The War Against Christmas Decorations?
Something was not quite right about Echo Park last week. Something was missing, the streets were not as gaudy as they should be, a gray tone had settled over Sunset Boulevard. It was the holiday decorations, I realized -- there weren't any.
Usually the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue is bristling with tinsely set pieces attached to lamp poles but instead, there were modest banners advertising Echo Park's Christmas Parade, which took place December 13. A companion banner said, "Happy Holidays from the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce, GEPNC & CD 13."
Don't get me wrong, I'm no Bill O'Reilly and I don't presume the absence of giant candy canes or silver whorls above the sidewalk represent a PC attack against the holidays. But I realized I missed the tinny cheer they lent.
I also knew that to find out what happened to the Christmas street decorations, or even who's even behind putting them up, would entail many phone calls and chipping away at the bureaucratic permafrost beneath which mysterious civic decisions are made.
Julie Wong was driving through Los Feliz when I called her. Wong is 13th District City Councilman Eric Garcetti's media pointwoman.
"You know, I'm in Tom's district now," she said from LaBongeville, "and I don't see any decorations here either."
When Wong got to Garcetti's main office in Hollywood, she looked into the matter and told me the ornaments were strictly the Chamber of Commerce's baby. Now, I had already called the chamber and left a message. I thought I had also left one with the Greater Echo Park Neighborhood Council (the "GEPNC" on the banners), but wasn't sure -- I may have just fallen asleep listening to its outgoing message. I know I had spoken to the Office of Community Beautification, because later I got a return call from Board of Public Works Commissioner Cynthia Ruiz.
Ruiz confirmed that the city does not buy the street decorations, but will put them up if paid by a nongovernmental group or a City Councilperson. Otherwise, no.
"It's not like we have a big warehouse filled with Christmas ornaments," she said.