EPHS TAKES A STAND ON THE FUTURE OF ECHO
In recent weeks, the EPHS has been getting the word out about the Echo Park-Silver Lake Community Plan, a ten-year
blueprint for development that proposes many changes for our neighborhood. Although the plan has improved somewhat, more work
is needed to protect the scale and character of Echo Park's historic neighborhoods.
But first, an update. Having testified at two lengthy city hearings, the EPHS has initiated a conversation with city
leaders about the ways in which Echo Park could be harmed by the community plan. The city's planning department responded
by making some initial changes to the plan.
For example, the EPHS spoke very specifically about the plan's effort to double the size of buildings allowed on Sunset
Boulevard and much of Alvarado Street. Such a move is designed to help encourage more "mixed-use" projects -- those that have
stores on the ground floor and apartments above.
While supportive of mixed use, the EPHS said the plan would give absentee landlords on Sunset and Alvarado a financial
incentive to raze our neighborhood's historic one- and two-story commercial buildings, such as Bank of America, Celaya Bakery
and the small brick buildings of Antique Row.
The planning department responded - to a point - by removing two small sections of Sunset Boulevard from its plan for
doubling the building size. Buildings on several other blocks are still unprotected, however, including the Downbeat Café,
Pizza Buona, Wells Tile and the Art Deco-style mattress store.
The EPHS also said the plan should identify the neighborhood around Echo Park Lake as an area worthy of a historic
district, with funds available to assess the architectural character of that neighborhood. And it spoke up for more design
protections for all of Echo Park's residential streets, where skyrocketing land values threaten to forever change our landscape
of bungalows, cottages and courtyard apartments.
In many communities, out-of-control real estate prices have led owners to scrape their lots clean of 90-year-old bungalows
and replace them with boxy, 45-foot mansions and condominiums. Echo Park deserves better, including a plan that calls for
the proper design tools to help us.
Planning tools have already been used to form historic districts in Lincoln Heights, Highland Park and Pico-Union or
design overlay districts called for in Glassell Park and Cypress Park. Angelino Heights, the city's first preservation zone,
is now getting funding for a second survey. In the meantime, the rest of Echo Park has had none.
The community plan does recommend a neighborhood-wide historic resources survey, which the EPHS supports. It also seeks
to phase out commercial auto-related uses on Echo Park Avenue and recommends a design overlay for much of that corridor. Still,
new surveys and plans won't mean anything if the city does not come up with the money to pay for them.
More than a dozen Echo Park residents, including EPHS representatives, spoke out at the April 8 planning commission
meeting on these issues. From there, the plan will go to the City Council's planning committee and finally the City Council.
If you worry about Echo Park's future, and the pressure being created by an out-of-control real estate market, make
your voices known. Write letters, make phone calls, tell your neighbors
You can find more information
on the community plan, including tips on writing letters and meeting dates, in the Preservation section of our website: HistoricEchoPark.org.