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California Greenworks is greening South L.A. communities one neighborhood at a time

California Greenworks founder and CEO Mike Meador helped plant 31 Evergreen Pear trees along Hyde Park Blvd. Photo by Jason Lewis


The nonprofit organization is beautifying the area while making the air clearer.   

By Megan Reed

South Los Angeles has been a neglected part of the city in many different ways over the past several decades.  Education and employment are not the only issues of the underserved communities, as the environment has also been allowed to erode.

“In South L.A., we are park poor and we are tree poor,” said Mike Meador, CEO and founder of California Greenworks.  “We don’t have much tree canopy in South Los Angeles, but there is a lot of concrete and asphalt in this area.”

Trees provide many benefits to communities, such as improving water quality, reducing stormwater runoff, lowering summer temperatures, reducing energy use in buildings, reducing air pollution, and improving community members’ health.

Roughly 21 percent of Los Angeles is covered by trees.  Some areas of the city are tree rich, such as communities in West Los Angeles, where the tree canopy is above 35 percent in certain areas.  Unfortunately, South Los Angeles is considered tree poor, which can lead to health issues.  Certain communities in the greater Crenshaw area of South Los Angeles only have a 10 to 11 percent tree canopy.      

“There is a high degree of asthma in this area, and other illnesses associated with (a lack of trees),” Meador said.  “There are a lot of cars and freeways that come through these communities, more so than in other areas of the city.   There is the brake dust and emissions that comes off the cars.  A lot of that has to do with young children having asthma.”

While there are many trees in South Los Angeles, many of those do not provide adequate coverage.

“We have a lot of palm trees,” Meador said.  “Those trees aren’t necessarily carbon reducers.  They don’t reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that are being put into the air.   So we’re working to put in more trees that will improve air quality.  Our job is to increase more tree canopy and increase air quality by planting more trees.”

California Greenworks created the Hyde Park Beautification Project, where they planted 31 evergreen pear trees along a former railroad right-of-way.  They followed that up with a community cleanup, where they removed 5,800 pounds of trash from the neighborhood.  

California Greenworks also has an educational program, where they partnered with Maya Angelou Community High School to create the Maya Angelou Butterfly Native Garden and Water Conservation Demonstration Project.  

“We wanted to create a living, learning laboratory for students to develop deeper knowledge of local solutions for one of our community’s most pressing environmental problems – drought,” Meador said. “More than that, we want the garden to remind visitors about the lessons and legacy of the legendary Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou stood for social equity, for resilience, for collaboration, and for hope. Those are the values we want to honor with this garden.”

Meador also gets the community involved in California Greenworks efforts by producing the annual EarthFestLA concert, which features jazz, R&B, and rock music.  One of the purposes of the concert is to give people a sense of urgency toward cleaning up the environment.

“The environment affects everybody,” he said.  “It’s one of those issues that you don’t think about until it impacts you.  We have to be very proactive.  There are folks who say that we need jobs, and we need housing.  We need all of these things, but we need to breath.  And if we don’t have good soil, we can’t even eat the food that comes out of the ground.  If we don’t have good air quality, our children are going to be impacted.  Without clean water or clean air, you’re going to have poor health.  Poor health affects everything else.  Without your health, you don’t have anything.”

California Greenworks can use volunteer help, and it is a great organization for students who need community service hours for school.   

Contact California Greenworks at (323) 298-5077, visit their website at www.californiagreenworks.org, and follow them on social media.


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