Los Angeles Streetsblog, an online daily news source connecting people to information about sustainable transportation and livable communities, launched its first “local bureaus” last week in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles. These two community-focused “bureaus” are the first attempt to bring Streetsblog’s brand of “impact journalism” to issues affecting local communities.

Kris Fortin, who also contributes to Boyle Heights Beat, is the new reporter covering the issues of transportation, open space, development and public health in Boyle Heights for Streetsblog.

“Boyle Heights is where it’s at,” said Fortin. “I know it’s often derided for its relation to crime and dense Latino population, but my job is to show what most people miss when they see this neighborhood: that it’s culturally rich, creative, and one of the most original neighborhoods Los Angeles has.”

Funding for the expansion project comes from The California Endowment, the state’s largest health foundation, whose work is centered around the essential role that neighborhood environments play in the health of California residents and communities.

“Health happens in neighborhoods through transportation planning and policies that are developed with health in mind,” said Mary Lou Fulton, senior program manager at The California Endowment.

“For example, when neighborhoods have safe, well-maintained sidewalks and bike paths, residents are more likely to exercise and stay fit. Streetsblog has an important role to play in giving a voice to neighborhood concerns and priorities in East Los Angeles and South Los Angeles to promote health as a more important consideration in how transportation planning decisions are made.”

Streetsblog has done some “on the street” reporting in Boyle Heights, most notably covering the safety and community access concerns many residents had about the Gold Line Eastside Extension in 2009. However, Fortin wants to expand coverage to discuss some of the unique culture in Boyle Heights and how it impacts the issues Streetsblog covers. Fortin’s first pieces for Streetsblog are an interview with Eddie Solis, the Boyle Heights resident who is also the car-free frontman of the band It’s Casual, and a preview of an East Los Angeles Community Corporation event raising funds for a regular street vendors market.

“One of the things that drew us to Boyle Heights was the idea of studying how Latino Culture impacts the transportation environment,” explained Damien Newton, the editor of Los Angeles Streetsblog. “While the rest of the county marvels at the mini parks taking over parking spaces in Long Beach, some local grocers have already reclaimed spaces in their own lots as public space.”

You can visit Streetsblog at http://la.streetsblog.org. You can also view just the stories on East L.A. at http://eastsidestreetsblog.org

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