Crosswalk Issue Exposes Rift Between Weho’s Public Safety and Transportation Commissions

Santa Monica Boulevard Crosswalk
Crosswalk warning light being installed on Santa Monica Boulevard near Westmount

A discussion Monday about what should be done to better protect pedestrians in West Hollywood’s crosswalks has exposed a rift between the city’s Public Safety Commission and its Transportation Commission.

After hearing half a dozen speakers urge the city to do more to protect people using the crosswalks, Public Safety Commission Chair Ruth Williams pointed out that any action would require the support of the Transportation Commission.

“I am angry about this particular issue,” Williams said. “For years this commission has raised this as a public safety issue…. We continually beg for response from the transportation commission.”

Williams said the transportation commission has been reluctant to take up the crosswalk safety matter, which got the public’s attention again on June 28 when a 59-year-old man in a crosswalk at Santa Monica Boulevard at Westmount was hit by a car.

“I recommend that you go before the Transportation Commission and really put pressure on them,” Williams told local residents who spoke up about the issue.”

Marcy Norton, another Public Safety commissioner, agreed, saying “we have been hitting a roadblock with the Transportation Commission.”

The Public Safety Commission is charged with evaluating and recommending “suggestions involving public safety issues” along with “strengthening community response to emergencies” and making recommendations involving “neighborhood livability issues.”

The Transportation Commission, whose chair is Lindsey Horvath, a former City Council member, is responsible for analyzing transportation, transit and parking issues and making policy recommendations to the City Council.

Each commission is composed of seven members, each of the five members of the City Council appointing one and two members appointed by the Council as a whole.

Speakers at Monday night’s meeting offered a variety of suggestions for improving pedestrian awareness of cars while in crosswalks and for alerting drivers to pedestrians.

Lauren Meister, a candidate in the 2015 City Council election and a former public safety commissioner, recommended that the city distribute copies of a pubic safety brochure and cards alerting pedestrians to be watchful as they entered crosswalks.

Larry Block, another declared City Council candidate and a member of the city’s Disability Advisory Board, complained that the city still has yet to issue a request for bids for more crosswalk lights, although that request was authorized by the Council in February. At that time, the Council agreed to install lights at crosswalks at Santa Monica Boulevard at Palm and Hancock avenues and San Vicente Boulevard in front of the West Hollywood Library.

Pat Dixon, a member of the city’s Senior Advisory Board, recalled years ago that she, while driving, had accidentally hit someone in the Santa Monica / Westmount crosswalk. Dixon said there should be a stop sign at that crosswalk, forcing motorists to stop. The current flashing light, activated when a pedestrian pushes a button on a pole on the sidewalk, isn’t helpful, she said. “That flashing light wouldn’t work on a Christmas tree.”

Cathy Blaivas, a resident of the Eastside, recommended more prominent signs calling out the presence of the crosswalks and using some of the city’s Block by Block public safety monitors to monitor the crosswalks.

Stephanie Harker recommended that tickets be issued to pedestrians who enter crosswalks without pressing the flashing light buttons and who are fixated on their mobile phones rather than the traffic around them. She also suggested tickets be issued to drivers who sped through crosswalks with pedestrians in them.

Phil Hoskins suggested the city install pedestrian activated stop lights at Santa Monica Boulevard’s intersections with Palm, Hancock and Westmount. Unlike the current system, in which a pedestrian immediately activates a flashing light at a crosswalk, a stop light system would require pedestrians to gather and wait until the light turned green for them to cross.

Another suggestion came from Steve Levin, who said he opposed red lights and stop lights at crosswalks but thought the city should paint them yellow to make them more prominent.

Members of Cross Safe WeHo, a group of citizens that recently organized to deal with the crosswalk safety issues, intend to speak before the Transportation Commission at its next meeting, which is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Plummer Park Community Center.

On Monday night the Public Safety Commission elected Robert Burke as its new chair and Marcy Norton as vice chair. Burke pledged that the commission would do all it could to address the crosswalk safety issue.

Correction:  An earlier version of this story erred in saying the Public Safety and Transportation commissions each had five members.  Each commission has seven members.  The story was been corrected.


16 Comments
  1. I work at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. & Westbourne Drive and am able to see the cross walk from my office window the problem with pedestrian safety is clear 90% of the people
    walk on a red light, the red hand means STOP ! if you blow your horn they usually show you their middle finger. If the people who insist upon breaking the law had to pay a huge
    fine/ ticket the unsafe conditions for pedestrians would come to a screeching halt in addition
    to having an officer stationed at these cross walks for a couple of months to explain the difference between the red and green light system..

  2. Variations on a theme:

    “Phil Hoskins suggested the city install pedestrian activated stop lights at Santa Monica Boulevard’s intersections with Palm, Hancock and Westmount. Unlike the current system, in which a pedestrian immediately activates a flashing light at a crosswalk, a stop light system would require pedestrians to gather and wait until the light turned green for them to cross.”

    Guy a: “The overhanging traffic light Phil discusses, like the one by canters on fairfax, allows peds to gather THEN turns blinking RED. So peds cross safely and once they’re all gone, cars can proceed one at a time till the flashers turn back green (it becomes a stop sign, essentially) this is fair to ALL!!!”

    Darin Weeks: “A crosswalk timed with the nearby lights would not impact traffic. Why not create an opening for people to cross when TRAFFIC IS ALREADY STOPPED for lights on either side of the mid-block crossing? Traffic backs up through that area when the lights are red anyway… just put a synchronized light at the crosswalk to help people cross safely while the traffic is stopped. Everyone wins!”

    And ABSOLUTELY the ultimate solution:

    kayaytche: “It seems to me that a major issue is that pedestrians can cross whenever they want, thus making it very difficult for drivers (and pedestrians themselves) to count on a steady flow of car/walker traffic. Wouldn’t a very easy solution be to install a few more stop lights where cross-walks are now, but then TIME ALL THE LIGHTS to change at the same time? This is what Beverly Hills does on SMB and if you’re lucky enough to hit the changing of the lights at the right time, you soar through Beverly Hills. Why not CONTROL the problem?!?!”

    1. or…we can just make people walk 100feet to the nearest traffic light and save pouring more money into the crosswalks. That would truly be the safest thing.

  3. Maybe you should put people in those key city posts who are qualified to handle these responsibilities. The politics of WeHo sicken me. It’s Mean Girls meets Clueless meets Election. And another thing, what is the point of elections if all that happens is the same small group of people keep rotating through the jobs? It’s a big joke. And yes, I do my part and vote.

  4. “Pedestrian friendly” means walk a bit more. No where other than the stretch by the 19-hour Fitness Gym are people so entitled to 2 stop lights and 2 cross walks. Do the math! People need to walk a block or two and we need at least one less crosswalk. Stop discussing Canters. If I eat at Eatwell I have to cross at La Jolla or Sweetzer. The two blocks over and back is a healthy way to burn calories. I’m guessing Crosswalks at Westbourne/knoll/mount are not the fault of the Transportation Commission but the backwards thinking of the old Transportation Department formerlly run by “u know who.” Walk on!

  5. This is soooo ridiculous! Mike Dolan has said what needs to be said. Remove the crosswalks. They were only put in to accommodate the people that were already breaking the law by jaywalking across a 4 lane roadway. Pedestrians should be made to walk to the traffic light to cross. Safer for them and better for traffic. End of story. As if handing out brochures to grown adults to tell them to look before they cross is gong to change their actions – that is ridiculous. If they don’t have the common sense God gave a billy goat, they aren’t going to read a little piece of paper and suddenly change their ways. Waste of money. You wanna save lives, advocate for the removal of these crosswalks. The little extra time it takes to walk to the traffic light will benefit their health and possibly save their lives.

  6. A crosswalk timed with the nearby lights would not impact traffic. Why not create an opening for people to cross when TRAFFIC IS ALREADY STOPPED for lights on either side of the mid-block crossing? Traffic backs up through that area when the lights are red anyway… just put a synchronized light at the crosswalk to help people cross safely while the traffic is stopped. Everyone wins!

    1. @ Darin: If there is an opening in the median between Starbucks and the gym, people will cross whenever. They aren’t going to wait for a light. If the break in the median (crosswalk) is filled and landscaped, it will be fair less likely people will jaywalk across. They will walk to the light to cross where traffic is already stopped for them. Safest and simplest solution. We don’t NEED a crosswalk there.

  7. This is so ridiculous. I agree with Mike Dolan above. Get rid of the crosswalks except at the intersections. Put up barriers in the center divider to force people to go to the street corners. I’m all for a walk friendly city…but this is the only area of Weho that has this problem? Why? It’s because of the Starbucks and the Gym. People dont want to take the effort to walk a few extra feet. Why cater to these people? Unless you’re going to build a walk bridge over SMB…you will always have distracted drivers and distracted walkers.

  8. I completely agree with “Guy a” and Phil Hoskins. Smart lights are safer and better for traffic flow.

    “Wehoan… NIMBY”, so you are against pedestrian crossings that interfere with YOUR commute? you might as well shorten your screen name to just NIMBY.

    I doubt that crossing pedestrians added a second to your total commute time, they just messed with the flow of it. I’m all for improving the flow but let’s not fool ourselves that total commute times will shorten as we add density in WeHo and all of the LA area.

  9. Again, I’m siding with Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs here, sort of. In a perfect world, it would be awesome to bury SMB through WeHo a bit (you wouldn’t need to go completely underground) and cap it, much like the proposals for the 101 through Hollywood. That is most likely an impracticable solution (but really, wouldn’t it be great?!). It seems to me that a major issue is that pedestrians can cross whenever they want, thus making it very difficult for drivers (and pedestrians themselves) to count on a steady flow of car/walker traffic. Wouldn’t a very easy solution be to install a few more stop lights where cross-walks are now, but then TIME ALL THE LIGHTS to change at the same time? This is what Beverly Hills does on SMB and if you’re lucky enough to hit the changing of the lights at the right time, you soar through Beverly Hills. Why not CONTROL the problem?!?! Pamphlets, sure. Tickets, why not? But these solutions require continuted manpower. Timing lights is a one-time shot that has lasting effects without lasting paychecks.

  10. They should make SaMo Blvd a single lane each way for cars, and install protected bike lines and widen the sidewalks further.

    Chicanes and other traffic calming measures should be introduced alongside hard Redlight crossings for pedestrians. The speed limit should be 20mph max.

    Car divers can go to alternate routes if they want to move faster as they transit through WeHo – go to Wiltshire blvd and have fun on the East West commute.

    But lets make this city a safe, multi modal transport leader

  11. Phil Hoskins is the only one that makes sense… Will speed up traffic because there will be less stops AND will increase ped safety. I live on Rugby, below the gym, and use the Westbourne light AND the westmount ped flashers all the time. I actually prefer to use the reg traffic light at westbourne, even if it takes a minute or two to wait to turn. It’s safer and I feel badly stopping 50 cars for just me. The overhanging traffic light Phil discusses, like the one by canters on .fairfax, allows peds to gather THEN turns blinking RED. So peds cross safely and once they’re all gone, cars can proceed one at a time till the flashers turn back green (it becomes a stop sign, essentially) this is fair to ALL!!!

  12. My god these people live in a bubble. You want to ADD stop signs to Santa Monica Blvd??? My commute takes me from Weho (Fairfax and Santa Monica) to west of the 405. This very morning, it took 25 minutes to go from Fairfax to Doheny on Santa Monica Blvd. Almost every morning there are people constantly just walking thru at Westmount from Starbucks to the gym making all of the rush hour commuters wait, and backing up traffic far to the east. I had to wait at the La Cienega stoplight for 3 greens before I could get through the intersection in front of CVS.

    Listen, I am happy that some of you live in such a way that you never have to leave West Hollywood. But for the rest of us, Santa Monica Blvd is a major east-west thoroughfare and we simply cannot function if we act as if it operates in a vacuum.

  13. These mid-block crosswalks need to be removed and pedestrians, like they always have, go the 1/2 block east or west and cross at the main intersection with a ‘walk sign’ and traffic light for maximum safety and traffic flow. No amount of light, signs, flashing beacons will stop a pedestrian or driver while they are fixated on their phone… More signs are not aesthetic and not practical when drivers and pedestrians are mainly concerned with what is on their hand-held device. More lights would only help at these mid-block crosswalk to further illuminate a drivers and pedestrian’s line-of-sight on their hand-held device.

    The mid-block crosswalks should be eliminated and medians curbed and filled with landscape. I’m sorry, but if anyone only can get to the opposite side of the street because their destination is directly straight across from their exact location and cannot walk 1/2 block and wait for traffic to stop at a signaled intersection; that is reckless.

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