Dorothy Green, founder of the Santa Monica-based environmental organization Heal the Bay and former member of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commission, has died. She was 79.
Green passed away Monday, October 13th, at her home in Los Angeles after a long battle with melanoma, according to Heal the Bay.
After being a stay-at-home mom, Green embarked on a journey of hands-on activism and self education to become one of the state’s most respected authorities on water quality issues, according to Heal the Bay.
Spurred by the social disruptions of the early 1970s, she served as a passionate advocate for clean oceans and sound water policy throughout her life, Heal the Bay officials said.
“Los Angeles has lost a giant of the environmental movement in the passing of Dorothy Green,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “As one of the founders of Heal the Bay to her work on the Los Angeles Water and Power Commission where she authored important works protecting Cali- fornia’s water, she brought passion, commitment and brilliance to her work to heal the environment.
“Through her long illness and to her last days, she never stopped advocating for the people and the health of our planet.”
Heal the Bay began with a few concerned colleagues in Green’s living room in 1985 and has expanded into one of the region’s most influential environmental organizations. The science-driven group now boasts some 15,000 members.
Under Green’s leadership, Heal the Bay successfully advocated for the upgrade of the City of Los Angeles’s Hyperion and the county’s Carson sewage treatment plants to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. She also helped devise the annual Beach Report Card, which provides water quality grades to the general public for more than 500 beaches statewide.
Under Green’s guidance, Heal the Bay co-authored or sponsored numerous pieces of legislation aimed at improving water quality throughout the region’s waterways, protecting the health of people who swim and surf in the Santa Monica Bay, and sustaining the overall health of the region’s marine life, organization officials said.
“Dorothy Green was simply the most influential water quality activist in California for the last 30 years,” said Mark Gold, her protÈgÈ and current president of Heal the Bay.
“What made Dorothy most extraordinary was her ability to attract talented volunteers of all skills and turn them into tireless activists who feel privileged to protect the environment.”
Green later helped found the California Water Impact Network, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the equitable and environmentally sensitive use of the state’s water resources.
She also helped establish the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council and remained its president emerita for the remainder of her life.
Born in 1929 in Detroit, Green came to California to enroll in UCLA as a music major and she played cello in the school orchestra. She later started a family and worked as a stay-at-home mom raising three children.
Green became swept up in the activism of the early 1970s, beginning her career as a water quality advocate in 1972 by working on the campaign to pass Proposition 20, the ballot initiative that established the California Coastal Commission. She then became president of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters.
“I got involved in environmental issues generally because I was looking for a place that needed work,” she said in a 2005 interview for Heal the Bay’s 20th anniversary. “It was a response to my depression, really, about the Vietnam War, civil rights issues — all that was going on in this country at the time. I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of bed and do something.'”
Realizing there wasn’t an organization to monitor the disposal of sewage and alarmed about the harmful impacts on the Santa Monica Bay, Green began holding meetings of concerned citizens in her Westwood living room. The foundation of Heal the Bay began there.
Green is remembered for encouraging collaboration among groups that often had contrasting perspectives on how to tackle a problem.
“She got everybody talking,” remembered John Dorsey, associate professor and chair of Loyola Marymount University’s department of natural science.
Green served as president of Heal the Bay until 1990, when she transitioned to a permanent status on the board as founding president. She also served as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commissioner for three and a half years, and chaired the California Water Policy Conference for the past 17 years.
“Heal the Bay is such a positive organization and Dorothy set the tone for all of us,” said Madelyn Glickfeld, a member of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and former Heal the Bay board member.
“I was in a lot of meetings with Dorothy, and it wasn’t about stopping things, but always about starting things.”
The federal government honored Green’s three decades of leadership in 2006, bestowing her with the President’s Volunteer Service Award. In the fall of 2007, the University of California Press published her book, Managing Water: Avoiding Crisis in California.
Green is survived by three sons, Joshua, Avrom and Herschel; and three granddaughters, Jessica, Katherine and Tara.
In lieu of flowers, the family says donations may be made to Heal the Bay, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, or the California Water Impact Network.
A public memorial service is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, October 16th, at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive, in Los Angeles.