He's called to action by something much less flashy - piles of illegally dumped tires, couches, half-empty oil cans and bags of garbage.
He doesn't have a superhero costume, but he does wear an orange safety vest. And, like any self-respecting superhero, he drives a special vehicle when he's on duty - a bulky, banana-yellow pickup truck.
Lara started cleaning up alleys and otherwise forgotten back streets near his family's home five years ago. Though passers-by often mistake him for a city worker, he does it for free, and of his own accord.
This year, he made the work official by forming a nonprofit organization called Clean Wilmington, and he received his first government grant to pay for tools and lunch for volunteers on workdays.
"I like to have a clean and safe community," said Lara, who has lived in the city since moving from Mexico more than two decades ago. "They used to dump all kinds of trash here - tires, oil, couches. They steal cars, strip them, and dump them here."
Lara's day job is as a maintenance worker at a nearby oil company.
He and various groups of volunteers have gathered about 20 times so far this year on weekends and evenings to clean alleys, school yards, library properties, harbors, and areas around community facilities. Together, they've removed 59 tons of trash.
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who oversees the district that includes Wilmington, called Lara "a pillar" of the city.
"As much as we want people picking up trash every day, the city just can't afford to do that," Buscaino said. "It's people like Salvador who work hand in hand with the city to improve the quality of life."
Clean streets are associated with less crime, said Buscaino, a former Los Angeles police officer.
"If you let a broken window go unnoticed, the next thing you know, the next window's broken, and then you have a drug or prostitution organization," Buscaino said.
When Lara and his wife moved to Ghost Town with their young son, Juan, about 20 years ago, they were dismayed to see piles of trash covering a brick wall that separates Drumm Avenue from an industrial area. Ghost Town's alleys, too, were so cluttered with junk that Lara couldn't see from one end to the other.
Ghost Town is bordered by Pacific Coast Highway on the south, East Sandison Street on the north, Sanford Avenue on the west and Drumm Avenue on the east. Police officers said drug dealers and gangsters took advantage of the clutter by using it to hide from cops. The layout of the neighborhood also makes it ideal for criminals. Long, narrow streets that often lead to dead-ends make it easy for drug dealers to spot police before the officers see them.
Lara began cleaning the streets when his oldest son left for college and his youngest son, Salvador, was in middle school. Though he keeps the area mostly free from clutter, he often has to return to areas just cleaned for touch-ups. But his determination has kept most of the area free from clutter, said his neighbor, Marcela Martinez.
"The city doesn't have enough funds to come out and do it the right way," Martinez said. "Salvador always does it the right way."
For years, she and her twin daughters have helped out during neighborhood cleanings.
"All that back there (along Drumm Avenue) was all dirty when we first started," she said, pointing to a trash-free street. "It was a dump site full of couches and graffiti. My daughters are always asking him when the next cleanup is."
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Find out more
To learn more about Salvador Lara's Clean Wilmington initiative, visit the group's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CleanWilmingtonCA/. Also, a video of one of Lara's cleanups can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPsFzpzZY-I.