by Andrew Garsten
As we set foot into February now, the 2013 year feels like it is rushing up to us at a breakneck speed. Last year in Echo Park, we saw the continuation of long-term items of concern to the community, and the coming of a less-than-satisfactory conclusion to several long-term items.
With the Offices of City Council Districts 1 and 13 seeing new leaders in place later this year, 2013 will offer the opportunities for the community to assert its will and vision. Please pay attention to the candidates and make sure you vote March 5.
The proposed entitlements and subsequent development of the Barlow Hospital campus was given another breath of life, with Barlow receiving an extension to comply with state earthquake requirements. Barlow has been facing this imminent requirement for almost 20 years now, with continuous community involvement during this whole span.
Also concluding 20 years of community involvement, it has been more or less concluded that the Reservoir in Elysian Park will be covered with vinyl instead of the buried tanks and fields that were promised to the community only two years ago. This process ironically began with a proposal that the reservoir be covered in aluminum.
2 Freeway Terminus
The 2 Freeway Terminus is another 20+ year project. Originally envisioned as a traffic calming proposal to make Glendale Boulevard more like a city street and less like a freeway, the project also ended up blowing past community-derived solutions that were originally approved in 2011.
Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is running the project, is moving forward with a program that is sure to anger everyone – the commuters and the community, and has pretty much stonewalled attempts to see if the final project can be tweaked and improved.
Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance
2012 saw the EPIA weigh in on more than a handful of residential projects utilizing the city’s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. What we see is that, more often than not, the city is allowing developers to utilize this development tool aimed at “in-fill development” to build out–of-character townhouse style blocks of residences. This, despite some pretty clear direction in the ordinance about what is and is not allowed in terms of scale and presentation.
The one project that exceeded the city’s requirements saw some organized opposition. The EPIA in general takes an approach that development will happen, and is part of the cycle of a dynamic community, but that we need to get better projects.
Perhaps the biggest thing going on in the Echo Park area is the continued transformation of the commercial corridor towards dining and entertainment. With this come requests for alcohol sales permits, which we saw again from more than a handful of projects.
In general the EPIA recognizes that alcohol sales are an important element to the success of dining and entertainment businesses. We easily support businesses that have established a community presence first, and more critically examine those that have not. We expect that we will continue to see these requests as the downtown Echo Park area adds more and more dining options.
In Other EPIA News
Notable of the one-off projects we saw – the space next to Walgreen’s was leased to Fresh & Easy, only to see parent Tesco say that they were evaluating the continuation of the Fresh & Easy endeavor. Sunset Boulevard will be getting some sort of facelift with a small Streetscape plan which was introduced to the community at the end of last year.
The EPIA has been working to smooth out the path of relocating the Craftsman four-plex at Echo Park and Park to a new home in Angelino Heights. We saw a couple of city protected murals get destroyed last year, and so we are working on a project that will inventory and document the provenance of the community murals.
Finally, we have been working on and now monitoring a potential bad outcome from the city’s financial crises – the elimination of dedicated park policing in Elysian Park and soon reopened Echo Park Lake. First, we lost the Rangers replaced by the Office of Public Safety (OPS), and now OPS is being folded into LAPD. All this we discover, without any transition plan.
Remember, March 5 is our opportunity to try to assert our will and vision on our future city council representation. It is very important that as a concerned member of the community, you look carefully at each of the candidates, and evaluate their ability to understand, and then get results that are good for the community, regarding the issues that we are and will be facing in Echo Park.