Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin spread the word about the Great Streets renovation of Venice Boulevard
By Gary Walker
In an effort to drum up public participation in one of his administration’s signature neighborhood revitalization projects, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti went knocking on doors Saturday along Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista to spread the word about his Great Streets initiative.
Great Streets is a citywide effort to revitalize key neighborhood corridors as pedestrian- and small business-friendly public gathering places through infrastructure upgrades and community networking. Garcetti and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin have chosen the 0.8-mile stretch of Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard as the Westside pilot project for the program.
Despite light but steady rain, Garcetti and Bonin spent the better part of two hours visiting businesses along Venice to invite workers, shoppers and residents to an information session about the project to be held Jan. 25 at the Mar Vista Farmers Market.
After gathering for coffee inside L.A. City Fire Station 62 at Venice and Inglewood, more than 100 volunteers organized by the mayor and councilman fanned out to distribute a survey asking what locals appreciate about Venice Boulevard and would like to see happen through the Great Streets program.
Garcetti joked that his office had arranged for the rain — “It’s part of my drought strategy,” he said — before honing in on the need to hear directly from the community before deploying resources to bring a collaborative vision into fruition.
“We’ve always said the answers were on the street and not in City Hall, and this is proof of that. I get to hear directly about the trash in the alleyways, traffic that’s too fast and ideas for new outdoor seating, and I get a sense of the texture of the new Mar Vista. The Great Streets initiative is all about accessibility and visibility. But it’s also about listening and making sure we hear from businesses and from the community,” Garcetti said during his walking tour.
Bonin, a close ally of Garcetti who represents Mar Vista on the council, reiterated that the initiative would fail without input from residents and businesses.
“We will not succeed with the Great Streets initiative if this becomes a government-led project. The mayor and I both come from backgrounds and perspectives of community organizing, so we know how crucial it is to talk to the neighbors and all of the stakeholders so they can take ownership of what they want their neighborhoods to look like,” Bonin said.
Patricia Knowles, owner of the Tattoo Lounge on Venice, wasn’t very familiar with Great Streets until Garcetti and Bonin came knocking, but she’s now interested in advocating for expanded bicycle lanes.
“Sometimes you step out of the door here and you almost get hit by a bike. They fly up and down on the sidewalk and people can really get hurt,” she said. “It’s a matter of safety.”
Garcetti’s bilingualism helped when he visited Celeste’s Tailors, where he explained Great Streets to two Spanish-speaking employees.
One of about 15 Mar Vista residents who walked alongside Garcetti and Bonin, Rachel Swanger said she is excited about the initiative. When she moved to the area in 1994, “I wanted to live in a place where on the weekends I didn’t have to get in my car and I could walk to the grocery store, the library and the post office,” she said. “Any- thing that encourages more people to walk would be great.”
Garcetti linked the Great Streets initiative to a rebirth of community pride.
“I think Los Angeles is experiencing a renaissance that I haven’t felt since I was kid — a renaissance about reclaiming this city one village at a time. And the energies that have always defined L.A. are becoming a little more focused,” Garcetti said. “We can’t do everything everywhere, but with urban acupuncture [like Great Streets] we can inspire greater health for the body of the entire city.”
The open house takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Mar Vista Farmers Market, 3826 Grand View Blvd., Mar Vista. Call (310) 575-8461 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.