Bunker Hill Park

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This is not exactly about the Park, but about the Grand Avenue development in general. Grand Avenue's built component proposes 1800 housing units, a large amount of retail, and a hotel. In addition, they are proposing 4,000 parking spots. Immediately adjacent to the development is a Red Line station.

Here are the statistics for the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, also developed by Related:

Time Warner Center is a 2.8 million square foot, mixed-use project located on New York's most prominent development site at the southwest corner of Central Park. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the project consists of two 80-story towers rising from a seven-story podium. The development was completed in 2004 and contains almost 1.1 million square feet of office space, 338,000 square feet of retail space, a 251-room luxury hotel, 201 luxury condominiums, a 1,100-seat jazz theatre and a 500-space parking facility.

Note how much parking Time Warner has. It is also immediately adjacent to a subway station.

I am VERY concerned that this Grand Avenue project has been hijacked by a totally suburban mindset. The Paseo proposed would turn all the activity inward, away from the street. How much would you want to bet that the streets will be lined by blank concrete walls. Despite all the denials by the developers, that is exactly what their plans seem to be in my view. By encouraging an inward facing development with huge amounts of parking, are they really trying to contribute to a healthy downtown, or are they trying to make this project a singular destination that does not encourage interaction with the larger downtown?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Someone suggested that the park could become the repository for historic architectural fragments, a sort of outdoor museum of the city. With that in mind I walked past SCI-arc and the adjacent land soon to be developed into residential gold by Richard Meruelo. The SCI-arc building originally served as the Santa Fe freight depot around a hundred years ago. Meruelo's flat land was part of the facility and much of it is still covered by tan cobblestones. Acres of land densely covered by heavy rectangular bricks of solid stone. Each one hand made. The neighborhood story goes that they were used as ballast in cars returning from the East after delivering a load of fresh fruit.

These stones could be used to pave the plaza at the bottom of the hill or the pathways in the gardens. They're not native, but they are substantial, have seen a lot of history and show it. This would bring the texture that dreaded places like City Walk fail to achieve, the wear of use on real materials that cannot be faked and that contributes so much to our sense of investment and permanence. City Hall is among our best buildings and the stone covered civic plaza would lend to its dignity.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

El-Brayjerino posts this comment:

I have a degree in Anthropology, so this idea really stood out as a way of coming to terms with this
region's history, and a means of showing that history to future generations through the playing of an ancient and wholly indigenous game.

How about building an Ulama court somewhere in the park? Ulama is commonly referred to as "the ball-game played by Native Americans".

The game, or forms of it, have been around for over 3,500 years. It is still being played, but only in a few small villages in western Mexico.

There used to be an Ulama court in the Los Angeles area (built by the Chumash out at Malibu point).

Ulama courts, in Mexico, are called "taste"s (TA-stay). They don't come anywhere near the size and maintenance requirements a football, baseball, or soccer field would require.

Cal State Los Angeles has two of the world's foremost ulama scholars at its campus. James Brady (Archaeology) and Manuel Aguilar (Art) recently completed a round of ulama-based research in 2003.

Here are some links that might help you get a better idea about ulama, and whether or not it might have a place in the new park to be built downtown:

A general guide to the ball-game:

Dr. Brady and Dr. Aguilar's "Projecto Ulama" web-site:

Additionally, Archaeology magazine published an article about this research in their September/October 2003 issue (Volume 56 Number 5) in an article entitled "Extreme Sport" by Colleen B. Popson.

Check out a portion of it here:

I'm not much of a visionary, but I have spent my whole life in Los Angeles, and I feel that we need some legitimate means to allow people here to become "natives" of this region - to connect with its history, natural and built environment.

South Pasadena

The soils that make up downtown and much of the basin and valleys are rich in river rubble. Rounded rocks from pebble sized to boulders. There is an indigenous architectural style in the area that takes advantage of this ready building material to create beautiful sloping foundations and walls with the stones sorted for size with the largest, naturally, at the bottom and the smaller ones at top.

Alhambra Park

Could the stones and boulders from the excavations one block away be harvested and used to accent and buttress the terracing in the park following this native Los Angeles style? I saw large piles of these stones at the excavation for the Elleven project in Southpark. Examples of the style can still be found throughout Pasadena and South Pasadena.

El Alisal - the Lummis Home

Disney Hall sits right on the sidewalk, it draws you toward it. This, certainly, can give us some hope that these folks also walk those sidewalks. I've spoken to Brenda Levin at Starbuck's, saw Witte rushing into Office Depot. Oldenburg's collar and tie shows Gehry can share the spotlight. These are encouraging signs to me.

I can't get past the feeling that Luckman, the Chandlers, Welton Becket and Perriera must have hated Downtown, been embarassed by its corny and very visible roots. They built a Music Center and Park that seem downright pathological in its desire to cut out the street and the people that used its sidewalks. Topped by the behemoth Chandler Pavilion, the complex quickly became a symbol of the imperial self image of an absent ruling class as, months after its opening, the Watts Riots brought the city to its knees.

I am not an architect or an urban planner but I imagine the Music Center and its surrounding 'neighborhoods' have become textbook examples of how to screw up a good thing, how to miss an important opportunity. I will say again that Disney Hall shows vast improvement and I hope that Gehry can prevail again in creating a place that even its designers and builders would be happy to live, work and play.

We still need to ask questions, make suggestions, insist that they explain themselves. Even well meaning people can overlook important considerations or meaningful opportunities. The people that know and care about downtown have the perspective to see those opportunities and articulate them.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Name the Park .

Bert Green posts:

What to call the park...

A few suggestions:
Grand Park
Civic Park
Downtown Center Park
Pound Cake Park

Tim adds:
Joel C suggests in a comment below ...

Grand Square Park

From The Grand Avenue Commitee web site:
The park is envisioned as several distinct areas that will be landscaped and programmed to serve a variety of uses. On the west end across from the Music Center, the park will be programmed with cultural, arts and entertainment events. The existing garage ramps will be relocated to allow a grand terrace to connect Grand Avenue to a new great lawn. The center of the park will feature a colorful garden area with both open and intimate spaces. The east end will be designed to host civic celebrations and multi-cultural festivals and complete the entrance to the front of City Hall.

Lots of room for comment and suggestion there . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Julie Rico, President, Weeneez LLC "The Best Chili Dog in the West." & Executive Director LA Art Fest, responded to my inquiry with this proposal;

Dear Grand Avenue Enthusiasts,

At the park level I would love to see interactive sculptures, of course! In addition, I am interested in a pathway that is above the park with a floating pathway that rises to different levels throughout the Grand Avenue project. The pathway would function on many levels including:

Pods For people to rest
Pub Pods
Vendor Pods
Pods for people to Lunch
Pods for people to Observe below
Pods for Vendors
Pods for kids (a sort of Play House)
Pods that house interactive video art linked to other countries. For example there could be another POD in Mexico City and the LA person could see and communicate with the visitor in Mexico in the POD.

The pathway would be bent and shaped with a lot of character with the intersection of the PODS running throughout the Project.

The POD/Pathway concept would increase the flow of traffic from one end to the other end of the park. Instead of walking on the ground through the park you could take the POD route to your desired venue. The pathway could also function as a great exercise pathway. One part of the pathway could be separated for pedestrians that are interested in getting to their desired
location more quickly or walkers or runners.

It would look futuristic in the city of the future Los Angeles.

I am beginning to fear that this blog will focus on history too much. That is my gateway into the problem, so I want to address it now. Why are we talking about the history of the area when all that history is gone, missing. Can't a park just be a park? Isn't Los Angeles the city of the future. Is the past of Los Angeles relevant now that we are in such a forward looking moment?

Fact is, the park and the music center, all of Bunker Hill really, are a catalog of bad choices in city planning. If this new park was somewhere else entirely I would still suggest looking at the history of Bunker Hill for guidance on what not to do, on how to screw up a good idea. We should all get together for a walking tour and marvel, together, at the truly awful and thoughtless choices made by the designers of the current situation. Then make a list of them and give it to Related as things needing fixing. I would bet they agree. The music center is world reknown for this and the park would be too, if it wasn't hidden and unrecognized.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

An ongoing conversation on geography with Brady Westwater, President of Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council: (I have added picture links to help clarify)


Actually - The park isn't really on Bunker Hill, you know.

My reply:

Tell me more, I am aware that the part of the hill which is now called the 101 freeway was called 'fort hill' or 'fort moore hill' and that the little piece of the hill where the high school originally sat and was later removed for the courthouse, now the criminal courts building (which, oddly, sits in a pit), was called Poundcake Hill. I thought Bunker Hill was all the hills south of Temple, which ended about where the library is. A crescent shape, which is still there but much flattened, the other end of which would have been Court Flight at Broadway opposite City Hall and the beautiful but now extinct Hall of Records, in between.

Are there other names? or configurations? I still think Bunker Hill Park is an appropriate name. Better than Civic Park for sure. Bunker Hill Avenue was between Grand and Flower and ran all the way from Fifth to where there is still a small piece above China Town. Right through the Music Center Plaza which is the West end of the park, which approximates the old path of Court Street down to Broadway and then Spring. 'Bunker Hill Park' memorializes the hills it replaces. There was a park high above First and Hill, or at least vacant land. I have seen a great picture on the web looking down from there to the Times building down below.

Brady replies:

As for Bunker vs. Poundcake - lots of contradictory stuff out there, but a couple of points are agreed upon. Temple was laid out in the notch between Fort(Moore) Hill and Poundcake Hill, making all of Poundcake south of Temple.

The old Courthouse and old Episcopal Church were on the South side of Temple and were at the bottom of Poundcake. They are where the criminal courts building is now at Temple and Spring, which was the northern edge of Poundcake.

Old photos show Poundcake extending far, way far to the east of Bunker Hill - where the mid to upper civic center is now.

Second Street seems always to have been considered to be on Bunker Hill.

The Bunker Hill re-development project's North end is First Street, though some contemporary - but no old ones that I know of - show it going to the Freeway.

The Mott tract map of 1868 predates the Bunker Hill residential development, but it includes All of Poundcake and misses part of the heart of Bunker Hill housing area - making it not a reliable point of reference.

Of the homes referred to as being on Bunker Hill over the years, I do not recall any of them being North of Second Street, though that is my recall.

I have found no dividing line between Bunker Hill and Poundcake Hill ever mentioned.

end brady's reply

we will explore this more. The underlying issue is what to call the park. What do you think?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My main concern
is that we learn
from past failures,
urban derailers
like Bunker Hill one
that destroyed not one
but two areas
which brought despair
to demoed residences here
and vacated commercial there.
So in this planning nexus
lets focus on connectedness.

Ed Rosenthal

The Scale of the Opportunity

At the last public meeting Martha Welborne, the managing director for the committee, compared the budget for the park to the Millenium Park in Chicago. Though the budget for Chicago was quite a bit larger than our budget it included construction of the underground parking that is already in place in our case. She went on to say that the budgets for the two parks were very similar, about $50 million.

Millenium Park is pretty cool, lots of features, a big Gehry Bandstand, a fountain by Jaume Plensa with giant video faces,
a big Anish Kapoor scuplture, gardens, plazas and lawns. It is quite a bit larger than Bunker Hill Park will be. Many of the features carry the names of individuals or corporations suggesting that they were able to supplement the budget with donations. Welborne said that was a possibility here, too.

So, the thing is not built yet, public opinion could still sway the decision makers and the donaters to produce a park we will love and use for generations, that will enrich Los Angeles with something more than a grassy patch to be glimpsed from a passing car.

What would draw you the few blocks to the park on a weekend afternoon or summer evening.? What would make it a must do when friends come into town? What would make you proud to show to your relatives Thanksgiving weekend? Look, Los Angeles is growing up.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

juanito da weirdo posts:

Let's start by tearing down the O.J. Courthouse and turning the entire block on the west side of
city hall into park space to complement the mall running up to the Music Center.

Tim adds: The OJ courthouse is just to the left in the picture below. The middle third of that block will be changed from parking to park.

Joel C said...

Both County buildings should go, but the Courthouse is the highest priority. With it gone, the whole park and area will make sense from an urban/pedestrian perspective. If it stays, nothing will be connected.

This block, between Broadway and Spring, will be in the park.

This is the block between Hill and Broadway, to be re-parked.

photos by Tim

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Open Thread . . .

what about this park Downtown?