Village Green: L.A.’s best-kept secret—and close to LAX

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Baldwin Hills overlook by Ryan Vaarsi/ Flickr / Creative Commons

Baldwin Hills overlook by Ryan Vaarsi/ Flickr / Creative Commons

Mayor Villaraigosa should move to the Village Green in the Baldwin Hills area—a true hidden gem in Los Angeles if there ever was one!

To begin with, it fits his only stated criterion: close to the airport (LAX). While we’re not right next to the airport (and all of that noise and jet fuel), we are just a quick 15-minute drive away on a relatively traffic-free stretch of La Cienega Boulevard.

But make no mistake—the true pleasures of the Village Green start much closer to home. We are a secluded little oasis of more than 650 townhomes and apartments on 68 acres of open, green space, with 2,000 trees representing nearly every variety found in Southern California. We’re also a tightknit, diverse, cohesive community of people.

I’m certain that the mayor would enjoy his newfound freedom and leisure by spending his free time as many here do: walking or jogging around “the Green,” chatting with neighbors, and enjoying the sunshine and fresh ocean breezes that are funneled by the Baldwin Hills into our neighborhood. The mayor also could enjoy a variety of outdoor opportunities right nearby: hiking in the beautiful 300-acre Kenneth Hahn Park, climbing the challenging staircase at the super-popular Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, running around the track at Rancho Cienega Park, and bicycling down to the beach on the Ballona Creek Path!

The mayor would be able to take advantage of the amazing new rail transit system he worked so hard to establish. We are walking distance from the La Brea Metrorail Station, which directly connects us to downtown, Little Tokyo, Hollywood, the Valley, Long Beach, East Los Angeles, Culver City, Pasadena, and, soon, with the opening of new extensions currently under construction, Westwood, Santa Monica, Leimert Park, Westchester, and LAX. In a few years, the mayor would be able to walk out of his house, head down to the beach for some quiet time in the morning, review his notes on the ride downtown for an afternoon private equity board meeting on Bunker Hill, enjoy dinner and drinks with his old City Hall buddies at one of the new downtown hotspots, take in a Lakers game at Staples Center, and catch a red-eye out of LAX to the latest conference of world thought leaders, without ever getting into a car!

What a life!

The Village Green is very welcoming to newcomers. Many of us have been here for decades, but with a variety of types of units—some for rent and others for sale—there are always new people coming in, of every race and nationality, and from a variety of economic backgrounds. You would be hard-pressed to find someone in Los Angeles who wouldn’t feel right at home among our diverse and hospitable neighbors. Outside of our daily informal interactions, there are also dozens of organized social events throughout the year, including a twice-yearly jazz picnic, outings for seniors, Halloween festivals and Easter Egg hunts for the kids, and cocktail parties and outdoor movie nights for the swinging set.

Finally, as great as the Village Green already is, there’s so much that the mayor could do with his clout, connections, and charisma to make it even better. For one, the mayor is famous for his commitment to public education, and the schools around the Village Green are not what they should be. Our elementary school across the street—Baldwin Hills Elementary—scores well, but the campus has not had any physical improvements since it was built many years ago. It needs a major facelift and renovation; the mayor could lean on his friends and contacts at LAUSD and in the foundation world to make that happen. The local middle and high schools have more serious problems that could be addressed by bringing in a well-regarded charter school operator like KIPP or Green Dot—or by pushing through needed reforms at LAUSD and the state.

To the east of the Village Green are some neighborhoods that face major problems with gangs and disinvestment. Although the mayor’s gang intervention and community policing programs were successful in bringing about a drop in crime, and although existing retailers such as the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Mall and the Ralph’s grocery store at Rodeo and La Brea have recently made major investments in upgrading their establishments, there are still several large vacant lots in the neighborhood—including the site of the old Santa Barbara Plaza—that are in desperate need of commercial redevelopment. The mayor could do wonders to push exciting new development projects forward on those sites, revitalizing the commercial heart of the Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills community and providing jobs for local youths.

The mayor is world renowned for his commitment to the environment, and there are a number of significant local environmental issues that could use his attention. In the Baldwin Hills, there are hundreds of acres of open space slated for parkland—but right now those acres are a huge urban oil field, serving only as sources of local air, noise and water pollution and aesthetic blight. Mayor Villaraigosa can help change that and make our dreams of a greater Baldwin Hills Park a reality.

Village Green is already a wonderful place: a beautiful, green, tight-knit community close to the airport, the new rail lines, newly-renovated shopping areas and beautiful parks and open spaces. But with the Mayor as our new neighbor, we could realize our potential to be so much more!

D. Malcolm Carson is a native Angeleno, 11-year Village Green resident, member of the City of Los Angeles Board of Transportation Commissioners and General Counsel and Policy Director for Environmental Health at Community Health Councils, a nonprofit health advocacy organization located in the Crenshaw District. He wrote this for Zócalo Public Square. You can find more here.