Looking Forward – Ted Bellamy

Still “Being Wrong,” Parcel B, Central Park and Low Income Housing —

Last week I wrote, “Then what (should occupy Parcel B)? It’s perhaps the most valuable piece of land in the city, and we desperately need for it to generate revenue. Let’s talk about how.”

Before I make my suggestions, let’s take a look at some of the proposals that have recently been floated about Parcel B.

“It could be the Central Park of Culver City.” An alluring idea which deserves a closer look.

1 ) When Central Park was constructed, it was built far from the center of New York City, on land confiscated via eminent domain. The residents at the time, poor immigrants and people of color, were told to find another place to live. Bye bye.

2) Within a decade of the construction of Central Park, it was a wasteland, mainly used for grazing sheep and disposing of trash. In 1934, fifty years after it was finished, Central Park was revivified at tremendous expense by power broker Robert Moses. It’s a fascinating story of corruption, failed urban planning and machine politics – but hardly a model for Culver City.

3) Central Park covers 1.3 square miles. Parcel B is a single city block. It’s hard not to think of matchstick carriages, drawn by hamsters, ferrying Lilliputians around the outskirts of Parcel B. A duck pond the size of my thumb. Miniature drum circles. A tiny castle lifted from a goldfish bowl. All surrounded by cars whizzing through Culver City’s busiest intersections.
4) Media Park is literally across the street from Parcel B. It can serve as a model of what a Parcel B park would look like. I invite you to visit — there’s convenient street parking and a bus stop on both the north and south sides. No rest rooms, though. You’ll need to go to Trader Joe’s or Kay ‘n’ Dave’s.

Another proposal for Parcel B is to put low-to-moderate-income housing on the site. Hmmm.

The confluence of Culver, Washington and Venice Boulevards make the intersection in front of Parcel B one of the busiest in the LA basin. We already have neighbors in Culver City being driven to distraction by the bus traffic to and from West LA College. Would any of the advocates of housing at Parcel B actually be willing to live there? I know I wouldn’t.

So, what’s my suggestion for Parcel B?

Well, here’s the thing. One of the hardest and best professional lessons I’ve ever learned is that I don’t know everything. I know a lot about computer network topology; I know a lot about how people interact with complicated machines and how to help make that interaction more transparent; I know a lot about television production; I know how to explain highly technical issues in plain English; I’m a really good cook.

But I know very little about real estate and retail. And when I look at those who are weighing in on “what’s right for Parcel B,” I don’t see anyone who knows any more than I do. (And people who evidently haven’t had the pleasure of reading “Being Wrong.”)

That is not the way this decision should be made. Culver City’s responsibility is to plan and create an environment that is open, transparent and fair to both residents and developers — and then let people who know what they’re doing compete for permission to occupy that accommodating environment.

Parcel B must generate tax revenue for Culver City. Because of Prop 13, that has to be sales tax revenue, either directly, or by contribution to the surrounding retail environment. Anyone making other proposals should be required to specify what city services they are willing to forgo in exchange for lost city revenue and the benefit they receive by blocking development of Parcel B.

NEXT TIME — Ted Talks Tech. Something I actually know a little bit about.

Ted Bellamy is the nom-de-plume of Scott Wyant, who’s lived in Culver City for more than 20 years, and was actually awake a good part of that time. He’s interested in the human side of technology, and can be reached at

[email protected]

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