In L.A., polishing up the pedways

In downtown Los Angeles, elevated pedestrian walkways — called pedways — slice the air between tall buildings on Bunker Hill, like a 1970s vision of a future metropolis. That's exactly what they were intended to be — the first phase of what would become a mechanized people mover. Those plans were abandoned long ago, but the existing 10 pedways have something of a cult following among the residents, office workers, bike messengers and high schoolers who traverse them. Yet as beloved as they are, the pedways are something of a stepchild when it comes to getting the resources and funds to erase graffiti and repair smashed lights and guard against future vandalism.

This is hardly the worst infrastructure problem in a city of broken sidewalks, rutted streets and homeless encampments. But it seems ironic — even unfair — that city officials and civic boosters who are constantly exhorting us to get out of our cars and who are painting miles of bike lanes and guiding urban hikes through quirky neighborhoods would ignore these long-standing walkways. The pedways, a part of the history of downtown, deserve, at least, the attention of local politicians and businesspeople, who should work to find a creative solution.

The pedway most vulnerable to vandalism spans the World Trade Center and the Bunker Hill Towers apartments, owned by Essex Property Trust Inc. The managers of those buildings should consider helping fund a security camera that might deter vandals or help catch them. (The pedways fall within the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, but the organization's CEO says its strained resources can only cover maintenance crews on the pedways about once a week. It's unclear how often security patrols go up there.)

A spokesman for City Councilman Jose Huizar says the councilman's office is talking to local property owners about getting a surveillance camera set up. It's unlikely that it would be monitored constantly, but it could serve as a deterrent. Huizar's staff has also talked to the principal of the charter high school located in the World Trade Center building about having students clean up the pedway graffiti as a community project. These are good ideas, and local residents' persistence was key in getting the council office engaged. Now Huizar's office needs to take the lead and follow through.

The pedway vandalism is just one of many issues that are important to city residents but not a high priority for city funds. Illegal trash dumping in residential neighborhoods is a serious problem that needs to be eradicated, for example. In Lincoln Heights, a defunct historic city jail that serves as a film location and a meeting place for community groups is crumbling and needs a major overhaul. In these cash-strapped times, the city can't fix everything. But city officials should offer creative alternatives and form partnerships with private groups and businesses to resolve issues important to their constituents.

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