create / 2014

Historic district boulevard beautification restoration & economic development and empowerment

Historic district boulevard beautification restoration & economic development and empowerment

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by 3Boulevards and West Adams Heritage Assocation (WAHA)

Beautification of building facades, planting of street trees & street landscaping, general enhancement of the ambient environment


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Beautification of building facades, planting of street trees & street landscaping, general enhancement of the ambient environment

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • Connector for the West Side to Downtown LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

When originally built the 3 boulevards served the needs of the residents in what was then the premier neighborhood of the movers and shakers of late 19th and early 20th century LA. While many of the historic and diverse homes and apartments in the neighborhood are being lovingly restored, the same cannot be said for the commercial enterprises on these key boulevards. We want to revitalize the commercial nature of the boulevards by attracting new types of businesses to better serve the needs of the residents. We want to create a neighborhood-serving commercial zone that is pedestrian friendly and easily accessible to local residents in one of the most diverse and dynamic communities in Los Angeles.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

The project is going to be a grass roots effort of volunteers and stakeholders who are residents, business operators and property owners in the neighborhood. It will be a collaboration of residents, artists, merchants and owners who share a common vision of an improved and better neighborhood. It will be a bottom up effort to get individuals to take action to improve their properties and to own the improvements. It will rely on sweat equity and donations to plant trees, renovate or install street landscaping, paint buildings and beautify signage to provide an esthetically pleasing environment that serves the needs of the adjacent residents.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

The current businesses do not reflect the diversity of the current residents and serve only a narrow spectrum of the population. There is ample space available to provide incubator space at affordable rents and to broaden the offering of services, provide creative spaces for artists and vary the types of businesses present. This is the critical combination necessary to create dynamic and attractive city environments as described by Jane Jacobs in her landmark book “The life and death of great American cities”. The objective is not to “gentrify” the neighborhood by displacing current residents and merchants but to enhance what is already here by using vacant or underutilized commercial space and vacant properties to expand services and the types of economic activities and employment opportunities currently available in order to reflect the diversity of the residents to its fullest extent.

Whom will your project benefit?

The residents, both current and future, will benefit from the greater diversity and beauty of these key corridors that are adjacent to downtown LA and serve as connectors to the West Side. It will enhance and expand revitalization efforts occurring in downtown, South Park and La Brea Ave. Greater presence of people and foot traffic also enhances safety and the sense of community of the residents. The City of LA will benefit as the volunteers will perform many of the services the City can no longer afford to provide at adequate service levels and will result in a better tax base for the City as well. It will also provide more employment opportunities for residents and greater incomes for the merchants. We also expect to enhance the cultural offerings of the neighborhood with the attraction of additional artists and artisans to the neighborhood.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

There are a number of organizations and individuals currently active in the types of endeavors we intend to foster as a grassroots incubator and provider of information, talent and support for the improvement efforts. The West Adams Heritage Association has been active in the area for 30+ years, we have a very strong neighborhood council presence in the community and many individuals are already sponsoring and/or paying out of their own pocket for key preservation, restoration and revitalization activities. The idea of our organization is to bring all of these groups together who have until now not acted in concert. In particular there has not been a conscious and organized effort to reach out to merchants and the owners of the properties. Most revitalization and restoration efforts have focused on the residential aspects of the neighborhood and have not forged the critical link to the business community and commercial property owners, both groups whom we intend to integrate into these projects. As a grassroots effort, we intend to rely on the sweat equity of those in the community. This is to be a bottoms-up effort that will gain momentum from actions taken by others that will inspire new efforts by others. We want the participants to “own” the improvements and to inspire others to do their small part that will make an enormous contribution to the community.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Jobs per capita
  • Minority- and women-owned firms
  • Gini coefficient
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Unemployment rates (and opportunities) for the formerly incarcerated (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

By empowering current residents and businesses, expanding the range and types of business, attracting new incubator activities and artistic endeavors, the economic prosperity of the area will improve. Currently, residents spend a great portion of their discretionary income in other areas of the City due to a lack of local business that serve the resident’s needs. By diversification and expansion of the businesses, we will create more jobs, more employment and more economic prosperity for residents, artists and merchants alike. We are already one of the most ethnically and age diverse communities in the City and this diversity will be a foundation stone in making the community one of the most desirable in the City.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

1) More street trees planted and enhanced landscaping, 2) buildings painted/spruced up to enhance visual appeal and 3) increase in the number of merchants, artists and incubator spaces locating in the community. We will use our site to acknowledge the efforts of individuals in these areas and to give them kudos for their efforts. We will visually document progress with before and after photos and/or videos.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1) Top-down efforts have not worked. If the ideas and efforts do not percolate from the bottom up they will not get any traction. 2) Reform/revitalization by committee does not work. Individuals will take on these improvements and “own” them. What we want to inspire are activities that are small scale, manageable and that do not require permitting and/or lengthy approval processes.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

We have already been canvassing merchants in the community and they have expressed enthusiasm and support. Many have already started improvement projects and individual residents have adopted trees, parkways and other areas, preserving and improving the plantings and enhancing the ambiance of the area. We will intensify and expand these activities.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1) There will be a fair number of individuals who will not want to take action initially. Our strategy is to identify blocks with a critical mass of interested individuals, who will make the improvements and inspire others by the success of their efforts. 2) Cost will be a limiting factor for many. We intend to disseminate information on where trees can be obtained for free or at low cost, find local nurseries who will sell plants at discounts, artists, landscapers and consultants who will provide services pro bono or at affordable cost and to solicit donations from sponsors to pay for materials. Sweat equity will be the basis of the painting and planting and maintenance activities necessary to implement the improvements.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach