The Bundy Drive Triangle Park, Open Space Behind Bars

The park behind a fence, open space behind bars. Photo: LA Streetsblog/Flickr

(Last week week, Carter Rubin filmed a couple of videos with Joel Epstein at the corner of Santa Monica and Bundy, in the area that would be the “Bundy Triangle Park” as proposed by Epstein.  Watch all four of his short interview videos at the Streetsblog YouTube page. – DN)

Nestled in the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Bundy Drive is a rare piece of open space on the Westside.  Benches dot a brick pathway and a dozen trees sprout up from grass lawns.  This could be a nice pocket park for the people of West L.A., but because of a rampant homeless problem and a dead body found in the lot in the 1990′s, the park is behind a fence.  Open space behind bars.

When people discuss “West L.A.,” the picture that comes to mind is of a Caucasian middle and upper class community.  However, the census data for the zip code surrounding the park paints a different picture.  Sixteen percent of the population is Latino, and nearly twenty percent are Asian.  Just under sixty percent of residents are Caucasian with African- and Native- Americans making up the rest of the population.

Recently, Huffington Post writer Joel Epstein has begun a crusade reopen “Bundy Triangle,” arguing that open-space starved West Los Angeles can’t afford not to figure out  a way to make the park work for the public without it becoming a homeless encampment.

Noting the ground breaking for the Cahuenga Alley project in Hollywood last week, Epstein argues that this project is even more of a no-brainer.

“That cost the CRA nearly $800,000.  Here, you can see we have mature trees.  We have benches.  We have an existing park and yet it’s been shuttered.  I hope we get a chance to reopen it and address the homeless problem.” Epstein says in the video after the jump.

The “Bundy Triangle Park” idea has its supporters and detractors.

“I’ve been challenged by it my six years in office,” comments the local City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, “Everytime I drive past it, it depresses me…Everything is on the table as far as I’m concerned.”

Following one of Epstein’s pieces in the Huffington Post, Rosendahl’s office has begun to look at ways to partner with some of the local businesses to figure out a way to reopen the park to the public.  Affordable housing developer Thomas Safran and Associates has pledged to help pay for any renovations.

“The ‘Bundy Triangle’ has been fenced in for quite a while. The reason for the fencing was for public safety. The area was occupied by homeless, drug dealers, and was not safe. There was a body found there and that was the last straw for the community, writes Jay Handal, the Chair of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council.

An illustration of the challenges, and the promise, of "Bundy Triangle."

“While opening the ‘park’ may sound enticing to those who don’t live or operate a store there, the fact is that the park is a magnet for bad activities and with the state of the current city budget it is impossible to police it as needed to ensure the community a clean safe place to go,” Handal continues.

But Epstein argues that opening the park is about providing the community open space.  While Rubin conducted the interview, I walked around the park and asked people walking past what they thought about taking down the fence.  This wildly unscientific survey found three people in support of the idea, none of whom were aware of the reason for the gates going up in the first place.

Another benefit to opening the park could be to make it a more appealing place to ride transit.  Metro runs two bus lines that board on the north border of the park.  Across Bundy Drive is a stop for the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.  7.2% of commuters from within the zip code commute to work by bus, either Metro or Big Blue.

Rosendahl’s office admits that there’s a lot of work to be done before the park could be opened, “The coordination and support haven’t been there in the past.  My office can serve as facilitators, and we plan on meeting with businesses in the area.  Before we can open, we need to get the businesses, the community, and the LAPD on board.”

As the proposal moves forward, Streetsblog will continue its coverage.