The Los Angeles Department of City Planning has proposed a new design for the neighborhood of Westlake, which encompasses most of Historic Filipinotown.
The ordinance proposes the creation of a “North Westlake Design District,” entailing more mixed-use buildings, construction of pedestrian bridges, and regulations on signage and neighborhood aesthetics. Its purpose is to prepare the neighborhood for future development and make it more pedestrian-friendly.
The Los Angeles Tenants Union recently organized a meeting between community members and city planners to discuss the ordinance.
“There is a high concentration of transit riders within this community, which means there are a lot of people who walk,” said city planner Craig Weber at the meeting. “It’s important to the city to create an environment that is conducive to walking and does not take a step backward and reorient toward the automobile.”
Some residents believe the design proposal is a step in the right direction for the neighborhood.
Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, a founder of the Historic Filipinotown Improvement Association and long-time resident, believes the proposal will make the neighborhood safer, KCRW reports. “This ordinance will help develop street-level businesses, pedestrian-friendly edifices that will encourage me and my neighbors to walk at night,” she said. According to Curbed LA, Rosenthal is collaborating with city planners to improve the neighborhood’s businesses and walkability.
However, others in the community oppose the ordinance. Some criticized the “top-down” nature of the ordinance, demanding the Department of City Planning to allow residents greater involvement.
Others invoked fears of gentrification or the erasure of cultural heritage.
Community member Arturo Garcia from the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council vehemently opposed the design proposal, according to KCRW. “Historic Filipinotown is being erased because of this design. You are removing the heritage of our district. It is our only district,” he said at the meeting. “We will fight you up to the end.”
Historic Filipinotown became an official district of Los Angeles in August 2002 after decades of effort by Filipino American activists. The neighborhood began taking shape in the 1950s as many Filipino immigrants settled in the area, starting small businesses and creating community organizations. According to its website, Historic Filipinotown is home to many cultural landmarks and hosts several annual festivals.
The design plans are still in development. Senior city planner Patricia Diefenderfer told Curbed LA that the Department of City Planning will continue its dialogue with Westlake community members.
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