Trolley cars once rumbled down the middle of such wide streets as Huntington Drive in El Sereno, Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park and Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. Once the trains went out of service and their tracks ripped out, many of those same medians were planted with grass and trees and dotted with neighborhood monument signs to become sources of community pride. Now, some of the same landscaped medians have turned into trash and weed filled eyesores. Faced with the budget cuts, the city’s Bureau of Street Services has all but eliminated regular median maintenance. As a result, some patches of grass and newly planted trees in the middle of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock were left yellow and parched for lack of watering. Water is plentiful, however, in Atwater, where the lush green grass and weeds in the Glendale Boulevard median grow knee high in places, helping hide newspapers, sheets of cardboard and other pieces of trash. Further south in Echo Park, the Glendale Boulevard median resembles more of a desert dumping ground than a showcase for drought-tolerant landscaping, with everything from left over fireworks to a mattress sitting between the traffic lanes.
Not all medians have gone messy. Rick Coca, a spokesman for Councilman Jose Huizar, said that medians strips maintained by outside contractors have continued to be cleaned up. It’s the medians once tended by city employees that have been left without care. That “isn’t fair to those communities who happen to have their maintenance
performed by City workers,” Coca said. In response, Huzar’s office used discretionary funds to pay to maintain medians in El Sereno and Eagle Rock.
Meanwhile, Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents portions of Atwater and Silver Lake, introduced a City Council motion to use street improvement moneyto pay city contractors to maintain the Highland Avenue median near Hancock Park and is working with the Department of Public Works to work on other medians in his district. Said Labonge in a recent newsletter:
“Medians are so important to a City,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “They are part of the aesthetics for the surrounding area. I couldn’t allow these medians, which thousands of residents and motorists enjoy each day, to become overgrown or fall into disrepair.”
*Update: Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents Echo Park and Silver Lake, introduced a motion last month to help pay for the maintenance of 2.6-million square feet of medians citywide, said his spokesman, Yusef Robb. The councilman used Federal “stimulus dollars allocated to projects in his district and found dollars from under-budget or canceled projects that he redirected to median maintenance,” Robb said. Garcetti, in a statement, said:
“Without proper maintenance, these medians can become overgrown, litter-strewn eyesores that can drag down an entire neighborhood,”
Garcetti said. “In these tough times, we must work hard to find solutions, which is why we made it a priority to closely scrutinize our stimulus dollars. This scrutiny paid off.”
Correction: A previous version said some newly planted trees along Colorado Boulevard had died. But those trees are tougher than they looked a few weeks ago because a few of them are now sprouting new leaves.