Friday, October 16, 2009

CityWatchLA - East Hollywood Sees the Light…Yard

CityWatch, Oct 16, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 85

In park-poor East Hollywood, LA's Bureau of Street Lighting service yard on Santa Monica Boulevard is looking very attractive to community members who think the large 4.2 acre storage space is the perfect location for a park.

Last month the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council hosted two Park[ing] Day LA celebrations and one of them was on Santa Monica Boulevard, across the street from the Cahuenga Library and right in front of the Street Lighting service yard. Their message was simple. People need parks and in a densely populated neighborhood surrounded by three elementary schools, it's strange to see so much LA city property used for storage while kids are playing in the streets.

The idea of converting the Street Lighting service yard into a park is not a new idea. Years ago, Proposition K was passed, positioning three decades of funding "to develop recreational opportunities for our city's young people." When Councilmember Mike Hernandez initially positioned Proposition K, he called on the other Councilmembers for projects and cobbled together a list that included the development of the Street Lighting service yard for soccer fields. Prop K was quite controversial and there were charges from the public that the money wouldn't be spent on the proposed projects and would instead turn into another City Council slush fund. The assurance at the time was "The City Council must ultimately approve every Proposition K expenditure. We are the ones who will be accountable to the public for the proper use of those monies."

Last week, City Council President Eric Garcetti's staff took a couple of dozen community members on a tour of the Street Lighting service yard, offering a backstage view of the very busy service yard. The invitation referenced the "great deal of interest in locating green space/park space/community space at this site" and promised that Garcetti's office would be working with the CRA "to undertake a study in that direction that looks at creative, collaborative possibilities." All of which was in stark contrast to the repeated comments from Heather Repenning, Garcetti's District Director of Community Development, who took several opportunities to state firmly that they would look at opportunities to accommodate some green space but that in no way would they compromise the efficiency and efficacy of the Street Lighting service yard.

All of this is in stark contrast to the Prop K commitment and to the City Council motion of 2006 which stated "The conversion of the site into a park would serve to improve the aesthetic quality of the local community." The motion directed staff to identify a new location for the service yard and specified that once the service yard is relocated, the existing site can be converted to much needed park space.

It appears that the framers of Prop K thought the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park. It appears that the City Council thought the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park. It also appears that the community thinks the Street Lighting service yard would be a great place for a park.

Yet City Council motion 06-07-07 expired on August 25, 2009 and simply died, mortally wounded by City Council inactivity.

There's no doubt that the Street Lighting service yard provides an invaluable service. Approximately 80 Street Lighting trucks call the lot home and every morning, they load up with poles, fixtures and supplies and head to the four corners of the City of Los Angeles, from the Harbor to the Westside the the far reaches of the Valley and to the Eastside, confirming that East Hollywood is indeed the center of Los Angeles. They repair or replace about 75 light poles each month that are damaged or destroyed by motorists in auto collisions. They replace burned out light bulbs and they conduct routine maintenance in order to keep approximately 5000 miles of LA's streets illuminated for our safety and comfort.

There are approximately 400 different street light fixtures used on the 5000 miles of LA street that the Street Lighting maintains and they store approximately 200 of those fixtures at the East Hollywood service yard. Some are rare and historic fixtures that require custom repairs at the welding shop. Some are common such as the cement or aluminum poles. Some are experimental and the light yard is also used to test the new LED lighting, low impact lighting, solar panels and solar wraps, all of which represent some of the changes that are taking place in the Bureau of Street Lighting as new technology drives new solutions to the old public safety commitment of illuminated streets.

The Street Lighting service yard has been in this location for decades. It has grown over the years, taking over space that formerly served as film production facilities, as restaurants, as apartment buildings and as a gas station. There is no more room to grow and the yard now counts among its neighbors a convalescent home, apartment buildings, and a a library. There really is no place to grow.

Meanwhile, every morning the local kids walk past a chain link fence topped with razor wire as 80 large utility trucks leave the service yard to take care of the lighting needs for the entire city.

The Bureau of Street Lighting needs more room and the local community needs a park.

One would think that the opportunity here would be win-win instead of the either-or situation that Repenning works to deflect when she repeats the "community green space as long as it doesn't interfere with the efficiency of Street Lighting" mandate for further development of East Hollywood green space at the Street Lighting service yard.

It was not too long ago that the City of Los Angeles, as it grappled with the budget crisis, surveyed the City-owned property and looked for opportunities to divest itself of unused or under-utilized property. Surely that information could lead to a large facility that could accommodate the Bureau of Street Lighting and supporting their invaluable contribution to the quality of life in Los Angeles while at the same time allowing for the development of the 4,2 acres of service yard into a great park for East Hollywood.

The City Council motion of 2006 directed General Services to identify property that could be used to accommodate the Bureau of Street Lighting service yard and property was identified but the motion died. It simply died.

This area is part of the Specific Plan Area of "Vermont / Western Station Neighborhood Area Plan" and the property is earmarked for redevelopment into "public elementary, secondary or high schools; police stations and related uses; parks and recreation facilities, including bicycle paths and walking trails, nature trails; park land and lawn areas; children's play areas; picnic facilities; athletic fields (not to exceed 200 seats); senior citizen centers, community centers, clubhouses; swimming pools, libraries; tennis courts; rest rooms; gyms; camping facilities; museums; aquaria, observatories, planetaria and zoos."

Perhaps there is an opportunity here for the community to partner with the Bureau of Street Lighting and to look for a way to support and to even enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the people who bring light to our community. Perhaps there is a way to repair and store the special, historical and architectural lighting fixtures and poles without having to service the entire city from one location. That only serves to make all commutes equally inefficient. Perhaps there is a way to explore inventory management innovations so that the Bureau of Street Lighting can more effectively service the communities that have unique lighting needs.

All of which would free up the East Hollywood Bureau of Street Lighting service yard so that the Prop K commitment can be kept, so that Council President Eric Garcetti's City Council motion can be honored and so that the community of East Hollywood can enjoy a park within walking distance of their homes and of their schools.

Seems like a win-win situation to me!

1 comment:

Cory said...

"People need parks and in a densely populated neighborhood surrounded by three elementary schools..."

Just a thought, why not lobby the school district to open the school campuses during off hours for the community to use and for children to play?