Details for In Memory of Michael O’Brien
By Andrew Garsten, Echo Park Improvement Assn.
With a heavy heart we say goodbye to Michael O’Brien who died on Thursday July 16th. Mike was an instructor at UCLA on landscape architecture, a native and sustainable plant expert, a LONG-time employee with the City of Los Angeles ending his career as a Planner. Most relevantly, Mike was an active member of the Steering Committee for the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park (CCSEP), the Neighborhood Issues Committee for Echo Park Improvement Association (EPIA), and a collaborator with other Echo Park community organizations.
Mike led many publicly attended walks throughout the community with Echo Park Historical Society and CCSEP. He was also an incredibly valuable member of EPIAs Neighborhood Issues Committee, giving EPIA insights into what was relevant to city decision makers who would receive EPIA’s recommendations regarding Echo Park projects that were requesting discretionary entitlements.
In the early 2000’s, Mike was involved in a concerted effort to try to end the south end of the 2 Freeway - the “2 Freeway Terminus Project,” in a more graceful manner with the late Judy Raskin and Peter Lassen. During this time, monies were obtained to re-landscape Glendale Boulevard and Mike envisioned the pine dominated treescape that we see in the median today, making this entrance to Echo Park distinctive from the palm tree or jacaranda dominated treeescapes around Los Angeles. There was a palette of other plants that went with these pines, but city maintenance workers through ignorance or lack of care, diligently killed off every one of them except the Rosemary that you still see today – much to Michael’s expletive laden chagrin. Mike did not suffer fools lightly.
With CCSEP, Mike recognized that the Palm Trees on the Avenue of the Palms were dying from disease and old age - “Palmageddon,” and came up with the plan you see in motion today, with a disease resistant species planted in between the aging historic trees. Mike also worked on the nomination for Historical Status for Echo Park Lake with Cultural Affairs and a nomination for the WWI Memorial Grove that was recently restored in Elysian Park. I am sure I am missing some other important achievements; Mike was prolific in his life.
Mike will be remembered for his dedication to community service, his expletive laden lack of patience, and the huge heart that he had for the Echo Park community.