Stephen Kane Running for DLANC: “Safer Streets, Redoing Pershing Square, More Transit” in Downtown LA

Native Angeleno Stephen Kane is hoping to contribute his love and passion for Downtown LA by running for Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (Photo: Stephen Kane)

Native Angeleno Stephen Kane is hoping to contribute his love and passion for Downtown LA by running for Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (Photo: Stephen Kane)

By Stephen Kane

It’s no longer a secret: DTLA is on the verge of becoming a great urban core once again. Promise and opportunity abound in this rapidly growing community, but so do the challenges that we must address in order to keep downtown on the right path and direction. As we continue to grow and evolve, we will increasingly wrestle with who we are and what we aspire to be.

I’m running for neighborhood council to do my part to help answer those questions. I care immensely about the direction of DTLA and being on the neighborhood council is an opportunity for me to voice the community’s concerns with the City, and a platform for making positive things happen in DTLA. I also want to get more residents engaged, starting with the election this Thursday 12-8pm at Central Library (Don’t forget you’ll need proof of residency, i.e. Photo ID w/DTLA address or Photo ID + Mail w/DTLA Address).

The history between me and DTLA go way back. I’m LA born & raised and spent a lot of time downtown as a kid when DTLA was still considered a “scary” place. Both my parents worked in redevelopment — my mom worked for the CRA from the 70s to the 90s and helped pave the way for revitalizing Little Tokyo — so the topic of DTLA and its seemingly ever-evolving future was normal dinner table conversation. I’ve seen us go from ghost town to the thriving and diverse community we are now, and I want to see that momentum continue to grow.

I want to see more local businesses thrive, create more open space and cleaner-safer-greener streets, more public transportation options, and positive realistic solutions to our chronic homelessness, all while preserving authentic DTLA and with a keen eye towards affordability for residents and cost-effectiveness for the City.

I’ve spent the last few months talking to literally hundreds of you about your needs, concerns, and ideas for DTLA, and have thought long and hard about the feedback I’m hearing. This post represents the intersection of my vision and the general sentiments I’ve gleaned from listening to the diverse range of DTLAers.

Homelessness

Homelessness is by far the greatest challenge facing DTLA. And for good reason – it embodies many of the difficult social issues we confront daily, including mental illness, substance abuse, basic human decency in a civilized society and public safety. We can’t be a great urban core if we don’t rehabilitate Skid Row. I think it is critically important to seriously begin the discussion instead of viewing the issue as the pink elephant in the room. I don’t pretend to have a silver bullet answer to such a vexing set of challenges. But I am committed to doing my part to listen to your ideas, learn from other communities with successful programs, and we must hold our City and County officials accountable. I challenge you to do your part by keeping the discussion going. To read more about my thoughts on homelessness in DTLA, please check out my Tumblr page.

Urban Planning & Design

Urban planning & design is perhaps our most exciting opportunity here in Los Angeles. And for good reason – we get to essentially rebuild a major world city. It’s time LA lived up to its potential as the nation’s West Coast hub. Let’s use that opportunity to create a strong downtown that’s safe and sustainable, clean, and with high aesthetic and artistic standards thatreflect our creative energy, diversity, and character while properly preserving and respecting the historic integrity of DTLA. Revitalizing Broadway is a perfect example.

In addition to creating more open green space, let’s further utilize existing park space by adding more programming and making our parks more family friendly. Let’s repair our cracked sidewalks and plant more trees. Let’s put urban gardens on bare rooftops lowering energy costs for our buildings. Let’s get creative and ask private companies to sponsor more services like adding dog waste stations and 10×10 foot grass patches in parking lots. Let’s light up our dark streets and widen our sidewalks to encourage pedestrian activity. Oh, and of course, let’s add more protected bike lanes. In short, let’s make DTLA feel like a truly sustainable and liveable community that residents will embrace and simply enjoy!

Public Transportation

We need to change L.A.’s excessive driving culture: our smog, horrible traffic, and long boring commutes. And DTLA can lead the way as the model for the region as we continue to grow. Let’s see more-DASH-more-often so we can enjoy a night out without driving a mile to dinner. Let’s coordinate  and organize our plethora of parking structures so that those who do drive into the city know exactly where to park if necessary. Let’s keep pushing for installing the long-delayed bike rental kiosks and continue to support the DTLA streetcar project. Let’s do all of this to better connect DTLA.

Redesign Pershing Square

The biggest specific complaint I get centers around the infamous 5th & Broadway-Pershing Square corridor. We all know it’s more than patty cake going on out there. We need to do two things: (1) continue to press our police department to station a more persistent and visible police presence and (2) redevelop Pershing Square so it becomes something DTLA residents and visitors actually use, which would also establish a critical mass to help change the overall environment for the surrounding area. I’m not an urban planner or architect, but I do think a redesigned Pershing Square should be:

  • More open & inviting (take down those walls)
  • Provide space for live music and events
  • Provide plenty of room for dogs
  • Provide a playground for our DTLA children
  • Have more food/beverage vendors to liven things up (because you want ice cream in the park on a hot day!)

Finally, let’s get to know each other better. Let’s have more community building events and fun activities like building-to-building dodgeball and bowling leagues for instance. And let’s get that Budokan community rec center built sooner rather than later. So when we walk down the street, it’ll feel even more like the home we never want to leave.

We can do great things out here as long as we have the courage to confront real problems and the imagination and open-mindedness to solve them. I hope you join me in making it happen. And please remember to vote for me this Thursday, April 3rd 12-8 p.m. at the LA Central Library (please bring proof of residency, i.e. Photo ID w/DTLA address or Photo ID + Mail w/DTLA Address). Sign up to stay in the loop. — Stephen Kane

Check out Kane4DTLA.com for more info about Stephen Kane.

28 Responses to Stephen Kane Running for DLANC: “Safer Streets, Redoing Pershing Square, More Transit” in Downtown LA

  1. not a single mention about relieving congestion in the smog fumed streets of the downtown corridor. I propose fresh air zones where only electric and natural gas vehicles and buses can drive on. free parking in city owned or subsidized lots that provide free charging. Electric cabs and heavy transport for businesses. I dont know about you but I have friends that live anywhere from 2 to 9 stories high and the soot on their window sills remind me of old coal burning victorian London. Time to make downtown a healthy environment and not just a place to get drunk!

    • Curtis, you must have missed the first sentence under “Public Transportation”:

      “We need to change L.A.’s excessive driving culture: our smog, horrible traffic, and long boring commutes. And DTLA can lead the way as the model for the region as we continue to grow. Let’s see more-DASH-more-often so we can enjoy a night out without driving a mile to dinner.”

      While there are not a lot of concrete solutions listed here, you can see that this is a concern and on his agenda.

    • That would be really great! 7th St and Broadway should eliminate private vehicles, and be used only by transit and bikes. Dedicated transit lanes would allow the placement of bus stops on the left side of bike lanes so that bikes and buses don’t have to keep leapfrogging each other dangerously on these streets.

  2. curtis, all solid points. you should be running.

  3. Those are some good ideas Curtis. I would absolutely like to see LA take bold measures to reduce congestion. Like I say above- “We need to change L.A.’s excessive driving culture: our smog, horrible traffic, and long boring commutes.” So great point re the smog in the downtown corridor. And thanks for sharing your ideas. I’d be interested in chatting more, can I email you to follow up? Or you can email me at Kane@Kane4DTLA.com.

  4. Start pushing for the street trolleys like back in the 20’s 30’s 40’s and 50’s!

  5. Ron – yes, totally on board with that!

  6. Just a suggestion from a former resident of DTLA (the Skyline Condos): treasure the academic institutions downtown. Urbanist writers, i.e., Edward Glaseser, “Triumph of the City” and Alan Ehrenhalt, “The Great Inversion,” have stressed the tremendous importance of these institutions to the long-term viability of central cities–often the difference between lively and dead downtowns. Cultural institutions are vitally important too, but many of their visitors are short-term. The school kids are here all the time. So let’s hear more about our appreciation and support for SciArc, Fidm, the Colburn School and, of course, USC. Speaking of which, the Figueroa Corridor plans are excellent; don’t let NIMBY’s or the short-sighted undermine them. The significance of an attractive and multi-use connection between Expo Park/USC and downtown can’t be over estimated.

    Good luck Mr. Kane. Sorry I’m no longer a resident (now retired in Palm Springs), but from your priorities, you’d get my vote.

    • Absolutely – great point, Jim, thanks for sharing. In fact, I’ve reached out to every one of the institutions you mention and have had productive meetings on that front (with one in particular). Also excited about the Figueroa Corridor and look forward to seeing it develop. I appreciate the good luck wishes and your support. Hope you spread the word re neighborhood council and DTLA even though you’re no longer a resident.

  7. Curtis -free parking or subsidized parking is exactly what brings more congestion and traffic into downtown LA. That’s the opposite of what urban cities need. We need more convenient public transit, but not more convenience to the automobile. Then you’re providing a never ending circle of traffic, wider roads, automotive policies, etc….

  8. Is it possible to create another public square, not plaza, similar to Pershing in LA or Union in SF on another small city block? Like maybe in the arts district where there is no public parks. Also the hope and Spring street parks are gated :( it feels so uninviting, would be really nice to remove the gates and leave it open… Its a public park, not private.

  9. Also is it possible to recreate Pershing Square’s beaux arts design from the 1940’s? Maybe with a little alteration since we now have the parking garage under there. And i believe the original cherub fountain is placed in another city or neighborhood in LA, maybe we can get that back and reinstall it? And add the play ground for the kids somewhere on the grass areas, food vendors could be anywhere on the non grass areas. If you have played LA Noire you will see how beautiful the square used to be. Idk if anyone else is in favor or if this is even possible, but just wanted a chance to put it out.

  10. Fakey McFakename

    I realize that the DLANC has a relatively small role in economic policy, but what are your thoughts? How does DTLA go about making itself a place where businesses are born or want t expand again? Obviously DTLA isn’t a place where you want polluting heavy industry, but getting financial and professional services back in expansion mode would be a huge win for LA in terms of attracting talented people to come/stay in LA over NY/SF, more tax revenue, etc.

    • I totally agree we need to keep developing local business. I think DTLA neighborhood council can (1) get people together to develop a strategic plan, i.e. I had a tech panel yesterday re bringing more innovation/entrepreneurs to DTLA – it starts with a conversation (2) work hard to make DTLA more livable (much of what I discuss in this piece)/a place where businesses want to be, hire people, etc. and (3) taking this into account in all our recommendations – available space/how it’s wired etc. makes a difference for attracting business. I also think we can get creative with more co-spaces, i.e. shared retail space, someone shared an idea for a restaurant accelerator where people can have food start ups. Beyond all this, we need to do more to market DTLA as a great place to be.

  11. Not every park has to have a kiddie playground. They are usually tacky and brightly colored. Pershing Square is in the city center. It should be classic and host more sophisticated activities. We have a dog park and kids play area one street over at 5th & spring. How many kids are in LA versus adults who want to enjoy the park without screaming kids or stepping in dog pooh? Make humans & adults your priority too or you will never get the real voting public behind you.

    • Many DTLAers currently leave DTLA when it’s time to start a family. Since I want DTLA to be a vibrant, diverse place with people from all walks of life including families, I’d love to see us provide something more for them. When I was a kid there wasn’t much to do out here so this strikes close to home. And humans (children & adults) are of course are my priority – dog parks are for humans as much as dogs and open space benefits everyone.

  12. Benjamin Straub

    Congratulations on your victory yesterday, Stephen. It was great to get to meet you the other day, and I was proud to vote for you in the election.

    Interestingly, one of the first questions/boxes (with several other choices as well) to categorically place oneself was as a) a resident or b) a business owner. I checked both as both are true. When instructed to ‘pick one’ from the overworked volunteer, I chose resident.

    Making positive changes in the place I live is more important then where I work, even if they are in the exact same location.

    I’m on your side, Stephen.

    • Thanks Ben, really appreciate that. And thank you for voting/getting engaged, and all of your feedback/ideas. Likewise, it was great meeting you and getting to know you some the other day.

      Re voting – I’d like to change it so you can vote for both biz and residential reps if you both live and work in DTLA. Some of the other candidates/DLANC members have mentioned wanting to do the same. Important so people can get more engaged.

      Great to have your support moving forward, we’re gonna do some real good out here!

  13. Thanks Ben, really appreciate that. And thank you for voting/getting engaged, and all of your feedback/ideas. Likewise, it was great meeting you and getting to know you some the other day.

    Re voting – I’d like to change it so you can vote for both biz and residential reps if you both live and work in DTLA. Some of the other candidates/DLANC members have mentioned wanting to do the same. Important so people can get more engaged.

    Great to have your support moving forward, we’re gonna do some real good out here!

  14. You hit the nail on the head regarding homelessness being the biggest issue facing DTLA. The current situation, with transients on our doorsteps in the morning, loitering in front of store we wish to patronize, urinating and defecating in alleys, nooks, tree wells, etc. is simply not sustainable. There are too many decent, tax-paying residents who have moved here who simply should not have to put up with being harassed by schizo or junkie bums every other block. Like you said, there is no “silver bullet”, but we could start by urging/pressuring the LAPD and purple shirts to: (1) be far more aggressive in enforcement of anti-loitering laws; (2) as citizens refuse to tolerate the bums who congregate in front of stores or residence buildings; (3) start a campaign to educate both Downtown LA residents and visitors of the effect that giving these bums money or food has (it keeps them coming back, if we didn’t give in to their harassment, there would be no incentive for them to spend time our parts of DTLA; and (4) do anything possible to keep them in the Skid Row area, and out of the Financial District, Historic Core, Fig, etc. Only then will DTLA be free to reach its true potential.

    • Thanks for sharing Roger. Ultimately I want to see us get to the root of things and do something positive and constructive on this front, while also improving the environment. It’s gonna take a lot of commitment and effort but we can make progress on this issue.

  15. I just don’t understand as to why does it take so long just to figure out what they are going to do about Pershing Square? It seems to me that pattern it after SF Union Square would be best. Put a mall up over there or something but right now it is an eye sore! That area has so much potential. What is the latest developments?

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