Echo ParkÖa nice place to be?

echopark.JPG With the sun out, the reflection of the blue sky turning the dirty water of the lake an acceptable shade of aqua, and a fair number of young families feeding the ducks at lake’s edge, for a few hours today, Echo Park was a place I would actually consider spending some time.

Living a block from the park, it’s easy to take a quick jaunt around the lake and I frequently do, but I have never, and rarely ever even consider stopping to enjoy the place. Truth be told, there isn’t that much to enjoy. That’s why today was so surprising. Maybe it was the mild temperature, maybe the fact that maintenance workers were in the process of dressing up the grassy knolls and picking up fallen palm fronds. Whatever it was, the place suddenly had so much potential.

So with favorable perspective, I picked out the specific individual characteristics of the park that combine to typically make it an unpleasant place to be and went back and snapped a few photos. In this neighborhood with it’s ambitious squads of graffiti artists, fixing these unsightly aspects and keeping them fixed would require tireless diligence, but I think the neighborhood is evolving into a community that could devote such diligence. All it takes is a somewhere to start.

What follows the jump is a photo essay of the park’s unsightly elements and ideas to fix them.

averageparktrashcan.JPGThis is an average garbage can in Echo Park. Two things strike me: 1) it’s tagged, 2) even if it weren’t tagged, it would still be ugly. Why not replace these steel drums with wire cans like Metro uses. Those receptacles are inherently more attractive and offer the added benefit of no solid surfaces on which to paint. Kill two birds with one stone.

uglybuoys.JPG This is one of two sets of buoys in the lake. This one is in worse shape than the other, but both could use replacement. The nice thing about replacing these is, new one’s will last a while. Until the paddleboats come back, no one can get out there to deface them. These beat up things are a constant subconscious reminder of how beat down the park is.

graffedbuildingclose.JPGgraffedbuilding.JPGTo me, these photos are final and definitive proof that tagging is not a respectable art form. Most park visitors probably have never realized the beautiful mural underneath the obnoxious vandalism (if you destroy another piece of art, it’s undeniably vandalism). I was surprised to discover it myself. It’s a shame that anyone would “go over” something so good.

whythefence.JPG This is the most confusing park addition because it’s obviously been put there by Parks and Rec. Why does the southeast corner of the lake have an ugly chain link fence around it? To keep people from jumping in? To keep runaway cars exiting the freeway from careening into the water? The rest of the lake is unfenced. Why here? It’s ugly and subconsciously paternalistic and should be removed to preserve the parks integrity.

trashedpumphouse1.JPG I assume that this structure houses some sort of pump or filtration system. Whatever is in there, it sucks in all the trash that floats in the lake. A “screen” of poles protects the grate from a lot of detritus, but obviously a lot gets through. Don’t the maintenance people clean this? If not, why not? It’s horrible, unsightly, and effectively destroys any charm the northeast corner of the park has. Here’s a reverse angle of the structure. This side is accessible from dry land. Perhaps it’s the excessive rain that caused everything to wash into this one corner, but from past observation, it’s never been clean. Who’d want o clean it? It’s the most natural homeless toilet in the park. Fence it off.

taggedbox.JPG Just one example of the widespread tagging in the park. Every available surface bears a tag. Picnic tables, trashcans, park benches, water fountains…everything. Who is responsible for painting over these tags? Here’s a nice one right next to the playground. Awesome.

parkbench.JPGThis is an average park bench on the east side of the lake. The benches on the west side are a more attractive design and are better maintained. A quick paintjob would improve the appearance and functionality of this bench ten-fold. Who is supposed to paint these things?

So now that I’ve made Echo Park look like a place no one would ever want to visit, I’m going to try to get all this fixed. Hopefully Councilman Garcetti will read this post. Hopefully someone at Parks and Rec will be responsive. I know there are higher priorities than beautification, but when you’ve got a park space with as much potential as Echo Park, why not put a little extra effort in to make it everything it could be?

19 Replies to “Echo ParkÖa nice place to be?”

  1. Funnily enough, I just have read it. Great post and good ideas. Let me suggest at the outset that you join the Park Advisory Committee, which regularly takes up issues like those that you have raised, and which is comprised of folks from the neighborhood. You can check out the next meeting on my community calendar at http://www.cd13.com I believe that they are generally on the first Tuesday of the month at the rec center at 7PM.

    I’m just surfing through and don’t have time to respond to everything right now, but here are a few quick answers. For the rest, please give Mitch O’Farrell, my deputy for Echo Park a call tomorrow at 323 913 4693.

    On the graffiti, we recently got Rec and Parks to allow our community groups that contract with the city to paint out graffiti (in our area, it is the Central City Action Committee, which is based out of the old Fire Station on Bellevue next to the freeway) to paint out graffiti in the park (or remove it from murals, etc.) In the past, only Rec and Parks workers could do the painting out, so it took longer than the city contracted crews could do it (Rec and Parks has been hit with pretty large cutbacks in the midst of expanded facilities and new parks, so they are generally quite under-staffed). We’d love for you to become a block captain for UNTAG (Uniting Neighborhoods to Abolish Graffiti), and call any tags that you see in the park to our office for expedited service. This program is also accessible one click from the home page at http://www.cd13.com We have reduced graffiti by about 30 percent after a year; our goal is to get to 50 percent by the end of the year and this program is expanding citywide it has been so successful here locally.

    Second, the filter (and I assume the fence is ther for this reason) on the north end separates the water that the county is responsible for and the rest of the lake, which is the city’s reponsibility. I believe that that area is the most dangerous in the lake and that’s where water moves through from the lake. We have been working on water quality for the last two years after high levels of bacteria (and trash) were found in the lake and all recent testing shows that the water is much much healthier now than two years ago, when Jessica Cortez was thought to have fallen in the water. The island in the middle of the lake acts as a water filter as well.

    Trash cans sound like a good idea. We can look into the logistics, costs, etc.

    After three years of assembling the funding little by little, we are doing a major repair of the boathouse and docks, which both were in critical need of improvements. Construction is underway as we speak.

    Sorry you haven’t found much to enjoy with the lake. The lake and park has regular and loyal fans, from the Park Advisory Board to Los Tiburones (the fishing club that works with local kids) to the regular joggers, the checkers and chess players, hand-holders, and of course the once or twice a year visitors who come during the Lotus Festival or the Cuban Festival. I think it is one of the most beautiful spots in Los Angeles, whether on the banks, in a boat, sitting by the Lady of the Lake, hanging by the Jose Marti monument, watching painters by the lotuses or just passing through. But there is plenty more that we want to do to make it even more beautiful and hope we can get you further involved. Again, great post and thanks for the suggestions. Give Mitch a call and he can give you an idea of what is possible to do working with the Park Advisory Board.

    Eric Garcetti
    P.S. The Rec Center, across the street, has been funded for major renovations as well, which will bring back the now-defunct basement.

  2. Go Eric!

    The model of getting local communities involved in upgrading parks is one that has worked very well in several cities where I’ve lived. I’m glad to see it underway here. If neighborhood groups get on the case, it raises the profile of the issues for everyone, and makes it easier both for the community to engage the city, and for the city to work with the community. Hopefully, once the changes are made, it also makes folks who live there take better care that things stay nice. Plus you get to know your actual neighbors — hey, that’s what a community is all about.

    As Eric’s post points out, sometimes the issues involved with these things are complicated and take time and politics to work through.

    In that spirit, may I suggest that the next time you’re ready to post a laundry list of complaints and suggestions, you take a minute to see if you can find out what’s already underway? I think it’s great that our city councilman is accessible enough to post here in a timely and thorough way, but if you’d taken the time to call his office first — or even googled the subject — he could have spent the time getting things done instead of playing defense to your post.

    I’m a big fan of blogging.la, but as a first-rank network of blogs, you guys have an opportunity to set a higher bar for bloggers as reporters and citizen journalists, rather than just opinionated gadflies.

  3. How about taking this blog and putting it into a Project Study Report format that would serve as basis for a future grant proposal. Its got everything one would need except more specific solutions and their cost.

  4. Hey…I just think it’s great that someone takes the time to check out the problems and think about solutions!!!!
    It’s what community is all about. High five to both Matt & Eric G!!!!
    Eric, it’s super great to have a councilman so responsive in our area!!!

  5. Well that place looks like a real shit hole. Perhaps they should set fire to it and then star anew.

  6. Eric Garcetti? Like holy moly and stuff… tres cool!
    —-

    For three years I lived directly overlooking the west side of the Echo Park lake. I was forced to move from my beautiful home when I came home one afternoon to find several bullets had pierced my front window for the second time. From the trajectory of the bullet I found in my wall, I could only assume the shooter stood somewhere near the lake.

    True, the park itself does has it’s positive points- The Lotus Festival is a wonderful neighborhood celebration. But, unfortunately., that is one weekend of the year. I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending anyone hanging out in or around the park ANY DAY after 5pm.

    As for the graffiti. Tagging and graffiti are very much related, but not one and the same. As a former graffiti muralist, I can say that all the tagging you posted on your site appears to be the work of local gang members and “wanna be’s.” This is not the work of graffiti artists. Please try to understand that while you might not be able to discern the difference yourself, that there is a difference between the works of these two communities. A real graffiti artist would never deface another artists work.

  7. i agree with sally from the valley. just burn the whole damn place down. i mean, really, how do people even LIVE in echo park what with all the unsightly fences and graffitti? god, what was i thinking leaving the west end? i’m amazed i don’t get SHOT walking to rodeo grill for dinner. what a fucking shithole echo park is. all those dirty brown people that have been there for years and love their neighborhood park because of its communal and vibrant atmosphere are really beginning to cramp my “whitey mcwhitester complains a lot just moved here and start bitchin” lifestyle.

    if you’re afraid to walk around the park after 5pm because graffitti scares you, you’re living in the wrong neighborhood. seriously, get over it. this post is so ridiculous.

  8. I just couldn’t let “Kelly’s” flatulent ignorance be the last stank here for another second. It’s bad enough to TOTALLY MISS the point of Matt’s post, but where comprehension-challenged Kelly goes with it is a whole separate level of tardation that’s dumbfoundingly disturbing.

  9. what i find flatulently ignorant is this blog. stop gentrifying echo park! you don’t like the community as it is than leave…you’re not helping with your hipster notions of changing echo park to a better community. all you people do is complain and displace those who have made echo park their home much longer than this blog has been up!

  10. “Who paints those things?” “Who’d want to clean it?” “Who is responsible for painting over those tags?” you ask… I’ll tell you who: hard working community volunteers from the Dream Center, the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, and CD13, among others. If you are really concerned about unsightly graffiti, etc, why don’t you join them? And by the way, there is a fence at the south end of the lake because it’s the deep end, & it’s to prevent children from falling in and drowning.

  11. This blog had to be written by someone who hasn’t lived here very long or else how can you explain the misguided comment: “but I think the neighborhood is evolving into a community that could devote such diligence” to clean up. People in this community have been cleaning up this neighborhood for years. However, now that suburban white kids, like our “esteemed” councilmember Garcetti, are living here, the community is “evolving.”

    The community evolution you speak of is gentrification. That’s right. Move out the brown people and make room for white culture vultures . It sickens me that some people think the neighborhood is evolving because white people are moving in. That’s not a sign of evolution, it’s a sign of gentrification and white peoples’ ability to co-opt and profit from everything that is special about the Park and the community.

  12. If you can’t see the beauty and enjoy the park for what it is then get out!!! I spent my childhood playing in Echo Park and it has alsways done just fine for all the families that have made Echo park their community not their investment opportunity. Get out!!!

  13. Nice post, Ted. But what you need to realize is that Echo Park was once the Beverly Hills of NE Los Angeles. Check the history of Echo Park and Angelino Heights, this area used to be one of the most affluent neighborhoods back in the 20’s. It’s was built by the whitey’s (no doubt on the backs of the poor) and then abandoned after WWII.

    You can argue ’til you’re blue in the face about gentrification, but I doubt you’ll find any hispanic homeowners in Echo Park who aren’t ecstatic about whats happened (and is still happening) to the Echo Park area.

    Anyone who is truly a resident of Echo Park appreciates the rise in home prices and the drive to change things for the better. It’s the haters that have been renting for the past 10-20 years that are complaining about gentrification and acting like the own the place.

    When I bought my house in Echo Park, my realtor said that 10 years ago, I could have bought the same house for $60K. I say to those who have been renting for a long time, you had your chance to buy a cheap house in the Park and you blew it! Don’t hate on those who took the plunge and bought!

    Truthfully, the renters are the real problem in Echo Park. The city needs to work on de-zoning the park so there aren’t 7 people living in one apartment.

  14. matt my name is dan hammett i am the new director here at the echo park recreation center please feel free to call me if i can help answer any of your questions the park phone number is 213-250-3578

  15. After living in Echo Park since 1977, I have seen alota changes through the years, to make a better quality of life for the people who truely LOVE ECHO PARK, sorry it’s to BROWM for ya 35mmlife, take your whitebread ass back to the westside, we don’t need you here, as for the park, it’s the last stronghold of the Latino community, and guess what, I’m not scared to walk in it after dark. Gentification displaced hundreds of brown famlies, what we have now is CLASSISM! You whitebread newbies are pissed cause no one told you when you bought your low priced home in E.P you had a gang problem, or lots of minority faces,graffitti, oh my God Becky, what a rude awaking, you must have felt pissed off. It wasn’t the bill of goods told/sold to you, Ideal homes, lovely park, the Lotus flowers,the hills, duhhhh,you didn’t do your home buying research! Your either part of the problem or part of the solution, I can be an uppity bitch but why? to degrade a brown face because I want to ego trip? Try doing that in Watts my friend and see if they don’t do a Reginal Denny on your ass. Oh thats right, westsiders don’t condesend to go South side, your to scared. A lot has changed over the years, we moved on up to the hills of E.P drive a volvo stationwagon, oh so soccor mom of me, the only folks I have had problems with are you Snotty, Eyerolling, Lip Smacking, Saliva Spitting, Red-face,Ego Tripping White Culture Vultures (thanks to GYPXIE for that one) or W.C.V’s for short. I love Echo Park. All you haters can just pack up, moveback from where ever it is you came from. White- bread or wheat, I’ll take the wheat bread, it’s brown. For a differnt point of view go to Echo_Park_90026 @ yahoogroups.com

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