Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adventures on Larchmont Blvd.

Larchmont Boulevard sucks. It really really sucks. There's all of one good business on Larchmont: Larchmont Village Wine Spirits & Cheese. It's great that the more-money-than-sense Hancock Park crowd likes to think of Larchmont as "LA's Main Street," but if that's the case then LA's about as interesting as Diamond Bar or West Covina.

Although it is one of the few places where you can enjoy Starbucks, Peet's, Coffee Bean, Jamba Juice, AND Blockbuster, all in one fantastically dull little block. Main Street Pleasanton looks like a fucking Normal Rockwell painting compared to Larchmont.

(Main Street Pleasanton kinda does look like a Norman Rockwell painting.)

"Oh wow look at me, I'm going to go out of my five million dollar mansion and walk over to Larchmont Boulevard to enjoy spending my money that I earned the hard way--by being the child of a wealthy parents. What's a better way to spend money in a classy tasteful way than with a Pumpkin Spice Latte and some Jamba Breads while I go and patronize a video rental store for some inexplicable reason?"

Why are you still going to a video store?

"But we are so lucky to have this street with all these great amenities that CAN ONLY BE FOUND RIGHT HERE and not IN EVERY SUBURBAN STRIP MALL IN CALIFORNIA."

Which makes all this hullabaloo over Larchmont Bungalow kinda quaint.

On one side: Albert Mizrahi, Larchmont real estate investor who appears to value nothing but getting his buildings rented out to the highest bidder.

On the other: I Love Larchmont Blvd., a group of neighborhood residents who for some reason see Larchmont as a Blvd worth saving.

And you know what? Larchmont is worth saving, but preserving the shitty boutiques and coffee shops isn't the answer. There's no reason Larchmont can't be something simultaneously local and a destination, like Venice's Abbot Kinney Blvd. I blame the out-of-date tastes and NIMBYism of Larchmont's residents.

In the middle (or actually on the Mizrahi side) is Larchmont Bungalow, a newcomer to the block that, despite signing documents with the city stipulating it would be retail/take-out only, threw up tables and chairs and prepared a menu that's pretty clearly not meant for a primarily takeaway establishment.

So the Bungalow, which is Mizrahi-backed, is facing stiff protest from I Love Larchmont Blvd. And ILLB has a powerful ally in local councilmember Tom LaBonge.

So what's my analysis? Larchmont DESPERATELY needs an actually good restaurant, so allowing for the Larchmont Bungalow property (which would make a beautiful restaurant spot) to be rezoned should happen. All reports from the food at Larchmont Bungalow would suggest that this is not going to be that "actually good restaurant."

So ILLB needs to calm down and get with the times. Good restaurants can be the anchor that revitalizes a neighborhood. Holding on to a long-gone ideal of a "main street" is pointless. Other than a pharmacy and, if you're a wine drinker, Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese, there's no business on Larchmont Blvd that a resident would ever need to patonize on a weekly basis. If you want your street to stay local, actually shop at your local businesses so they can stay in business.

But if Mizrahi thinks he can turn Larchmont into a Robertson Blvd or a Third Street Promenade, he's also delusional. Hancock Park is too old and too rich to submit to the usual bully real estate tactics. (Though it is strange that they even let Mizrahi get hold of that many buildings--couldn't the neighborhood pool together $23M pretty readily? Buy their own neighborhood!) Robertson Blvd was a sleepy street on the middle-class fringes of Beverly Hills and West LA ripe for the picking, not an established retail district in LA's oldest millionaire 'hood.

But hell, I'm tired of talking about it.


Marilyn said...

Your recent comments on Eater and here got me curious so I checked Larchmont Blvd. on Google Maps (I love "street view"). Not exactly your swanky ambiance....

SinoSoul said...

Totally f'd up. And they lost. Can we officially hate NIMBY's now?