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Westwood BID’s plan for parklet met with mixed feelings

Parklets replace what would’ve been a car parking space with a mini-park with benches, plants and other features. The Westwood Business Improvement District submitted an application to the L.A. Department of Transportation for a parklet in Westwood.

(Courtesy of Madeline Brozen)

By Fernando Aquino

May 9, 2014 1:16 a.m.

Westwood Village parking spots may soon get a makeover, if city officials approve an application to install a “parklet” on Kinross Avenue.

The proposed parklet is a small extension of the sidewalk onto the street that provides the amenities of a park such as benches, tables and a garden. The space would take the place of existing street parking, drawing mixed reactions from Westwood business owners and residents.

The Westwood Business Improvement District, known as the BID, submitted an application for the parklet last week to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. If it is approved, the BID can start designing and constructing the space.

“Parklets encourage pedestrian activity by providing a space that breaks from the flow of pedestrian traffic and helps boost economic activity,” said Andrew Thomas, executive director of the BID.

A few parklets already exist in downtown Los Angeles.

The Clean, Safe and Beautiful Committee of the BID reviewed concepts last month for parklets in Westwood with
People St, a City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation program in charge of parklet installments.

People St and the BID board decided that the best place for a parklet is outside simplethings, a restaurant on Kinross Avenue, because of the block’s emerging popularity, said Sheila Kouhkan, deputy director at the Westwood Village Improvement Association.

Thomas said people’s views about parklets tend to follow a trend.

“First, people are hesitant about the idea because it removes some features. Second, people welcome the idea because it builds a community,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the community’s response to the idea will dictate the future of parklets in Westwood. He does not yet know where funding would come from for the parklet, he said.

BID members said they hope simplethings will maintain the parklet. Simplethings co-owner Andy Paxson said the restaurant is not involved in planning the parklet as of yet.

The BID released a petition last month to gauge the Westwood community’s thoughts on the project. But Thomas did not know how many businesses or residents have signed the petition yet.

Merchants in Westwood expressed mixed feelings about the parklet, and some didn’t even realize that the project was in the works.

Muriel Chastanet Fine Jewelry owners Muriel Chastanet and her daughters, Charlotte Chastanet and Gizelle Stohkendl, said they had not yet heard of the parklet from the BID.

Muriel Chastanet said she thought the parklet installment would benefit some businesses with a beautiful sidewalk, while putting other businesses at a disadvantage by taking away parking and decreasing foot traffic.

Stohkendl said she thinks parklets are a good idea in theory, but not at the expense of parking spots, which are already scarce in Westwood.

Thomas said he thinks people should not be concerned about the lack of parking after the parklet installation, because plans for extra parking spaces, though locations are yet undecided, are ready for if the application is approved.

She added that the BID should do more to let merchants know more about the happenings in the Village since they cannot attend every meeting. Stohkendl said she wished the BID had reached out to the business before releasing the petition.

Aahs! head supervisor Jasleen Bhasin said she did not like the idea of a parklet installment and was upset that the BID did not better advertise its ideas for the parklet.

The Westwood BID originally planned a parklet on Broxton Avenue, but People St did not think the street was a good fit.

People St supported the initial plans for a parklet on Kinross Avenue and on Lindbrook Drive in front of 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria. But the Kinross location received more support from the officials of BID and People St because the area needed a boost in foot traffic.

Thomas said if the application is officially approved by People St, BID will do more outreach and finalize a design for the parklet.

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