Where is downtown Culver City?
"Hmm, that's tough," Lynn J. Mockry, associate city engineer, said while turning pages in a large book containing street maps of Culver City.
"I don't know if there is a good definition of downtown. I can't say that it's bounded by such and such street or anything like that," Mockry said. "I think reasonable minds would differ on where that would be in Culver City "
A downtown, Mockry said, is "an area consisting mainly of retail stores. I think of it as something that has been established from whenever the city started, where the city can and has grown around. . . . A traditional city business district."
Does that exist in Culver City?
"Not necessarily," he said, adding that the city's downtown area is difficult to locate because many retail stores near Culver City are really in Los Angeles.
"Along Venice (Boulevard), there is tremendous (retail) activity, but that's L.A.," he said.
The subject of downtown Culver City cropped up recently after city officials chose a site for a $20-million city hall on Overland Avenue and Culver Boulevard, a site that many residents said was outside what they defined as the downtown area.
Culver City is a loose collection of film studios crisscrossed by such major traffic arteries as Washington, Culver and Venice boulevards.
Mix of Modern, Old
A small, aging shopping district lines the city's block-long Main Street. The Culver Center, which falls somewhere between a mini- and major shopping mall, is a mile west.
A mix of modern office buildings and old brick buildings, many built in the 1920s and not up to earthquake safety standards, characterize much of the old business district.
The entire area has been described as blighted and is marked for redevelopment. The city's renewal has begun with the eight-story Filmland Corporate Center on Madison Avenue next to Lorimar, which opened last year, and the three-story Meralta Office Plaza on Culver Boulevard. City officials also have approved an agreement to lease and renovate the dilapidated Ivy Power Substation at Venice and Culver boulevards from the city of Los Angeles. The vacant facility, which once housed trolley cars, will be offered for use by community groups.
When residents, business people and government officials are asked just exactly where downtown Culver City is, opinions differ.
"Of course there is a downtown. I remember it as a kid," said Roy L. Donovan, a Culver City native who runs a publishing company on Culver Boulevard near Main Street.
Donovan said downtown extends from the Filmland Corporate Center on Madison Avenue about half a mile east to Media Park on Culver Boulevard and Canfield Avenue.
Napoleon G. Plato, a real estate broker and landowner who said he has done business in town for 40 years, said: "Culver City was born and raised on Main Street between Venice and Washington (boulevards). Downtown (is) west of National Boulevard and east of Motor Avenue."
"We are in the heart of it," said William Buck, manager of Big Ed's bar on Washington Boulevard and Main Street. "The original downtown Culver City was right here where we're at. . . . It used to mean something at one time but it doesn't mean all that much now."
"From Overland Avenue to around National or Robertson is what I would consider downtown," said Culver City resident Irene McKenna, a secretary at the Bank of America branch on Main Street.
"Downtown Culver City, I would say, would go from Overland Avenue all the way down to National, then from Culver to Venice. That would be the square, the rectangle of downtown," said Gus Prado, owner of Prado Signs and a businessman in Culver City for 21 years. "Washington and Culver would be the heart of downtown."
Nolan Burns, manager of Trader Joe's market on Washington Boulevard, which is just across the city line in Los Angeles but has a Culver City mailing address, said downtown Culver City extends from the Filmland Corporate Center on Madison Avenue all the way to National Boulevard about a mile east.
Susan Berg, project manager for the downtown redevelopment district, said downtown is a general area bordered by Lorimar Studios on the west, Culver Studios and Ince Boulevard to the east, Washington and Culver boulevards to the south and Venice Boulevard to the north.
Mayor Richard R. Brundo said downtown Culver City "is the original business district, basically from the present City Hall location on Duquesne Avenue, or Madison Avenue (two blocks west of Duquesne), to Ince Boulevard, Higuera Street (two blocks east of Ince), south to Culver Boulevard."
Councilman Paul A. Netzel offered a similar description. "Madison to Higuera and in that general area where Culver Studios is (on Ince and Washington boulevards)," although National Boulevard could be considered the town's eastern border, he said.
But, Netzel said, "Culver City's downtown has never really been a downtown unless you go back to the early 1900s." Elected officials from the '30s through the early '50s were basically responsible for how the old section of town turned out, he said. "We're living with the consequences of poor planning."
"I don't think that it has any downtown to speak of," said Margel Crickmore, a tax accountant who works in a condemned building on Washington Boulevard. "There are not too many businesses in the area. If you count people you just don't see many in this area."