Over thirty-five area residents took to the streets on Sunday, October 19th, for a walking tour of Western Avenue between Third Street and Melrose Avenue – a street selected for pedestrian improvements as part of Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative. The 90-minute tour introduced residents to two small business owners and highlighted the neighborhood’s rich history, countless family businesses and cultural diversity.
The walk was inspired by LA Commons’ 4th annual Found LA: Festival of Neighborhoods. This year, LA Commons arranged for walks of each street included in Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative. In addition to the support of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council and LA Commons, landscape architect Jean Yang prepared handouts incorporating photographs from City archives and shared by local residents.
Residents met at The Bun Shop, a hip new fusion restaurant at 151 N. Western Avenue. After a brief meet-and-greet, participants learned of the street’s 1920s origins as a walkable, neighborhood-serving “main street” for the community. At the time, the streetcar tied Western to the booming Hollywood and Wilshire districts. Long-time residents recalled the various shops lining Western in their childhood, including “doll hospitals” for injured toys, realtors and Czechoslovakian language classes.
From The Bun Shop, the walk proceeded north to Los Amigos Market on Maplewood, where owner Blanca Dennis spoke about the store’s origins ten years ago as a liquor shop with snack foods lining the windows and litter covering the parkway. When she took over, Blanca became a model small business owner, bringing in fresh fruits and vegetables from quality vendors and tending to the landscape in the parkway. She expressed hope that public safety would continue to improve and that more jobs would come to the area.
The tour ended at Monk Space, an event and film production space at 2nd and Western. Owner Michael Lane shared the space’s history as a department store and prohibition-era speakeasy. Nearly a century later, Monk Space features a vintage 1920s coffee billboard and exposed brick walls. Michael noted the room’s crisp acoustics and invited participants to join him for monthly jazz quartet concerts.
After the tour, neighbors were treated to a generous delivery of fusion bao buns from The Bun Shop, complete with avocado, tomato, marinated katsu and other toppings. Over bao buns and shop fries, neighbors connected with each other and shared their hopes for the future of Western Avenue. Residents noted the maintenance and public safety improvements needed on the street, which is in dire need of (unbroken) street trees, parkway maintenance and graffiti removal. Some asked whether a Business Improvement District would be formed to help the area, or when neighbors would see City investments materialize.
Residents are encouraged to participate in the Western Avenue Great Streets Advisory Board, which is expected to hold regular meetings in the coming months. Contact Council District 4 Deputy Ben Seinfeld if you want more information, or stay tuned to the Buzz for the next steps.
Greg Wittmann serves on the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Board and Land Use Committee
Take a quick ride with us up Western Avenue: