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Due to rising crime rates, high unemployment, gang activity, low home ownership numbers and modest property values, a 1980s Rand Corporation study labeled the City of Paramount as an “urban disaster area” and among the eight worst underserved urban areas in the country.

Antiquated County zoning regulations that were instituted prior to incorporation hampered development in the early years of cityhood. As a result, heavy manufacturing businesses, auto wrecking yards and auto repair shops were allowed to pop up next to residential neighborhoods.

Understanding that beautiful landscapes, quality infrastructure, and community pride can define a city’s spirit, Paramount’s working-class community was determined to transform itself and shed its “broken window” despair, one neighborhood at a time.

From the 1980s through the early 2000s, significant efforts were made to beautify and revitalize the City through a neighborhood cleanup program.

Pitch in Paramount, as it became known, fused City leadership with community stakeholders, churches and local non-profit organizations to make physical improvements throughout town.

Teams of volunteers brought together by local clergy with City assistance focused on three-block-wide areas of single-family residences to assist mostly low-income and elderly homeowners who didn’t have the resources to fix up properties that had fallen into disrepair. All of this was done at no cost to residents.

Improvements included new paint for houses and alleys, hauling away debris, repairing existing fences or erecting new white picket fences, fixing driveways and removing overgrown landscaping and re-planting.

With the turn of the new century, the City had fully recast its image, boasting lush landscapes and a thriving economy. This transformation was embraced by residents, who valued a renewed sense of pride in their community that led to increased individual property maintenance and a wide wiping away of public blight.

Today, Pitch In Paramount is active as ever, having grown to five cleanups each year. City staff still identifies homes and businesses in need and has broadened the reach to areas like freeway overpasses and alleyways. Installing smoke detectors, planting new trees and painting murals have been added to the improvements. The City contributes staff from its Public Works, Public Safety and Community Services departments and subsidizes costs for all tools, supplies, and materials. While faith-based organizations are still heavily involved, the pool of volunteers has expanded to incorporate service groups like the Lions Club, youth sports organizations and Paramount High School clubs and JROTC.

A typical Pitch in Paramount event costs approximately $29,000.

It is perhaps unprecedented that this kind of neighborhood enhancement program has run continuously for 35 years. When one considers that the work is primarily volunteer-driven, the number of community members who have contributed to these improvements is remarkable, and the turnouts have been consistently high for decades.

Pitch in Paramount remains among the City’s most ambitious and aggressive programs, having set the course for continual beautification efforts and a profound commitment to residents.

There has been an unmistakably positive “spill-over” effect since the early days of Pitch in Paramount. Property values have increased dramatically. National and regional retail businesses have been attracted to both small and major corridors. Part 1 crime rates have dropped roughly 60% from a peak of 4,180 incidents in 1994 to a low of 1,585 offenses in 2020.

During this time, Paramount has earned dozens of awards from a variety of government-related organizations for its innovative approaches to making the City a better place to live, work, and play: the All-America City Award from the National Civic League; the City Livability Award from the United States Conference of Mayors; the Helen Putnam Award from the League of California Cities; Tree City USA; Los Angeles County’s Green Leadership Award; the League of California Cities’ Beacon Award; the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Model Community Achievement Award; and the Gateway Cities Gold Energy Action Award.

In 2018, “Clutter Free” roundups were added to augment the neighborhood cleanups. Since that time, residents have disposed of 192 tons of bulky items, 33 tons of e-waste, 16 tons of old tires, and 35,000 pounds of shredded documents, thus “de-cluttering” homes, garages and other residential spaces.

Pitch In Paramount has, over time, restored and enhanced thousands of properties and public spaces, delighted residents who are thankful that the City cares about them, and inspired an outpouring of community spirit in the form of volunteerism.

Again, the volunteer aspect has been key, and has become a hallmark of “The Paramount Way.” The City has produced an ever-growing number of special events and programs for residents. Staff members produce them, but they literally would not have become the valued resources that the community looks forward to every year without the huge amount of help from resident and business volunteers. This is most assuredly one more enduring legacy of Pitch In Paramount.

All of these elements combine to make a real difference in the lives of everyone involved while avoiding an institutional “code enforcement” mentality with those who can least afford it. It has been a long-running investment in property and, more importantly, people.