People 2013

Five People Making L.A. a Better Place

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Fri, May 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM
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This year's People issue celebrates the 56 Angelenos we find most intriguing. But some of the people in this year's issue aren't just interesting -- they're downright inspiring!

Check out all of our 2013 People Issue profiles

From Dr. Coley King, who's working to treat Venice's homeless community, to Armando Gonzalez, who's keeping at-risk kids out of gangs and on skateboards, we've highlighted the five people who are doing what they can to improve this city. From East L.A. to Venice, they're making L.A. a better place.

1. Coley King

click to enlarge Coley King - KEVIN SCANLON
  • Kevin Scanlon
  • Coley King

It was Dr. Coley King's wife, a pediatrician, who persuaded him to take a job right in their neighborhood at Venice Family Center, a Rose Avenue clinic that treats homeless, low-income and uninsured patients.

Six months after his hire, the clinic launched a street medicine program, visiting local homeless people in a van one morning each week. King was on board immediately: "It sounded crazy, and I'm the likely one to do something crazy around the clinic."

Nine years later, one morning a week has become three. (King also treats the homeless at a Santa Monica drop-in center two afternoons a week.) He praises his colleague in the street medicine program, Dr. Theresa Brehove, as "very patient" but says, "I'm a little more of a bulldog. 'Hey, we need to see a psychiatrist, man.' Or, 'Do what you can to drink, instead of a bottle of vodka, half a bottle of vodka.' It's all about harm reduction."

His patients can be wary. "They're streetwise. 'Who's going to take advantage of me?' They're very tough characters." But he's persistent: "If they trust me, I can help them."

For more, see Sarah Fenske's profile of Coley King

2. Jennifer Klausner

click to enlarge Jennifer Klausner - KEVIN SCANLON
  • Kevin Scanlon
  • Jennifer Klausner

Jennifer Klausner, a West L.A. native, became executive director of the L.A. Bicycle Coalition in 2007. Ever since, politicians, city planners and community leaders all over the county have learned that it's not advisable to tell her what she can't do. The coalition has grown into a savvy advocacy group, with 1,500 dues-paying members and a staff of 11. Its biggest event, the annual Los Angeles River Ride (on June 9 this year), now attracts more than 2,000 cyclists.

Thanks in large part to Klausner's efforts, Los Angeles has a highly ambitious plan for encouraging bicycle use, with a long-term goal of adding more than 1,300 new miles of bikeways by 2045. When Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the plan in 2011, Klausner was at his side, her hair dyed traffic-light green and a twinkle in her eye that said, "You watch me."

For more, see Andy Hermann's profile of Jennifer Klausner

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