People sometimes ask me if there was a tipping point that made me decide to run for City Council in Whittier. My children, I tell them. But to understand exactly what I mean you have to understand the context of where I live in relation to Uptown Whittier. Each day, I walk from my home in the Hadley-Greenleaf Historic Neighborhood to Uptown Whittier and back. Uptown, sadly, looks like a commercial district without real representation. Pawn shops outnumber bookstores three to none. The odd storefront window without graffiti is the exception to the rule. Lighting is poor. Outdoor dining is rare. My children are not old enough to hang out alone, but if they were I would not feel comfortable letting them hang out there.
The city recently paid a consultant to lead residents through several streetscape beautification workshops. What they failed to highlight was that the vast majority of redevelopment funds will be going toward a $9.2 million parking structure on Comstock Avenue, leaving only enough funding to renovate one or two blocks along Greenleaf Avenue. This is a mistake. Whittier does not need another parking lot: the three-story lot on Bright Avenue is underused and we still have unmetered parking throughout Uptown.
Meanwhile, the council shoehorns project after project along the congested Beverly and Whittier Boulevard corridors, including a 60-unit luxury project at Five Points, a condominium project at Beverly and Workman Mill Road, and 750-units at Nelles. This has meant and will mean longer commutes for you and me, as well as fewer safe activities for our families nearby.
We deserve better in Uptown. Here’s my three-point plan:
1. Build Uptown for people, not just for cars. I would oppose the plan to build the Comstock parking lot and instead use the funds to revitalize all of Uptown at once. Making Uptown more pedestrian and family-friendly will attract more residents and shoppers who want a walking-friendly experience.
2. Invest in smart public transportation. I would support the creation of an intracity transportation service that would shuttle residents between major community sites, such as PIH, the Whittier Museum, the Train Depot, Hellman Park, Central Park, the Greenway Trail, and Whittier College. A collaboration between the city and business owners could fund the system as a public-private partnership that relies on existing sales tax sources without an additional impact on the city budget.
3. Address safety in Uptown. In exchange for redevelopment funds, the Council strong-armed Uptown property owners into forming a Community Benefit District (CBD) and taxing themselves $500,000 a year to pay for increased services. The truth is those services should not be considered “extra” at all. It is the city’s responsibility to provide these services. I would make sure the $500,000 is used for the benefit of the businesses; for example, we can use the funds for a shuttle, not just to supplement the city’s general fund. I would also explore the formation of a bicycle security team, as well as increased graffiti abatement and code enforcement efforts.
If you have any questions or would like to talk some more about my three-point plan, please feel free to reach out to me. I enjoy speaking to my neighbors about the ways we can improve our city.