West Hollywood residents like the concept of enhancingthepedestrian experience along Sunset Boulevard, but have mixed feelings about thethree pilot projectscurrently being tested on the Strip. That was the message that came out of a neighborhood meetingwith about 25 people in attendance,held Thursday nightat the London hotel.
Of the threepilotprojects, the most unpopular is the “intersection treatments” where paint and bollards extendingthe sidewalk into the street at key intersections. Resident Lorrie Marlow who lives on Larrabee Street,is a walking enthusiast, but felt it was a “bad idea to lure people off the curb into the street” with the red-painted sidewalkbulb-outs, pointing out pedestrians can easily by hit by distracted drivers.
Another resident complained that traffic is backing up on eastbound Holloway near Sunset thanks to the red paint and bollards eliminating room for people toeasilymake a right turn onto Palm Avenue.
Yet another resident, abicycle enthusiastliving on Larrabee,griped about the sidewalk extensions eating intoareas near the sidewalk where bicyclists traditionally ride. “As a bicyclist, you’re taking my space away from me by those things,” he said.
GThesecond pilot project, the“parklet” taking up two street parking spaces in front of the Book Soupbookstore,got mixed reviews with several people liking it.The Book Soup manager, NadineVassallo, reported her customers had generally positive things to say about the parklet. She also noted store sales have been increasing each month since the parklet was installed in December, but admitted she had no firm evidence the twoareconnected.
However, one person suggested the parklet seemed “dark,” “harsh” and “solitary.” Another suggested it needed tables and chairs to make it seem more inviting as a place to sit and relax. Someone else noted the wood walls surrounding the parklet extend too far onto the sidewalk, creating a bottle neck area on the sidewalk.
Attendees had little to say about the third pilot project, the“connective sidewalk trail” featuringlight poles wrapped in bright colors with directions to nearby restaurants and clubs along with historic facts about the Strip.One person observed that the posters with that information don’t reallystand out.
These three pilot projects were the idea of Gehl Studio, a Copenhagen-based urban design consulting firm that also originated the idea of transforming New York’s Times Square into a pedestrian area.
Urban designer Blaine Merker, the managing director ofGehl Studio’sSan Francisco office, explained astudy found that only 20% to 30% of the people on the Strip cross the street to the other side.The pilot projects are, among other things,experimentsto see if they can increase that number. Merker explained the red bulb-outs were created tomake the length of crosswalk seemshorter.
However, several people questioned Merker’s rationale for the pilots.
“This seems like a solution in search of a problem,” a Horn Avenue resident commented about thepilots, feeling none of the three especially encouraged more walking since there issolittle to do on the Strip these days. “There’s almost no there there.”
Other attendees echoed that idea of there being little reason to walk along Sunset since there is so little to do. Severalattendeesbemoaned that despite its long association with the music industry, the Strip’s current music scene is nothing like its 1980s heyday.
One man noted the Sunset Plaza area with its shops and restaurantsisnowthe famous street’s main attraction and noted the western end of Sunset (toward Beverly Hills) seemed especially dead at night.
As for other ideas, one resident suggested a coffee cart and other street vendors might behelpful.Others liked the idea of more mid-block crosswalks withflashing lights installed in the pavement to warn drivers when pedestrians were crossing.
Still another resident suggested the solution was to “bring back [street] cruising,” the idea of cars riding up and down the Strip over and over on busy weekend nights. Cruising was a big part of the Strip’s nightlifescenein the 1980s and 1990s, but contributed greatly to gridlock and was eventually banned by the city.
Meanwhile, the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association conducted its own survey about the pilot projects. Among the results, some 63% of respondents the pilots should NOT become permanent fixture on the Strip.The pilot projects are currently scheduled to be removed in June.
The city isconductingan online surveyabout the walkability of the Strip andthe three pilot projects. Visit https://www.weho.org/city-government/city-departments/planning-and-development-services/long-range-and-mobility-planning/ongoing-plans-studies/sunset-streetscape-pilot-projectsto fill out the survey.