Del Rey works to amplify community identity through Great Streets grant

By Gary Walker

A new crosswalk at Centinela and Greene is part of Del Rey’s plan for its Great Streets grant

Del Rey is now the second Los Angeles neighborhood west of the 405 Freeway to win a city Great Streets designation, offering locals a chance to strengthen community identity while making improvements to Del Rey’s commercial center.

The honor comes with a $500,000 city grant to beautify and make pedestrian-friendly upgrades, as recommended by Del Rey residents and local business owners, to a six-block stretch of Centinela Avenue between Short Avenue (near Casa Sanchez) to Braddock Drive (near Centinela Café).

Great Streets is a special initiative of the mayor’s office to revitalize neighborhood centers along major transportation corridors as community gathering places where people get out of their cars to patronize local businesses, participate in community events and mingle with neighbors while traveling on foot, by bike or via public transportation. Other communities have utilized Great Streets funding to make landscaping improvements, expand outdoor dining, create tiny open spaces called parklets, and implement traffic-calming measures to encourage foot traffic.

Mar Vista’s transformation into a Great Street included a highly controversial road diet that created protected bike lanes by reducing traffic flow along Venice Boulevard, but don’t expect to see that happening in Del Rey, community organizers say.

After a year-long local outreach effort, the Heart of Del Rey Committee feels they’ve found broad consensus to install at least one highly visible crosswalk joining residential and commercial areas and to plant more trees along Centinela.

“There was a fear that we would try and put in parklets and a bike lane on Centinela. We found that this [outreach effort] calmed a lot of those fears,” said Ron Kato, executive director of MOA Wellness Center (near Centinela and Short) and a member of the Heart of Del Rey Committee. “We learned from some of the things that happened [in Mar Vista] and really looked at trying not to repeat certain aspects of things that didn’t go over well there.”

Through a series of community engagement activities that included a December block party, committee members learned that installing a new crosswalk at Greene Avenue and Centinela is a top priority for both residents and business owners.

That crosswalk has long been on Sachi Hartley’s wish list. She owns the SachiLA coffee shop on Centinela near Greene and loyal clientele often arrive by foot from nearby homes.

“We get a lot of pedestrian business, and the crosswalks will make it a lot safer for people to cross the street,” said Hartley, who lives in Del Rey. “I think that will bring more people out on the street and make Centinela more vibrant.”

Del Rey’s campaign for Great Street status was first and foremost about making the neighborhood work better for locals, says Kato.

“Our goal is to make people in this community proud to know that you live in Del Rey,” said Kato, who recalls a swelling of community pride when the late L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl installed neighborhood identification signs on Centinela as well as Inglewood and Culver Boulevards.

“We’re not trying to create a situation like an Abbot Kinney Boulevard that draws people from all over the city,” Kate explained. “It’s more about building up our community.”