She Greened Her Neighborhood School, and then Greened the City

Corbin Palms, a mid-century modern neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley designed by Palmer & Krisel, grew up in the mid-1950s around its school, Calvert Elementary. But 50 years later, one neighbor said, its schoolyard had become a “big old blacktop thing.”

Moreover, it was fenced off and padlocked.

From wasteland to community park. (photo by Tracy Bartley)

In 2004 Corbin Palms homeowner Tracy Bartley decided to turn the wasteland of asphalt into a community park, with playgrounds and gardens. She enlisted neighbors, helped raise $500,000, and sweet-talked the Los Angeles Unified School District. Soon, 180 tons of asphalt were gone and 60 trees had been planted.

“We want the school to be the community’s open space, a center where everyone can come together,” Bartley says.

School officials were impressed. They hired Bartley to be one of two sustainable schoolyards ombudsmen for the immense school district, helping do for the rest of the city what she did in Corbin Palms.