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BEAUTIFUL FOLKS DESERVE HAND GROUPS USE CITY GRANTS TO TURN EYESORES INTO PARKS, OASES.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

Let's hear it for Los Angeles' beautiful people. No, not the rich or famous ones. They already get enough ink.

I'm talking about the anonymous beautiful people -- those who spend their spare time fighting ugly in this city: trash-strewn streets, graffiti- covered walls, weed-filled lots.

Fighting ugly is a full-time job in L.A., which is why the beautiful people fighting it on their own time deserve some recognition.

Ten years ago, the city's Office of Community Beautification began distributing matching grants of up to $10,000 to help groups willing to use their own resources to turn eyesores into oases.

``More than 750 little islands of beauty have popped up in this city in that time, and there's another 91 coming this year,'' said Paul Racs, director of the little-known office.

Not exactly a major frontal assault on the 27million square feet of graffiti that crews removed last year from 515,000 locations. But the beautiful people still keep chipping away.

Of the 91 projects receiving matching grants this year, about three dozen are in the San Fernando Valley.

Among them is Save Chatsworth Inc., an effort by Marty Woll and scores of his neighbors to transform an old dumping ground into a park at the northernmost end of Canoga Avenue, just past the Ronald Reagan Freeway.

More than 100 volunteers, including local kids, spent about 9,000 hours at the site last year. They replaced litter, razor wire and construction materials with native plants and new fencing as they prepared the area for hiking and equestrian trails.

This year, they'll be putting in another 9,000 hours to add more fencing, along with oaks and a meadow for picnickers.

``We lost a dump and gained a park,'' said Woll, who wants everyone to come take advantage of the natural beauty of Chatsworth Trails Park.

At El Dorado Avenue Elementary School in Sylmar, an asphalt-covered lot will be transformed into a literacy garden with patio and fountains, where students and their reading mentors can relax and open a book together.

It's another piece of beauty being added to the colorful murals with urban and rural themes the kids got last year.

``We're trying to make it a beautiful oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle for our kids and the surrounding neighborhood,'' Principal Judy Hall said.

Ugly is also in retreat at Lorne Street Elementary School in Northridge, where rusty metal playground equipment has been replaced with colorful kid-safe equipment.

And at Mulholland Middle School in Van Nuys, a long-abandoned garden -- used in the 1950s and '60s to teach kids about nutrition -- has made a comeback.

``When they stopped teaching those classes 30 years ago, the agricultural sites sat unused at most schools,'' said Tanya Mandl school garden coordinator for the LAUSD's Nutrition Network, which is providing healthier meals for thousands of youths in low-income areas.

Now -- thanks to the elbow grease, time and resources of some dedicated parents, teachers and community volunteers -- there are fruit trees, a greenhouse, recycling equipment, and an amphitheater used as an outdoor nutrition classroom on a plot of land that sat vacant for 30 years.

``Teachers from more than 365 schools in our program visit to see what we've done and what could work at their own schools,'' Mandl said.

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3749

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Here's a look at the San Fernando Valley recipients of city Community Beautification Grants, and what the groups have planned for this year.

Save Chatsworth Inc. -- Chatsworth Trails Park restoration

Cleveland High School, Reseda -- Access for All project

Gault Elementary Booster Club, Van Nuys -- Adventures in Learning

Arminta Street Elementary School PTA, North Hollywood -- campus landscaping

Beachy Avenue School, Arleta -- campus mural

Tarzana Community and Cultural Center -- Ventura Boulevard beautification

Boda Place Neighbors and El Camino Real Beta Service Club, Woodland Hills -- Clear the Way project

Community Integration Services Inc., Granada Hills -- cultural assimilation

Girl Scout Troop 783, Eagle Rock -- Dahlia Heights Elementary signage and landscaping

El Dorado Elementary School, Sylmar -- campus gardens

Finn Park Community Gardeners, Tujunga -- garden improvements

Winds of Hope Ministries, Sun Valley -- Fresh Wind project

Fair Avenue Elementary School, North Hollywood -- Garden of Knowledge

Grand High Family Center Beautification Committee, Valley Glen -- senior lawn beautification

Mothers Against Social Economical Educational Decline, Pacoima -- Hansen Hills signage

Robert Lewis High School, Sun Valley -- Bridge to the Future project

Liggett Street School, Panorama City -- campus beautification

Friends of Calahan Elementary, Northridge -- outdoor art and science space

Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, North Hollywood -- Old Lankershim Village gateway monument

Primary Academy for Success School, Panorama City -- story land

Rio Vista Elementary School, North Hollywood -- hidden garden

Rockdale Elementary School, Eagle Rock -- secret garden

Roscoe Elementary Parent Center, Sun Valley -- parents' garden

North Hollywood High Community Garden -- rose garden

San Fernando Valley Historical Society, Sylmar -- Pioneer Memorial Cemetery entrance project

SOCES Beautification Team, Reseda -- elementary lunch-yard haven

CHIME Charter School, Chatsworth -- Sign of the Chimes project

Study City Improvement Association -- Farmer's Market crosswalk

LAUSD Nutrition Network, Van Nuys -- demonstration nutrition garden.

Neighborhood Greening Coalition, North Hollywood -- tree planting

Vintage Magnet PTA, North Hills -- campus entrance beautification

Wonderland Avenue Elementary PTA, Laurel Canyon -- kindergarten courtyard.

Parents and Teaches Together, Woodland Hills -- Woodland Hills Elementary beautification

Senior Citizens Volunteers, Pacoima -- young active senior citizen environment

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, box

Photo:

(1) Clockwise from front left, Vanessa Watters, Jelena Csanyi, Marty Woll and Clara Woll stand in the cleaned up Chatsworth Trails Park on Friday. They are members of Save Chatsworth Inc., which cleared five bins of trash from the hillside north of the 118 Freeway and turned it into a multi-use park.

(2) Fourth-graders Omar Carrillo, from left, Vanessa Salcedo, Karen Padilla, Irene Rivera and Zeida Vargas read in the literacy garden at El Dorado Elementary School in Sylmar on Friday. The garden, made with the help of a city grant, offers a relaxing place for mentors and children to read.

(3) First- and second-graders play on a new playground Friday at Lorne Street Elementary in Northridge, thanks to help from volunteers and a city grant.

Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer

Box:

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 4, 2007
Words:1024
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