A Test Drive for Mar Vista’s Future
It’s no coincidence that Venice Boulevard is a hub for Sunday’s CicLAvia
By Joe Piasecki
The tens of thousands of bicyclists expected to trek Sunday’s CicLAvia route from Culver City to Venice will have to get off and walk it for a stretch in Mar Vista, and that’s no arbitrary decree — it’s a proving ground for changes to come.
The CicLAvia hub between Centinela Avenue and the popular Mar Vista Farmers Market at Grand View Boulevard is also ground zero for the Westside launch of the city’s Great Streets Initiative, an effort to revitalize heavily traveled streets as neighborhood gathering places.
“We’re creating a temporary intervention of things that echo the Great Streets Movement — a little parklet, sidewalk furniture, more places for people to eat outside local restaurants, more bicycle racks and other things to enliven the area and show the potential for Venice Boulevard as a Great Street,” CicLAvia Executive Director Aaron Paley said.
It’s a timely experiment.
This Thursday, Aug. 6, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin will unveil Great Streets concept-in-progress plans and solicit public feedback during a community meeting at the Coffee Connection on Centinela Avenue.
A culmination of stakeholder surveys, public workshops and door-to-door walks by Bonin and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Great Streets concept for Mar Vista imagines, among other possible changes, more frequent and accessible pedestrian crossings, increased gathering spaces and enhanced bikeways, said Bonin spokesman David Graham-Caso.
Though subject to another round of public dialogue, gradual implementation of the Great Streets plan could start within the next couple of months, Graham-Caso said.
The slice of Venice Boulevard near Grand View has already undergone significant changes. The remodeled Grand View Market has recast itself as a neighborhood café hosting open mic nights on Wednesdays and Fridays. The bustling exposed-wood outdoor dining patio shared by the Venice Grind Coffeehouse and Earl’s Mar Vista restaurant could hold its own on trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard. And on Sundays the eclectic Mar Vista Farmers Market is packed.
Sarah Auerswald, head of the recently chartered Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce, credits the farmers market — a CicLAvia-like activation of public space each Sunday — with sowing the seeds of economic rejuvenation.
“The farmers market became this place where community meetings could happen or people could gather and just hang out. It was a way to connect,” Auerswald said. “It’s played a critical role in changing perceptions about Mar Vista, making people want to come here, to live here, to shop here and open businesses here.”
Not coincidentally, the Mar Vista Farmers Market will celebrate its ninth anniversary during CicLAvia with country fair-themed activities that include an egg toss, pie-baking and corn-shucking contests and live music by country-bluegrass band I See Hawks in L.A.
Last week Garcetti awarded the Mar Vista Chamber a $10,000 Great Street Challenge Grant to produce a Small Business Saturday festival on Nov. 28, with the promise of matching up to $10,000 in additional fundraising. During that event the chamber will facilitate a community art project and test-run protected bike lanes along Venice Boulevard by temporarily blocking off the parking lanes with planter boxes.
“The Great Streets Initiative is more than a tremendous opportunity to transform downtown Mar Vista — it is a tremendous opportunity to engage our neighbors in creating the community you want to see,” Bonin said.
The Great Streets concept unveiling happens from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6, at the Coffee Connection, 3838 Centinela Ave. Call (310) 575-8461 for information.
The Mar Vista Farmers Market’s “Birthdaypalooza” runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9. See marvistafarmersmarket.org.
Read more about the chamber’s Small Business Saturday festival at the crowdfunding site ioby.org.