Ballot Box: Council candidates present ideas to turn around Atwater’s Fletcher Drive

Feb 4, 2013

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When it comes to Atwater Village’s main commercial streets,  Fletcher Drive has lagged way behind Glendale and Los Feliz boulevard in attracting new shops and businesses.  How can the approximately six-block stretch of Fletcher between the Los Angeles River and Casitas Avenue be revitalized and be made more attractive? That was the question posed to some of  City Council District 13 candidates*who appeared at a forum in Atwater Village last week.  Responses included the creation of business improvement districts, increased public safety and the building of a riverside street car line connecting Fletcher, Glendale and Los Feliz boulevards.

The answers also reflected the candidate’s approach to the much broader issue of economic development. Click on the link below for their responses.

John Choi, Former Board of Public Works Commissioner & union organizer.
“We need to look at what are the investments that the city can give,  things like facacde improvements, street improvements, planting more trees. These are some of the basic things that the city can provide to actually help encourage the continued growth, to encourage more folks to  come out to actually walk tthis strip of a very important commercial corridor.”

Emile Mack, LAFD Assistant Fire Chief. Candidate website
We have good businesses already there. We need to talk to them [to find out] who has the potential to grow? Who has the potential to give more jobs? What does the community need on Fletcher Drive that’s going to make it a place for the local community to shop, to eat, to really have a commercial zone and start either expanding the businesses or bringing in new businesses. And that’s part of my job …  to find the financial institutions that are willing to fund those businesses  that are coming here and obviously  working with the city on how do we unify Fletcher Drive so that it is on par with Glendale and Los Feliz

Matt Szabo, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Villaraigosa
With the demis of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Szabo recommended creating another local agency that target investment in places like Fletcher Drive. In addition, he proposed extending a street car line north from downtown and along the Los Angeles River into Atwater Village “that would make Fletcher and Glendale and Los Feliz destinations.”

Sam Kbushyan, East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Board member.

Kbushyan said that Fletcher Drive could be revived with the creation of  a business improvement district, in which property owners tax themselves to pay for additional security, clean up and promotion, and taking advantage of a state enterprise zone, which provides tax credits for new jobs.

“We can make it like anything you want. If we can make it like Hollywood Boulevard if you want it,” he said. “The next councilman has to be the chief cheerleader in order to promote … the tucked away corners of the city, of the district.”

Alexander Cruz De Ocampo, Senior Director of Saban Family Foundation.

Ocampo stressed the need to providing  financial incentives, phasing out the city’s gross receipts tax and streamlining the permitting and zoning process to attract more businesses. He also pledges to designate a staff member as a small business director and form joint partnerships with foundations to invest and revitalize the area.

“I believe you have to be the chief salesperson of the district, and I believe that I can go to investors and say ‘Come to this area. We are open for business.’”

Jose Sigala, Former President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council

In addition to focusing on the economic development of neighborhood commercial corridors and supporting small business, Sigala said that safety remains a paramount issue.

‘We need to make sure that people feel safe,” he said. “We need to make sure that everyone feels safe as they walk down the street, down Fletcher.”

Robert Negrete, District Director for State Senator Alex Padilla

Negrete described longtime complaints about drinking and gambling in public as well as the opening of a new restaurant that reduced parking on adjacent residential streets.

We need to make sure we look at this as a big, big approach and make sure we bring in the right  businesses to the corridor plus have a public safety perspective of cleaning up the neighborhood.”

Josh Post, State Deputy Attorney General.

“It really starts from the ground up. You have to fix the sidewalks. You have to get the things like the sofas and mattresses off the street corners quicker. You have to make sure people feel safe walking down that neighborhood. When you create a walkable community, you are going to have businesses that thrive in that community. We can in fact have what’s on Glendale [Boulevard] right on Fletcher and it’s going to be really a great thing.”

Mitch O’Farrell, Former Senior Advisor to Councilman Eric Garcetti

While serving as a staff member for Councilman Eric Garcetti, O’Farrell said he worked on a master plan for Fletcher Drive that calls for improvements to the public rights of way, including pedestrian-scale lighting, more landscaping and bump outs to improve pedestrian safety.

How do we fund this? “We need tax increment financing. We have not done that in the City of Los Angeles yet. I will pioneer that and we will do that in the 13th City Council District first.”

Want to hear more from the candidates? The  Echo Park Improvement Assn.  is hosting a forum on Thursday, Feb. 7 for candidates in Council District 1 and Council District. 13  

* Nine of the 12 candidates running in the Council District 13 race were invited to speak at the forum organized by the Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce.

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