Thursday, November 13, 2014

Echo Park: In Memoriam, Judy Raskin 1934-2014, Community Activist

Photo: Diane Edwardson, July 14, 2013.  Red Tailed Hawk.

This morning, a memorial took place at Echo Park Lake for Judy Raskin, a tireless community activist & active birder.  Judy organized the annual bird count at Echo Park Lake for the Audubon Society.  She was active in Echo Park advisory board (which did not include the lake), Echo Park Improvement Association (EPIA) Neighborhood Issues Committee & was an animal advocate helping care for & find homes for animals in need.  

I've know Judy for at least 20 years as a fellow community activist.  She was a natural leader & strategist, who saw the big picture, not just the NIMBY issues.  Our shared projects were first the Glendale Corridor Project (south of the 2 Freeway Terminus) & the 2 Freeway Terminus Project in which Judy managed to sustain community interest for almost 20 years as chair of the Echo Park Community Action Committee (Echo Park CAC).   

As with any multi-year/decades long planning process covering such a huge area with multiple individual neighborhood issues, revolving door politicians & constantly changing project managers, it's about as simple as herding cats.  Judy used her skills as a retired publicist, finding leaders in individual neighborhoods, tapping their skills & organizing abilities, persuading community leaders with specialized technical knowledge into taking active rolls creating alternative plans and finding flaws in what was being sold to the community & mercifully, only calling big community meetings when really necessary to hold CalTrans & Metro accountable.    

Judy saw the Glendale Blvd Corridor from the 2 & 5 Freeway Interchange all the to Echo Park Lake as pieces that had to work together rather than individual projects existing in a vacuum (which is how projects are approved).  

Judy & Echo Park CAC created a plan to put a park on the 2 Freeway Terminus flyover ramp that was supposed to be taken out of commission when the 2 Freeway Terminus Project first started 17 or 18 years ago.  The community driven plan put a park on the current (soon to be removed) northbound exit to Glendale Blvd at the Terminus.  One option included plans for a bike lane from the Terminus to the Red Car Property on the Silver Lake side of the southbound 2 Freeway.  

The community driven plan for the 2 Freeway Terminus was considered among the variety of plans in the Environmental Impact Report in 2009 - this itself is an acheivement.  The community was overwhelming in support of it.  A year or two later, CalTrans came back with an entirely new plan, calling it a "Hybrid Plan" ("people like hybrids - they'll like this plan"), deeming the environmental review complete & no one is happy with the plan we're getting as a result. However, after the length of time, you have to commend Judy for the high level of work, professionalism & organization that got us to this point.  

The community lost another tremendous asset. She will be remembered & missed by so many activists and friends.