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Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood – Overcoming Barriers to Community Participation

People in Maywood and other Gateway Cities on the banks of the L.A. River from Vernon to the ocean are marginalized in river revitalization plans. Many Maywood residents interviewed for my Master’s Thesis didn’t even know the L.A. River is being revitalized, or that public working group meetings were taking place! These communities are disproportionately of color and low income. Decision makers need to listen to the people.

A common barrier to participation is lack of time for working-class families. A middle-aged resident laments: “Unfortunately, a lot of our community are low-income people. They have two jobs, or they work late. They don’t have time to go to these meetings. Their thing is to come home and feed their kids, and go to sleep.”


A woman in her mid-20’s explained:

It’s always time. Maybe education. I think of like my mom who works. And at the end of the day you just wanna go home and sleep. You may not be able to go to a city council meeting. That’s just always hard. This is a working-class community. So many other things take precedence over going to a city council meeting.

Edgar, an active community member says it’s not enough to show up at river working group meetings held by the county.

[T] he local working groups . . . supposedly . . . were gonna invite me to meetings. I’m interested, I’m a part of the community. You are engaging the community. Invite me to the meetings, I wanna be involved, and then they don’t get back to me.

Edgar asked to be a part of more focused committees, which meet and plan before the larger working group meetings. There was no follow-up and he was not included.

Some residents also discussed that political corruption in Maywoood has discouraged them from participating. A long-time community member expressed:

Back in 2005 and 2006 I used to participate a lot. But after all these corruptions, everybody that was trying to reform things, became corrupt. I started participating in the community, and you turn around and do that? That pushes me away as a young individual, as someone that’s trying to believe in my Latino community. So all this fighting that’s going on right now, I don’t want to partake in it.

One alternative to overcome access barriers is “day in the park” events to take planning to the people, instead of requiring working class people to attend formal government meetings. Using soccer as an organizing tool can draw hundreds of families to the park. This provides organizing opportunities for education and engagement for people to decide the kind of community where they want to live and raise children.

I will continue this series of blog posts on Revitalizing the Lower L.A. River: Voices from Maywood.

This work is based on my Master’s Thesis, An Alternative Paradigm to Revitalization of the Lower Los Angeles River: A Maywood Story (Master’s Thesis, M.S. Regenerative Studies, Cal Poly Pomona, College of Environmental Design 2017).

Please feel free to email me at tmok [ @ ] if you have any comments or questions.

See Whitewashing the L.A. River? Displacement and Equitable Greening.

Photo: The Lower L.A. River along Maywood