Take part in the transformation of Venice Boulevard at Sunday’s Mar Vista Farmers Market

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, left, walks Venice Boulevard with Mayor Eric Garcetti to promote the Great Streets initiative Photo by Ted Soqui

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, left, walks Venice Boulevard with Mayor Eric Garcetti to promote the Great Streets initiative
Photo by Ted Soqui

By L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin

On Jan.10, Mayor Eric Garcetti and I walked door-to-door in Mar Vista promoting our Jan. 25 neighborhood open house about how to transform Venice Boulevard into one of LA’s “Great Streets.”

One of the most frequent questions we heard was “What are your plans?”

I’ll let you in on a secret: We don’t have any, and that’s the point.

To figure out how to make Venice Boulevard a truly Great Street, we need — as I like to say — to “put neighborhoods first.” That means the vision needs to come from you — not from bureaucrats, not from consultants, not even from elected officials.

What makes the Mar Vista stretch of Venice Boulevard special to you? What do you want to see more of? What would you like to see happen on or with the street? We want to know.

A Great Street is generally one that anchors a neighborhood, gives it life and a sense of identity, and serves as a common gathering place. It is a place where people can meet and spend time with friends and family and experience the character of their neighborhood.

In the past several years, Venice Boulevard has started its transformation into Mar Vista’s downtown “place to be.”

The area is home to an emerging and increasingly vibrant business district that features many mom-and-pop shops. It has the feel of a small town’s Main Street, with locally owned markets, restaurants, barbershops, dry cleaners, a post office and a library. It has an eclectic mix of the vintage (an old book store, an antiques shop, a record store, a thrift store and a costume shop) and the modern (hip coffee shops, art studios, tattoo shops, furniture stores, bike stores and even a dog bakery). It has wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, nearby residential neighborhoods and a genuine town square area with a popular farmers market every Sunday.

This is a perfect place for Mayor Garcetti’s signature Great Streets initiative, and it was my top recommendation when the mayor asked where I thought Council District 11’s first Great Street should be.

As we walked door-to-door last weekend, people were bubbling with suggestions: more neighborhood-serving mom-and-pop restaurants, shade trees, crosswalk upgrades, mid-block crossings, fresh paving, new signage, sidewalk dining tables, pocket parks, public art, bike corrals and bike lanes, decorative markers and street lamps, trash and recycling and composting bins, a wider and more actively used median, more landscaping, drought-tolerant vegetation, sustainable design features, and elements that identify and brand Mar Vista. These are all great ideas, but we want to hear even more, and that’s where you come in.

As Mayor Garcetti told The Argonaut in September, Great Streets is about “smart choices, dynamic strategic points on a street that will have a larger effect on the overall neighborhood and its vibrancy. Small things make a big difference that collectively inspires a full-scale makeover — inspiration for people to have a sense of place and want to spend time there.”

I agree with him, but this isn’t about what we think. It is about what you
want for your neighborhood.

What are your ideas?

What is your dream for your downtown?

We need to hear from you, and a great way to voice your opinion is to attend the upcoming Great Streets Open House anytime from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25, at Venice Boulevard and Grand View — right across the street from the Mar Vista Farmers Market.

There is no set program for the open house, and you can show up any time you’d like. The format will be interactive. City officials will be there to listen, not to talk.

Please help spread the word. Tell your neighbors. Ask your friends at church, the next sports league game or PTA meeting what they think and pass along this invitation to the open house. Bring your kids, too. We want to know what everyone — including kids of all ages — thinks makes a safe, fun street.

If you can’t attend on Sunday, that’s okay — there are a number of other ways you can tell us what you think. You can fill out an online survey at 11thdistrict.com/great_streets_survey to share your ideas, you can stop by the Mar Vista Community Council tent at the Farmers Market any Sunday, you can contact the new Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce (marvistachamber.com), or you can email my office at len.nguyen@lacity.org (include the subject “GREAT STREETS” in your email) to share your ideas. We will also be having more public workshops, which you will be notified about in The Argonaut once they are scheduled.

When Mayor Garcetti took office, he said he wanted Los Angeles to “get back to basics,” and I have repeatedly said that my top priority is “putting neighborhoods first.” The mayor’s Great Streets initiative is the bridge between these two foundational priorities. We are asking for your help to build upon that foundation and make the heart of downtown Mar Vista a truly Great Street.