The Los Angeles City Council celebrated National Volunteer Week in Council Chambers by honoring seven Neighborhood Councils for the work they do in their communities.

There are 95 Neighborhood Councils in the City of Los Angeles, led by over 1700 Boardmembers, and their Charter Mandate is to engage their Communities and to monitor the delivery of City Services.

Last year, 55 Neighborhood Councils celebrated their 10th Anniversaries and this year 22 Neighborhood Councils join them in celebrating a “A Decade of Civic Engagement.”

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to shine a light on the many Angelenos who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in their communities.

Councilman Dennis Zine led the City Council in honoring the Neighborhood Councils, echoing the sentiment of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who commended the Councils during his Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday night.

Zine said “I fought for the establishment of neighborhood councils when I was a part of the city’s charter commission because I believe that citizens should be able to make contributions to our civic life. I regularly interact with the neighborhood councils in my district and can tell you that this city is strengthened by the efforts of these great citizens. I am proud and excited to acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of these community and civic leaders today for their great work.”

In recognition of this Decade of Engagement, the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners initiated the 1st Annual EmpowerLA Awards to honor the Neighborhood Councils that best fulfill their mission to engage the community and monitor the delivery of City Services.

The Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, also volunteers who are to be commended for their work, are Commission President Paul Park, Vice President Len Shafer, and Commissioners Linda Lucks, Karen Mack, Daniel Gatica and Douglas Epperhart.

General Manager Grayce Liu was in Council Chambers to welcome the Neighborhood Councils, saying “I’m really happy to see Neighborhood Councils honored by the Mayor and the City Council for all the work they do to make Los Angeles a great city.”

The EmpowerLA Awards go to seven Neighborhood Councils that are: North Hills East, Silver Lake, Park Mesa Heights, Mar Vista, Sherman Oaks, Mid City, and Harbor Gateway North.

Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council won for the Neighborhood Services Committee’s “Pothole Lottery,” a campaign to identify the worst potholes and alleyways in Sherman Oaks and then get them repaired. A stakeholder remarked “I’ve waited 54 years for the dangerous pothole in front of my house to be fixed!” and the Director of Street Services, Nazario Sauceda exclaimed, “This is the model of what Neighborhood Council participation should be; doing the research and taking action.”

Mid City Neighborhood Council was honored for their work on the Washington Boulevard Improvement, a project that has kept them busy since 2005 improving safety, beauty, and economic development along the corridor. Gang activity went down and crime rates went down by over 50% in the first two years. Graffiti tagging dropped from 189 times per week to less than 10 times per week! The CRA and CD 10, impressed with their results, helped the group gather funding for their goal of a median island, which was completed this summer with community input on design and placement.

Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council was recognized for their work organizing the community and turning out large numbers of residents to protest the development of land under the freeway, a project that they contended would result in environmental and health issues for the residents. They stayed on it for years and prevailed, convincing the Planning Commission to oppose the zone change.

Mar Vista Community Council‘s Green Committee brought home an award for their annual “Green Garden Showcase” that engages the community in the sustainable lifestyle by putting the spotlight on drought tolerant and food producing gardens with a popular tour that connects people with the Council.

North Hills East Neighborhood Council was honored for their commitment to bilingual civic engagement and for their ambitious outreach strategies that include professional translation services complemented by social media in English and Spanish to engage their community and to form partnerships with schools, parent centers, non-profit organizations, and law enforcement.

Silver Lake Neighborhood Council received the EmpowerLA award for their work on the Silver Lake Reservoir, a project that started when they heard that the beloved sycamore trees were tagged for removal. They investigated, discovered the DWP’s plan to rip up the park for a large pipeline, and went into action, eventually moving the pipeline to the bottom of the reservoir and saving $20 million in construction costs.

Park Mesa Heights Community Council hosts an annual Unity Fest that draws thousands of people to a festival that is held in Van Ness Park, connecting people with health providers, departments that deliver city services, organizations that represent the stakeholders, and the history of the community, all as an expression of Unity.