Four years ago, became a tree person. The Studio City resident noticed, while on a walk near the Los Angeles River, that the oleander bushes were slowly fading away along a stretch from Coldwater Canyon to Fulton Avenue.
The culprit, he soon discovered, was Oleander Leaf Scorch Disease, a nasty bacteria that causes leaves to yellow, droop and eventually die out. On a quest to save the bushes, Rabins enlisted the help of a local group - The Village Gardeners - which looks after the area, and also TreePeople, which offered guidance and a volunteer base to beautify the region.
"They're a great resource," Rabins said of the group whose headquarters is perched at the top of the Studio City hills. "They have the expertise. I'm good at planning and organizing but you need to have the supervision to go along with it, the trained supervision."
If you grew up in Los Angeles, you've likely heard of TreePeople, which hosts field trips, community tree plantings and neighborhood beautification projects. Its roots stretch back four decades, when a 15-year-old Andy Lipkis organized a group of like-minded green thumbs to replace a parking lot with a meadow of smog-resistant trees. Less than ten years later, TreePeople was born in Coldwater Canyon Park, where they continue to follow through on their mission to "inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment."
Through decades of service, the nonprofit organization has planted more than two million trees. In 1990, they organized a landmark tree planting along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in South Los Angeles. The effort, like Rabins' Studio City project, was initiated by the community.
In an effort to honor the man after whom the street was named, retired school teacher Eudora Russell contacted TreePeople for help to beautify the boulevard. Together they gathered 3,000 people to plant 400 trees along seven miles of Martin Luther King Boulevard. They did this in one day.
TreePeople not only helps to educate and support individuals toward community initiatives, they work in tandem with local governments and other organizations to solve nagging environmental problems.
On Elmer Avenue in Sun Valley, for example, TreePeople worked with neighbors, officials from the City of Los Angeles, the Sun Valley Watershed group and others to solve local flooding problems.
During heavy rains, the location regularly endured floods due to poor drainage. The retrofits to the 24 individual homes along the street included capturing storm water and directing and dispersing flow by several means. Rain barrels, bioswales (mini-creek beds), permeable driveways and a large pipe structure beneath the street are some of the features that allow this block of Elmer Avenue to be a model of water conservation and sustainable design. Together the retrofits mimic a natural watershed.
The project not only improved the street aesthetically, it now serves as an achievable state-of-the-art model of sustainable suburban living. Even residents who were initially skeptical and rejected involvement soon opted in when they saw the project in motion.
As TreePeople won over neighbors in Sun Valley, they did the same in Studio City. Today, the banks of the L.A. River near Rabins' home is a testament to his work and of the organization he worked with to affect much needed change.
"A growing number of community members utilize it," Rabins said. "There are dog walkers, people that walk and jog and ride bikes."
Attend any TreePeople event and you'll likely hear similar stories of community partnerships and green empowerment. This is no accident. "Simply put," their mission statement says, "our work is about helping nature heal our cities."
Check out TreePeople online at www.TreePeople.org or visit any day from 6:30 a.m. to sunset at 12601 Mulholland Dr.