County supervisor wants lawns revived at Boyle Heights cemetery

By Lucy Guanuna

Boyle Heights’ historic Evergreen Cemetery has not been living up to its name. There are only a few patches of green grass to be found at the 136-year-old cemetery. Instead, a forest of stone tombstones rise above a 67-acre field of mostly yellowed and dead lawn and barren patches of dirt. As the lack of lawn has attracted attention and complaints, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who has called the grounds a “disgrace, ” has launched a campaign to revitalize the grounds at Evergreen.

Cemetery officials blame strict L.A. Department of Water and Power restrictions for the dry conditions at Evergreen, where some of the 300,000 gravestones bear notable names – such as Hollenbeck, Lankershim and Van Nuys – from the city’s past. But Molina and others blame cemetery administrators for the “blighted environment” at Evergreen. In an email newsletter, Molina said:

I believe the heavily unkempt grounds at this historic cemetery are a disgrace to everyone living in the surrounding Eastside neighborhoods! It’s also a disgrace to the renowned people who have been laid to rest here – which includes historic figures, celebrities, as well as a significant Chinese day laborer population from the turn of the last century.

Roxane Marquez, legislative and press deputy for Molina, said they have received a handful of complaints from residents within her 12 years of working in Molina’s office. Marquez said that Molina’s office is putting pressure on state agencies to enforce laws regarding the upkeep of the cemetery.

A Whittier resident, Jonvive Anguiano, who has four generations of family buried at Evergreen, recently took matters into her own hands and started a Change.org petition demanding Tony Soo Hoo’s “license as owner of Evergreen Cemetery be revoked.” In her petition, Anguiano said:

“I buried my Mother Sheleen Romero there July 23, 2012, it cost thousands of dollars to burry your loved ones. And when I go to visit my Mom there is nothing green at all about Evergreen Cemetery, actually all of the entire Cemetary is Yellow & Brown. It looks hedious!!”

She has received more than 480 signatures within the last month.

But officials at Evergreen dispute the complaints, with Kavina Sam, a supervisor at Evergreen Cemetery, saying he feels they are being harassed.

“We are doing everything we can to water the grass. We haven’t received any complaints from locals because we pick up our trash and trim our trees and lawns,” Sam said. “If [Molina] keeps pushing, we’re going to have to go to court.”

Sam said they are doing everything they can to keep the lawn green but restrictions from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power prevent them from watering the lawn for more than 8 minutes per sprinkler, three days a week, which he said is devastating to the lawn, especially during the summer months.

Evergreen Cemetery, however,  has found ways to deal with the water restrictions. Visitors can leave their driver’s license and “rent” a hose if they want to water the grass around their loved one’s graves, which prevents Evergreen for being fined for watering the grass beyond the allotted time, Sam said. Although he admits they have irrigation pipes from the late 1800s that break often, the staff is gets them fixed within a day or two, he said.

Sam said the cemetery isworking with Molina to try to get more watering time from the DWP and are looking into other sources of water, including recycled water.

Molina’s office has seen some signs of improvement.  Marquez said it seems that Evergreen has been watering the lawn and it looks to have improved.  But the office is currently monitoring conditions in hopes the lawn will improve before they pursue any further action.

“All we are asking is that existing regulations be followed, no more, no less,” Marquez said.

Lucy Guanuna, a journalism student at Cal State Northridge, has reported on a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.


  1. The cemetery has looked like fried hell since forever. Now that hipsters are moving in, the leadership is listening to their complaints.

    • Don’t know how old you are, Efrain, but it hasn’t always ‘looked like fried hell.’

      Evergreen used to look better, and it seems to have gone downhill in the past few years. In fact, it used to be pretty (for a cemetery), and I’ve been visiting for burials and Memorial Days since the 50s. My entire family is buried there, and we were there this past Saturday to lay to rest a beloved uncle.

      There apparently has been some work going on : dirt placed on low areas was visible, some headstones seemed straighter, some lawn seemed watered, or was it the recent rain? — it was bone-dry for most of the grounds previously — and a lot more work is needed.

      • Darrell: I do not know where you got the idea that it has only been a few years that it has looked like this. Ever since this group of Chinese Businessmen bought it it has gone down hill.

        My grandparents were buried there in the 1940’s it was a great looking cemetery. All my relatives are buried there. By the time I buried my Mom in 2003 it looked like SHIT………

        I filled 2 complaints with the state….to no avail. Evergreen claims it spends $20,000 a year watering. Of course the grass does not grow…there is NO GRASS…only weeds. As far a fixing the pipes they have telling me this for 10 YEARS.

        How can other cemeteries in Los Angeles have green lawn and Evergreen cannot….something is not right

  2. Gloria s spearheadef the light rail trains going right through this cemetary, even digging up some paupets gravrs during the process, now she complains?

  3. Hipsters sicken me

  4. It’s a shame that fingers start to point everywhere else but where they should be. Just fix the issue, who cares it goes to court if there is no fault at Evergreen or the County Supervisors office. The truth will come out just like the money that the families have to shell out to the cemetery.

  5. Yo Efrain and Don Jon,
    Think about how the world works, especially in politics: squeaky wheel often gets the grease. If the supervisor’s office has only gotten a handful of complaints over the last twelve years… and other things have gotten lots of complaints… which item will be placed higher on the priority list? Most likely the items with the most complaints.

    I’m not sure if Jonvive Anguiano is a hipster, but she’s certainly not a new resident that just moved in… but she cared enough to start the petition and get 480 signatures.

    For the rest of you complaining about hipsters, or whatever, how about this: if there is something you want changed in your community, don’t sit around and moan about it.. get off yer a** and do something about it.

  6. The lawns there are so bad that for years people have jokingly called it never green cemetery. The DWP excuse is BS, there are plenty of other cemeteries in LA that have green lawns despite water regulations.

    • It simply does not rain enough in los angeles to support lush green lawns. It takes A LOT of water for grass.

      Native plants need minimal water. Better yet cremation would be best for the planet…

      • Are you advocating the lawns be kept brown and we exhume graves for cremation?

        • Don’t be stupid mexican batman. I said put in native plants and cremation is a better option for the planet. How in the world would you get what you said from what I said?

  7. Hipsters !! I think we are using the word a little loosely in this regard. Hipsters don’t populate these eastern lands…..
    Unless they still live with Mom and Dad .

  8. I think it would be much nicer to plant a fruit orchard there rather than a boring, chemical-intensive lawn. Intersperse a variety of citrus trees throughout the cemetery – trees that don’t lose their leaves (“evergreens,” if you will). I imagine there might be issues with growing trees in a cemetery, but they would eventually provide shade, and there’s something symbolic about trees that would work nicely in such a setting.

  9. I hope they with all the attention being drawn to the cemetary that they will water it and make it a beautifull place again for people to visit thiere loved ones. I saw many peopel above comment that thier hole families our there.
    Evergreen why dont you start watering and make your place full of grennery and life again?

  10. Isn’t there some way other than watering to keep the cemetery nice looking? My people are at Inglewood Cemetery and it is scary green. Now that you mention it, I don’t know how they pull that off. (Unless Inglewood pays less for water than we do). I cannot keep my own lawn green. My DWP bill was more than $200.00. Hmmm.

  11. I just cannot believe that this is an issue for County Supervisor Gloria Molina. How about the real problems of diabetes and obesity among children and teenagers in East Los Angeles, which is a full-blown epidemic. How about Gloria Molina promise to lose 20 pounds as a sign of solidarity with a healthier lifestyle, and to promote healthier eating options and farmer’s markets in East LA.

    Making the grass greener, in a semi arid desert-based cemetery, is a priority for Molina?

    She really has been in power too long.

  12. Its realy easy to keep it green. Just Watrr.I have not see them water.since the little rair its a very little greener..I have posted in the pass..Hopefuly they will. Water. I see the othere Cemetry green..So Evergreen can do the same. It green where the water pipes that the hose is hucked on to ard the greenes.

  13. This article leads me to a question that I’ve had for a long time: Once a cemetery is “filled” and can’t expand anymore or take any more burials, how does it continue to earn money? If the decedents’ families aren’t paying a monthly fee – and I’m pretty sure they don’t – then how does the cemetery make enough to pay for maintenance and for someone to open the gates each morning?

  14. This is a perfect opportunity to plant native grasses and low-growing perennials. A consultation with Theodore Payne Native Gardens (which is run largely by enthusiastic volunteers) could make this cemetery into a model of sustainability. After all, we live in an area prone to drought; we have been in a 10+ year drought in Los Angeles, and the future holds more drought.

  15. They should put a grey water irrigation system in place. Golf courses use them and they are always green no matter what time of year it is.

  16. I have our loving girl here at evergreen cementary since 1987 lately is so depresing the way it looks so dead dry it’s so sad that I I placed her in here back then I moved out of this area years ago but I have never forgot her she has her flowers every week and we come every weekend to water her area ,I wish this owners of the cementary will never have their love ones in this miserable circumstantces and that our government punishes them the way they deserve.

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