The City Council today is scheduled to vote on a proposal to hand over Highland Park’s Veterans’ Memorial to the Recreation and Parks Department, a move that officials say will help improve public safety and set the stage for an expanded memorial and green space. Turning the memorial at Figueroa and York Boulevard into a park would allow officials to establish operating hours and ban overnight camping on the triangular traffic island, which has attracted the homeless and served as a hub for drug dealing and other criminal activity over the years, officials said.
Jose Gardea, Chief of Staff for Councilman Ed Reyes, who introduced today’s motion, said the proposal to turn the property into a park is about increasing public safety and not chasing the homeless away. “It’s a public safety issue,” he said.
The idea to turn the memorial into a park surfaced last May when the triangular site, which includes a towering flagpole surrounded by a seating area and a stand of trees, was fenced off by the city.
In addition to place the veterans’ memorial under control of the parks department, Reyes’ motion also includes $20,000 to begin fleshing out plans to improve and expand the memorial. Reyes said an expanded memorial and park would include the diagonal turn off lane between northbound Figueroa and eastbound York and part of the adjacent parking lot in front of the Highland Park Adult Senior Citizens Center. Gardea said enough parking spaces will remain to serve the senior center. Community meetings about the expanded memorial are scheduled for the fall.
“It’s a beautiful entry point” for Highland Park, Gardea said. “When you take a step back and take a look, you can can see the potential.”
* Update: Council voted to approve the motion.