Monday, March 20, 2006

Glendale Boulevard Dedication

My first week serving on the City Council, a little item known as the Glendale Boulevard Transportation Plan showed up on the council agenda. The project was envisioned to transform this section of Echo Park from a cut-through motor speedway into something better, more manageable, more environmentally friendly, and more aesthetically pleasing. But absolutely no one was happy with the version we had.

I called time out. "Let's send this back to the drawing board," I said.

It was the perfect opportunity to test out two of my hunches about public service that others might find contradictory: one, that empowering the public leads to people saying yes instead of no; two, that city bureaucrats are creative professionals whose talents are rarely recognized, and when given the opportunity and space to show what they can do, they'll surprise even the most skeptical community members or elected officials.

Five years later, Glendale Boulevard is a different street, and both of my hunches—and the initial vision of Viennese architect and UCLA grad student Silja Tillner—paid off.

My thanks go out to the community members who joined the Community Action Committee: Judy Raskin, John Clyatt, Pete Lassen, and Michael O’Brien. And an equally full-throated shout-out goes to the city officials who worked on the project, Bureau of Street Services director Bill Robertson and Department of Transportation Engineer Farhad Zaltash. They weren't alone, but they were true leaders and got the city to do things it didn't know how to do before.

Dozens of trees have been planted in the median and surrounding parkways; Community Action Committee member Michael O'Brien came up with a way to preserve many of the trees we had originall, instead of planting all news one. We put in decomposed granite along with drought tolerant plants and a new irrigation system.

We implemented a left turn arrow at Alvarado & Sunset, a crosswalk at Reservoir, a signal at Aaron Street, turn restrictions at various intersections and new crosswalks. The Alavarado light at Glendale got faster, going from five cycles to three cycles.

There's more to come: the 2 Freeway terminus into Glendale Boulevard remains an object of study. You can get involved with reshaping the way many people first see Echo Park by contacting my office.

And one more thing: in the picture below, Pete Lassen is wearing a medal commemorating 10 years of participating in the Los Angeles Marathon from a wheelchair. Congratulations, Pete!