While New York City has been pretty boldly moving ahead in making the Big Apple safer and more convivial, with bike lanes, traffic calming, transit enhancements, and such grand successes as the liberation of Times Square from death squads of manic drivers, here on the Left Coast, Los Angeles has moved with only the greatest possible timidity in the same direction. You’d think that, in a city where half of all road crashes turn into hit-and-runs, and where small business founder while traffic rages past their front doors intent only on speed, the administration might figure out that traffic calming and community development ought be a priority.
It has not been so (though it is starting to change). But, thanks to the tireless efforts of neighborhood folks themselves, and a scatter of brave and lonely souls in the planning and transportation bureaucracies, a few good projects have been wedged into odd corners of the city.
One such is Sunset Triangle, where a two hundred foot snippet of a residential road that angled awkwardly into Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake was actually barricaded to cars and given over to human beings…just plain human beings, together in the open air, and even able to talk to each other while sipping our town’s characteristic lattes. (You “real men” out there can just shut up; drip coffee is too weak for us out here! We go for the nuclear option, always.)
Anyway, the city installed this pale and frail imitation of the New Times Square as a “pilot project,” meaning they would backpedal as fast as possible if any frowning NIMBY said so much as “Boo!”
But unfortunately for the reactionary ranters, the neighborhood fell in love with the new little square, and it was made permanent.
And draws more people every week.
I stopped there to meet my friend John for breakfast yesterday, and found that a public piano had been placed by the café. I waited half an hour for John, and then shortly after he arrived, Vanessa, another friend of ours (and LA’s best baker), showed up, so a planned hour of Fourth of July conviviality turned into two, before John and I got on our bikes to explore the neighborhood.
And during that time no fewer than six people played the piano, all of them competent, and a couple of them marvelous.
True, one of them was blatantly crazy, and his made-up lyrics distinctly peculiar, but he still played well.
It’s sad that in Los Angeles, one of the centers of the music business in America, in a neighborhood noted for artists and musicians, this should seem marvelous at all. Yet so it is: not long ago, there was nothing on this stub of boulevard but cars and grit.
Now, there’s music, humanity, and good business for the little shops that line the square.
However reluctantly, LA is growing up.