Larchmont Central Park(let) concepts generate feedback

| March 28, 2024 | 0 Comments

• Neighbors responding to draft ideas

In the March issue of the Larchmont Chronicle (and also via the Larchmont Buzz — “thank-you,” Buzz!), the very preliminary ideas about a possible central park(let) —being discussed by the board of directors of the

LARCHMONT CENTRAL PARK(LET) for the Boulevard is a concept being floated for public feedback. The idea is to provide permanent seating and dining areas for shoppers and take-out food establishment customers. Rendering by JMS Design Associates

Larchmont Boulevard Association (LBA) — were shared with the community.

The ideas were expressed in concept drawings prepared for the LBA by Jeffrey Smith and his team at JMS Design Associates. This landscape architecture firm came up with the drawings so the LBA could stimulate public discussion of the parklet concept and preliminary design approaches that might be used.

Details and background of the concept are in this newspaper’s March issue:

In response to the drawings presented, a number of readers shared their thoughts, many of which comments follow here.

For example, Paulette Light Rake of Windsor Square wrote to LBA Beautification Committee chair Romi Cortier: “I just read the Larchmont Chronicle article and wanted to reach out to say I think it looks amazing. Thanks for all you are doing to make it happen.”

Please continue to share views on the central parklet concept by e-mail to the LBA:

Farmers market
One commenter suggested these proposed permanent improvements were being offered, “to benefit a few who go to the Sunday Farmers’ Market.” Not the case. The LBA goal, according to LBA president John Winther, is “to benefit all merchants, customers, and visitors, seven days a week.” The focus the landscape renderers made on the Sunday market booths was only to insure that a Larchmont Central Park(let) would work for the market.

Melissa Farwell, a representative of the farmers’ market, has continued to review the evolving concept drawings and emphasizes that her company supports this parklet idea because it will be so valuable for the community without being a detriment when the market and its vendors are present two days a week. As Farwell observed previously, the seating and eating space also will benefit market shoppers. Recently, Farwell reaffirmed: “Everybody will benefit if this sort of parklet improvement can be made at the city parking lot.”

Some of the feedback received by Cortier came from the LBA’s Instagram account:
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“Not sure about taking away parking spots. How would that affect the local neighborhood? Traffic? We sure need more public seating / tables on Larchmont, but not sure if this is the best solution. Would love to see more details about it.”
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“I love the idea! More green spaces can foster a stronger sense of community. However, I think the idea needs some refinement, especially considering how parking is always an issue in Larchmont. My concern is the traffic flow and ensuring that this initiative doesn’t negatively impact the businesses in the area.”
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“There isn’t enough parking on Larchmont for all the shoppers as it is. This will hurt businesses.”
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Keith Johnson, of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association (LVNA) area, posted: “Looking forward to making our Blvd. more walkable and user friendly. Unfortunately it is a destination people drive to — to walk, shop and dine. I walk or pedal there; haven’t driven to the ‘Mont in years.”

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE of reclaiming bits of the street for public seating and dining comes from the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County wine country.

Driveway safety, trash
Another resident in the LVNA area, wrote that, “My husband and I have lived on Lucerne for going on 25 years now and have watched our community evolve over the years.

“I would be thrilled with the removal of that single parallel parking space on Larchmont. Many times I have seen drivers pulling out of that space so focused on the traffic pattern behind them that they almost collide with cars pulling out of the parking lot. I think this is a great use of this space. I’ve also had the pleasure of walking through Healdsburg and enjoyed how they have made their walkways more communal.

“My one concern with all the growth we have seen on the boulevard, especially with businesses that sell food items to-go, is the trash. It’s often we see careless people just leaving their trash near benches and the trash cans overflowing (although the bins with pull down handles I think do a good job to minimize this).  If the outdoor areas aren’t technically assigned to any of these businesses, who will police the trash and perhaps people who take up residence longer than an intended coffee date or quick meal?

“I didn’t see this detail outlined in the Chronicle article, and I feel it’s an important part of building something, because as they say, if you build it, they will come.”

Dining platforms
One Windsor Square neighbor, Suzanne Buhai, wrote to Cortier: “I see no need for this park. The logic of allowing people to sit and eat their take-out food, so that al fresco dining areas that are taking up parking spaces will surrender them, makes no sense to me. It seems at the heart of it, that some don’t like these al fresco areas. The street is lively now, those tables are filled, and Larchmont has not been this busy since I’ve been here (40+ years). People seem to love the al fresco dining.”

Tragedy of the commons
A concern was expressed by LVNA vice president Vince Cox: “Thanks for making the effort to think creatively about an important resource in Larchmont.

“Let’s start by contrasting the key difference between expanded restaurant seating and a new Central Park. The expanded seating is a remnant of COVID, and a recognition of the precarious economics of the restaurant business. The key fact, for our purposes, is that the restaurants have the right, ability, and incentive to carefully manage their precious space. I see no comparable mechanism for the proposed park space. Parklets in urban spaces like Manhattan tend to be secured and managed by a private entity.

“The concept that comes to mind in connection with this proposal has become known as ‘the tragedy of the commons’ in the literature of economics and ecology. The idea is that an unmanaged public resource tends to be depleted by people who use the resource for short-term gain. Examples include instances in which public green space is made available for free grazing by sheep or cattle, or maritime fish populations are opened to unrestricted harvest. Short-term users benefit, and the resource is degraded or eliminated.

“Larchmont shopping district space is precious. Street vendors, political activists and solicitors, beggars, buskers, drug users, the mentally ill and the unhoused all have urgent short-term needs that Central Park will help them to address. Those needs conflict with the needs of people who hope to enjoy a serene, safe, and comfortable urban setting.

“It’s not fun for me to be Mr. Skeptic, but unless there is a legal right to regulate uses, and someone with the incentive and ability to systematically enforce that right, the planned Central Park will lower the quality of life on Larchmont Blvd. It will be a tragedy of the commons, and one more step in our sad transition from a high-trust to a low-trust community.”

Cleaning, programming

SIDEWALK TREE WELLS can be improved with ground cover, as done recently in front of Romi Cortier Design at 425 North Larchmont Boulevard. Photo by Romi Cortier

Nora Houndalas, Windsor Square resident and former Boulevard proprietor of Le Petit Greek for decades (now running Greek Eats LA on Third Street), wrote:

“I’ve always thought it would be a great idea to have a parklet. I love the drawings. Biggest difficulties will be in keeping it clean (maybe local school kids for community service rotate washing it down and picking up litter weekly) and sadly how will you keep homeless from camping there? But I absolutely love it.

“The trend for lunch over the past 15 years has been more grab and go — but let’s get people out of their offices or work-from-home life and under the open sky and trees — listen to the birds in those beautiful trees. Imagine board game days there and Rubix Cube or old-fashioned yoyo contests and lessons. Mahjong summer nights or chess day in the parklets. A quartet evening. Meet-your-neighbors coffee hour. The list is endless. It’s a great idea! And it’ll leave alfresco for restaurants and not take-out places.”

As noted above, the LBA seeks more feedback on what is just a concept at this point. Write to:

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Category: Real Estate

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