May 30, 2024 Your Source for Brentwood News

Brentwood Beat: Greetings From Italy

My wife and a bunch of her friends turned 70 this year, and they celebrated by renting a villa in Tuscany together. I got invited.  It’s rather amazing.  

Before renting a car to drive to the villa on a hillside above Lucca, we spent a few days in Florence.  I had been there once during college, but I don’t remember much, so it was great to see it with fresh eyes.  As is often said, youth is wasted on the young!

We saw the Statue of David and lots of paintings, and we walked through many churches.  We climbed to the top of the Duomo, which caused a bit of huffing and puffing.  

But what really struck me about Florence was the outdoor life.  

Everyone – resident and tourist alike – walks.  There are some taxis and cars and lots of little motorscooters, but people here walk miles every day.  There’s something very healthy about that.  

 Photo Caption: People linger for hours.  Italians know how to laugh and enjoy life.

Because of COVID, we started seeing al fresco dining in Los Angeles.  Pre-COVID, this was considered a no-no by many on the Brentwood Community Council.  I think the idea of outdoor dining is fun, something to be embraced — forever.  We need MORE outdoor dining and drinking establishments in Brentwood.

Italian cities have lots of squares.  In the middle is a big open area.  All around are restaurants, coffee shops, wine bars, etc.  People sit down and talk or engage in people-watching for hours; children play in the square.  Everybody is friendly with everybody else.  Few seem to be in a hurry.

Brentwood should be thinking: Is there an outdoor area where WE could create a central gathering place?

Photo Caption: You can literally buy wine from a “wine window” on the streets of Florence.

This was proposed once for a retail spot that was going to be built at the northwest corner of Barrington and San Vicente.  The developer who proposed this, Brian Gordon, wanted to close that tiny strip of Gorham behind Starbucks in order to make this happen.  

His proposed structure was going to take up Starbucks, that strip of Gorham, and the buildings on the north side of Gorham to the east of Whole Foods. Opponents successfully shot this proposal down, but I think an opportunity was missed.  It doesn’t get much more central than Barrington and San Vicente. 

Photo Caption: Wine windows were built back during The Plague, during the Dark Ages.  They were closed for centuries and then made a comeback during COVID.  They are a big hit here to stay.

The building at the northwest corner of San Vicente and Montana – where Souplantation used to be – is undergoing a big upgrade.  I looked at some sketches of what is to come, and I saw hints of an outdoor gathering place.  It might not be huge like an Italian square, but there is plenty of parking below that building.  Parking is always an issue in Brentwood.

And then there is the Munger property, where the proposed Green Hollow Square was going to go (and where Duttons Bookstore used to be).  That got blocked by opponents, too, and the building – called the Barry Building – is slowly but surely rotting away.  

 Photo Caption: Open-air shopping is everywhere, too.  The grocery stores in Italy are very small compared to ours.  But there are huge areas where one can check out vegetables, meat, cheese, and more.

A permit has been requested to knock the place down.  It’s time.  The building is an eyesore, an embarrassment.  Brentwood can do better.  It’s time for something new.

I hope that something new will include a big open area where local residents can gather, stroll, enjoy food, drink, and listen to music.  There is plenty of room below for an underground parking lot.  An open-air area could be surrounded by some kind of structure.  

I have written several times over the years that a retirement home would go well there.  Brentwood doesn’t have such a thing, and oldsters don’t drive much, so the traffic concern is removed.  I’d also like to see a big public swimming pool included.  

I don’t think we need more stores; we all have plenty of stuff, and Amazon has obliterated much of the retail opportunity that once existed.  

I received a flier at home about supporting the idea of knocking the building down.  Then, a door-knocker came to our place to ask me to sign a petition in favor of the proposed demolition.  

While I think it’s time to move on, I find it troubling that whoever is circulating the fliers and hiring the doorknockers is doing it in an anonymous way.  

I sent an email to the email address on the flier and got no response.  The door-knocker couldn’t tell me who hired him –he said he didn’t know — but promised to pass my message along to his supervisor.  

I asked that someone get in touch with me so I could tell Brentwood what was going on. Again, no response.  Lack of transparency only raises suspicions.  Whoever is behind this effort should make themselves known.  

If you like the idea of an outdoor gathering place – or a retirement home – or a public swimming pool, send an email to the email address on the flier, letsprotectbrentwood@gmail.com, and consider including a link to this article. Or, if you have an idea of your own, send it with a copy to me: jeffhall@mirrormediagroupla.com.

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