It’s not often that an unveiling ceremony is held for a park bench. But that’s what happened on Saturday morning next to the Silver Lake Reservoir when councilmen Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell and neighborhood residents yanked off the cover on one of five new wood and metal benches at the Silver Lake Meadow. These are not your typical park benches. Instead, they are stylish pieces of outdoor furniture that cost $2,500 a piece, with four of the benches purchased by the city and one by the nonprofit Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy. Similar benches were installed last year on the north end of Ivanhoe Reservoir. But while the city spent $2,500 on designer benches at the Silver Lake Meadow, about a mile away in the southern section of Silver Lake, it looks like far less has been spent on seating at the park surrounding the Bellevue Recreation Center. The Bellevue benches are not only far from stylish, you might want to think twice about sitting on some of them for fear of getting a splinter or being scratched by a metal screw.
There is nothing fancy about the benches at Bellevue park, a busy open space packed with playing fields, jogging track and recreation center. The seats are the mismatched assortment of utilitarian outdoor furniture you find at other L.A. parks, with benches ranging from a bright blue metal piece to some made out of worn out wood planks attached to metal posts.A closer look reveals some of slats on the seats have been broken off. On one bench, a large metal screw awaits anyone who takes a seat.
A group of Bellevue park regulars were surprised to hear how much was spent on the benches at the Silver Lake Meadow. They said the seat on their bench near Lucile Avenue had been broken for several months before it was repaired. It’s fixed now but they pointed out termites were now feasting on parts of the bench, leaving behind holes.They estimate their bench probably costs $150 – tops.
O’Farrell, whose 13th district includes both parks, said he believes the $2,500 spent on the Silver Lake Meadow benches is worth the investment in quality materials for the benefit of the public. “We want quality materials everywhere,” he said. “They last longer and it’s a show of respect for the general public when we use quality materials.”
What would it take to bring quality benches to Bellevue park and close the Silver Lake bench gap? Money, of course, but that is in short supply in the city. That’s why in Hollywood, for example, the city teamed up with the business improvement district to bring better looking and higher quality sidewalk benches, O’Farrell said. In Silver Lake, the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy, which has championed the creation of the walking path and meadow, has pushed for and is now working with the city to bring the high-style benches to the open space surrounding the reservoirs. In fact, the conservancy will be starting a fundraising campaign to install more of the same benches and other amenities.
But there is no strong advocate to bring better benches and focus attention on Bellevue park. O’Farrell said he will look at how his office could help create a group of volunteers who come to the support of Bellevue. “It has such potential,” he said of the park. Council District 13 staff will also take a closer look at the condition of the Bellevue benches to see if anything can be done.
In the meantime, just be careful where you sit.