A Look at Eagle Rock’s Relationship with Parking

A recurring complaint about the Colorado Boulevard business corridor is that there is not enough parking. So what has happened as a response? Buildings have been torn down to make way for strip malls. But when we gain parking we usually have to lose something in exchange– walkability, attractive storefronts, lively sidewalks. Three of most well-known examples of where parking has been gained through this method in Eagle Rock, the story has not been pretty.

First lets recall the event considered to have sparked the formation of The Eagle Rock Association, April 1st 1986:

“In response to the threatened destruction of the historic business buildings at the corner of Townsend and Colorado. Kathleen Aberman stands on the building’s roof in an attempt to ward off the surprise demolition by the owner.” – Eagle Rock Historic Society

002 - L.A.T.L. 5 Line Car 1444 Colorado & Townsend Ave. 19471021

In the middle right is the building Aberman tried to rescue. Photo credit: Metro Library and Archive

Another two views of the building

The building in the center of the picture is the one that was destroyed. Image credit: Eagle Rock by Eric Warren

LAT

The storefront of the building Aberman attempted to save. Image credit: LA Times Archives

Aberman was unsuccessful in protecting the historic building at the intersection of Townsend Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The building was demolished and replaced by a strip mall, which has close to 30 parking spaces.

Today the location looks like this

Photo credit: Google Maps

Was it worth it? Sure there’s enough parking now, but we lost a beautiful structure. On any given day the parking lot sits half empty and has made the corner rather unambitious and undesirable. When visitors rave about destinations in our neighborhood, never do they cite this structure as particularly attractive or wonderful. Locals never brag about the aesthetics or social value of this structure, either.

More often, visitors and locals alike appreciate and enjoy locations with historic buildings that predate parking requirements and demand. Like the building now famous for housing Swork

Swork

Photo credit: UrbanPhotoAdventures

or the charming building that prominently features The Coffee Table

The Coffee Table

Another bitter, well-known tale in which the community gained parking takes place at the intersection of Eagle Rock Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard. The story is perhaps best described by Eagle Rock resident Rebecca Niederlander:

“More than 20,000 signatures were collected to help the city understand the value Eagle Rock places on its history and culture. Many people went to city hall meetings and spoke to the possibilities of compromises that could be worked to meet everyone’s goals. That streamline moderne building, was the flagship store for the Shopping Bag Grocery chain. And had a place in La’s history. But the LA Conservancy will tell you now, as they told us back when they offered, pro bono, all the help they could to try to get the building saved, that Los Angeles governmental agencies do not often work for the citizens and smaller communities of our city.

And so we as a community lost the possibility of having the Walgreens rehab and beautify our history, and the 14,000 sq. ft. building (pretty much the exact size of the one they built) was destroyed.” – Rebecca Niederlander

Niederlander describes the loss of a building located in the commercial center of Eagle Rock. We lost this…

The Shopping Bag Building. Image Credit: Eagle Rock by Eric Warren

…and Eagle Rock gained this…

Photo credit: Google Maps

Over 50 parking spaces for this complex of buildings that have little aesthetic value, originality and historic merit– soulless faux mission inspired architecture.

Lastly, one of the most iconic buildings of Eagle Rock’s past was again lost in the name of parking…

Security Bank Building. Image credit: Eagle Rock by Eric Warren

More pictures of the beautiful building…

002 - L.A.T.L. 5 Line Car 1266 Colorado Blvd. Terminal 19550521 (2)

Picture credit: Metro Library and Archive

005 - L.A.T.L. 5 Line Car 1525 Colorado & Eagle Rock Blvds. 19530925

Picture credit: Metro Library and Archive

…the building has since been replaced with this…

Same corner that once featured the Security Bank Building. Picture credit: Google Maps

The corner has since been slightly cleaned up, now housing a Chase Bank, but the building is nowhere near as beautiful or socially valuable to the community. The lot has over 20 parking spaces.

At what point will Eagle Rock have enough parking? How many more historic buildings need to be destroyed?

Proponents for parking argue that additional parking spaces will benefit the local merchants. There may be some truth to this but when one thinks of successful Eagle Rock businesses, there seems to be little correlation with amount of dedicated parking. Consider local favorites such as Casa Bianca, The Coffee Table, Brownstone Pizzeria– why are they successful? None of them provide any special parking lots for their customers, simply relying on curbside parking. Businesses like Oinkster provide many parking spaces (the property has about 20 parking spaces) though parking has not been the sole or primary reason for its success. One would think that if parking were a marker of success, the pitiful strip mall at Townsend Avenue and Colorado Boulevard would be Eagle Rock’s most prized possession– but it isn’t.

In a community like Eagle Rock it seems that a businesses’ success is measured by how valuable and loved it is to the community, not by how many parking spaces it provides. If something is desirable, people will flock to it by any means necessary…even if it means parking a couple blocks away or across the street.

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7 thoughts on “A Look at Eagle Rock’s Relationship with Parking

  1. Dear Walk Eagle Rock, Thank you for a very interesting and scary reading about how a completly one-sided community politics in favour of automobiles can destroy historicly important buildings and beautiful city structures.

    At one time in the 1950’s politicians in Sweden, were actually planning to demolish the historic Old Town in Stockholm, with many buildings dating back to the 1600’s and even older. Luckily plans got hold up for different reasons.

    I am not against car parking lots, but why on earth do they need to be constructed on the most beautiful places in the community. In Malmoe, Sweden, new parking area is placed under ground, or outside the city, with commuting buses and trains to the center of town.

    True modern cities will keep reducing individual commuting in automobiles, since it’s counter productive for the society, and provide more easy access trams, trains, metro lines and green fueled buses that demand less space from valuble and central city area, and offer better and more sufficiant transportation for their citizens.

  2. Hi Jane! You may not realize this, but Kathleen Aberman was the founding president of TERA, aka The Eagle Rock Association, which was formed by a group of local residents to advocate for historic preservation here in town. Since you know the group well, I’m surprised that you don’t mention it! TERA was formed back in the 1980s when mini-malls were sprouting up everywhere and many residents felt that no one was looking out for our neighborhood. At that time, TERA did alot to educate and advocate for a diversity of businesses and smart development for our friendly, family-oriented community. The Colorado Specific Plan is one of TERA’s legacies and it prohibits any new street-facing parking lots. We also managed to attract some good new businesses to town, such as the Colorado Wine Company. TERA also was a tireless booster of a variety of small businesses, both new and well established, including swork, Center for the Arts, Fatty’s, and Tritches. TERA also fought the teardown of the Shopping Bag building from Day One, but we didn’t know that our own Councilmember already favored the project and that the building was doomed. Even though Walgreens ultimately had their way in Eagle Rock, we kept up the fight for a better project at that location and were able to get trees planted and a street-facing colonnade added to the front of the property so that it met the terms of the Colorado Specific Plan for a street-facing facade. That colonnade remains a pleasant place to hang out, but I can’t enjoy it to this day, especially since it’s owned by Starbucks, which came in RIGHT AFTER swork was up and running, following their predatory tactics. The reason there is no parking structure in Eagle Rock — above or underground — is economics, pure and simple. They just cost too much and won’t appear until they are mandated by the powers that be. And the bureaucrats won’t do it unless and until the voters/taxpayers insist on it and the funding is available.
    D

    • Hey Mary,

      Thanks for the insights, I love to hear those kind of stories about Eagle Rock’s past. I’m sorry to say though that my name isn’t Jane. There’s a Jane who writes a similar blog named Bipediality (which I contribute to on occasion).

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  6. It’s certainly a poor trade-off to lose an historic, beautiful building for a strip mall with parking spaces, and the one at Townsend is about as ugly and downscale as they come, with a crudely hand-painted, seemingly permanent:”For Lease” sign to match. The Colorado Blvd. Specific Plan was crafted to serve many good purposes, among which is the prohibition of these eyesores, which unfortunately hasn’t prevented some from being built even after the plan was enacted in ’92. All the same, more parking can make it easier for more people to take advantage of a vibrant neighborhood, as is the case around York and Ave. 50 – 51, where there’s a good- size public lot behind the hardware store and another one in the first block north of York and Ave. 51. Eagle Rock’s new crosswalk signals do make it easier to park north of Colorado and walk down to the boulevard, but it would really be handy to have a few more of them to make it safer and more convenient to cross our Secondary Highway.

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