New stores, from wine bars to bookshops, have opened up. Long time merchants , including the neighborhood taco trucks and liquor stores, don’t seem to suffer from a shortage of customers. But some Echo Park business and community leaders say the neighborhood’s commercial corridors can use some help. The sidewalks along Sunset Boulevard can get pretty grimy and filled with trash while there’s been growing worries about crime, panhandling and homelessness along Glendale Boulevard. These concerns have been around for many years but now the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce has proposed the creation of a Business Improvement District to raise funds for additional security, cleaning and promotion. The chamber has asked some businesses to donate as much as $1,500 each to help form the Echo Park BID.
Some BIDs in downtown Los Angeles have helped keep things clean and safe. But at least one member of Echo Park’s business community says Echo Park’s problems, especially when it comes to homelessness, have been overblown and that a BID can do more harm than good.
“To me it’s completely unnecessary and uncharacteristic of Echo Park,” said the business person, who wanted to remain anonymous. “I can’t stand the idea of rent-a-cops harassing our street vendors, our homeless, our cholos and our drunk hipsters. It’s just not needed.”
Of course, the many Echo Park residents who continue to avoid shopping along Sunset Boulevard because they think it’s dingy and unsafe may argue. Chamber President Mitchell Frank said the proposed BID, which has the support of Council District 1 and 13 as well as some community organizations, would provide some public services that the city’s cannot afford.
“The main thrust of this is not to hassle the homeless,” said Frank, one of the owners of the Echo nightclub. “The main thrust of this is to be kind of a gap filler of what the LAPD cannot do and what these other [city] agencies cannot do. “
It sounds like a worthwhile investment to The Eastsider, a chamber member. But will the cost and trouble of setting up a BID keep Echo Park’s businesses in business or just alienate some residents?