It’s not easy being a bench in Los Angeles. Public benches must be strong enough to support the weight of countless bus riders and park visitors and withstand years of constant assault from the weather, taggers and kids with stickers. In Silver Lake, however, benches need to meet one more requirement. They must be stylish. That requirement has certainly been met by a trio of new European designed, wood and stainless-steel benches that were recently installed along the newest and final portion of the path that circles the Silver Lake reservoirs. But these sleek benches that would fit in nicely into the backyards of the many mid-century homes overlooking the reservoirs don’t come cheap. How much? $3,085 – each.
That price includes shipping but not installation, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Water & Power, which paid for the benches as part of the $600,000 construction of the new sidewalk and retaining wall along Tesla Avenue. $3,085 does seem like a lot for a bench. But some folks say the price is not too far out of line for strong, good looking street furniture located in an important public space.
Craig Collins, President of the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy, said his group has advocated for more attractive public seating around the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs.
“This bench is in fact a ‘standard bench’ and is being used by the City of Santa Monica and Barcelona,” Collins said in an email. ” It is indeed of a higher design standard than the typical fiberglass monsters used by Rec and Parks, or the heavy all-steel models in some parks … We’re very proud of this effort to create a few rest areas as part of the safety benefits of the Tesla path project, and to advance the design standard of Silver Lake in a way appropriate to the architectural heritage of our unique neighborhood. We hope to extend these benefits in other areas.”
The 104-inch long benches now sitting along Tesla Avenue is part of the Nu Bench line of street furniture created by Santa & Cole, a Barcelona-based design company. “New urban design at its best. As meeting place or resting place, Nu becomes the place to be,” according to company sales and marketing information.
A quick online search for benches finds models ranging from only a few hundred dollars to more than $7,000 from the same company that produced the custom-made, pink benches at the new Civic Center Park.
One person who went shopping for sidewalk benches for installation on Sunset Boulevard said it can be costly to find benches that are strong enough to endure years of punishment in public spaces and also be easy to maintain. His group settled on black-metal benches similar to those that can be found on the sidewalks of North Broadway in Lincoln Heights or Old Town Pasadena. They cost about $1,000 each.
He’s says the $3,085 paid for the Silver Lake benches may be on the high end for a public bench but is not totally unreasonable. Still, at that price, “I’m sure an artist here would have loved to have bid and come up with a design.”