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Broadway Discussion Missing a Key Ingredient

By Eric Richardson with Ed Fuentes
Published: Sunday, March 30, 2008, at 04:45PM
Broadway and California Plaza Eric Richardson

Broadway, between 3rd and 4th, with Bunker Hill in the background.

The discussion at Thursday's Zocalo event on Broadway was more notable for who was missing from the conversation than for the words said on the Orpheum stage.

The great potential of Broadway was certainly touted, and the question of how development would affect the homeless seemed to be a favorite. It was the middle ground that seemed less represented.

Conspicuous in its absence was the voice for how those shop owners who have made a living on Broadway for the last few decades can play a role in helping to shape the street's future.

Jerry Sullivan of the Garment & Citizen moderated the discussion, with a panel made up of Councilman Jose Huizar, Steve Needleman of the Orpheum Theatre, Mario Criollo of the Bus Riders Union and Don Spivack of the CRA.

Councilman Huizar, whose district includes Broadway, attempted to diffuse the discussion of what fits by saying that "I see Broadway as important as Olvera street" and that "Broadway is for everyone."

Yet letting discussion about the plight of the homeless dominate discussion does not move forward the state of the Broadway conversation. Homelessness is irrelevant to Broadway. To those who sleep on the street, Broadway represents just another empty sidewalk on which to linger. Downtown and the city as a whole must work diligently on the homelessness issue, but that discussion is larger than any particular street.

More important, and less represented in Saturday's discussion, is the tension between the retail currently lining Broadway and plans for a flashy revitalization. As past discussions here have shown, that topic can quickly lead to the taking of sides -- either one is for the current Broadway stores or for renovation.

That distinction is silly. The story of L.A. Gourmet Bakery is a perfect illustration of how it can be the shop owners themselves who take the lead in defining how Broadway changes.

The development of Broadway is certainly worthy of discussion, but where's the voice that's going out to the retail tenants and helping them adapt to a changing marketplace? If that voice is out there, why isn't it part of this discussion?

With thanks to Pamela Rouse (meekorouse), who took great notes on the panel.

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