Ruben was a part of KYCC’s Environmental Services unit, where he was the Clean Streets LA Beautification Coordinator. In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 8 launching the Clean Streets LA initiative, which “aims at improving livability and cleanliness in the City of Los Angeles by targeting litter and debris on City streets, sidewalks and alleys.”
Where is your hometown?
How are you involved with Koreatown?
As the Clean Streets LA Beautification Coordinator, we go through certain areas—what we call red areas—in Los Angeles that need weed abatement, trees maintained or trimmed, or bulky item pickups, such as mattresses, old couches and stuff like that. We’re making good headway as long as we stay committed and dedicated to our focus, which is preserving the identity of Koreatown. That means greener spaces, more accessible areas and a place for all residents to live.
When we put these things into action, people take notice. It’s a nice way of saying that we’re getting paid double…doubletime. Smiles on kids who now have a place to play in. People have a place to park their cars . We alleviate a few concerns of the community at large and it’s good to be at the foundation of that. And essentially be the first people on the ground with tools ready to go.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
It’s very different from East L.A., which is more residential and industrial. Because the financial sector was set up along Wilshire Boulevard, it has influenced people to take advantage of the outdoors, whereas in East L.A., people tend to stay home.
I really enjoy Wilshire Boulevard. It changes the whole area and the way it was master-planned really forces people to be out-and-about. It gives me that downtown feel and reminds me of living in New York. The businesses help, of course. I don’t think Venice, Olympic or Pico Boulevards have that same kind of feel. There’s nothing like it in East L.A. and that’s why I like working in Koreatown.
What is your favorite part of Koreatown?
The Wiltern. I saw my third concert there—Rage Against the Machine. I was 16, driving out to L.A. from way east; it was a 45-mile drive. It was my first nobody-knows-I’m-going-with-my girlfriend/friend outing. It was all secret—nobody in my family knew where I was going. So it’s one of the earliest memories I have of being mischievous. The smells, the crowd and being with mature people for the first time made me feel kinda cool, like “I’m an L.A. kid, really!”
I also like the architecture of the building. Art Deco showed a great explosion in creativity, making the area a mecca of culture in L.A. For me, being there is being within the antiquity of the city. I’m a historian by craft, through school, so anything that has to do with the historical part of the city is pretty cool to me.