1814 Berkeley Ave. It has been asleep for about four years. That's the nice way of looking at it. Another way of reading the rectangular Echo Park space at Berkeley/Grafton/Lakeshore/Lemoyne: Bigfoot was here. Crunch. A giant footprint in the shape of the former Berkeley Early Education Center. It used to be a preschool, but the LAUSD-owned (and not operated) property has sat as eerily abandoned as a ghost ocean liner drifting in the open sea -- except (back to dry land here) it's not drifting. It's locked in the middle of a residential neighborhood. There are still tables and chairs inside. And a plastic slide out front. And trees.
The subject of the property came up at the Echo Park Improvement Association meeting last week. Kabira Stokes, one of Eric Garcetti's deputies, told the meeting that the council president has been pushing the LAUSD to let the neighborhood use the former early education center. She said a community garden would be ideal. What a beautiful idea! Adaptive re-use. I am sure that any ten people could come up with six times as many good ideas for the locked up public real estate. But I'd vote for the garden.
The threat here is that the LAUSD will sell the place to an unscrupulous developer, that it means nothing more to the agency than a nickel in the land bank. Meanwhile, Chicken Corner is clucking at the irony. When it comes to interacting with the city at large, the giant bureaucracy charged with educating the children so often behaves like a primitive beast with the morals, and the vocabulary, of the abominable snowman. Except it's not a joke.