Take Back The Boulevard

Eagle Rock, CA

Take Back the Boulevard Update – September 23, 2012

As previously reported, requests for various cross walk improvements have been submitted to the DOT by the Council Office. Efforts to get an update on the status of those requests continue.

The Master Vision Plan document, which will articulate an overall vision for the future Colorado Boulevard, and provide a framework for moving forward with various improvements, is still in the process of being developed. We revisited the approach for developing this important document. I feel that the changes we incorporated will make it a stronger and more effective document.

Friday, September 22 was national Park(ing) Day. Take Back the Boulevard sponsored a demonstration parklet on Colorado Boulevard. This will be more fully report in the next status update.

The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council approved our request for $4,900 in assistance for the 2012 – 2013 time frame. However, questions were posed regarding the validity of some supportive council members’ votes. Neighborhood Councils must adhere to city-wide rules when voting to provide financial assistance. In the broadest interpretation of the rules, since TERA is involved with Take Back the Boulevard (Financial Administrator), anyone who is a TERA member and a member of the Neighborhood Council could not vote on any TERA related financial matter that comes before the Neighborhood Council. For instance, the council president, Michael Larsen, is a TERA member. The logical intent of the guideline is to not allow an individual to vote on something in which they have the potential to receive a financial gain. That certainly makes sense. None of the questionable voters will receive any financial benefit from a grant from the Neighborhood Council that is to be used totally by Take Back the Boulevard. The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council President, Michael Larsen, is seeking guidance from the City Attorney’s Office.

In the near future we will begin the process of applying for grants. There are many factors that determine the winning applicants. One of the qualities that makes a grant application stronger is for the grant reviewers to note that the grant application includes a well-defined, easily understood vision of how the grant funds would be used. We are fortunate that a very skilled graphic artist has offered his services pro-bono and will soon begin creating photograph mock-ups of how the Boulevard might look once various improvements are implemented.

On another note, the Glendale City Council recently approved a plan that calls for roughly $5.8 million in bicycle improvements. This will add about 40 miles of bike lanes and routes, doubling the amount the city of Glendale currently has.
The City Council’s support for streetscape improvements throughout the city was recently publicized. The first projects include four new pilot parklets. Parklets are selected areas of the sidewalk made wider for street furniture, plants, bike racks, etc. They make for an improved pedestrian experience and have a traffic calming effect. Two of the new parklets are located on Spring Street downtown, another in Highland Park (York) and the last in El Sereno. With the announcement of these new parklets councilmember José Huizar remarked “I am thrilled that all four of these pilot parklets are in Council District 14.” It’s great to see more evidence of the city embracing the streetscape improvement message that Take Back the Boulevard has been putting out for over a year. However, it is reasonable to ask, with these parklets now planned for elsewhere in CD14, what happened to Eagle Rock?

Healthy income levels are typically a blessing. In this case it is both a curse and a blessing. Government led efforts to reinvigorate neighborhoods typically focus on neighborhoods with lower income and typically with the greatest need. Although the potential for Colorado Boulevard to be improved is huge, the need for streetscape improvements in the other areas of CD14 is probably more urgent. It is true that the average household income in Eagle Rock is higher than in Highland Park, downtown and El Sereno. The higher average income level in our community was an issue that precluded support when we initially approached agencies whose mission is to provide support for neighborhood improvement efforts.

Usually being proactive is a good thing, but may be of mixed benefit in this case. More than once José Huizar has pointed out that while in other areas of CD14 the council office often takes the lead in community mobilization, Eagle Rock distinguishes itself in being proactive in initiating efforts on behalf of the community. Take Back the Boulevard was born based on a community led initiative. Although the Council Office has been a strong and supportive partner in Eagle Rock’s Colorado Boulevard improvement campaign, the degree of involvement from the office has been in a supportive rather than a leadership position. The flip side is that had we not been proactive, given the comparatively healthy economics of Eagle Rock, there would probably be no active effort to improve Colorado Boulevard in existence today.

Timing is everything. Take Back the Boulevard began community meetings in August, 2011. Using York Ave. as an example, in 2006 a road diet was implemented on York. A bike corral was installed in 2010. Community meetings for the parklets began in January, 2011. Based on that initial success, the Council Office provided $100,000 to support the installation of a parklet and more. In retrospect, Take Back the Boulevard is a relatively “young” community initiative as compared to the efforts that resulted in the four pilot parklets.

Eagle Rock will get its parklets, and more. Not as soon as I wished, but in good time. Take Back the Boulevard is moving forward, following a typical life-cycle for similar initiatives.

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