We are delighted to introduce you to Jed Donaldson as part of our “Neighbor of the Month” series-an effort started in 2013 to highlight Elysian Valley residents and stakeholders. It is our sincere hope that doing so contributes in some fashion to better know one another, build, grow and appreciate the make-up of our community. The NW thanks Jed for his contribution to EV. If you missed our earlier neighbor of the month recognition (Robert Garcia, Frank & Lucy, Raul Martinez, Bob Berg, Pauline Pritchett, Ronald Muir, Susan Campos, Mrs. Lau Wong Svi Ching, Tracy Stone & Allen Anderson, Carl Dickerson, Mary Cardona and Marie Rae Gurule), we invite you to search past articles on the EVNW website.
Jed Donaldson was born to parents Jean and Richard in Richmond, VA (the Fan District) and moved to Mechanicsville, Virginia at the age of 10 because his parents thought it would be better to raise a child in the ‘country’. This move instilled in him “an early appreciation for the urban city as well as the country”, says Jed. He spent most of his childhood divided between drawing, fishing and playing soccer. Jed also enjoyed spending the weekends at his grandparents’ home in Kinsale, VA which is near the Chesapeake Bay. His grandfather, a D-Day veteran, and grandmother were a large part of his upbringing and the family time spent fishing and crabbing at Kinsale was where he says he had the best time of his life. After graduating high school Jed studied architecture at UNC-Charlotte and went on to earn a Master of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech. He is an only child and grandchild. “The entire family tree is concentrated through me,” says Jed.
Jed’s mom is still in Virginia and he makes a point to see her twice a year and for sure at Christmas. They have a pact to meet in different areas of the country and vacation together. This enables them to spend quality family time together while getting to know America. Jed’s mom volunteers with Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit organization that assist disadvantaged artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Her recent learning tour for Ten Thousand Villages was to Haiti and Jed is constantly amazed with her dedication to better the lives of others and thinks of her as a mother and a true friend.
Jed describes his dad as a “character, the wild card, the trouble maker, and the joy in the room”. He recalls his dad crossing state lines to purchased illegal fireworks for the 4th of July celebration and lighting them with a blow torch instead of matches and generating an “insane” smoke cloud. He was always full of joy and an extremely hard worker. “If your car didn’t work you’d call my dad, if your house had something broken you’d call my dad, he was a jack of all trades. He could do anything and everything and did so without hesitation or plan”. He credits his artistic side, ingenuity and his will to take action without too much advanced thought to his dad. This is something that has proven important in his design work where creativity is allowed to flow free and at times shape the process.
Jed’s father passed at the young age of 58 from colon cancer. “This was definitely a life changing event and is what brought me to Southern California,” says Jed. When asked to recall something most memorable about his dad, Jed recalls a visit to Virginia (approximately six months before his untimely passing) where his dad in the company of family and close friends made an unexpected toast at lunch congratulating Jed for having the conviction to follow his dream. Jed is happy for the courage his dad showed to say this in the presence of so many at such a vulnerable time of his life. My parents always told me they loved me, supported me and believed in me, says Jed.
In 1999 Jed decided to move to California, mountain biking and camping along the way via his crammed two door Honda Civic. It took him a month to reach San Francisco-arriving on Halloween night. Today Jed is a registered California Architect and an Associate Principal at Johnson Fain, an architecture, urban design + planning and interior design firm, which makes its home on North Broadway across from Cathedral High School.
He moved to Los Angeles in late 2004, residing in Silver Lake and made his home in Elysian Valley in 2009. The draw that brought Jed to Elysian Valley was the working class neighborhood, the Frogtown artwalk, area affordability, and the growing community of artist. “ I wanted a house that was connected to the sidewalk enabling neighbors to walk up to my front door, I did not want to be elevated or behind a wall, did not want to be on a hill, I wanted a two car garage and I wanted a yard and the potential to expand”. I found all of this in Elysian Valley, says Jed.
When asked what he loves most about Elysian Valley, Jed is quick to mention the amazing neighbors he has. “Mary is the best neighbor anyone could ask for”, says Jed. One of the most rewarding discoveries for Jed has been the rich collection of folks with multi-generational family history in the area and who take great pride and care for the neighborhood, passing it on from one generation to the next. To find this in a transitional city like Los Angeles, “is just a beautiful thing.”
Jed says that in Elysian Valley the people are so real. He finds it inspiring and exciting to have seen Elysian Valley’s Councilmember Garcetti transition to Mayor-a benefit to Elysian Valley. For the scale of the neighborhood, EV is rich in parks. Jed finds it amazing that a community this size has as many amenities as it does; its own skate park, pedestrian/bike path a recreational river that includes fishing and kayaking—which is something reminiscent of his early life is Virginia. “Elysian Valley is fortunate to have had the LA River classified a navigable water way”, say Jed.
Jed answered the call to serve in the resurrected neighborhood council because he did not want to see Elysian Valley lose such a valuable financial asset. “I did not want to live in Elysian Valley without serving Elysian Valley.” He is unsure about the direction of the transition underway in the community. “What brought me to Elysian Valley has brought all the developers”, says Jed. Jed hopes that what ultimately unfolds in Elysian Valley is responsible development that affords the community a balance of resources (including but not limited to work, housing & transportation).
Jed volunteers his talents to the Elysian Valley Neighborhood Watch as webmaster and is active in helping promote safety and the voice of the community on all issues. “I like the group’s autonomy, fast pace nature and the sincere participation of people coming together for the betterment of the neighborhood”, says Jed. “It’s about neighbors getting to know each other and looking after each other.”
Jed’s eyes light up and a wide smile emerges when asked to share with us the importance of Kristin in his life. They met through a mutual friend and it was definitely “strong interest at first sight”. “What I thought she was, is not what she was, she was actually more than that,” says Jed. Kristin, who is also an Architect, is smart, genuine and laughs a lot. “She has a great sense of humor”. I find this attractive and we have transitioned together as a couple. I’m fortunate to be with someone that is embracing life’s complexities in a similar way as me both professionally and personally.
Jed hopes that the things he is participating in are seen by his neighbors as not self-serving but for the benefit of the entire community. “Elysian Valley is a great neighborhood with positive character”.