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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Save me a seat at the York Boulevard parklet

Photo by Martha Benedict

Councilman Jose Huizar (left) addresses crowd at parklet dedication| Photo courtesy Rick Coca

A crowd of Highland Park residents and elected officials – equipped with a large pair of ceremonial scissors (where do you buy those?) – gathered on Saturday afternoon to dedicate an experiment in urban design: a parklet.  Built on a section of York Boulevard,  the parklet, or street porch,  is part of a demonstration project to create more  public gathering spaces. The York Boulevard parklet, which features a redwood deck, seating area and planters decorated with mosaics, cost about $30,000, said Rick Coca, spokesman for councilman Jose Huizar.

In addition, another parklet is being constructed on Huntington Drive in El Sereno and a third in downtown.

19 comments

  1. Armchair Quarterback

    Drove by this on the way home last night and was confused. It looked like a float that seats 3 people. I dunno, could be totally off-base here, but it seems like that money should ideally be put to better use, like you know, towards schools or something. (Shelters? Job training? Arts programs?) I know 30k probably ain’t shit in the grand scheme but I just think it’s a nice thought that’s ultimately a waste. Sorry to be so negative, and I freely admit I know nothing about resource allocation in city government (I assume there’s a lot of red tape so it must be an accomplishment to get anything done), or what the theory behind the greater good/public utility of something like this might be. If people do know, and feel like chiming in, I’m actually curious. Thanks.

  2. wassup Highland Park!! I’m so proud of you. No matter what the haters say, this is exactly what the community needs. I’ll be sitting there, enjoying it, taking in the exhaust fumes, and having a picknick because this is what it’s all about.

    • Armchair Quarterback

      @mel,
      Can’t tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic. If sarcastic, please don’t respond with something annoying. If serious, how is it exactly what the community needs, and how is not seeing that considered hating? Again, it’s the internet so can’t tell where you’re coming from tone-wise. Thanks.

      • I reread my post and I can see how it sounds sarcastic. I really do believe in the parklet’s ability to bring people together on the street. After spending time in various European cities as well as living in the Bay Area, I have observed that Los Angeles really does lack a street culture. The only time people feel like they can sit and take in the street life in LA is when they patronize a cafe or restaurant. The parklet offers people who maybe just want to sit and take a break to do so, without having to go patronize a coffee shop. I know the parklet was expensive and seems like a drop in the bucket by way of allowing for street life to exist, but it’s a start. People got together, got involved, and felt passionate about trying to make this change, and there’s nothing bad about that. It was nice to see how many people came out to celebrate its opening. One really had a sense of community, that cannot be had by driving around in the car. It may be hard to see my point- and I definitely am not at all hoping or even implying that I want Highland Park to be like European cities or places in the Bay Area. I simply like the fact that people can now have the pleasure of taking in the street and having a place to rest and think without having to buy something at a coffee shop.

  3. Letterman did it first but it was a joke.
    http://www.ddy.com/dl34.html

  4. Great idea but too bad it couldn’t have been closer to where there are more people hanging out and overflowing from the cafes, and this could have been an extension of the outdoor seating. I’ve never had a problem finding parking in the area, so I’m sure taking up one space wouldn’t have been much of a problem.

    I don’t see how people would want to sit down in front of a hardware store…

  5. Great job, everyone! I love that it captures the “arts and crafts” history of our neighborhood. I definitely intend to use it – as a spot to meet up with friends or just to sit down and enjoy some ice cream, tacos, or coffee from local establishments.

    Quick question – does anyone know what ever happened to the old-fashioned street lamps that were going to be installed along that stretch of York?

  6. This was installed Saturday afternoon, by Sunday morning the bench had already been tagged. Luv u Highland Park!

    I actually think it’s nice but should have been place in front of Hermosillio or the York, but nice idea anyhow. Also, noticed that Cafe De Leche is getting a lovely mural on the side-wall too. :)

  7. I hate it when people say shouldn’t we spend that money on fighting crime, the homeless, blah blah blah. Investing in esthetics creates and encourages community pride and responsibility and reduces crime. Things have that have communal significance can have a tangible tangible results.

    Like I said before. Just because these efforts have a marginal immediate functional use they are not frivolous . Parklets are not just tiny gathering places They symbols of neighborhood of pride, little reminders and encouragements if you will. Plus this particular little monument of civic pride is adorable! Quit being such selfish a-holes haters!

    • Armchair Quarterback

      Two questions, Mike.
      1. How is asking for money to go into schools or programs to benefit homeless people considered selfish?
      2. What you find adorable I may find a waste of money with such marginally functional and symbolic use that I have to wonder why it exists.

      Please know I’m really not trying to be selfish, an a-hole, a hater, a grinch, a troll, a misanthrope, a contrarian, whatever. I both see and welcome your points that looks do matter, and giving citizens positive visual associations about their neighborhood (especially when the neighborhood has a checkered past) does have a certain incremental amount of functional use, that will in the most ideal of circumstances only snowball over time. I just think 30k is a high price for that, especially when that kind of money could be used to benefit HP and its citizens (old and new) is perhaps more tangible ways. (How ’bout laptops or tablets for schools? Sports equipment? School lunches?) My sense is that this is the type of gesture a politician might use to get re-elected (“Look how nice York Blvd is now, I put a parklet there!”) and my inclination is to say BFD, and in the future please put money like that to actual good use (as opposed to symbolic good use which may or may not yield actual results).

      Again, I admittedly don’t know crap about LA city govt resource allocation, just that kids and homeless people could always use people’s help, way more than York Blvd could ever need a parklet. Thanks.

      • Armchair Quarterback

        Re-reading this I realize my second question wasn’t a question. I guess the question I meant to ask would be: Why is it so problematic for you that I feel this way?

      • I think the selfish part I was referring to people complaining about parking spaces and traffic, which realistically isn’t significantly impacted by this parklet.

        I would say you are being short sighted. You can’t take all the money and funnel it into one or a few problems. First of all it just wouldn’t work. And I think you’re underestimating the importance of community pride. Communities that have pride are more socially active. i.e neighborhood watch, school fundraisers, charity etc. Active communities actually SAVE tax payer money. Plus they have less bureaucracy and are more efficient.

        City inefficiency is another thing not sure how much it actually cost to build a park but $30,000 earmarked for computers have the same problems i.e. oversight such as city debates and the need approval from various city entities all of whom are also paid to interfere basically.

        • Armchair Quarterback

          Fair enough, Mike. And thank you for such a civil and thoughtful response. Seriously, I appreciate it.

          I agree that I’m perhaps being short sighted and definitely underestimating what value something like this could have in relation to the cost and the alternatives. I agree that not all money should go to kids or homeless people or pets or whatever cause one thinks might be important. Resources absolutely need to be spread around by people far smarter/more patient than I am; who know who keep happy and when/why/how that might need to happen. That said, it eventually all boils down to a matter of opinion and aesthetics. My own personal sense (hope?) is that we could do a lot better and a lot more with 30k, and all things being equal, put it towards education or homelessness. The thought is right, the theory is sound, the execution (to my eyes) misguided. That said, more people agree with you than me, which I totally accept. Also, since I’ve only driven by it and seen pictures, I’ll try to go there in person this week and give it an actual shot, see if I can expand my thinking. Thanks.

  8. Why this ceremony caused the east bound side of York Blvd where it meets Eagle Rock Blvd to be diverted with no clear detour is beyond me. Three miles from this celebration there was traffic chaos for no clear reason.

  9. I welcome the parklet but I think the design is dated and not very inspiring or attractive for that matter.

  10. At $30K it’s simply criminal but no one seems to care in a bankrupt city… After seeing it today while biking past in the nice new bike lane, I have no problem with it, though I do doubt it will get much use @ that location. I’m pretty certain it could’ve been done w/ a table saw and about $500, and I’m not really joking.

  11. I drive by the parklet every weekday morning around 750 am. Last week I saw beer bottles left there. I also know the store owner located near the parklet. That person has owned that store for more than 20 years (thats only as long as I’ve known them) and they do not even like the parklet. Its already being misused and is disliked by native Highland Parkers. I dont think it has it has a place in Highland Park. But who knows? In 40 years it may not be Highland Park without it.

  12. I have always had hopes for York Blvd since the 90′s, and am thrilled the the street is finally becoming a “place.” This being said, I think the parklet is in the wrong place and I never never see it being used. I could not even imagine sitting there inches from the traffic. I also think it is not visually appealing. All those Jose Huizar York Blvd meetings and this is what they came up with? I actually stopped attending because they seemed to be very poorly run.

  13. I just wish if we spent $30,000 that it would be something that was built to last. It is looking like a mess lately. And it never looked like it was worth $30,000. Except for the ceramic, that was about $5000 worth of material and $2000 in labor. So we paid $23,000 for the tile junk. Who paid for this?

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