Thursday, January 6, 2011

Something Old is New Again: Vision for a "New" York Boulevard

In our October issue, The Arroyo Seco Journal featured an article about Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar and community organizations’ plans for York Boulevard. The process is now well underway. Below, we reprint our original article followed by an update.

Green L.A. Coalition's Ryan Lehman, City Councilmember José Huizar and Huizar's Planning Deputy Edel Vizcarra hold up a temporarily blank map to be filled in with residents' ideas.

Your ideas for making York Boulevard a friendlier place to walk, bike, eat and shop are requested.
City Councilmember José Huizar and dozens of Highland Park community members gathered on the boulevard the morning of Saturday, September 25 for the kick-off of the “New” York Vision Plan. Huizar and community organizations are looking for creative, low-cost improvements for York Boulevard.
There are two aspects to the plan. A long-term vision for the boulevard, specifically the stretch from Avenue 50 to Avenue 56, will be crafted. Such a document will greatly facilitate the City’s ability to go after federal, state and Metro funds for projects, a process Huizar’s staff is already engaged in.
Meanwhile, four or five fairly small-scale projects will be implemented quickly. Huizar has committed $100,000 to the effort.
What those projects end up being is a decision to be made by the community. The Green L.A. Coalition will facilitate a community input and assessment process over the coming months.
According to the Councilmember, the goals of the plan are to make York Boulevard a place where people want to come and shop--and to make it a true center for a community.
York has a history as a walkable, commercial district. Through the 1960s, the boulevard featured shopping and entertainment venues. Hard times hit with the advent of shopping malls. Lately, however, the boulevard clearly has been on its way back up. There are places to eat, drink, shop and see art, and there is foot traffic both day and evening.
“Our goal is to support the organic process that is already going on here,” Huizar said at the kick-off event.
“Our job is to help the community get the most out of this project,” says the Green L.A. Coalition’s Ryan Lehman. “We have not made any specific design decisions.”
Many local organizations are participating in the process, including the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, the Highland Park Heritage Trust, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council and Clean and Green. Occidental College President Jonathan Veitch has expressed serious interest in the proceedings.
There is one previously existing project that has already been in the pipeline for several months. A bicycle parking lot, the vision of Matt Schodorf of Café de Leche, is planned for York at Avenue 50. One parking space will be transformed into a bike corral for a dozen bicycles.
As part of the kick-off event, Huizar honored several business owners who have recently opened establishments on the corridor.
York Village Gifts ‘N Things, 5106 York Boulevard;
Eloelia’s Boutique, 5110 York Boulevard;
Urchin, Vintage and Recycled Clothing, 5006½ York Boulevard;
Makara’s Antique Store, 5670 York Boulevard;
The Glass Studio, glass art, classes and supplies, 5052 York Boulevard;
Jet the Pilot, Make Your Own Tees, 5108 York Boulevard;
Visions Hair Concepts, 5104 York Boulevard.
Following the kick-off event, Graffiti Busters, the agency that holds the graffiti clean-up contract for the area, conducted a neighborhood clean-up assisted by members of Victory Outreach.
A public meeting to continue the “New York Vision Plan” process will be held Wednesday, October 13, 6-8 p.m. at Café de Leche, at the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50.

The process is now well underway, and an initial project should be undertaken this Spring! There have been two community meetings since the kick-off—the more recent involving a packed house at The Glass Studio.
Community members are deciding on a fairly small-scale project that will be implemented at the end of February. It is to be followed by several small projects over the coming 12 months and the creation of a long-range vision plan for the boulevard.
70+ meeting participants broke into small groups to craft ideas for the first project. Among the resultant contenders are seating at Avenue 51 and York (near Elsa’s Bakery), a green space at Avenue 50 and York (the vacant lot), an entry archway to the community, street murals on crosswalks (to slow traffic and ID an arts-rich community), a seating deck near the bakery and portable corner plazas (serving like sidewalk bump-outs).
A volunteer committee will be meeting to work toward selection of the specific project to be implemented. The next general meeting will be February 2 (at a to-be-determined site large enough to accommodate the significant interest in the process).
Among concerns brought to the table by constituents are the need for area clean-up (sidewalk, trees and the vacant lot), public safety needs (i.e. lighting and safe street crossing for school children, pedestrians and transit riders) and the current lack of seating, shade, trash receptacles and signage.
Support was expressed at the meeting for the ways in which the NELAart Second Saturday Gallery Night has brought new visitors to the boulevard and for the presence of artists and arts venues in the neighborhood.
There is also particular interest in projects that will “knit” together the six-block project area as a community.
Long-time Highland Park Chamber of Commerce member and boulevard business person Doug Brown asked that project participants honor two long-established goals of the chamber—to dub the immediate area “York Village” and “to keep York Boulevard a nice place to be.”
New businesses continue to make their homes on York Boulevard. Huizar honored Awesome Playground and SoCal Mixed Martial Arts at the meeting.


froby said...

That is a very lively stretch of retail. I would like to see some of the horrid plastic signage removed from some of the buildings, perhaps have an incentive for doing so?

Perhaps some new trees and changes in the sidewalks, brick crosswalks? Or some kind of cool looking crosswalks?

Southpaw said...

I too would like to see the store fronts cleaned up. Do not like the art work on these mama/papa stores. Just makes them look cheap, and brings the other stores down that look clean. Would be nice to see York cleaned up.
Would be nice to have are two lanes back on york bl.!!!!!

Unknown said...

I've lived in Highland Park for almost 40 years and I am so excited to see the changes in this area. The community deserves cool shops and eateries, lively music and art just as those people who live in Eagle Rock, Silver Lake and S. Pas. We must make efforts to limit the amount of liquor stores in residential areas, keep store fronts consistent in form, offer outside "cafe" like seating.
Also, what if York Blvd. had only two lanes and parking was changed to slanted slots instead of parallel. It would force traffic to slow its pace which in turn would allow drivers to "window shop" and encourage a return visit to stop by. I myself haven't seen all the new shops, partly because I'm driving to fast to read the signs!!