Russian Speaking Population Outreach- West Hollywood, CA

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Immigrant integration
  • Engagement Approaches Commissions/taskforces, Community conversations/dialogues, Community meetings (townhalls, forums, etc), Embedding a culture of engagement, Engagement through art, Engaging non-English speakers, Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Neighborhood events/ activities
Project Description

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Russian Speaking Population Outreach

The City of West Hollywood actively seeks public participation, including from the Russian-speaking population, which comprises roughly 15% of its population. In the beginning of its city-hood, many new immigrants from the former Soviet Union settled in West Hollywood. The city initially tried informal outreach to engage with  the community, but those attempts were unsuccessful.

To engage Russian immigrants and Russian-speaking residents and integrate them into the city’s decision-making process.

Project Summary:
The city began by creating the position of Russian Outreach Coordinator. This position provided the first major bridge to the city’s Russian-speakers by offering information and access to city services in a culturally-appropriate fashion. Over time, other Russian-speaking staff were hired by the city, as well as Russian-speaking Deputies in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Determined to break through the barrier between City Hall and the Russian-speaking immigrants, the city started a program called the Conversation Café at Plummer Park, located in the heart of the city’s Russian residential area. The café remains a unique opportunity for Russian-speaking immigrants to practice their English language communication skills while providing a place where people with different backgrounds can meet, discover shared interests, and participate in the larger community.

In 2000, the mayor’s office created a Russian Advisory Board (RAB) to integrate more of that community into the city’s decision-making process.  The Public Safety Division took the lead on developing and staffing the RAB, with interdepartmental assistance and support from the mayor’s and other council-member offices, the Human Services Department, and the city’s Russian-speaking staff.

The board consists of nine Russian-speaking members who serve two-year terms. Four members are appointed at-large by city council, and 5 are appointed by each council-member. The RAB’s monthly meetings are open to the public and offer an opportunity for community members to present their concerns, start dialogue on issues, hear what is happening in the community and become involved in the programming of city activities. Meetings are conducted in English with simultaneous or consecutive translation. The venue is wheelchair accessible and disability-related needs can be accommodated. The Russian-speaking staff liaison provides a wide range of assistance to the activities of the advisory board and coordinates their monthly meetings.

With the passage of time and support from the city, the Russian Advisory Board created a significant number of important programs and events targeting the Russian-speaking community and has also enabled the city to introduce Russian cultural heritage to the community at-large. Thanks to the RAB’s activities, West Hollywood has gained a reputation as home to a number of Russian-specific programs and activities.

Programs include:

  • Annual Russian Cultural Month and Festival – Russian Cultural Month attracts over 10,000 participants to a family-friendly month of events and special performances which celebrate Russian-American arts, crafts, music, food, and entertainment with the West Hollywood and greater Los Angeles communities.
  • Annual Awards Ceremony – The City hosts an annual Ceremony and Awards Presentation to honor exemplary leaders within the West Hollywood and Russian-speaking community. The event includes special guests and live entertainment, and awards are given for Outstanding Community Service, Role Model of the Year, and Achievement in Business.
  • Year-Round Musical Events – West Hollywood hosts a year-round array of events which include Russian-American art exhibits, quarterly seminars for new and established businesses, concerts, dance festivals, and author/poet appearances.
  • Tributes and Memorials for Veterans – West Hollywood has created two monuments in remembrance of the city’s Russian and Russian-American veterans and Holocaust Survivors. Located at Plummer Park, the Russian Veterans Memorial is a monument in honor of World War II veterans from the former Soviet Union. Also located at Plummer Park, the Babi Yar Memorial stands in memory of those who lost their lives during WWII at Babi Yar, a ravine located near Kiev, Ukraine which was turned into a massive grave for Holocaust victims.

Engagement Strategies: 

  • The city hired a Russian-speaking Outreach Coordinator and other Russian-speaking staff.
  • The city started a program called the Conversation Café in the heart of the City’s Russian residential area where people of different backgrounds could meet, discover shared interests, and participate in the larger community.
  • The mayor’s office created a Russian Advisory Board to integrate the community into the city’s decision-making process.

Since the establishment of the RAB, Russian-speaking residents have become members of other city commissions, advisory boards and task forces. The RAB gives immigrants better access to services such as health care, early childhood education, adult literacy, workforce training, economic development, and business entrepreneurship.


Additional Resources:
Russian-Speaking Community web page
West Hollywood, CA– 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation

Local Contact
Tatiana Rodzinek
Russian Community Outreach Coordinator, City of West Hollywood
8300 Santa Monica Boulevard,
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(323) 848-6826
[email protected]

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