Neighborhood Association Survey Shows Little Support for ‘Sunset Experience’ Project

Parklet on Sunset Strip in front of Book Soup

A survey conducted by the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association shows little support from nearby residents for the “Sunset Experience,” a project by the City of West Hollywood to improve the walkability of the Sunset Strip.

The results of the survey were released today, just ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday by the City of West Hollywood to discuss the project and solicit suggestions from residents for ways to improve walkability on the Strip. The city has conducted its own survey, the results of which are likely

to be disclosed at that meeting, which will be at 6:30 p.m. at The London Hotel’s Kensington Ballroom at 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd.

In November 2018, the city created three temporary pilot projects to test ways to make walking the Sunset Strip a more pedestrian-friendly experience. One features light poles wrapped in bright colors with directions to nearby restaurants and clubs along with historic facts about the Strip. There also are bulb outs, or painted extensions of the sidewalks at key intersections, narrowing the distance to cross some streets while adding a colorful and driver-aware flair to the roadway. And there is a shaded and screened seating area called a “parklet,” which is installed at an on-street loading zone adjacent to Book Soup, located at 8818 Sunset Blvd. and adjacent to Mystery Pier Books. The pilot projects are only up for six months.

The WHHNA survey, conducted online from Jan. 27 to Feb. 27, got 186 responses, most all from nearby residents.

“While the survey’s questions attempted to be as impartial as possible and were designed to allow for positive feedback and support for the project, the survey itself was initiated because of the havoc caused by the execution and unwieldiness of this concept,” says a statement from WHHNA.

“Indeed, the overwhelming response to the survey and the responses themselves reflect this.”

— 82% of the respondents were very or somewhat familiar with the Sunset Experience project.

— 65% of the respondents had a great deal or moderate amount of problems driving around the bulb-outs.

— 68% felt they had definitely made things worse or made no difference at all.

— 34% said they had had incidents with the poles and planters, however many people wrote about incidents they witnessed, even though they didn’t personally have incidents.

— 61% had experienced a great deal or a moderate amount of traffic problems including backups due to the reconfigured streetscapes.

— 63% said Hell No! They shouldn’t become permanent fixtures on the Strip, and another 14% said they weren’t sure.

There were 136 comments on the bulb outs. The parklet attracted 110 comments.

“It was split as to whether it should become a permanent fixture,” WHHNA reports. “Although 24% were very enthusiastic about it (even though none of them had ever used it), the majority were either ambivalent, didn’t know, or didn’t want to see precious parking spaces lost because of it. Many people expressed concern about the homeless using it, and in fact, many commented on witnessing homeless people using it – apparently, they are the only users of it. And the owner of the Mystery Pier Bookstore said that he is losing business because of it and wants it gone.”

There were 130 responses to questions about walkability on the strip.

“The majority felt there were no problems walking on the Strip, or crossing Sunset,” WHHNA reports. “That people had been crossing for decades without problems. Two recurring suggestions included extending the timing of the crossing lights by a few seconds, and flashing strips of light at Sunset Plaza crossings like are done on Santa Monica crosswalks. Also, that people could walk a block further in one direction or another to either Sunset Plaza or to Larrabee if they found the Sunset / Holloway crossing too difficult.”

The results of the entire survey can be accessed online.  A full description of the Sunset Experience project also can be accessed on the city’s website.

  1. Directional signs and historic info sound useful given the area is trafficked by tourists.

    Parklets are nice when they are added in front of businesses (restaurants, coffee shops) that want to utilize them for outdoor seating that might not otherwise be possible. Short of that, just because you’re sitting in the parking lane doesn’t make it a park. Parklets might be suitable on other streets in WeHo, but it seems like they wouldn’t be useful on Sunset where there is already a great deal of usable sidewalk space.

    I will refrain from expressing my thoughts about the inventor of the “bulb out”, but the bulb out itself at Palm cannot be gone to quickly.

  2. This is another trend of cheap feel-good/make-work by community development departments across the country. Parklets, like bike-shares, are productive and effective in low traffic, high pedestrian small town centers. They are not suited for chaotic urban high traffic cities with narrow sidewalks. In this area, the city should be encouraging more set backs in new developments and wider sidewalks instead of pushing people out to sit in the street. The Santa Monica Blvd redevelopment of the late 1990s and the Gay Starbucks/Ramada set backs and sidewalks are the kind of efforts that have worked very well.

  3. I wish I’d known about the survey so I could have officially checked the “HELL NO” box. Creating additional traffic issues is never a good idea.

    1. Agree 100%.
      If there were a question on that survey asking “Which would you prefer we remove first: these bulb outs and parklets; or John Duran?” I’d have a tough time deciding. They are all hazards to our community and I cannot believe our City Council foisted them on us.

  4. Survey Says:
    Homeless people are the only ones using the Parklet…..and the owner of the Mystery Pier Bookstore wants it gone!

    That’s all anyone needs to know.

  5. Obviously what makes a street “more walkable” are things that automatically attract walkers, like clothing shops, restaurants, night clubs, coffee shops, outdoor restaurants & other things that make people want to come & partake of the action. Not the things this pilot project have done. They’re all useless. Sunset Plaza is always busy, it’s outdoor restaurants draw people from all over, people window shop at the clothing & other retail stores, & Sunset Plaza is also a picture perfect & a cozy charming environment that people enjoy being in. Obviously S.M. Blvd automatically attracts pedestrians, as does Melrose Avenue, among others, because of the businesses that are there & because these streets still maintain their “glamorous” status spots as destination, tourist attracting streets, unlike Sunset Strip which is now considered passe’, in spite of the many attempts through time to revive & reenergize it. Everyone would love to see the return of the legendary Sunset Strip, but it would take major changes & additions & take years & years to do so.

    1. Woody, you took the words right out of my mouth! I would just add that sidewalks + engaging, street-level storefronts are what make walking an experience. Walking past glass-fronted after glass-fronted hotel lobbies is not it.

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