Planners declare Echo Park a great neighborhood – before it’s too late

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to make one of his rare Echo Park appearances tomorrow for the equally rare occasion when the city is honored for urban planning. In this case, the American Association of Planners named Echo Park as one of the nation’s 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2008. Next year, however, might be a different story.

The honor is part of an APA program to make examples of “communities with exceptional character and highlights the role that planning plays in creating communities of lasting value.”

But it’s not clear how long Echo Park’s “exceptional character” and “lasting value” will last. Will Echo Park still be a great neighborhood even after a seven-story parking garage is built near Echo Park Lake; the Dodgers build a retail center and museum that will attract year-around traffic without year-around public transportation; the school district demolishes more than 2 blocks of old homes for a new school despite falling enrollment; Barlow Hospital scrapes its historic grounds for 1,800 residential units; new cell phone towers and billboards crowd the sky; McMansions march across the hills; and huge apartment boxes overwhelm their neighbors. This is good planning?

The Mayor better put that award in a special place because it might be a long time until the city ever gets honored again for good planning.

Photos from Echo Park Historical Society and Vagrant Design

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