echo park news

The changing climate of Downtown Echo Park

2014 is a new year and a lot of changes along Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. The most notable changes over the past couple of months - popular restaurants and retail businesses leaving, some of which have been around for decades. Restaurants like Barragan's, which opened in 1961 in that same spot, and, just down the road, 35-year old El Conquistador also just closed.

Some empty retail spots are finally getting some attention - a restaurant of some kind is going in to 1525 Sunset Boulevard near Laveta; it's been a few years since anything has happened there. And, despite the controversy surrounding its owners, Lassen's has started working on the former Save-a-Lot next to Walgreens on the corner of Sunset and Logan, which has been collecting dust for a couple of years now.

For those who welcome those changes, empty storefronts are never good for a neighborhood. But some neighbors aren't thrilled with the changes. Having been in Echo Park for over 30 years now, I can understand the sentimental connection for the history of the neighborhood - after all, it's home!

These are cyclical changes - sometimes painful, sometimes great. I remember going to El Studio 1 back in the day; when it closed down in the 1990s, the place just sat there for nearly 20 years. Before we knew it, it became a bustling craft beer restaurant by the name of Mohawk Bend. It's changed, but I'm glad it's no longer rotting away.

The foundation of the communities in and around Echo Park have and are still shifting; whether it be in real estate, in new restaurants, in the quality of life for our neighbors and our families. Despite the loss of many good things through these changes, as inventor Charles Kettering said, "You can't have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time."


Los Angeles City Council approves charging banks fees on foreclosed homes

The Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to approve an inspection fee placed on banks when filing for a foreclosed home. The fee is aimed at ensuring the banks don't leave foreclosed homes empty and unkempt, particularly targeted at the large number of foreclosed homes in south Los Angeles neighborhoods that have been left without any upkeep. It's overall objective is to avoid neighborhood blight and stabilize neighborhoods.

Though the fee amount has yet to be determined, it could be around $400 per property to register a property with the city, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The money will be used to pay inspectors who will be making sure the homes are kept up. This will be in addition to the $155 federal registration fee paid by banks, and face a $1,000 a day fine for unkempt homes.

Councilman Eric Garcetti of Council District 1 (which includes Echo Park) has vocally encouraged enforcement of keeping up foreclosed homes: "How can property values fully rebound when our neighborhoods are strewn with foreclosed properties that the banks have allowed to become magnets for trash, vermin and crime?" Garcetti said.

The City of Los Angeles already has a Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which uses government funds to hire workers for rehabilitating foreclosed properties in communities impacted by the housing crisis.  The question is then - if the city has already money ($143 million to be exact) going into work on empty foreclosed properties, does there really need to be more money give to the City?