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Friday, August 1, 2014

The high style – and price – of Silver Lake bench seating

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.”

54 comments

  1. This is stupid. I can build you one, that allows a back rest for all sitters, and install it for under $100. Already did it for a local animal shelter back home twelve years ago. The bench is still getting sat on. I bet this bench in the photo won’t last five. Get at me!

    • I agree, HB. And if they had you do it, at least they would have supported the local economy, not that or Barcelona!

      Isn’t this Barcelona company the same one that sold toilet seats to the military for $900 each?! And charged, what was it, $600 for a hammer?

      Oh, despite what the story says, I do NOT find these of a high design quality. This is the kind of design you would do for your very first woodworking endeavor in middle school: simple, cheap, plain, fast to build. And while the wood looks nice brand new, that is not going to hold up well over time in the elements and weather.

    • Ok yeah , 3,000 plus is a little too much for a bench.
      But 100 dollars ? Really ?
      Materials were cheaper 12 years ago .
      You cannot tell me that you can pour a concrete slab , buy /sand / stain wood, gloss it with a shine whatever the term is , shape , mold , cut the custom stainless steel bases for the bench and arm rests , then labor a few hours to install it for 100 bucks !
      No way !
      This is Silver Lake for gawd’s sakes , not “back home”.

    • Materials AND labor for $100? You’re destined for a life of poverty.

  2. Those are some hella cool benches.

  3. The price seems pretty reasonable in my opinion for public furniture…especially as it has some style to it. When I saw the headline I thought…ugh what’s it going to be $20k?, $30k? or some crazy ridiculous price but wow, just a sort of normal$3k? Pleasantly surprised and they look great. The reservoir, walking path and now meadow just keep getting better and better!

  4. I call the middle seat! If that price includes the concrete pad, that sounds like a fair price for a public space!

  5. Nine Double Oh 2 Sixxxer

    Looks great, and I hope that the Echo Park Lake looks even better when it’s done!

  6. Just to accommodate these new pieces of Hipsters.We can go broke in this economy but who cares as long as we get the label “The hippest area” cut it out ,School programs r the ones suffering .

  7. Don’t get me wrong they r nice n elegant but how long b4 an idiot scribes or tags all over them…

  8. HB $100 hook me up I’ll take two for my home …

  9. Thanx..Ditto u understand the concept..

  10. I think the new benches are great and, if they last as long as they should, will be a good infrastructure investment.

    However, I wonder why we need 6, count em, 6, “no dogs” signs on the new grove area. I understand no dogs in the meadow, but there? That’s unnecessary. There isn’t even grass there.

    • Really?? “There isn’t even grass there”? You think there being no grass would stop a dog owner from letting their dog go up to one of the trees and pissing on it? Or pissing around it? I guess you’re not a dog owner….

      I think those who’d like to use this little park area would like to not smell dog urine. Thus, the signs. Really, JS…

      • What you’re more likely to smell there is coyote piss than dog piss. At least 6 of them live in a den less than 100 yards away, and they smell stronger than our pets do.

        6 “don’t do this” signs is just overkill, that’s all. And I, a responsible, local dog owner, would like to hang out there with my on-leash dog. Oh well.

  11. The design is perfect for Silver Lake, but wood? How long before they are all scribed and carved?

  12. No dogs means no dog droppings (we can only hope).

  13. When I look at that photo, all I can think about is how awesome it will be if and when the city removes that chain link fence and opens the whole reservoir up to the neighborhood… nice little parklet in the meantime tho.

    • silverlake bodhisattva

      CS: No can do. The reservoir is post-treatment water: i.e., it goes directly into your water main. While we’re able to tolerate a certain amount of diluted duck poop, public access and use of the res would result in unusable water. Also, the res edge is way too steep to permit public access; people, and their dogs, would be drowning or killing themselves by falling…

      • I believe they’re in the process of taking both reservoirs completely offline, so tat shouldn’t be an issue in the near future. As far as the grade, I’m sure the city could manage a solution (semi-shallow water, decorative waist high fence along the edge, etc.)

        • As earlier articles on this website have reported, the reservoir will continue to serve as an emergency source of water for LA (with a boil notice) in case of a disaster. It will also continue to serve, as it has, as a source for water dropping helicopters to pick up water. Because of the former, it will almost certainly remain closed. It is isn’t used currently because of both Federal mandates requiring the covering of reservoirs (see the birdball covered Ivanhoe reservoir just to the north) and because of the unwillingness of SL residents to have it covered. Hence, the construction of Headworks reservoir adjacent to Forest Lawn and Traveltown. Much of the construction that people gripe about is to allow the new reservoir to have an connection to pipes that SL Reservoir used to connect to. It’s MAJOR work. It’ll be the primary source of water for the greater Downtown area.

  14. Can’t wait to check this out!

  15. Oh I like them. Getting us good looking benches is the least the city could do for jacking us all with these Sunday and late night parking meters.

  16. I think the benches are terrific. When some stores in SL are selling used furniture for over $1,000, $3,000 seems pretty reasonable to me for a stylish, new bench. Maybe we can, as a community, take some pride in and responsability for our new mini-park and benches to make sure they don’t get trashed or tagged. The meadow has been open a while now and it looks fantastic. A few benches in there would be great!

  17. Telling contrast between the photo of the $3,000-plus bench in this story and the photo in the roundup post that preceeds it showing people forced to stand and wait at a benchless busstop in nearby Echo Park.

  18. Money well spent. These benches are gorgeous and functional too. Silver Lake and all of LA deserves to be as a beautiful as any great European city like Barcelona, where these benches come from. Kudos to DWP for having a great eye for design. The overall project was $600,000 budget and the new sidewalk is a straight-ahead functional sidewalk without much beauty: using a small percentage of the overall budget to add a few attractive design pieces is very smart.

  19. Walked by the Tesla Avenue Olive Grove parklet this morning. Asked the woman who was strolling through with her two dogs if she was having trouble reading the signs.
    “I live here and my tax dollars paid for this? You must not like dogs,” she said.
    “I love dogs,” I said.
    “There’s not even any grass here,” she said. “What harm is there in having dogs here?”
    “Okay, how about the condition of rest of the paths around the lake and the dog park,” I said.
    She left in a huff. We continued our walk, keeping a close watch of where we stepped as we dodged all those bits that all those other dogs had left behind.

    Oh, and the bench on the West Silver Lake Drive end of Tesla has already been carved.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/deadeyebart/8100596149/
    Enjoy it while you can. It’s not going to last long.

  20. How sad on both counts……the dog and the tagging. Perhaps the bench could be coated with something impenetrable?

    As for the rude dog owner…….fortunately, folks with her attitude are in the minority. I’m glad you called her on it. There are rude people everywhere and remaining silent just fuels their fire.

  21. Nice benches, although apparently no good deed goes unpunished.
    Btw, the Civic Center park downtown with the pink benches is called Grand Park and has a bunch of great events lined up this fall. I’ve been to a few of the opening events and it’s a great experience being there. I’m curious to see what the Dia de Los Muertos event on Nov. 2 is like. It’s easily accessible via The Metro Red Line. Check it out.
    http://grandpark.lacounty.gov/index.htm

  22. I don’t think that price is unreasonable for quality park benches that expect a lot of use in a public space. Have you seen how much just a regular not designed, concrete trash can for a strip mall costs? Around $800-$1,000 each. Pick up one of those industrial catalogs that sell this type of furniture and you’ll see that even the low quality equipment is pricey but will not last. People vandalizing them is another thing but it’s not a reason to make an initial cheaper choice that ends up less cost effective in the end. If DWP had put less expensive benches, people would be complaining about how cheap and tacky they were and how horrible DWP is.

    Every day I walk on the path and every day I have to dodge dog poop. If the few irresponsible dog owners would pick up after their dogs then maybe people wouldn’t be so worried about dog poop being everywhere.

  23. As a long time resident of SL and a responsible dog owner and walker it’s very sad that so may Dog owners do no picking up after their dogs, it has ruins it’s for all of us good dog owner. Now we are not only BAN from the Meadow but from the Grove. Walking around the Lake is as bad as the 405 Freeway at rush hour, with all the Joggers running everyone over, it’s mainly a bunch of sweaty bodies and not it a good way. Driving up Armstrong at lease once a week there is always some jogger Running Down the middle of the street and will flip you off if you honk at him.

  24. Dear Corner Sole
    What planet do you come from, with your statement regarding taking down the Fence and opening up the Reservoir. The city can’t even afford to maintain the path and the grounds around it. You are always pushing the envelope regarding opening up something. Relax and enjoy the Lake as it is.

    • I didn’t realize it was such a provocative statement to suggest we open the reservoir to the public once it’s taken off the city’s water supply. I guess just don’t understand that kind of antisocial mindset when it comes to the public realm. Most cities would take advantage of such a large publicly owned asset, especially if they were as park poor as LA. Oh well, didn’t mean to start a debate on the subject, I just thought it was a logical conclusion. Enjoy your weekend!

  25. Just the thought of opening up the reservoir makes me cringe. Did any of you actually walk around Echo Park Lake in the months/years before it was closed for ‘remodeling’? They (the lake and the surrounding walkways and grassy areas) were totally trashed! I remember many times photographing floating trash everywhere in the lake. And those beautiful Lotuses!
    There seems to be no clear consensus why they died off, but every year when they bloomed people would pull the flowers off, bend the branches, and totally trash that end of the lake. It was so sad. Pollution had to be a contributing factor. Let’s hope when it reopens there is more respect for one of LA’s most beautiful spots!

    Keeping Silver Lake reservoir closed will keep it beautiful!

    • My experience of Echo Lake is a bit different, Sandy. I live next to the lake and use the park often. Some of the Lotus flowers may have been picked – a few near the shore – but many, many more remained until they withered and died. I would not characterize that end of the lake as “trashed”. It’s also my experience that while there may have been some trash in the lake – often likely due to wind blowing newspapers in there – that for the most part the lake was clear of debris. Echo Lake was tired and needed renovation, that’s why it looked downtrodden. I cannot imagine having Echo Park/Lake fenced off so that it remains “pristine”. Are you kidding? Silver Lake reservoir park – if the water is no longer under protection – would serve the community better if it was opened up so that people can enjoy more park space.

  26. yea!!!! more benches and less early pre schools” at logan” st.

  27. Actually these are manufactured in the USA by Landscape Forms. The design of the bench came from Barcelona, not the manufacturer. Facts are important.

  28. I am the regional sales representative who donated the pictured bench to the Meadow. I am a Silver Lake resident and love our neighborhood. This is why, when Mia Lehrer asked for my participation, I made it happen. My company helped get this bench to Silver Lake at no cost to the Meadow.

    A few words on what I realize is the requisite snarky style of this article. Landscape Forms manufactures this bench in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is a design published by Santa & Cole, a Barcelona based company. Landscape Forms furniture is engineered and built to withstand heavy traffic urban use. It is not a residential line of furniture.

    We pay such close attention to quality design, paying our designers royalties and giving written credit, that the weight and over building of our furniture for their use is not evident at first glance. Landscape Forms is an awesomely cool company. And did I say it is based in MI?

    Sure, one could find a residential bench for less but given the design community in Silver Lake and the traffic Tesla will get, why settle for something that will look ugly and require ongoing maintenance or replacement?

    A free bench amortized over a few discounted benches must be worth something. It must offset the net $2680.00 cost per Nu Bench. Oh yes, the new Nu benches will be discounted when purchased.

    We are trying to get the highest quality toughest and coolest benches for Silver Lake at a minimal cost. It bothers me that we worry whether DWP can afford this.

    As for wood and maintenance, you may sand it. Jarrah wood is one of the densest woods available. The slats are replaceable when needed. A cheaper bench would have to be chucked into the land fill.

    Love You All Silver Lakers!

    • Thank you, Melissa, for the most cogent and thoughtful post here. I actually saw the bench for the first time yesterday. It’s beautiful and fits well into our neighborhood. Thanks for making it happen!

  29. It’s good that enough people are standing up (or sitting down!) for a better and more comfortable path, and for the DWP’s willingness to help make the path a pleasant experience. But it’s sad that so many people are offering misleading criticism. For starters, if you want to buy a bench for LA Parks, prices START at $3000 (https://secure.laparksfoundation.org/EN/donation1.html?typed=bench). So that’s not at all out of line, and this bench is much more beautiful than those. In New York, prices start at $7500 and go much higher. That’s the reality of high quality public benches.

    More disturbing is the manner in which The Eastsider has tried to manufacture controversy where none exists. It’s really disappointing that Jesus Sanchez has fallen into the trap of Sam Zell “journalism” (the slimebag who’s done so much damage to the LA Times), which is only interested in finding an angle for fomenting neighborhood discord, rather than celebrating the efforts of so many who have worked to make our part of town better. Where was your story, Jesus, about how the path has improved the lives of thousands who use it all the time?

    In an era of shrinking public funds, we need to cherish every opportunity we find to improve our city. Such small-minded criticism and cynical manipulation for a few supposed online “hits” is demeaning to us all.

  30. Now,if’n woodshop classes were’n still part of a schoolin’, alonged with maybe a pot shop open fir inspiration ‘n such, I’d a bet bet you a Tennessee Ernie Ford that this town’d be able to buy a park bench made fer less’n what it cost to make an iPhone at a Foxconn hen house.
    Of course,this clearly is not the case. Moving forward,expenses notwithstanding, this design forgoes trendy wood finishes like venge (tired),or grey washed (yawn). Cherry will prove itself to be the timeless classic. People with lower back issues are advised to bring a lumbar bolster for use during any long term sedentary period,coupled with no excessive arm resting,as per strict advice from any chiropractor.Please enjoy,with care.

  31. All of the benches purchased by the City cost around $3,000.
    NYC benches cost $7,000.
    There’s no story here.

  32. This controversy falls under the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. The Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy has done more for this community in the past 30 years than any other community group, ever. They advocated for moving the water storage off site….remember that part? The DWP’s solution to the new regulations in the 1980′s was to cover Ivanhoe forever and to build an industrial style filtration plant where the Meadow Park is now. They obtained a $1.3 million grant from the State to begin implementation of the Master Plan. Advocating for additional funds from the City for extending the path. I could go on. But, the thanks they get for selecting these beautiful, high-style benches for the most architecturally rich neighborhood in the City, is grief. Instead of complaining about adding some really nice stuff to our little pocket of the City, volunteer and do something to make it better.

  33. kurt the unemployed woodworker

    Out of all the talented woodworkers , cabinetmakers/artists in the Los Angeles area they could not find anyone here to build 3 nice benches?? Ouch

  34. Issue should not be the cost, it should be that they purchased the bench from Spain using city tax dollars instead of buying a bench made by local artists or companies. A big chuck of the cost is shipping which is wasted money. Also, higher maintenance costs later due to using exotic wood from Spain…. Who approved this expenditure?

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