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Bike/Ped

CSUN graduate student discusses El Monte history, development

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Dat Tran, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge, is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to the Asian American immigrant experience. The El Monte native, who participated in APIFM’s Bike to China program in 2013, has conducted extensive research on the history of Asian Americans in his hometown.

In June 2016, the city of El Monte partnered with Metro and other organizations to host Viva SGV Open Streets, and event during which streets in El Monte and South El Monte were closed off from cars for five hours. The purpose was to allow residents to reclaim the space, enjoying recreational activities in their city without having to worry about traffic.

APIFM (APIOPA at the time) was involved with Viva SGV, leading a bike tour of the city that featured Asian American history. Tran, who did the research for the tour, spent several months on the project, uncovering numerous tidbits in the process. For example, he discovered that there used to be a Japanese-owned vegetable stand on Valley Boulevard, right next to where El Monte’s city hall currently stands.

“I had to consult our local museums, I had to dig in into the weirdest parts of the internet that is not well known just to try to find snippets of Asian American existence,” Tran said.

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El Monte environmental justice advocate discusses parks, bikes and access to the San Gabriel Mountains

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Amy J. Wong fell in love with nature in her family’s backyard, where her grandmother had planted fruit trees of all sorts: jujube, kumquat, guava. It was among those trees and more that she grew up hearing stories of her grandmother’s past in Cambodia and Vietnam. But it wasn’t until her college days at the University of California, Berkeley, that she discovered the world of environmentalism and environmental justice.

In addition to the sustainability initiatives that the Berkeley community embraced, Wong was introduced to case studies of cities such as Oakland and Richmond in environmental health classes. She learned about such cities as places in need of environmental justice, not realizing until she returned home from college that her native El Monte was the perfect example of an environmental justice community.

El Monte, located in the San Gabriel Valley, is a particularly park-poor neighborhood. In addition to its lack of green space, the city is surrounded by freeways and has some of the worst air quality in the nation, according to Wong.

“We’re surrounded by the 10, the 605 and the 60,” Wong said. “[The freeways] become like the clogged arteries of the neighborhood.”

The parks that El Monte does have are often flanked by one of these surrounding freeways. Fletcher Park, for instance, is directly adjacent to both the 10 freeway and the El Monte Bus Station — what Wong described as the largest bus station west of the Mississippi.

The San Gabriel Valley Greenway Network is an initiative intended to restore balance to the area, hoping to transform storm channels, washes and creeks into a network of multi-use paths. The paths, in addition to providing space for residents to walk and bike, would connect neighboring communities — and the parks in those communities — lessening the need for cars.

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Community organizer discusses life as a senior in Little Tokyo

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Yasue Clark, a community organizer at Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), works with low-income seniors who live in affordable housing units in Little Tokyo. She has worked at LTSC for the past seven years, advocating for seniors who are ill-equipped to raise their own voice.

About 800 seniors live in Little Tokyo, according to Clark. Most are monolingual, speaking either Japanese or Korean.

“Because they’re monolingual and also [because] they’re low-income, their voice hardly ever gets heard,” Clark said. “Most of them are invisible.”

Clark, a Tokyo native, does not speak Korean, so she primarily works with the Japanese-speaking seniors. Nevertheless, she does her best to organize activities for the seniors, planning crafts, workshops and field trips. She hopes to take them to the Downtown Women’s Center soon in an attempt to address misconceptions they may have about the homeless.

Compared to Tokyo, Los Angeles is much less pedestrian oriented; far fewer people walk on LA streets. Clark believes insufficient public transportation is a major contributing factor to LA’s excess of cars, which, in turn, makes the city less hospitable to pedestrians.

“Most of the time it feels like cars have the right of way, not pedestrians,” Clark said.

Furthermore, many sidewalks are poorly maintained, with exposed tree roots that pose a tripping hazard and nonfunctional street lights that make residents feel unsafe after dark.

Little Tokyo, though, is a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood than most in LA. Both a grocery store and a medical center with doctors’ offices, a pharmacy and a blood testing lab are within walking distance for senior residents.

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Biking enthusiast discusses cycling in Los Angeles, Orange County

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Most days, Viet Bui commutes by bike to his job as an academic advisor at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he has worked for the past three years. He only recently rediscovered his passion for cycling since leaving the corporate banking world in 2012, returning to school for a master’s degree in education.

Bui did not learn how to ride a bike until the age of 11 or 12, when he was finally motivated to teach himself after watching other kids on the block. Eventually, he began to ride to school and on boy scout cycling trips. Now, Bui considers himself a biking enthusiast who cycles both for the health benefits of the sport and as a means of stress relief. He usually prefers to ride solo, citing the opportunity for contemplation and meditation that cycling alone allows him.

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Dog lover discusses parks and bikes in Los Angeles versus Tokyo

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Ranko Fukuda has a foot in two different worlds. Having grown up in both Tokyo and Los Angeles, she has a multicultural background that gives her a unique take on her surroundings.

Fukuda’s background is in banking; she worked with Capital One straight out of college, where she stayed for over a decade. Now, she works in the nonprofit world, running an adult education program that trains underserved adults to begin a career in banking. She made the switch after moving to LA from the East Coast, following her 2011 stint in Japan to aid tsunami recovery efforts.

Thoughtful and reflective, Fukuda notices differences in even the mundane aspects of life in each city. Tokyo citizens, for example, are generally diligent about not leaving trash behind, despite the reduced number of trash cans in the city. This is in sharp contrast to the hot Cheetos bags that litter the sidewalks near her residence, presumably left there by students from one of the three schools in the area.

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Great Streets director discusses Los Angeles transportation, draws comparisons to New York

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Naomi Iwasaki, a Los Angeles native, is a self-proclaimed transportation nerd.

“You know how people talk about an acting bug? You act and you just get bit by this bug and you love it and you want to be an actor? I think that there’s a transportation nerd bug also, and that some people just love maps and love buses and love the way that people circulate throughout a city. I’m one of those nerds,” Iwasaki said.

As such, she is well-suited for her job as director of neighborhood services and Great Streets at the office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, where she works with city departments such as the Department of Transportation (DOT) to oversee projects designed to improve street safety, design and development.

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Bike to China alum discusses Chinatown park access

The following post was written by intern Maggie Su as part of a series of profiles of API members of the community.

Kevin Liao may one day be your orthodontist. But today, he’s a biology student at California State University, Los Angeles. His ultimate goal is to open multiple dentistry practices, some of which would serve as community centers providing orthodontic services at low costs, if not for free, depending on the client’s need.

“The government says braces are not a necessity, more of a privilege,” Liao said. “But I know how some individuals, if they don’t have a perfect smile, it kind of impacts them. They may not want to smile.”

The community dentistry centers Liao hopes to one day open are his way of giving back to the community — a continuation of the work he already does with Para Los Niños, a nonprofit that provides social services and education opportunities to Los Angeles youth. Liao, who is based in Lincoln Heights, has worked with the organization for the past four years. He is involved with programs such as the Men of Action Initiative and the Escalera Program, both of which are in partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

Liao has also been instrumental in much of APIFM’s work. He recently collaborated with Program Director Scott Chan to form Chinatown Fit Club — a weekly gathering of runners and walkers at LA State Historic Park. Their goal in forming the club, Liao said, was to encourage people to utilize the recently reopened recreational space while bringing residents of neighboring communities together.

LA State Historic Park is a 32-acre space — by far the largest park in the area. Despite this, there are only 1.6 acres of park land per 1,000 residents in LA Central City North compared to the county average of 3.3 acres per 1,000. This relative lack of park space makes it critical that residents fully utilize LA State Historic Park. Alpine Recreation Center, the second largest park space in the area, is 1.94 acres, but is often overused due to Chinatown’s high population density.

Although the turnout for Chinatown Fit Club has improved since its first meeting at the end of April, attracting the elderly population of Chinatown continues to be a challenge. Many of the elderly Chinese residents choose instead to frequent the Alpine Recreation Center, where they have been doing 6:45 a.m. tai chi for years.

“It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks,” Liao said. “They’re just so accustomed to their way of life, their habit.”

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