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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Last Wish - A Great Civic Park

Great ParkWhen the Cultural Affairs Committee meets on Thursday, the voice of a late, local civic leader and activist is to be distributed to the members in attendance. The voice I refer to is that of Ira Yellin. His widow, Adele Yellin, has prepared a set of documents for the Committee laying out a vision for a great civic park across from City Hall, the current selected site of the new LAPD station. While I will be the first one to stand up and say we need a state of the art police station (and the man power to also staff it), we also need to think about the ramifications of this planning decision and how it will so drastically change the landscape of downtown. Let's hope she is at least shown respect, unlike others who have ventured into the hearing rooms of our city government, and people take the opportunity to hear her plea. As blogdowtown posted, the NC arts committee heard the presentation last evening, and it is at least worth exploring and hearing out.

To help her amplify that voice, I post the letter below:

Attention: Members of the Cultural Affairs Commission

On Monday of this week, I was informed that Thursday, Jan. 20 the Police Headquarters Project would be an agenda item before Cultural Affairs. Unfortunately, I am out of town for the weekend and cannot attend the meeting.

Please note my strong objection to the Police Headquarters Project on this site.

Let me explain. My late husband, Ira Yellin helped develop a downtown civic plan that included a public square as its center piece. He was committed to building Los Angeles’ sense of community.

Indeed, Ira was a proponent of a Civic Park, a public green space, opposite City Hall as proposed in the Diamond plan. He was certain that a Civic Square opposite City Hall was important as a gateway between the revitalizing Historic Core and the halls of city government. At the very end of his life (the last two weeks) he encouraged me and others to make sure the park was created. Ira envisioned the park as a central, gathering place for this city-without-a-center: a place to hold a city gathering for the New Year; a place to protest, a place to celebrate.

Moreover, Ira dreamed of instituting a program in the park similar to the summer program at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London. There, each year a famous contemporary architect builds a pavilion for the public to view. This program has been credited with educating the British public on the beauty and creativity of contemporary architecture. While a program such as this could be installed on any site in the city Ira felt this site at the heart of the city was the ideal location.

The problem: The city has decided to build a 500,000 sq. ft. building on the site to house the police headquarters. Parker Center is decrepit and I am committed to making sure the police have a state of the art building for their headquarters. In my view sitting the building on this land opposite City Hall is a planning mistake that will be with us into the next century. Not only does it become a physical barrier to the historic core, it is a psychic barrier as well. The message of a heavily fortified police headquarters opposite city hall and next to the LA Times will feel more like a government under siege rather than an open democracy where people can voice their support and/or their objections to one issue or another. I am convinced this is not the message Los Angeles wants to convey to the community and world.

There are a number of other locations that would be ideal for a new LAPD headquarters. The headquarters does not need to occupy the only natural site for a civic square and the gateway to downtown Los Angeles’ historic core. Let me be clear, the placement of the police headquarters building next to the new CalTrans building will create a wall, effectively blocking off the Civic Center from the revitalizing downtown.

I have tried to carry on Ira’s vision. To that end I enlisted the help of the J. Paul Getty Trust; they underwrote a design plan for civic square. I believe this park will make Los Angeles a stronger city. I am attaching the Civic Square concept developed by Campbell and Campbell last year. Look at the importance of this open space to anchor, and animate the area; this site is the hinge that connects the civic center with the historic core.

I urge you to object, indeed, to stop this unfortunate planning/building decision. Preserve this unique site for a Civic Park!
Should you wish additional materials on the park site I am happy to present them to your commission at a later date.

Thank you for your consideration of my views.

Best regards,
Adele Yellin


Anonymous Anonymous said:

I'd love to have a "great civic park" downtown. We definitely need more of a city center and sense of place over there. But the planning has to go a step beyond just having open space and sticking trees there.

You have to put commercial space around it where people will be walking. You have to put lots of parking there for the commercial, subterranean and free, because if people can't visit the attractions in the park without a hassle, they won't go there.

Commercial space has to be well-planned so there's diversity of use and representation from all parts of the City. Both rich and poor should want to go there. This means easy, readily available parking and mass transit availibility, and maybe something upscale to attract rich people on a regular basis--a museum or something (because it's not easy to get downtown from the Westside or Valley no matter what.)

All this would take, guess what, tens of millions of dollars. Tens of millions of dollars we don't have and would never spend. It's a shame, too, because it could be something really great. We'll never have a place like central park or hyde park--a true open space in the city center--without the political will and cash to do the planning that would make it actually work as intended.

January 19, 2005 10:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Sad to say but this 'great park' which is a great concept would within a short time turn into a 'great crime scene' and not for the studios either, but in real live. It would be a 'great park' for the homeless..........and it would be rarely used other than by the politicos at City Hall, who have their own 'great park'(the City of Los Angeles) to screw up. Until we elect somone who we trust to lead this City.....the 'Great Park' in Los Angeles is a good dream that could turn into an awful nightmare.

January 20, 2005 8:07 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

For God's sake, I thought I was cynical. Actually you the previous blogger points out some serious issues that affect parks around our city. Homelessness and crime are social problems that need addressing, and the answers are not cheap.

I for one am for projects that make our city more livible and more beautiful. But before putting limited money into such projects, I would rather see a genuine effort to address basic human needs like housing and mental healthcare. Perhaps if a concerted effort is made to reduce these problems, support for Great Parks won't face the kind of honest skepticism posed by the previous post.

January 20, 2005 10:47 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I am the 'previous blogger' whom the last blogger made reference. I must say I agree with you. Cure the existing problems and social ills and then the great park will truly be a great park !!!! Otherwise, we are just askiing for more trouble ...and since the great mayor cannot find a way to provide additional public safety for our great city.....the great park will not work....not now and only add to our crime problems and need for more parks. How sad !!!!!!!!!

January 20, 2005 9:17 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Civic Park ?

I have a better idea. How about a Civic Cemetery where we bury all the crooked politicians and elected officials. Bet that would be well populated !!!!!

We could call it 'Hahn's Heavy Handed Heavenly Cemetery'

January 22, 2005 11:08 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Civic Park ?

I have a better idea. How about a Civic Cemetery where we bury all the crooked politicians and elected officials. Bet that would be well populated !!!!!

We could call it 'Hahn's Heavy Handed Heavenly Cemetery'

January 22, 2005 11:08 PM  

Blogger Mayor Sam said:

All due respect should be paid to Mrs. Yellin, but I don't see how this benefits the city as a whole. LA is not New York and though Downtown has made great strides in recent years, it never will be New York.

The way to do something for this city is to improve city government, public safety and education leading to a better city for all.

Few people live Downtown and ever will. Few ever go there. This is a tremendous waste that will benefit few.

Besides, we already have a "great civic park" in Los Angeles that is essentially our version of New York's Central Park. Its called Griffith Park and its wonderful.

January 24, 2005 10:22 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

OKAY, I'VE SEEN THE NEW DESIGN FOR LAPD HEADQUARTERS. ITS HORRID. VERY UGLY! I WOULD RATHER SEE A PARK THERE THAN THAT THING. I lived in Europe and loved how their cities incorporated beautiful parks within the center of their cities. I think it would be nice to have a monument inside the park honoring the great leaders of L.A.

August 05, 2005 12:03 AM  

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