a way that is non-gentrifying.

Lastly, I’m delighted to report that our friends at BuroHappold Engineering (www.burohappold.com) volunteered to review and advise on the structural issues of the small café on the property. Thanks to their Associate Principal and structural engineer Patti Harburg-Petrich, we have strong direction for retrofitting this historically significant 1930s café. Our CRSP Board President, architect Ian McIlvaine (http://tierrasolymar.com/) is reviewing our next steps for retrofitting the Café.

Please continue to feel free to join us here in LAEV any Sunday evening for our veggie potluck dinners at 7pm. Let me or Lois know if you plan to attend, so we can be sure to meet you here.

We are grateful for your support. Stay tuned. And best wishes,

Questa Gleason
_________________________________________________________________________________


March 1, 2017

Re:       Update on your ELF loan

Hi dear lender friends,

Things continue to move along and still slowly.

Some of you early lenders will be pleased to know that four more loans came in after we closed escrow on October 7th, 2016. Currently there are three more under consideration. So the count as of today is 25 loans for this project totaling $665,000.

We were delighted to learn that the US-EPA has approved our application for completing the Phase II Environmental Site Assessment. That work is scheduled to start this Friday, March 3rd with a geophysical survey utilizing magnetic and electromagnetic survey instruments to determine if there are any underground storage tanks from the gas station that was there in the 1920s/1930s. Further work by the US-EPA contractor will include core drilling into the soil to collect soil, gas, and groundwater samples as well as any air emissions inside the two buildings to determine if the site is impacted at concentrations that may pose a risk, considering our planned uses.

So that’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that the L.A. City Building and Safety Department received a complaint about the property, did an inspection and cited CRSP for untidiness, graffiti and inoperable vehicles on the site. And, I was guilty as charged. Unfortunately, I had not put up an attractive sign stating CRSP is the new owner with contact information, and a rendering of our planned redevelopment. I was also tardy in getting a regular clean-up and graffiti removal schedule going. That might have avoided the complaint to the City, and brought it directly to me for corrections. So, CRSP paid the $356 Building and Safety Department fine to avoid further penalties. We are now picking up trash on the site daily; put some potted plants along the rear yard fence and building, and are arranging to have regular graffiti removal done. And, I hope to have a nice sign up on the property in the next few days.

But the exciting possibility is that the two inoperable RVs and two inoperable flatbed trucks make perfect raw materials for transforming them into beautiful works of art for a tiny house village in the rear yard of the property and/or other uses we may want them for in the future. We are currently partnering with the LATCH Collective and their coalition of groups in the LA area. The group of tiny house organizations is rapidly expanding into an advocacy coalition toward local policy makers and legislators to legalize tiny backyard houses, and tiny house villages, whether stationary or on wheels. For more info on this coalition, see http://latchcollective.com/ and especially learn about their upcoming events this weekend.

Obviously such regulations could go a very long way to increase affordable housing in our city without having to put out the average $400 per square foot for new multi-family construction to meet all of the City’s needs. Many complain that there is no land for such tiny house villages. Hmmm? Just ask me. Thousands of acres are potentially available, even within the densest parts of our City.

So it will be a bit of a challenge in the next few weeks to persuade the Building and Safety Department to refrain from penalizing us any more if the four inoperable vehicles are not removed by their deadline of March 9th. Some I have sought advice from on this issue, including the CRSP Board, would prefer for CRSP to just get rid of them. If any of you have a way to store them until they can be used by tiny house developers, let me know.

Meantime, I met with two local mushroom bio-remediation advocates last weekend; L.A. Eco-Village resident Federico Tobon and friend Kat Cheng. We discussed the potential of creating the public demonstration for remediating our potentially toxic soils with plants and mushrooms. And, then, as if on cue, Radical Mycology founder and author Peter McCoy (www.radicalmycology.com) contacted me this past Monday to inquire if we would host his three day LA workshop on mushrooms this Fall! An enthusiastic yes! I said.

I also recently met with representatives from the Los Angeles Trade Technical College from their automotive training program. They plan to return to the property with a truck to remove many of the automotive materials that they can use in their training programs.

Lastly, I’m delighted to report that our friends at BuroHappold Engineering (www.burohappold.com) have volunteered to review and advise on the structural issues of the small café on the property.

Please continue to feel free to join us here in LAEV any Sunday evening for our veggie potluck dinners. Let me know if you plan to attend, so I’ll be sure to meet you here.

We are grateful for your support.

Stay tuned.

Love,

Lois

p.s. For some of you, this will be your first interest check. Feel free to check the arithmetic. Here’s how your interest was figured: The amount of your loan times 1.5% interest, divided by 12 months, times 3 months plus number of days at the daily rate in a stray month that was not included in the full quarter. For example, if your loan was for $5,000 deposited on September 12, 2016:

5,000 x 1.5% = 75 / 12 mo = 6.25 x 3 mo = 18.75 + 6.25 for Oct + 6.25 for Nov + 19days for Sept x .2083 = $35.21

FYI and for clarity, our payout quarters start on 12/1, 3/1, 6/1 and 9/1.
_________________________________________________________________________________


December 1, 2016

Re:· Update on the Auto Shop Property Purchase

Dear ELF lenders and friends,

Things are moving along, but slowly.

Some of you are receiving your first interest check enclosed. Hurray. Others of you will receive your first interest check on March 1, 2017.

As you all know by now, we closed escrow on October 7th.

  • It was a fun day with Mr. Song, the now former property

owner, showing several of us around the shop and little cafe: how to get in, how to turn on the lights, operate the security system, the lifts, etc. Thanks to L.A. Eco-Village resident Carrie Lincourt, who took a few fun videos of this “closing day” tour, you will soon have an opportunity to view them.

Our Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) was completed as needed before the closing. That report recommended : that we have a Phase II ESA, because we learned that there was a gas station on the property from 1925 to 1942.  We have applied to the US-EPA Southern California Region #9 for financial assistance for the Phase II and the remediation plan, if necessary.  We are still awaiting word on that.

Meantime, I attended a talk by mushroom expert Peter McCoy a few weeks ago and purchased his amazing new 650 page resource book Radical Mycology. As I have mentioned to several of you, if we do have to do remediation, we will handle as much of it as possible with plants and mushrooms which have been effective in remediating a variety of hydrocarbons and heavy metals. This may take longer than just hauling toxic dirt away, but the important point is to demonstrate’ that we have to reinvent how we live in the City such that there is no “away.” We have to heal the places where we are!

Several Eco-Village/Urban Soil members are advocating strongly that CRSP re-open the small cafe on the west side of the property, formerly known as the Teriyaki House. The 12 seat diner has enormous potential as a veggie cafe. Nonetheless, the Building Inspection report indicated that the 1930 building is very vulnerable from a structural perspective. So we will be taking a closer look at what it will take to make it safe. Meantime, we will be in search of a knowledgeable co-op oriented neighborhood based team to manage it.

‘Please continue to feel free to join us here in LAEV any Sunday evening for our veggie potluck dinners. Let me know if you plan to attend.

We are grateful for your support.

Stay tuned.

Love,

Lois

___________________________________________________________________________

Opportunity To Be Part of Los Angeles History – August 14, 2016

Lois Arkin

Lois Arkin

I am contacting you because of your interest in the work of Los Angeles Eco-Village (LAEV) and your interest in the journey to reinvent how we live in our cities. The main project of CRSP for the past 25 years has been the two block LAEV demonstration neighborhood where the social, economic and ecological components are being systematically connected, resulting in a higher quality of life at a much lower environmental impact.

 

Our accomplishments include:

  •  50 units of permanently affordable ecologically and permaculture-oriented cohousing

    LA Eco-Village Bimini Apartments

    LA Eco-Village Bimini Apartments

  •  Incubation of new green co-op oriented organizations and businesses, including the Bicycle Kitchen, Cafecito Organico, the Food Lobby, Pacific Electric Worker Co-Op, Relampago Wheelery, the LAEV Family Childcare Service, Urban Soil-Tierra Urbana Limited Equity Housing Co-op, and the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust.bc162d67-289d-41d0-b2a6-e6249983df7dLAEV intentional community members also helped start or grow CicLAvia, the LA County Bicycle Coalition, the Los Angeles Permaculture Guild, the Arroyo Seco Network of TimeBanks,, and the multi-school White House Place Learning Garden. and last, but not least, the CRSP Ecological Revolving Loan Fund (ELF).

And that last item, the ELF, is a major reason you are receiving this note today. We’re growing the ELF and invite you to be part of it.   Here is the Who, What, Where, Why, and How to be Involved:

Who:  CRSP, the initial nonprofit development organization of LAEV, is in escrow for the quarter-acre auto repair shop and Teriyaki House on the north corner of the LAEV neighborhood at First Street and Bimini Place, adjacent to our largest building.

What: We plan to redevelop the site as the first new construction CAR-FREE mixed-use, permanently-affordable, ecologically-sensitive, culture-changing cohousing co-op community in Los Angeles.  It’s been 70 years since Los Angeles has had a car-free development.

Why:  In spite of billions of public dollars put into our rapidly advancing transit systems, the public is still trapped in auto congestion and gridlock. (Car sales have never been better.) Someone’s got to step in and say “enough already, NO MORE CARS” but also provide an alternative. We’ve decided to meet the challenge. We invite you to come along with us for the joy and excitement of “being the change” our Earth, our Nation, our City so desperately needs.

How you can be involved:

  1. Loan money to our ELF for the corner acquisition. At 1.5%, we’re paying interest rates competitive with your saving accounts. And you’ll know where your money is and the good it is doing. We’re seeking up to 35 loans from $5,000 to $100,000. Ask Lois to send you the two page Prospectus or the longer Draft Property Analysis, Purchase and Development Plan. Visit our website to view the ELF fact sheet and draft loan agreement.
  2. Join the “culture change” team. Are you an anthropologist, sociologist, psychologist, health and wellness advocate, urban planner—professional or amateur—interested in how society changes? Want to help make the change happen? Come brainstorm and plan with us. Join the “culture change” co-op team. We’ll be meeting in person and on-line. Let us know if you want to be a team member or coordinator.

     3.  Become a future member of the car-free cohousing community. Keep in mind that we are within walking distance of two subway stops and 20 bus lines, with another major transit amenity planned for Vermont Avenue. If you or your up-to-three-person household falls within very low to moderate income guidelines, start saving now with ELF for your share payment in the future cohousing limited equity co-op. You’ll be invited to participate in the design and to form community with future neighbors. Your savings will be refundable if you do not become a member of this co-op. Contact Lois for other qualifying criteria.

We are scheduled to close escrow October 8th, 2016 (yay! we got an extension from September 8th), and we have commitments of $600,000. Will you be among the 35 people who help double that in time for the closing and beyond? All three of our multi-family buildings have been acquired by this same method, without bank loans. We invite you to take advantage of the opportunity to make this the fourth!

Thanks for reading and being part of the future.

Lois Arkin
CRSP
Founder, Executive Director
crsp@igc.org
213-738-1254

117 Bimini Pl #221
Los Angeles CA 90004

 

 

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Contact Information

117 Bimini Place #221
Los Angeles CA 90004
crsp@igc.org