Sunday, October 23, 2016

In Silver Lake, not all park benches are created equal

New $2,500 bench at Silver Lake Meadow

Old bench at Bellevue Park in Silver Lake

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.

Broken Bellevue bench seat with exposed 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.

Bellevue bench regulars

Silver Lake Meadow bench unveiling.

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  1. The new benches are lovely indeed-but once again we go after the flashy and stylish instead of maintenance….

  2. $2500 for a bench? I’m all for quality (really in this case, durability) so that it reduces maintenance costs… but most woods require regular maintenance. Plus, they are easily etched/ carved into. This sounds like a poor use of funds to me.

  3. We had a similar discussion a year ago, when a bench was installed at Tesla and W. Silver Lake Dr.


  4. $2,500 is not unheard of for a bench. Have you looked at the prices of consumer benches?! Check out LA-made Modernica benches. This public bench is cheap! Also, That photo of the Bellevue bench looks like it’s made of compposite plastic type lumber. I highly doubt that termites are chewing on it.

  5. Regarding Mitch O’Farrell’s comment about the disparity between Bellevue & the Reservoir. Incredibly lame lip service.

  6. Who knows how long ago those benches were installed at Bellevue. By the looks of them, it could have been decades ago; and they su do look like they need to be replaced. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with installing quality benches in the Silver Lake meadow park, a public space that’s been a huge success since it opened and is enjoyed by so many. Hopefully, pointing out the need for new benches at Bellevue will get some attention. Too bad the Eastsider had to take a jab at the new benches in the meadow to make her point.

  7. Those new benches look like mangaris and 2x mangaris at that. Holy cow is that stuff expensive. I don’t understand why they don’t just use concrete. Concrete can look amazing and doesn’t require any of the maintenance of wood.

  8. The benches are fine. The price tag is atrocious and unacceptable. $2.500 per bench is robbery, criminal. Anything over $500 should have been rejected.

    This is why the city keeps claiming it has no money. Consider, while the city was throwing away money on a bench, it was saying it had not money to cover the Elysian Park reservoir in with concrete so a park field could be put on top – instead they cheaped out with a horrible industrial piece of ugly crap right smack dab int he middle of the park, claiming no money to do anything good.

    I know the cost of these benches would not have made the difference to Elysian Park reservoir — but you have to extrapolate with everything the city dramatically over spends on.

    But to our elected officials, no expense is too much to justify yet another photo op and ceremony.

  9. This wouldn’t possibly have anything to do with economic / social class would it?
    And certainly it would not have anything to do with the proliferation of light-skinned folks in Silver Lake?

  10. Yeah, ummmmmm the new benches only have a partial portion that has a back-rest. Why are there two parts on the left and the right that do not have back-rests? For $2500, I want a back-rest!

  11. People are going to underestimate the price of public furniture. It’s irresponsible for Eastsider to publish a real number on one bench and a made up number guessed by a member of the public on the other, without actually asking the city how much the other cost. If people knew the real cost of the Bellevue benches, maybe they’d have a better sense of what the value of a $2,500 bench is.

  12. There are so many great inexpensive design solutions for a public bench. WIth the vast amount of designers and craftsman in the local area, surely they could have done better. They could even have them for free if they let local businesses sponsor or donate them.
    The photo of them unveiling a $2500 bench is really truly embarrasing.

  13. These new-fangled benches have the added bonus of having armrests placed toward the center of the bench to ensure that no one ever take a nap on them or, perhaps, install themselves for a more lengthy stay. I figured that attracting homeless populations was one of the main arguments against opening the meadow in the first place, so it makes sense that the city would want to appease naysayers by installing fancy/designy benches that could never, ever be mistaken for a bed.

  14. Cute bench, but it comes across as a design that prevents folks from sleeping on it.

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