Inspired by the success of CicLAvia II and ever hopeful that LA will soon become a more transit-oriented city complete with streets, parks and bike lanes that serve our multi-modal population, I am launching my own little campaign to improve LA by reopening a shuttered West LA park.
If you know the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Bundy you know the one I am talking about. The triangle-shaped traffic island was closed off years ago after it had become a magnet for transients. The fence went up after a homeless man was killed in the park.
That is certainly unfortunate, but whatever the triangle's past history, it is time to reopen the park and to do so in a way that makes it a neighborhood asset, not just a parking lot for old shopping carts and litter basket for windswept soda cans and candy wrappers. Fencing off sorely needed open space in LA is just not an acceptable way to respond to a community problem.
Across the country and in our own city, residents are coming together to take back traffic islands, streets and parks that have seen better days. For example in Los Feliz, the Vermont Triangle Park, a former traffic island at Vermont and Hollywood Blvd, was recently rescued from the asphalt by area residents at a cost of $800,000. The saddest thing about the shuttering of the Bundy green space is, it was already a park.
When the West LA park reopens I expect it will be a challenge to keep it from again becoming the exclusive preserve of the homeless. But that is a challenge worth taking on and is one of the things social services and law enforcement are there to help with. Working together, we can find a solution that tears down the fence and regifts the park to the community. The area is home to many elderly and young families and they deserve to enjoy the outdoors under the mature trees growing there. Additionally, reopening the park will help enliven what can and should be a more pedestrian-friendly intersection than it is now.
I don't expect this campaign to be easy but I am encouraged by the support and commitment of Councilman Rosendahl and his staff to work to reopen the park. Indeed the councilman has looked at the issue before.
Since it probably won't be more than a day before someone comes along and says, "I don't want my tax dollars going to policing and cleaning that park," we will need to be organized, inclusive and thoughtful in building support and enlisting a neighborhood group willing to open the park in the morning, close it up at night and look after the park in general.
As Jane Jacobs preached about "eyes on the street" being the best way to keep a community safe, streets and parks are actually safer when more people use then. There is more than one way to make sure the Bundy park is safe and inviting and that is what we will be making it in reopening the space to the public. Perhaps contracting with a small food kiosk that will be responsible for keeping the park clean is another way to draw residents back to the small swatch of green served by several Metro and Big Blue Bus lines.
Given the way these things tend to go we may need a modest sum of money to reopen the park. I'm hoping maybe someone like Frank McCourt, still smarting from the criticism he has received for not providing adequate security at Dodgers Stadium, will want to pony up the small change that may be required. If not, surely there is someone else out there who can use a Ronald Reagan moment like "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" If you are reading, let me know if you want to help reopen the park.
The time has come to give the neighborhood back its open space.
Yours in transit,
P.S.: Thanks to some back and forth with Carter Rubin of The Source at Metro, we've already come up with a better idea for Bundy Park. With minimal effort the shuttered traffic island/park would make a great location for a Metro TAP card kiosk and bike parking (racks or boxes, or a bike valet). The intersection is home to several bus lines - the Metro 4 and 704 and Big Blue Bus 10, 11 and 14. The kiosk could also sell food and keep the park clean for area residents and folks waiting for the bus.
If we want more discretionary Metro riders, what better place to find them than in west LA? Currently, the nearest Metro office selling TAP cards is at Wilshire and La Brea. The Bundy Park kiosk would also be a great way to educate West LA residents about critical projects like the subway extension, Expo to Santa Monica and the Wilshire BRT.
Follow Joel Epstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein