CityWatch, May 20, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 40
The East Hollywood Neighborhood Council (EHNC) has embarked on a journey to revitalize Santa Monica Boulevard,
the final stretch of America’s Main Street, embracing the Route 66 legacy as an opportunity to fulfill its City Charter mandate to “promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs.”
David Bell, President of EHNC, kicked off the project by proclaiming “The EHNC is excited to support quality of life improvements in this under served community. By partnering with the business community, state and local governments, charitable organizations, and concerned stakeholders, we are able to leverage our efforts to create maximum impact.”
The East Hollywood Route 66 Task Force is committed to encouraging the local community to participate in the civic engagement process, first by identifying and working with the many civic partners, and then by embarking on community projects that address public safety, public works, public health, public education, and public service opportunities.
From the National Parks Service and its “Historic Route 66 Corridor Program” to LA’s Office of Historic Resources the Route 66 Task Force leverages the rich legacy of the past with the opportunity of the future.
The campaign kicked off with three components, the Economic Alliance, the Livability Initiative, and Civic Engagement.
The Route 66 Economic Alliance connects the local businesses and merchants from Sunset Junction to the 101 and has already raised the funds necessary to hire Chrysalis to conduct street cleaning, maintenance and graffiti removal. In addition, the Metro has partnered with the EA by steam cleaning all 22 blocks of the corridor, all as the result of leveraging a small investment by the neighborhood council into a sustainable effort.
The Route 66 Livability Initiative has embraced the Complete Streets standard and is engaging the community in the process of pursuing federal Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funding, California State Parks funding for a Route 66 park, a Caltrans Environmental Justice grant, and Historic Preservation funding.
The Civic Engagement component brings it all together with Town Halls and Forums that introduce the residents and business operators to their Federal, State, County and City of LA partners, from Caltrans and Metro to City Council and departments that include Street Services, Transportation, City Planning, and the LAPD.
Route 66 is neither the oldest of the longest stretch of highway in America but it certainly is the most famous. Tourists continue to travel to Chicago where they rent a car and drive across the country, re-invoking the romance of America’s Route 66 and reconnecting with the promise of the land of opportunity.
Built in the 20’s during a time of unparalleled social, economic, political disruption and global conflict, Route 66 opened up the west coast and gave people an opportunity to pursue their dreams in a land that is still famous for its great weather, economic opportunity, the entertainment industry, the tourist attractions, the arts & culture community and the creative energy.
In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the Route 66 Study Act which formally acknowledged that Route 66 “has become a symbol of the American people’s heritage of travel and their legacy of seeking a better life.”
To the people of East Hollywood, that better life consists of a densely populated and heavily traveled transit corridor that moves lots of traffic at the expense of those who struggle to cross the street and the local merchants who watch the world race by, always on the way to someplace else.
Once memorialized by poets, serenaded by musicians, and celebrated on television and in films, Route 66 was decommissioned in 1985, forgotten by most and in danger of losing its unique place in history.
For East Hollywood, it was a simple complaint from a stakeholder about overflowing trashcans that prompted the formation of the Route 66 Task Force, resulting in a campaign that has resonated through the community.
As Route 66 Task Force Chair Armen Makasjian prepared for the latest Route 66 Town Hall he proclaimed “As a second generation business owner on this street, I am thrilled at the attention being directed at this vital stretch of American history.”
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net.)