Fall is known as the time of year when the leaves change colors, but that should not be the case with the Highland Avenue median, which has turned brown in many areas because of a broken irrigation system.
Los Angeles City Councilmen Paul Koretz, 5th District, and Tom LaBonge, 4th District, have teamed up to provide $30,000 in funding that will fix the irrigation system, and hopefully restore the continuous greenbelt between Melrose Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. The system has been damaged by thieves stealing pipes and valves for their value as recycled scrap metal. A portion of the irrigation system near Melrose Avenue was also damaged in the June 18 collision involving journalist Michael Hastings, who struck a tree in the median at a high speed.
“Our public parkways are our living rooms when we are in our cars,” LaBonge said. “The Highland Avenue parkway did need some money for revitalization, so Councilman Koretz and I teamed up.”
LaBonge, whose district is on the east side of Highland Avenue, and Koretz, who represents the areas to the west of the thoroughfare, each allocated $15,000 from their office’s discretionary funds for the repairs. The financing comes from AB 1290 funding, which is money developers pay when projects are approved for improvements in the surrounding community.
Richard Lee, a public information officer for the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, said the work began on Nov. 20, and would last approximately two weeks.
LaBonge’s field deputy Ben Seinfeld said the thieves are stealing small components from the irrigation system, similar to the copper wire thefts that commonly occur from streetlights and other fixtures. The city will install protective coverings on the exposed portions of the system to prevent future thefts.
Owen Smith, president of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, agreed that the median hasn’t looked very nice lately in some areas. He added that he hopes the repair work can be completed quickly.
“I noticed it was getting brown, and just thought it was a water issue,” Smith said. “I think a lot of people have noticed it as they drive up and down Highland. It’s a major thoroughfare for all of us.”
Greg Whittmann, secretary for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, said he would bring the issue up at the next meeting to determine if there is anything the community can do to prevent the thefts, such as keeping a closer watch over the median. The city designated the Highland Avenue median as a historic-cultural monument in 1972 because it was considered an important component of the surrounding neighborhood’s character. It is approximately 75 years old, according to the motions filed by the councilmen.
Koretz said he hopes the new fixtures being installed will prevent future thefts, and added that restoring the median is a priority.
“We hope to get this fixed quickly so the median doesn’t get too brown,” Koretz said. “It’s an ongoing headache.”
LaBonge added that the median is an important part of the Hancock Park landscape that is seen by tens of thousands of motorists daily.
“Highland Avenue is a beautiful avenue,” LaBonge said. “Now, people won’t be able to tell the difference between the two council districts.”
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