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'Street People, Bums' Hog Them, Critics Say : Hollywood to Bench Its Sidewalk Seats

March 01, 1987|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Times Staff Writer

Bowing to complaints that "street people and bums" are hogging recently installed sidewalk seats, the city has decided to remove most of the 70 concrete benches on Hollywood Boulevard.

The benches, along with flower planters, were part of a $170,000 project undertaken last summer and fall by the city Hollywood Economic Revitalization Effort to beautify Hollywood Boulevard between Wilcox and Highland avenues.

Project leaders also hoped that the benches would be used by the estimated 12 million tourists who visit the boulevard yearly.

Complaints From Merchants

"Unfortunately," said Pompea Smith, project director, "we got complaints from merchants on the boulevard that the benches were being used primarily by street people and bums."

She said that the social climate of the boulevard would have to be changed before the benches could be reinstalled on the famed street.

"There are too many cheap, fast-food restaurants and bars on the side streets that lure people who do anything but enhance the street," Smith said. "It is a sad commentary on what we are trying to do to upgrade the street, but that is the way it is now."

The Hollywood Economic Revitalization Effort is a division of the city Community Development Department intended to help business peoples refurbish run-down stores and storefronts by providing grants and low-cost loans.

Smith said some of the benches will remain because they do not appear to present any problems. The approximately 190 planters, which were placed on the boulevard at the same time as the benches, will also stay.

Plants Vandalized

But vandals have been ripping the plants out. "We had planted azaleas, which are very colorful," Smith said. "They have not lasted."

More durable plants, including some with thorns, are likely to replace the more fragile plants, Smith said.

She said that the city will consider reinstalling the benches as soon as the $923-million redevelopment project, which includes Hollywood Boulevard, begins to show results.

Smith said that there have been several individual business improvements on the boulevard, including the rehabilitation of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, the refurbishment of 83-year-old Janes House in a new retail mall at 6541 Hollywood Blvd. and the construction of a new McDonald's.

"But there simply has not been enough improvement yet," she said. "Maybe in another two or three years, we will see enough rehabilitation where the benches could be enjoyed by everyone."

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