Great Streets or Greater Streets? That’s the question.
I went to Garcetti’s presentation on short notice because who doesn’t want something more than just good streets? I must have looked excited enough, that they let me ramble on television!
It was actually the first time I saw our Mayor speak in person and I have to say that I’m impressed. He’s comfortable, a good listener and responds very well to questions. He comes across a little wooden on television, but is a very natural and fluent speaker up close.
As for the streets themselves, it sounds awesome, but we’re not even at the schematics stage. We do know that fifteen streets have been selected, one for every district in the city. The idea is to make these streets more friendly to pedestrians and businesses(and possibly bicyclists) in these designated areas. Landscaping, signage, street art, sculptures and bike racks are some of the design elements to help spruce up our sidewalks.
The Mayor points to Sunset Junction and Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village of examples he would like to emulate. If he can bring that type of magic to our streets, I’m all in.
The costs of these projects are to be mitigated by combining the efforts of nine departments he named to help eliminate the redundancy that I can only assume plague normal projects. Yes, nine. Later that night I heard Kevin James, the President of Public Works, speak to our city’s Bicycle Action Committee. Of the many road problems brought up, he suggested LADOT, Caltrans and DWP shared responsibility on solving some of these street issues. Yikes!
Of the streets selected, I think the Mayor did a good job as a whole. There were almost two hundred applications for this project city wide, so it’s very easy to nitpick at these choices, which I’ll do right now!
My favorite choice of them all is the selection of Central Avenue in District 9. Los Angeles has a lot of history to remember, but its past as a jazz scene has gone largely forgotten. Although there’s still reminders of that era with the Dunbar Hotel, murals and jazz park, this could be the type of recognition that puts this historic area back on the map.
Hollywood Blvd is a bit of a question mark to me. First of all, it is one of the most famous streets in the world already filled the to brim with tourists and brawling superheros. Secondly, you already have a number of unique sculptural and lighting elements spread throughout that sends the message you’re in the movie capital of the world. The sidewalk itself isn’t in need of much improvement either unless they can remove the Backstreet Boys from the Walk of Fame.
The San Fernando Valley has five inclusions which sounds like a lot, but you forget that this area is represented by seven councilmen. Interestingly enough, all of these selections are poised to spice up areas that are largely children of mid-century planning. At least nothing was chosen in front of a Westfield.
What’s worrisome about some of the selections are the nebulous details of cycling infrastructure. If this program turns out to be a wild success, how are you going to get there? You cannot add any new parking spaces so accommodating bicyclists would be a natural solution. Adding bike racks is a start, but much more is needed to bring people safely to and from these areas.
Prior to the Great Streets announcement, the portions of Figueroa, Westwood Boulevard, Hollywood Blvd, Crenshaw and Central were among those slated to add bike lanes under the city’s Mobility Plan. So all is well, right? If you’ve checked in on the news recently, adding these painted white lines aren’t as easy as it sounds.
Highland Park is already caught in a contentious battle pitting businesses and commuters against cyclists concerning the subtraction of car lane. The decision is councilman Cedillo’s and while he has not handled it elegantly, it’s safe to say that this is not going to be the last confrontation over bike lanes.
Personally, I’ve ridden that section of Figueroa and it is one I try to avoid. As a cyclist, I try to stay out of harms way from parked cars because I’ve seen my share of car doors blindly flung open into my path. In response, I ride in the middle of the lane over the portion where there’s already sharrows to suggest that I should. The problem being that cars don’t like being slowed down even though I’m being lawful. Ultimately, with the tailgating and honking horns, nobody ends up liking each other.
I want Great Streets. I like bringing Los Angeles back to smaller communities having their own identity. The Mayor put forth a number of ambitious goals, ones that captures all of our imagination. Now the hard work begins, turning these Great Streets into Complete Streets.