For more than a decade, the Jessica Triangle at the intersection of Jessica Drive and Cleland Avenue has been a labor of love for the residents of Mount Washington.
On Saturday, their efforts were recognized with a pair of landmark signs from Councilman Jose Huizar's office, and the official landmark designation that will protect the small but significant piece of real estate.
Councilmember Huizar as well as numerous community members who have shepherded the triangle through its transformation from a litter-collecting swath of asphalt to a beautifully landscaped greenspace were on hand to celebrate the unveiling of the signs on Saturday afternoon.
The median's transformation began in 1996, when then member Jerry Schneider began hearing complaints from neighbors.
At first, Schneider didn't think it was possible to do anything to beautify the asphalt triangle.
Slowly but surely though, thanks to some resourcefulness and sweat equity, the beautification began to unfold.
In the fall of 1997, three 4-foot areas of asphalt were removed and Coast Live Oaks were installed in each.
Shortly thereafter, community members began removing the remaining asphalt with sledgehammers and pickaxes.
The following winter, excess soil was procured from a project on nearby San Rafael Avenue and spread over the area. Chunks of the broken asphalt were fashioned into a walkway.
Pete Landry, a local Eagle Scout with Eagle Rock Troop 188, also participated in the effort by helping to haul away the excess asphalt, completing the path and building the retaining wall. Around the same time, a load of free much was delivered by the the Los Angeles Department of Parks & Recreation.
Another small infusion of cash came in the spring of 1998, when the Mount Washington Association kicked in $100 for the purchase of drought tolerant native plants.
In the subsequent years, numerous other stewards stepped in to beautify and protect the triangle. Mount Washington gardener Paula Sirola has spent the last decade lovingly weeding, mulching and planting in the triangle while neighbor Jose Rodriguez provided the water.
In 2007, it appeared the decade of work put into the building and maintaining of the triangle would all be undone when Mount Washington residents learned that the city planned to demolish the median and install a sewer line. It was then that Councilman Huizar's office stepped in to protect the space.
"We found out what the true meaning of neighborhood watch," Sirola said. "There was a construction crew that was surrounding this area, they were putting in flags and markers, and then there were some men in orange vests. And so eventually my neighbor Goetz Wolff said 'I think you should go see what's happening at the triangle.' Fortunately, Councilman Huizar was able to step in and help protect it."
Saturday's unveiling represented the culmination of the community's collective efforts and Council District 14's intervention.
"I've seen some of the best projects in my district done through guerilla gardening. That's people going out and beautifying an area," Huizar said. "I think this is a great, great way for the community to take responsibility and charge of an area that really had come in danger. I certainly wouldn't want a sewer line to destroy what we the community had created here."
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