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The new York Boulevard

September 29, 2010

York Boulevard destination sign from the Los Angeles Railway’s “W” Streetcar.

This past Saturday, Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar held a Community Clean Up and kick off for the “new York Vision Plan” in the parking lot of the 90050 Post Office on York Boulevard. The event included city certificates for the new businesses on York, the city’s Department of Public Works, contractors from Northeast Graffiti Busters, Victory Outreach’s clean-up crew, and most importantly, the first step in involving the Highland Park community with the redesign process of York Boulevard.

Los Angeles City Councilmember for York Boulevard in Highland Park, Jose Huizar.

The project, titled “The new York” (with a little “N”) is dubbed as a “Pedestrian Improvement Project and Local Business Support Program.” It involves the design and installation of creative, low-cost pedestrian improvements on York between Avenue 50 and Avenue 56.

York Boulevard in the shade.

The design aspects of the project is being facilitated by Green LA, as a Living Streets type project and is expected to take a six months to a year to implement. In these tight budget times, the boulevard improvement is not a major redevelopment project, but more of an aesthetic enhancement and greening project that will be designed to encourage more foot traffic than car traffic. Much like it was originally developed as.

Design workshop leader, Joe Linton explaining the design feature key ring.

A fun part of this project is how much community is being asked about what they would like to see along the boulevard as far as features such as benches, trees, and identifying decorative elements. In a couple of weeks there will be a Community Workshop on this “new York” project at Cafe de Leche on Wednesday, October 13th 6pm-8pm.

Family planning.

What surprised me about the event was how much the business owners of York didn’t understand the scope of this project. That the project as I understand it, seems to be more about greening York, than developing it. When it came time to write ideas for York Blvd. on the participatory map, there were comments like, “More Parking” “Free Parking” “More traffic lanes” “Create another parking lot.” Not exactly the Green sort of ideas that this project is designed to accomplish.

We have a unique opportunity of re-creating the destination village it once was. This was where the trolley took us to see a movie at the York Theater, get an ice cream soda at Reynolds Drugs, or a Brew 102 at one of the bars. This is about bolstering York Blvd’s identity as a destination once again. A destination that uses the best contemporary environmental practices as Living Streets where people and aesthetics are the focus, not accommodations for car parking.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2010 11:49 pm

    This is great. But since I live closer to Fig, I’m starting to get jealous of all the attention York Blvd gets.

    • September 29, 2010 11:56 pm

      I’m with you there. Hopefully it will get Reyes jealous as well.

    • Sara permalink
      September 30, 2010 2:02 pm

      Yes, I agree – what about Figueroa? There are some cool places south of York, but above York …. it’s a wasteland of auto repair shops and pretty much nothing else (one bike store, a few offices …). I’m not sayin that auto repair shops should’t exist, but do we really need 3 of them on every block? Even south of York, it could have a lot more variety. I’d love to see some more attention given to Fig.

  2. September 30, 2010 12:17 am

    Seems interesting. I don’t completely understand though, this is basically “add trees” and “clean up” ? I think removing parking spots every so often and creating bulb-outs with trees, bike parking, benches would be a good idea. I am also tempted to say that instead of adding bike lanes, as approved in bike plan, just use the bike lane space to extend the sidewalks, narrow the street and slow traffic down. Also, those “more parking’ , ‘free parking’ and ”more traffic lanes’ frustrate me! Seriously? People would be proud of York Boulevard like that? “Hey everyone, look at York, they added a car travel lane, and more parking lots! Aren’t you jealous? It looks so much better now, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for the post!

  3. STARCHY permalink
    September 30, 2010 9:35 am

    nice sign behind Huizar but maybe next time they can make his name bigger?

  4. Miss Marissa Lynn permalink
    September 30, 2010 10:45 am

    Since I live just a block away from the intended improvement area, I am thrilled to hear about any projects geared toward pedestrians. Unfortunately the store fronts of some of the businesses aren’t really geared for pedestrian traffic. (ie: Window Shopping that will draw you into the store.)
    As for more/free parking, there is plenty around. What I don’t get is why they changed the major parking lot to basically close after midnight. All that does is drive bar goers further into the residental portion of the neighborhood. I’m not sure what they were trying to achieve with this parking “curfew” but it seems like bad idea in my opionion. (I don’t have to worry about finding parking since I’m within walking distance, but I do have to worry about drunks walking and driving by my home.)

    • pcohen permalink
      November 8, 2010 9:51 pm

      The change to midnight closing was in response to nearby neighbors who were disrupted by after bar closing revelry, fights and overall load noise in the parking lot from 2 am on. Unfortunately people still park there at will after midnight because there is no parking enforcement. The new nighttime businesses on York have not given due respect to the neighbors in their immediate vicinity.

  5. Mr. B. permalink
    September 30, 2010 11:15 am

    This is wonderfully exciting !

    Among the many strengths HP has as a great neighborhood is that it was originally designed as being highly pedestrian friendly. The bones are still there; the human scale of streets, buildings and blocks and it’s not a stretch to re-envision these latent strengths leveraged again! The introduction of more cars is so incredibly at odds with a pedestrian friendly neighborhood and it’s unfortunate the local merchants aren’t more forward thinking in their collective desires. It must be understood that by a creating a pedestrian friendly destination, people will be more likely to walk and explore and thus shop more. Shopping more is good, right!! Walking generates window shopping and impulse buys. An added bonus that it also strengthens the sense of community. You recognize your neighbors. It helps to build a pride of ownership and of place. The automobile is a staple of modern society and especially LA but it should by no means be the driving force of a design goal if that goal is to generate Pedestrian Activity.

    As an example, take the the 5 minute drive up to Montrose to walk it’s merchant neighborhood. It’s successful not necessarily because of the stores or restaurants but because of the tree-lined streets and walkable and active sidewalks where businesses and customers spill out from the storefronts with outdoor dining, thus enabling a sense of community and place. These are simple improvements that create positive results that will far outweigh their cost in establishing a favorable shopping destination.

    It’s great that the community is invited to participate but I’m leery of the outcome unless there is someone framing and managing the ‘wants’. Without clear direction, exercises like this can too easily result in a loose series of compromised, personal “likes” instead of thoughtful, cohesive and larger view visions. At it’s worst we will be left with salmon colored, stucco coats with spray-can signage and terra-cotta roofs and at best a simulation of reality such as The Grove or The Americana. (Actually of the two, I don’t know which is worse). Great neighborhoods have a truthfulness based in their reality and this is one of the legitimate strengths of Highland Park’s merchant streets and it would be shame to miss this opportunity.

    Are there Historic Preservationists engaged? Are there any design professionals involved; Planners, Architects, Graphic Designers, Realtors? These are individuals who have training and education with opportunities such as this and more often possess a larger view and experience of what works and what doesn’t. They can help to differentiate between short sighted fixes and long term solutions. They are also Highland Parks’ residents and I hope they are a resource not overlooked.

  6. September 30, 2010 12:53 pm

    Thanks to everyone who participated in the kick-off – and thanks to Waltarrrrr for the great coverage! The team will be getting moving on the rest of the project planning and implementation work soooooooon!

    Joe Linton
    Living Streets Committee, Green L.A. Coalition

  7. Guardedly Optimistic permalink
    October 1, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thanks for the post — really interesting, wish I had been there. I am excited that Highland Park might become less car-centric and appreciate those who are working to make it happen. I just hope that the project doesn’t become overly focused on “cleaning up” the neighborhood. Because, in my experience living in a number of other urban areas as well as Highland Park, CUTN is usually doublespeak for “gentrifying” or “whitening” the neighborhood. The visual contrast in the posted photos between the “city clean up team” and the event participants is striking and (I hope) not reflective of the composition of the planners.

    Not to criticize any well-meaning or well heeled folks who want HP to transform a bit — nothing wrong with that. But the patchwork quilt of the area is one of its greatest strengths – one that I think Jane Jacobs would have approved of. Yes, let’s talk about improvements but we need to work at ensuring the conversation involves a cross-section of the community, not just the usual suspects. I think the postwar urban renewal projects are a sad testament to the danger of a small, well meaning policymaking elite working to “improve” cities without a significant understanding of community sentiment. I don’t want LA to repeat these mistakes in this new era of optimistic urbanism.

    • pcohen permalink
      November 8, 2010 9:54 pm

      Bravo. I wholeheartedly agree.

  8. November 12, 2010 11:12 pm

    If you can find an ancient map, back before York Blvd. was called York Blvd., it was called “New York” Blvd…. or Avenue… I can’t remember which. But “New York” it was. New it will be again.

    Mr. McGibbon of McGibbon’s Autobody on York has a bunch of old pictures of highland park. What character highland park had! He’s in his eighties and he grew up here up on Burwood off of North Figueroa. He remembers taking the trolley that went through the tunnels on the pasadena freeway, before it was the pasadena freeway. I’ll bet that if you went to him with a scanner and a laptop, and made him a deal he couldn’t refuse (free publicity for his shop?) he might let you scan some them!

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  1. Give Us Your Ideas For the York Living Streets Project | Living Streets LA
  2. Give Us Your Ideas For the “new York Boulevard” « Living Streets LA

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