TREES GROW IN VAN NUYS.
Workers have begun tearing out dead trees along Van Nuys Boulevard and planting new ones as part of a $3 million face lift. The federal Targeted Neighborhoods Initiative program is designed to help revitalize blighted areas.
Residents in the area decided that Van Nuys Boulevard from Victory Boulevard to Calvert Street needed some immediate attention. After a series of public meetings, they settled on replacing 43 trees, installing benches and trash cans and painting crosswalks and fixing sidewalks.
Funny how it takes money from the feds to make good things happen in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Repairing sidewalks and adding amenities to enhance foot traffic draws people out into the community and helps improve shabby neighborhoods.
It's a welcome start.
But is it enough?
Not by a long shot.
Granted, Van Nuys is set to receive another boost with the long-awaited completion of the 132,000-square-foot Van Nuys Civic Center, a cheap version of the Taj Mahal City Hall renovation going on downtown. But the city has yet to step up with a comprehensive plan to revitalize the area around the Civic Center, which is the Valley's heart and soul.
Why is it that other California communities are capable of innovation and redevelopment of their neighborhoods?
In San Jose, for example, city officials teamed up with San Jose State University's urban planning department to create an ambitious plan to that turns a blighted neighborhood into a vibrant community.
The key to making it work, however, is not federal money but local money and the kind of leadership lacking in Los Angeles.
In San Jose, Mayor Ron Gonzales is fulfilling a promise to direct redevelopment money away from downtown and into neighborhoods.
As a result, hundreds of millions will be redirected from downtown into San Jose's sprawling residential areas and decaying neighborhoods.
In Los Angeles, Van Nuys could serve as the same kind of model to rejuvenate all of L.A.'s dying or decaying neighborhoods wherever they're located.
All it takes is a little thing called leadership.