Volunteers Inclined to Paint

Times Staff Writers

When she was a child in the 1960s, one of Monique Birault’s favorite weekend excursions was heading downtown with her mother from their Echo Park home to ride the Angels Flight railway up and down Bunker Hill, followed by a visit to Olvera Street.

Birault, now a Santa Monica architect, recalled those happy outings Saturday as she painted the railings along the railway, closed since a 2001 crash that killed a passenger. Birault was one of about 70 volunteers who spent the morning sprucing up the historic funicular, which may reopen next year.

The work at Angels Flight was just one of several simultaneous efforts by more than 1,000 volunteers participating in L.A. Works Day, an annual volunteer event. In addition to painting Angels Flight, volunteers took their brushes and buckets to Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles Fire Department training academy in Elysian Park and Ann Street Elementary School and La Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights.


Volunteers paid $25 to participate Saturday and collected donations from sponsors. The event was a fundraiser for L.A. Works, a nonprofit group that coordinates volunteer efforts, including tutoring, serving meals to the homeless and providing activities for senior citizens.

The group posts notices of volunteer projects on its website,

Marcelo Ziperovich, 39, said he had been volunteering for L.A. Works nearly 10 years. A Beverly Hills television producer who grew up in Montebello, he said that “L.A. can be so insular. People tend not to go outside [their communities]. This is an easy, safe way to volunteer.”

John H. Welborne, president of Angels Flight Railway Co., said he hoped the two-car line would be running again by this time next year. It opened in 1901 and ran continuously until 1969, when it closed in the midst of downtown renewal efforts.

The attraction reopened in 1996 and was immediately popular with downtown workers and visitors. But in February 2001, its two cars crashed, killing an 83-year-old New Jersey man and injuring seven other passengers.

Gary Pearl, a Venice producer working on a film in Montreal, said Saturday that he was in town for a weekend visit and was told by a friend of the spruce-up. Pearl, 41, said he was glad to work on the railway because of his own childhood memories. “Now people take their kids to places like San Diego or Paris. When I was a kid, my dad, who grew up in Boyle Heights, used to bring us here,” he said.

Pearl, who has helped out with other L.A. Works projects over the years, said volunteering had become important to him because “when you’re out of college, you have to look for things that involve not just giving money but showing up and participating.”