FEATURED STORY: Ceci Dominguez
The River and Elysian Valley
Decades ago, Ceci Dominguez remembers a very different LA River than the one undergoing rapid revitalization by way of nearby gentrification today. The word “river” might even be a bit generous here, as “flood channel” or “sewage line” could better describe its function in those days.
“My kids would ride their bikes and wander down the street, I would tell them, ‘”Don’t go to the river! You can’t go past the block.’” In the 80s and 90s, with gang violence at its peak, the river was ground zero for turf wars between rival groups. The factories and manufacturing plants occupying riverfront properties used the river as a waste disposal system, dumping toxins and other rot into its waters. It was dirty, neglected, and polluted — and so it’s easy to understand why a mother in the Elysian Valley would want her young children to stay away.
When Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) hosted their first river cleanup in 1990, it caught Ceci by surprise. “I didn’t even know who FoLAR was. I had no idea. What do you mean clean the river? That dirty old river? The one I tell my kids never to go to?“
A desire to understand the forces shaping her community led Ceci to events and discussions surrounding river revitalization efforts, even if the local community hadn’t initially been invited to participate. “They didn’t invite us, but there wasn’t a group that I didn’t volunteer for. I started doing that because I needed to know what they were doing. Why were they here and what [were] they doing in our community? That’s something that we needed to look into…Who’s coming in here?”
For Ceci, it’s essential that residents get involved with — and informed about — what’s going on in and around their neighborhoods. Care for each other, check up on each other, and always remember to put community first.
Ceci Dominguez has been a resident of Elysian Valley for over fifty years. She has been involved in a wide variety of community issues since moving to this neighborhood, including advocating for more green spaces, cleaning up the LA River, working on improving local education, and decreasing pollution from nearby trains and businesses. Driven by a desire to improve Elysian Valley, she has served on a variety of neighborhood leadership positions and currently heads the Elysian Valley Senior Group.
A Tree Grows in Elysian Valley Pt. 1
Ruben Molina and his family moved to Elysian Valley in 1958. Having arrived in Los Angeles from El Paso, Texas five years prior, his family had moved around between a hotel, duplexes and small homes in Cypress Park and Lincoln Heights before settling into the home on Glover Place. Ruben, now a dedicated community music…
“My dad worked the graveyard shift, so my mom took care of us, but my mom was busy oftentimes at the sewing machine meeting her deadlines. We got to go play when we didn’t have to support her.” Helen Leung cherished the moments when she and her sister were given free reign to explore the…
Land Back in Los Angeles
Following the first land return in 200 years to the Indigenous peoples of Los Angeles County, the Tongva Taraxat Paxaava Conservancy was formed. Located in the Altadena hills, the Conservancy represents the beginning of a process meant to rematriate and reestablish connections between tribal members and California native plants to their ancestral and unceded lands.…
Building the Foundations
As Director and Founder of The River Project, and the former Executive Director of Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), Melanie Winter is no stranger to the many opinions people hold regarding the future of the LA River and its surrounding communities. Over the years, the development of high-rise luxury apartments, large commercial retail…