For newcomers to Echo Park, the Echo Park Improvement Association (EPIA) could be viewed as a just another of the many community organized groups that meets in the neighborhood. What many do not know is that most of the other community groups that now exist in this neighborhood got their start from the EPIA. To name a few: the EPSA (Echo Park Security Association), EPHS (Echo Park Historic Society), EPAA (Echo Park Animal Alliance), and the Echo Park Community Garden (no longer in existence). EPIA members were responsible for the creation of the steering committee that formed the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council.
The group was the idea of a few local residents who were tired of crime and graffiti in our neighborhood. Its inception was about 22 years ago when the group met at Barlow Hospital in a town hall format. A few of the original founding members were Ron Emler, Susan Borden, Suzanne Kimbrough and Dirk Dehner.
In its 20 year history, it worked with council members Jackie Goldberg and now Eric Garcetti, among others, to improve our community. Working with the Central City Action Committee, the EPIA was a major force in helping remove graffiti in our neighborhood. Its efforts in graffiti removal inspired the UNTAG program that was adopted city-wide. The EPIA organized the planting of over 600 trees with one event utilizing almost 800 volunteers. They worked to remove the blight and create a sense of security within the community. They started the Echo Park community garden with a goal of feeding 30 local families. They have also distributed a community news letter, the EPIAn Way for over 18 years.
The EPIA has had two long standing presidents in its history. The first, Dirk Dehner, for 10 years; and Lynn Barbe for the same period of time. Lynn and past board secretary, Susan Borden, one of the original members have both stepped down but remain active members. The board’s current president, Darren Hubert is a 33-year resident of the community.
This is a grassroots organization, and a great opportunity to connect with active people in the neighborhood. It is an opportunity to meet and communicate with representatives in one location from two council offices and two police stations, as well as other pertinent community organizations. At most meetings there are updates from Council District 1 and 13, Northeast and Rampart Police updates, Dodger updates, and a featured speaker on a topic of choice.
Echo Park is a lively community. It is home to many cultures, diverse personalities aand non-mainstream perspectives. It, as much as any downtown-adjacent community, has been affected by the social shift to move closer to city centers and away from the suburbs. With the changed perspective, there has been a huge influx of money into the community.
This influx of money has changed the dynamic within our community by revitalizing the commercial district, creating improvements in the restoration of residential properties, and attracting more forward-thinking, dynamic people. This influx of new people has brought about departures of some long-time residents. Everyone in the community is happy to see a reduction in crime and less community blight, but it is difficult to see the working class be forced out because of price increases. Echo Park is often labeled as the center for gentrification in Los Angeles.
The EPIA has been serving the Echo Park community for 20 years. Many of the local non-profits that exist spawned from the EPIA – groups that focus on specific issues in the community.
The goal of the EPIA is to be a source for all of these groups to come together, to share information, and be a gathering opportunity for people in the community to make personal connections. We started as a grassroots organization and intend on staying that way. Our focus is to continue to identify opportunities to improve the quality of life in the community that we live in. This includes embracing our diversity, keeping our streets clean and safe, and continuing to bring forward-thinking ideas to make Echo Park the best place possible for all of its residents to live.
We are open to diverse perspectives on how we can help improve the community and bring people together. Our meetings are in a town hall format to allow everyone an equal opportunity to speak and voice their opinions.