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People 2014

10 Angelenos Making the World a Better Place

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Mon, May 19, 2014 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge Olenka Polak, who developed the MyLingo app. - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Olenka Polak, who developed the MyLingo app.
Every year, L.A. Weekly's People issue is chock-full of artists and comedians, actresses and chefs. But amid all the glamour and gossip are another group of Angelenos — people who may not have marquee names, but are at work on a truly important endeavor: making this world a better place.

Meet 10 people in this year's issue who are doing just that.

10. Olenka Polak
Pity the stranger in a strange land who wishes to watch a movie. In most U.S. theaters, the odds of getting subtitles, much less a translation into his native tongue, are nearly nil. But Olenka Polak, who dropped out of Harvard last year and moved to Santa Monica to develop her own startup, seeks to change that. Her app, MyLingo, would make foreign language tracks available on smartphones — so people like her immigrant parents could watch new releases and get the dialogue in a language they understand. Read Gene Maddaus' profile to learn more about Olenka Polak.

click to enlarge Daveed Kapoor, who advocates for good urban design. - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Daveed Kapoor, who advocates for good urban design.
9. Daveed Kapoor
An architect by trade, Kapoor has made himself something of a gadfly when it comes to good urban design. As Marissa Gluck writes, he fought (successfully) to get a bus stop added in a key part of Skid Row, thereby serving downtown's Arts District. He's designed three parklets, and even created a "pioneering DIY kit of modular designs, which members of the public can use to set up their own parklets, street plazas, and 'bicycle corrals' on underutilized bits of urban land." He's making L.A. a more pedestrian/cyclist-friendly city — one block at a time. Read Marissa Gluck's profile to learn more about Daveed Kapoor.

click to enlarge Alexandra Suh, who fought the most expensive sushi joint in the city — and won. - PHOTO BY RYAN ORANGE
  • Photo by Ryan Orange
  • Alexandra Suh, who fought the most expensive sushi joint in the city — and won.
8. Alexandra Suh
The executive director of the Koreatown Immigrants Workers Alliance, Suh helps workers fight unscrupulous employers. One of their biggest pushes: Wage theft. They believe low-income workers lose nearly $1.4 billion a year to companies that exploit them. Last year, that meant taking on Urusawa, famously the city's priciest sushi restaurant. After the alliance agreed to represent a fired employee seeking back pay, the state launched an investigation — which ultimately led to workers getting back tens of thousands of dollars. Read Tien Nguyen's profile to learn more about Alexandra Suh.

Turn the page for more Angelenos making the world a better place, including the concierge of Skid Row.

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