Drivers can continue to “take Fountain” as the West Hollywood City Council indicated on Monday night that it has no plans to reduce that avenue from two lanes to one lane in each direction.
Part of a proposal to add bike lanes throughout the city included reducing the number of lanes on the popular east-west street, known for being especially speedy compared to others, and installing dedicated bike lanes. However, the Council members unanimously made it clear that was not a possibility now or anytime in the foreseeable future.
“[Reducing Fountain to one lane] would possibly bottleneck the only avenue that actually moves all the time in the city in West Hollywood,” said Councilmember John Duran. “If we tell people in the city we’re taking away a lane of traffic each way on Fountain, there will people here with pitchforks ready to go after our hides.”
Councilmember John Heilman agreed that residents would not stand for it and that it would mess up traffic throughout the city.
“What you’re talking about is completely undoable,” said Heilman, who lives near the Fountain-La Cienega intersection. “I know we’re supposed to be aspirational, but I live with that traffic coming down Fountain every day. If you were to narrow this to one lane, even at non-peak hours, that’s going to be a disaster.”
Mayor Lauren Meister noted that Fountain Avenue gets 39,000 car trips per day, just 2,000 fewer than the 41,000 car trips that Sunset Boulevard gets.
“A road diet [reduction of the number of lanes] is just not possible at this time,” Meister said. “We should look at Fountain in terms of what kind of improvements we can make to make traffic flow easier.”
During non-peak traffic times, parking is allowed on several narrow portions of Fountain, thereby reducing the number of lanes from two in each direction to one. The Council instructed city staffers to investigate eliminating parking in those narrow spots so the street can have two lanes in each direction around the clock.
Although Fountain Avenue is the northern border of the city from Fairfax to La Brea Avenue, the Los Angeles city limits begin at the sidewalk on the northern side of the street, meaning West Hollywood has complete control of the street and the parking.
Because Fountain Avenue is known for being the fastest east-west street in the perpetually congested area, the phrase “take Fountain” has taken on legendary status. The phrase originated in the 1980s when talk show host Johnny Carson asked actress Bette Davis about the best way for aspiring actresses to get ahead in Hollywood. Davis replied, “Take Fountain.”
The Council also instructed staffers to explore sidewalk improvements along Fountain, including widening sidewalks and replacing curbs at intersections with sidewalk ramps. Councilmember John D’Amico suggested putting power lines along Fountain underground so that the utility poles that sit in the middle of the narrow sidewalk could be removed.
Although the Council members did not approve the dedicated bike lanes on Fountain, they unanimously agreed to take measures to make cycling safer along Willoughby Avenue, an alternate east-west path, that connects with the existing bike lanes that the City of Los Angeles already has on that street. In addition, the Council approved adding a bike lane and traffic calming measures along Almont Drive between Santa Monica Boulevard and Beverly Boulevard. They also okayed bike lanes along Vista/Gardner Street from Fountain to Willoughby.
The city already has bike lanes along the few blocks of Fairfax Avenue, which traverses the city, and along San Vicente Avenue from Beverly Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard and also along Santa Monica Boulevard from Almont Drive to Kings Road.
The Council briefly discussed extending the bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard eastward beyond Kings Road. However, Duran noted doing that would involve removing street parking in the Center City and Eastside. He pointed out that those areas have a perpetual shortage of parking, and businesses along that area would likely not stand for it.
The Council also agreed to crosswalk improvements along Santa Monica Boulevard, including pedestrian signal improvements along mid-block crosswalks west of La Cienega.