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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Taking the Bars Off West L.A. Park

While working and waiting along with the rest of Los Angeles for the Westside subway, I needed something to keep me busy. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, and let’s face it, no one really knows how long it will take the federal government and Wall Street to help us help ourselves with a $13 billion public transportation financing package.

And there it was, Ohio and Bundy Triangle Park. Who from the Westside hasn’t passed the closed park at Bundy Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard a million times and wondered why such an area in an open space-starved part of West Los Angeles is behind a locked fence rather than filled with families, retirees and office workers enjoying an al fresco lunch?

This bit of green isn’t off in one of the region’s business wastelands void of meaningful investment. This is West Los Angeles, where a padlock keeps open space unopened across the street from a thriving Starbucks. Demonstrating the area’s potential, at most times the Starbucks shop’s baristas are backed up filling orders for a crowd of caffeine-addled screenwriters, agents, lawyers, contractors, students and other area residents tapping away on their iPhones, iPads and BlackBerries.

With a half-dozen Metro and Big Blue Bus lines passing by on both Bundy and Santa Monica, those in the neighborhood are as likely to have arrived by bus, bike or foot as by car.

In this cash-strapped city, why on Earth would anyone care a whit about a little piece of green many of us fly by at 30 miles an hour? And what does all this have to do with business?

Everything. Just ask any successful real estate developer, including a certain likely Republican candidate for mayor, and he will tell you: Smart neighborhood development needs an anchor – a natural or man-made feature around which can be built a vision of community. It’s why when that fence went up 15 years ago and Bundy and Santa Monica lost its park, the area also lost its soul. After years on the skids, the area is showing signs of life and that it can again be a busy business hub amid a vibrant neighborhood. It’s why IHOP just opened a restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster, and a high-end gastropub à la Father’s Office is in the process of securing a liquor license.

About the modest cost of reopening the park, let’s remember that this isn’t another plea to the city to give us something that isn’t already ours. What’s more, since going public just a few weeks ago with my dream to see the park reopened, one generous business owner cum civic leader has already stepped up and pledged cash to help make the park a reality. The distinguished firm of AHBE Landscape Architects has also offered to help us envision what can be at the park.

In addition to others in a position to help out, we’re looking for an enterprising merchandizing or clothing company like American Apparel that recognizes the potential in T-shirts, hats and other swag with the phrase “Free Bundy Park.”

Of course, it won’t be all smooth sailing going forward. Given the ongoing problem of homelessness around the green space, the Los Angeles Police Department has legitimate concerns that in reopening the park it will become a magnet for those who live on the streets. (The park was closed about 15 years ago when a homeless person was killed there.) In addition, certainly not every business owner and area resident is crazy about my idea of giving West Los Angeles back what it rightfully deserves, a place to sit, read, enjoy the weather and take in the scene.

Safe and inviting

But just as sunlight is the best disinfectant, opening up the park is the best way to keep the area safe and inviting to the many young families and elderly in the area who have nowhere else to go. With the recent paving over of 21,000 square feet at the Stoner Recreation Center to create a skate park, reopening the Bundy-Santa Monica park to the public is a welcome chance to reverse the trend in the loss of green space in West Los Angeles.

Like CicLAvia, the highly successful biking and pedestrian street fiesta that many said would never happen in car-obsessed Los Angeles, the reopening of the park will occur because it makes sense in countless ways. Like the civic boosters with the vision to see L.A.’s streets as much more than just speedways or traffic-clogged arteries to our traffic-clogged freeways, those who are with me in supporting the park’s reopening recognize that community benefits such as open space go hand in hand with business vitality and a sense of community. The park is an asset that West Los Angeles can no longer afford to keep shuttered.

Just as Metro is proving there are more ways to get around Los Angeles than by oneself in a car, join us in demonstrating that the business community recognizes that community means open space as well as shops, parking and public safety.

Since the park already has mature trees, a lawn and benches, it shouldn’t take forever to make this vision a reality.

Joel Epstein is a communications and public affairs consultant focused on transportation, development and other urban issues.


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