LOS ANGELES — Most people who live in LA have a pet peeve eyesore. Maybe it’s an overgrown median they drive by every day on the way to work. Perhaps it’s a sidewalk littered with trash or a wall covered in expletive-laden graffiti. Even for those who love the city, parts of LA are just plain ugly.
So a new community grant program is hoping to clean things up. Funded by Keep Los Angeles Beautiful, a volunteer organization managed by the city’s Office of Community Beautification, the new grants will be made available to community-based groups with ideas for making public spaces throughout Los Angeles cleaner, greener and more alluring.
“LA is a big city and a very diverse one in a lot of ways, but one thing we hear no matter what part of the city you’re in is that we all want a clean, beautiful environment in which to live, work and play,” said Office of Community Beautification Director, Paul Racs, during the city’s Third Annual Beautification Conference Tuesday.
It’s been eight years since the city funded such projects through what was then called the neighborhood matching fund. Through that program, the city bankrolled more than 1,100 hardscape beautification projects that ran the gamut from decorative tree well covers and street furniture to community gardens, statues, signs — “pretty much whatever a community envisioned in terms of some type of project to improve their local neighborhood,” Racs said.
The new program will award grants of up to $2,500 to 15 community groups this fiscal year, with another round of grants and funding made available in 2022. Eligible groups can be as informal as a pair of individuals representing a neighborhood or as large as a nationally recognized nonprofit. They include neighborhood block groups, homeowners associations, business improvement districts, chambers of commerce and neighborhood council beautification committees.
Individuals, single businesses, city departments, political groups, religious institutions and private school administrations are not eligible.
The proposed sites for beautification must be located within the city of LA’s boundaries and be publicly accessible. Street medians, sidewalks, parkways, library property and public school campuses are all fair game for projects as diverse as landscaping, neighborhood markets, tree plantings, murals, benches, signs, trash receptacles and gardens.
The Office of Community Beautification will assist with acquiring and paying for permits on projects to be completed on public property, enabling the full grant amount to go toward the project itself, Racs said. Projects that would take place on school property would need permission from the school, whereas those designed for private property would need permission from the property owner.
The Office of Community Beautification seeks to allocate 33% of its accepted proposals to high-need communities, as defined by SB 535 — the 2012 California law mandating that 25% of the proceeds from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities — as well as AB 1550, the 2016 law that directs 25% of climate investments to low-income households and communities.
The community beautification proposals will be evaluated for the thought process that went into the chosen location, their maintenance plans and what the community group plans to build. Groups whose proposals are accepted would need to provide a 25% matching fund, which could include the value of discounts and donated materials as well as volunteer time valued at $27.20 per hour.
The Office of Community Beautification is accepting applications for the first round of community beautification grant funds through June 30. Grant proposal applications can be downloaded at www.laocb.org and submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.