“There’s little to no green land in Koreatown. Please don’t take away what’s left.”
Inside of the Los Angeles City Hall on Dec. 7, Hae-kyung Lee pleaded that Wilshire Park, the only remaining green land in the city’s Koreatown, must be protected.
Lee was making her case on behalf of many Koreatown residents at the city’s public hearing, as Korean-American real estate firm Jamison Services recently proposed its plans to replace the Wilshire Park with a 36-story residential and commercial building.
Jamison Services has already announced its plans to construct the building containing 506 residential units in addition to various businesses. If approved by the city, the building would become the tallest property in Koreatown.
Wilshire Park, the current property at the same location at 3700 Wilshire Boulevard, was originally built 50 years ago. Around 40 trees planted in 1966 still remain in the park, which is now essentially Koreatown’s only green land. Many Korean immigrants in L.A. still have fond memories of the park, as it hosted a public viewing party for South Korea’s World Cup games.
At the hearing, Jamison proposed its plans to retain the 11-story property that is currently located behind the park. However, its newly proposed 36-story building is set to replace the park in front of the original structure. Jamison added that its project would provide additional housing opportunities in L.A.’s densest neighborhoods, as well as creating jobs for local residents.
However, many of the approximately 30 Koreatown residents who attended the hearing strongly opposed the construction project. Among 13 of them who spoke at the hearing, 11 voted against Jamison’s proposal, while only two voted for it.
The opposition is mainly attributed to the residents’ concern about Koreatown’s already limited green land, as well as further traffic congestion.
“The park is the only place where local residents can get together to relax,” said one attendee, who only identified herself with her first name Laura. “To take the park away from the residents is to strip them of a place for them to breathe.”
Another resident Mike Salski, who is professional photographer, added, “Having a rest area close to where we live is directly related to the happiness of the community. I plan on submitting photographs of people enjoying themselves at the park to the city.”
Kiss kresjees, who also lives in a nearby area, said: “The streets surrounding the proposed construction area is extremely narrow. The area is congested with traffic during rush hours already. What do we do about the traffic that will only get worse if you build a skyscraper to replace the park?”
Residents also disagreed that constructing the building would boost the local economy, as similar construction projects around the neighborhood did little to create jobs, as many buildings that were recently constructed still have a sizable number of vacancies.
Some residents even argued that Jamison is only attempting to forgo with its plans to strictly benefit itself, while “going behind [the local residents’] back” to get its wish.
L.A. City Councilmember Herb Wesson, who represents Koreatown, vowed to work with the real estate developers to find a solution.
“I understand the concern of the residents,” said Wesson. “We will continue to speak to the developers as well as the residents and find a way to solve the problem.” Wesson then proposed to build a park in front of the nearby Pio Pico Library as an alternative.
However, Jamison continued to stress that Wilshire Park is ultimately a private property, which has simply allowed residents to use its area for recreational purposes, and that there is no legal obligation for anyone to advocate for its protection.
Ironically, Jamison’s stance is in stark contrast with Wilshire Park’s inaugural owner Joseph Mitchell, who said in 1966 that he hopes to give the park to the community for the betterment of people’s everyday lives.
Two more hearings are set to take place, as the next one will be held on Feb. 9.
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By Koo Hyun Chung