L.A. Ecovillage brings a touch of pizzazz to this nondescript multi-ethnic neighborhood in East Hollywood.

From the front, LAEV’s apartment buildings are pretty standard for this inner-city neighborhood—just a little greener.

This fanciful cob bench along the sidewalk spices up the front yard.

Around back, LAEV’s lush permaculture garden is alive with free-range chickens, a compost pile, and dozens of varieties of fruit trees and vegetables.

Community work parties transform the permaculture garden into a social event.

“Traffic calming” events showcase the community’s commitment to providing an alternative to southern California’s notorious car culture.

LAEV’s proximity to Los Angeles Community College has helped to bring bicycle consciousness to the area.

Jimmy Lizama started the Bicycle Kitchen, a do-it-yourself bike maintenance coop in an old LAEV kitchen. His home-baked pizza was a central attraction. (see pp. 65-6)

The Bicycle Kitchen, which outgrew its LAEV home, boasts used bike parts, tools, knowledgeable “cooks,” and workshops that teach basic bike maintenance.

The Bicycle Kitchen’s success has spawned variations on the culinary theme, like the Bike Oven and the Bikerowave in Santa Monica. (Photo credit: www.BikeSideLA.org

LAEV found a creative and ecological way to prevent vandalism and burglary on its property: recycle old bicycle parts and turn them into a colorful fence.

The community’s founder, Lois Arkin, told me that she enjoys getting away from her desk and cycling from LAEV to Santa Monica—15 miles each way—at the age of 72!

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Los Angeles Eco-Village

After nearly 9 months on the road and in the air, I came full circle, returning to my home country by way of the graffiti-strewn East Hollywood neighborhood that is home to Los Angeles Ecovillage.

Having lived for 14 years in southern California, the epicenter of American hyper-individualism, I was curious to see what 50 adults committed to green living in a gritty urban neighborhood could accomplish.

At first glance, their two renovated tenement buildings were unremarkable: a few more trees out front, a whimsical cob bench in the shape of a dragon, and permeable sidewalks that prevent rainwater runoff.

In the wide courtyard behind the buildings, however, I found something extraordinary: a lush permaculture garden, somewhere between wild and tame, with picturesque sitting nooks and 27 varieties of fruits and vegetables. Compared to the tacky strip-mall jungle outside, this was Eden!

The founder, Lois Arkin, had a social justice vision for L.A. Ecovillage right from the start. Troubled by the 1992 Los Angeles riots, she abandoned a plan to build on an 11-acre lot on the city’s outskirts and, instead, created this ecovillage in the inner city. As a consequence, Los Angeles Eco-Village is the most ethnically diverse community I visited.

In addition, because most of the community members work as full-time environmental and social justice advocates, L.A. Ecovillage has a huge ripple effect.

Official website: http://laecovillage.org/

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