It’s an exciting time for West Hollywood’s Eastside. The last 10 years have brought unprecedented civic investment and development into the area, and while the growth hasn’t been without controversy and challenge, it has been welcomed by most. The Eastside has historically been perceived as a less desirable and “forgotten” part of the city, and to a degree, this perception still persists. Despite previous years of effort, safety issues remain and neighborhoods struggle with unacceptable rates of crime and an aging housing stock and infrastructure. Recently, residents like myself on the far eastside have been alarmed at the increasing rate of illegal incidents and have demanded action from our city officials. Neighborhood Watch meetings are ongoing, organized by Roxanne McBryde and Tod Hallman, who each deserve thanks for the tough work they’ve done as Neighborhood Watch co-captains.
Our city officials have listened and are in agreement. I have worked in close collaboration with city council members John Heilman and John Duran to craft a comprehensive initiative with a particular focus on public safety and beautification. The city’s full resources are available to help achieve this initiative’s goal of permanently securing and improving the Eastside.
Specifically, this item on Monday’s City Council agenda requests the city’s staff to consider deployment of sheriff’s deputies in the area at an increased rate, installing of residential sidewalk street lighting, re-implementing a lighting and security grant program for property owners, installing a traffic light at Fountain and Formosa avenues, placing of security cameras and information kiosks at Eastside parks and other high traffic areas and an overall beautifying of the area, including the enhancement of Lexington Avenue. Not included but suggested by Mayor Lauren Meister is creating a system of “block captains,” which would give residents on each street a point-person to whom they can communicate their concerns.
One of the most dramatic changes being considered is the re-branding of two important Eastside neighborhoods. The city already has the Sunset Strip, Sunset Boulevard’s rock and roll district, and the Design District. The neighborhood surrounding Plummer Park, the Eastside’s largest public space, could be designated the “Plummer Park District.” Also, the area bordered by Greenacre Avenue to the west, La Brea Avenue to the east, Fountain Avenue to the north and Santa Monica Boulevard to the south could be designated the “Formosa District,” in honor of the iconic Formosa Café, a local hotspot since 1925. Promoted through the use of street banners, signs and new residential development marketing campaigns, the new Formosa and Plummer Park district designations would be a first for the Eastside and would create a stronger sense of identity and pride for its residents, business owners and visitors.
Above all, however, the safety of every resident must remain our first priority throughout the city. Our LGBT population continues to be the target of intolerance, hate and violence. Understandably, we place special emphasis on helping others. Social services are committed to providing for marginalized LGBT youth, the sick and homeless and those fighting addiction. Our charitable support must continue, because it saves lives. Societal injustice is fought within each of these kind acts and for many, it is a matter of life or death. In turn, our funding requires a measure of continued responsibility and cooperation from those receiving it. We demand respect and deference for our laws and our residents, our homes and our property. With the most efficient of programs, charity is not incompatible with the maintenance of safe, clean and secure neighborhoods.
Adequate lighting, increased policing, area branding and street beautifying are essential and tangible improvements, and they are requested. Equally as powerful, however, is the unshakable spirit and foundation of our community—the belief that all of its residents are a touchstone of value. We believe that each of us has something significant and unique to offer one another, and in doing so, we enrich the lives of all. When these acts of goodwill are totaled, the appraisal of our community is that it is a deeply enriched one, welcoming and safe to all. It is a community generous though demanding of each of us. Therefore, the efforts of our local government must reflect the desires of its people: that each of us have a chance to live safely and securely with the opportunity for prosperity and happiness regardless of location or proximity, of stature or affluence. This is the derivation of our strength. It is why thousands of people across many decades have set out to West Hollywood to make it their home — our home.
Today, 32 years after our founding, we are still creating our city. We recognize that there are problems and challenges on the Eastside, and at times our progressive City Council seems to move painfully slow. Still, we get things done. The passage of this well-thought and vitally important initiative is a much-needed investment into our community. We are a confident city, and we are a daring city and the challenges that exist throughout our community are challenges filled with opportunity. While our opinions on how our city might head into the future may differ from council member to businesswoman, from renter to homeowner, we all share a common bond and closeness of goals, a hope that together we can create a more beautiful place to live, ultimately open to all, that each of us might be proud to have built ourselves.
Shawn Mimbs is a resident of West Hollywood’s Eastside and recently served as a member of WeHo’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board. He is an investment trader.