Union de Vecinos

In 2000 we won a Best Practice award for our community organizing from the United Nations’ Huairou Commission. In our model, solutions to a problem are developed by those most affected. It places the community first and at the center of our work. We take a bottom up approach. We start with the community’s understanding of their problems and engage the community in addressing these issues. We organize block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood and bring this network together. We do this through reflection, action, analysis and start again with each phase bringing new information. Through this process community members learn to negotiate and prioritize their demands amongst themselves. Our organizing campaigns as identified by our community members include the following: preservation of healthy affordable housing; the right to clean water; the right to clean air; and the right to safe and healthy neighborhoods. The Bienestar committees success in transforming their alley clearly demonstrated the potential for creating healthy alleys through the do-it-yourself community action our long organizing history makes possible. In addition to this we have the following accomplishments: EJ and Neighborhood Health and Safety o Neighborhood base improvements, Installed physical improvements to transform the use of 5 alleys in Boyle Heights and identified 6 more to begin transformation this year o Negotiated to reduce costly police engagement in neighborhood activity in our community o Reduced violence and fear on Fickett St without criminalization or police intervention through neighborhood occupation o Worked with Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Assemblyman John Perez to pass a state law allowing for the City of Maywood to have more regulatory powers over the water companies o Gained support from Assemblyman Rendon to develop a policy to create a public water district in Maywood o Organized and won two new parks in the City of Maywood; o Passed a law in the City of Maywood that allows street vendors to obtain vending permits; o Reprioritized how the City of LA distributed resources for basic services; Housing o Trained and developed tenants to understand RSO Regulations and the city’s inspection processes. o Identified and worked with 188 tenants during their inspection processes in the last year o With LACAN, formed an LA Citywide multi-cultural coalition that puts homeless, tenants, and public housing residents voices at the front of the struggle to expand rent control rights and protect public housing. o Successful in swearing in one of our members as a Housing Authority of City of LA Board of Commissioner (HACLA); o Stopped HACLA’s elimination of public housing for a 3 year period; o Passed 2 advisory measures in Maywood protecting families from the demolition of their homes; o Organized, drafted, and passed Just Cause Ordinance in the City


1 Submitted Idea

  • 2013 Grants Challenge

    DIY Social Spaces

    Just like TreePeople has trained and organized volunteers to plant trees, Union de Vecinos proposes to train and organize 1,000s of Angeleno volunteers to design and build DIY social space for their neighborhoods. Los Angeles’ social connectedness deficit is rooted in our poorly maintained car dominated streets, alleys and neighborhoods. Most Angelenos wish for a more walkable, safer, neighborly environment, but see no way they can make a change when even the simplest public space project seems to take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. We think we have found a solution: DIY social spaces created by volunteers in a few months for a few thousand dollars. In the last year we have, brought neighbors together in five locations in Boyle Heights to use their DIY ingenuity and innovation creating create shared spaces of social connectedness. This included transforming streets and alleys by building physical improvements and organizing activities to reclaim the space. Our vision for 2013 is to organize Boyle Heights neighbors to build DIY social spaces across the community so every resident lives within two blocks of a local commons . Our project will also create the tools and materials that will enable us to help Angelenos replicate this process across the city. Neighbors building their own shared social space, builds social connectedness in many ways. • Barn Raising— This is where neighbors share time, tools, skills, food. Together, they build relationships that flourish long after the last nail is driven. • Claiming and Shaping Shared Space – Through the project neighbors create their own public space which deepens their commitment to the neighborhood and recruits other residents to do the same. • Sparking Conversations and Relationships - Over time there will be 100s of spontaneous connections made by residents who meet or cross paths in the space during the course of the project’s life changing the quality of relationships between neighbors. Our process engages the local neighborhood’s untapped potential by bringing people together to address common neighborhood problems. We start by building Networks of Neighborhood Committees, composed of neighborhood residents that make a commitment to work together to make positive changes in their local neighborhood. These changes include building a team that creates opportunities to get to know your neighbors and to together to build simple DIY projects that have long lasting and transformative impacts in the community. In Boyle Heights, we began organizing activities on our streets and in our alleys such as regular cleanups, movie nights, mercados, and childrens activities. This started to transform spaces that had been deemed unsafe into healthy, thriving, and desirable places to live where neighbors can play, be active, and engage in constructive community building activities. However organized activities alone cannot fully complete a transformation. When no activity is occurring, the streets and alleys can look and feel empty. We have realized that we needed to reinforce the impact of our activities with physical improvements to create and promote sustainable active and healthy alleys. In addition, given limited municipal resources, we found ways to make the physical improvements that led into immediate changes with low investment , and without waiting for it to be done for us, but rather by doing it ourselves. To provide an example, one of our neighborhood committees, called Bienestar, identified a specific alley as problematic. It was unlit, dark, filled with potholes, and painted with graffiti. Residents also complained about the need for space next to their homes in which children could play safely. Last year, this committee came up with a plan to transform the alley into a small plaza. They organized regular cleanups and removed the graffiti. The youth in the neighborhood designed a mural and received permission to paint it on one of the buildings. As the city did not have resources to repave the alley, neighbors was able to raise money to buy materials and the residents donated the labor and repaved the alley themselves. They also installed solar lighting and designed and built planters. Finally, they finished painting a design on the floor of the repaved alley. Today, when the residents want to bring their children outside they use the planters to close the alley to cars and create a small plaza in front of the mural they painted. This was all accomplished with 6 months, less than $3,200. By adding countless volunteer hours, the considerable skills of neighborhood residents and the passion and ownership that comes from doing it yourself, we were able to transform an alley for a small fraction of the time and resources the City or anyone else would spend to have the same impact. This is an example of neighbors taking initiative coming together to rebuild their city one block at a time.