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
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
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
Photo credit: UrbanPhotoAdventures
or the charming building that prominently features 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…
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…
Picture credit: Metro Library and Archive
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.