On Sat., Nov. 19, KYCC hosted a Pico-Union neighborhood cleanup. A partnership between KYCC’s Environmental Services and Prevention Education units, our “Know Why We Grow” event sought to beautify U.S. Food Market and clear the neighboring area of trash and blight.

“For the past year, our store has been tagged—sometimes twice a day—by local gangs,” said Ki Nam Chang, owner of U.S. Food Market.

The Chang family’s market has been a partner of KYCC’s Prevention Education Responsible Retailer Program and has contributed in making an effort to reduce underage drinking in Pico-Union since October 2015. Located in front of West Adams Preparatory High School and Magnolia Avenue Elementary School, the owners have been established community members for the past 20 years. Due to its high-traffic location and visibility, especially among youth that attend schools across the street, KYCC was determined to remediate the constant proliferation of graffiti on the market’s exterior walls and clean the surrounding area.

For this project, the team took an alternative, green approach and incorporated plants and art to prevent long-term graffiti. Instead of the traditional wall repaint, the KYCC team recruited over 70 community members to participate in planting bougainvillea in planters along the market’s main wall. Many participated in a community handprint mural. Local artist Jeeyun Ha designed the reclaimed wood planters and conceptualized the installation.

A week before the event, KYCC’s Environmental Services crew stopped by to power wash the project area. They repainted the store a bright, clean color and prepped the site by bringing soil, bougainvillea plants, and painting the planters. During the preparation, surrounding neighbors joined in and outreached to residents near the site.

On the day of the big event, the large group started the day with a communal breakfast followed by an energizing Zumba exercise session. Participants were dispatched to either West Adams Preparatory High School or the U.S. Food Market to clean the area. They regrouped at the U.S. Food Market to learn about 3-1-1, plant bougainvillea, and place their handprint onto the wall.

Throughout the day, the Chang family generously donated snacks and water. West Adams Preparatory High School parents prepared the celebration lunch by making tortas for all participating community members. In addition, Dunn-Edwards Corporation provided 12 gallons of paint for this project.

This community-based project was a major success and truly demonstrated the power of neighbors and community members joining forces and beautifying the neighborhood together.