THE larger lesson of Richard Sperber’s park-in-a-day experiment will largely be missed by the city’s politicians. They will hail the volunteer spirit that led Sperber to donate a day’s time from his entire executive team at ValleyCrest Landscaping to turn an empty lot in Sylmar into a pocket park for the community. Indeed, that is a notable act of kindness for a community that needs it. But what they will fail to grasp about this wonderfully generous gift is that Sperber and his team of 150 managers and executives did in one day what would take an army of bureaucrats years – if they ever got it done – and cost about $600,000 in public money to accomplish. It’s a lesson that Angelenos, however, would do well to take to heart. Sperber’s example is hard proof that people with a little bit of motivation, shovels and a spare day can measurably improve the city’s quality of life without the aid of the government. And if the people want to make their streets, their neighborhoods, their communities or their city a better place, they can’t afford to wait for the creaky wheels of L.A.’s clunky government to churn. They have to do it themselves. This city is filled with vacant lots and unused space and buildings that have sat untouched for years, projecting ugliness and despair into the neighboring community. Why shouldn’t neighbors seize the power from the city to transform those eyesores the way Sperber did to that lot in Sylmar? Got an empty lot on your street that collects nothing but trash and empty shopping carts? Why couldn’t an army of neighbors turn it into an urban oasis one day? Why, for that matter, couldn’t a coordinated effort of volunteers take over other parts of the run-down civic assets that no one seems to be caring for and turn them into usable spaces – starter homes for the working poor, community gardens, parks? This doesn’t have to be a public insurrection. City officials can and should help guide this approach to civic improvement by creating a nonprofit agency – separate from the city – that would oversee and encourage volunteerism across the city, from neighborhood cleanups to coordinated rehabbing of run-down property. It would be like Habitat for Humanity, but one that focuses solely on making Los Angeles a better place for everyone to live. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!