If you had to pick one symbol for Echo Park, what would it be? The now defunct lotus blossoms of Echo Park Lake? The silent film makers and stars who once acted out scenes on neighborhood streets? A line of customers at a taco truck? A group of Echo Park residents were asked Thursday night to contemplate what icons and elements of neighborhood history could help guide and be reflected in a $750,000 project to beautify a nearly mile-long stretch of Sunset Boulevard. Some of that imagery will help create a theme for the project- which includes everything from new benches to pocket parks – and could end up being stamped into the gum-and beer-stained sidewalks and crosswalks of Echo Park.
Officials with the department of Bureau of Street Services presented five images−the bridge at Echo Park Lake, the Lotus Festival, a silent movie frame, a Pacific Electric trolley car logo and the Jensen’s Recreation Center sign−that could serve as inspiration for the Echo Park symbol and theme they are seeking. “The idea is to celebrate the rich history that you have, ” said project engineer Scott Shimatsu during a presentation at the Edendale Library. But, not too surprisingly, some residents had other ideas.
Instead of one symbol, long-time resident Isa-Kae Meksin suggested sidewalk tiles devoted to the “different people who came to Echo Park.” Another woman suggested expanding upon the Avenue of the Athletes, a series of plaques celebrating sports legends that were embedded into Sunset Boulevard sidewalks as part of a short-lived chamber of commerce project. That idea did not get much traction. “With all do respect,” said one man, “those plaques have always struck me as dated and kind of nonsensical.”
Shimatsu, the soft-spoken project engineer, seemed taken with the figure of a bowler that crowns the Jensen’s Recreation Center sign. “I thought the bowling man was pretty neat,” he said. But with the sign already looming over Sunset Boulevard, maybe it would make more sense to promote a less well known part of the neighborhood’s past, such as its role in early film industry, suggested one audience member.
Malcom Schenot, whose apartment overlooks Sunset Boulevard, suggested the words “Echo Park” be stamped into the curb. “I don’t think any one icon catches it but the name “Echo Park to me is iconic.” However, Luiza Mavropoulos warned that stamping the words “Echo Park” would probable prompt rival gangs to tag up the sidewalks with their own name.
Then there were some who thought the whole idea of stamped and decorative sidewalk and crosswalks was a waste of money. After the city installed a painted and patterned cross walk across Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street, the painted crosswalk had all but disappeared under gum and other stains. “It just makes the sidewalks worse,” he said “It just makes them trashier, makes them washed out … it makes them look more unmaintained.”
What will the city architects and engineers do with all these comments? The answer will be coming soon since they need to finalize plans by the end of the month.
The Bureau of Street services is seeking guidance on how to spend $750,000 to beautify Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. If you have any ideas, download and fill out the PDF form below and email to project designer Scott Shimatsu at [email protected]