A Study Explains What It Might Take to Revitalize West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip

The parklet on Sunset Boulevard in front of Book Soup (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

The demise of the Sunset Strip, or at least the Sunset Strip as what it used to be, has been a subject of discussion for the past decade. There was the collapse of the Sunset Strip Music Festival, an event that featured a lot of aging musicians playing rock music in an era where Millennials were more focused on EDM. BusinessWeek published a story in January saying “for decades, the Sunset Strip was known for its rock clubs and celebrity hot spots. Now, the once-gritty stretch of boulevard is becoming better known for its luxury hotels.”

How to revitalize that famous 1.6 mile stretch of Sunset Boulevard? The answer to that isn’t yet clear. But a study commissioned by the City of West Hollywood reveals some of the challenges the Strip faces and

suggests some possible solutions.

The study was conducted by Gehl Studio and is part of a presentation titled: “The Sunset Experience, Piloting Change on the Sunset Strip Toward Public Life Improvement.” The presentation is a study of the impact of recent efforts to make the Sunset Strip more accessible to the public, with a major focus on walkability. As part of it, Gehl conducted a “Public Space Public Life” survey that reports the following:

— A lot of people visit, but few walk on the Sunset Strip. The survey showed an average of 88 pedestrians per hour between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. on weekdays and 99 per hour during that period on weekends. The highest average count was on the sidewalks at Sunset Plaza, where there was an average of 173 pedestrians an hour during the week and 350 on the weekend. Cars? An average of 2,144 per hour, calculated over a period of 24 hours. By contrast, there are more than twice as many people walking on Santa Monica Boulevard, and only slight more cars (an average of 2,224 an hour).

A bulb out on Sunset Boulevard (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

— Few of those walking along the Sunset Strip cross the street. The survey shows that only one in three pedestrians do so, indicating that they may not feel safe doing that.

— There are few people sitting outside on the Sunset Strip. The survey found an average of 27 people per hour sitting outside along the entire 1.6-mile stretch, with a fourth of them on Sunset Plaza. “This could indicate a need for more invitations for public life on the Sunset Strip,” the Gehl report says. Of those sitting or standing outside, 60% were dining at restaurants, waiting for tables or waiting for valets to bring their cars. Only 2.5% were just relaxing in a non-commercial space.

— The Sunset Strip’s sidewalks don’t support those who are standing outside to wait for admission to restaurants, bars or nightclubs. “During venue opening hours, 60% of all stationery activity was people standing, with more than 50% of that being those waiting in lines on the sidewalk.”

— Local residents come to the Sunset Strip often, but they wish there were more neighborhood amenities. Gehl says that 40% of those local residents who were interviewed said they come to the Sunset Strip daily on foot. However, they wished there were more ameinties such as grocery stores, dog parks, movie theatres a post office, sidewalk seating and shade and affordable retail stores and housing.

— Few people working on the Sunset Strip stay for other reasons, despite travelling far to get there. Roughly 7,000 people work in 700 businesses located on the Sunset Strip, the Gehl study says Those workers wish there were more affordable places to eat and live nearby, less traffic and safer street crossings and better public transportation and parking for those who commute to work.

— Visitor and tourists come for events, food and drinks, but wish there were more diverse offerings. The study notes that there are more than 45 bars, restaurants, hotels and other venues for tourists and that the average yearly room occupancy rate for the hotels on the Strip is 82%. But visitors and tourist would like to see better public transit, less traffic and more parking, more outdoor social space, seating areas and activities and more shopping, cafes and restaurants.

The Gehl study also assessed the public’s reaction to the installation of a “parklet” in front of the Book Soup shop on Sunset Boulevard, the creation of a “sidewalk trail” from Marmont Lane to Doheny Drive that includes sidewalk posters calling out the history of the Sunset Strip and 21 additional sidewalk seats and the addition of “bulb outs,” which are curb extensions that allow pedestrians to better view the traffic as they are trying to cross the street and that slow that traffic.

A history poster on the Sunset Strip’s “sidewalk trail.” (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

The Gehl report says that 80% of those surveyed found the parklet a “satisfactory experience” and said they would like to see more of that on the Sunset Strip. A report from the city’s Planning and Development Services Department says that “thus far, the parklet has been used for major book signings, a community engagement pop-up by the city, and used on a daily basis as a place to have lunch, read a book or magazine, or to hold informal meetings by nearby office workers.”

Three-quarters of those surveyed liked the historical posters on the sidewalk trail and 57% liked the improving walking environment. Respondents also asked for more public seating, more street trees and shade, wide sidewalks and preservation of cultural landmarks.

There has been significant community opposition to the bulb outs, which some argue get in the way of vehicles.  As a result, the city’s Planning and Development Services Department is proposing to remove the temporary bulb out installations on Sunset at Horn, at Larrabee, on the southeast corner of San Vicente and on the south side of the Sunset/Sherbourne intersection. 

The city will make permanent the  intersection treatments at the southwest corner intersection of Sunset, Holloway and Palm, the northeast and southeast intersections of Holloway and Palm (across from Dialog Café and State Social House), the northwest corner of Sunset and Clark Street (near Whiskey A Go Go), the traffic island at the eastern crosswalk of Sunset and Horn and the northeast corner of Sunset and Sherbourne Drive.  It will put white stripes and in-ground reflective markers at those locations.

The city proposes to keep the parklet in front of Book Soup in place for six months while responsibility for maintenance of it transfers to Book Soup.

A report on the survey to the City Council notes the opposition the Sunset Strip projects have faced from residents of the West Hollywood Heights neighborhood. In an email message to City Hall staff, Elyse Eisenberg, chair of the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association, said its members believe “the city has wasted money on a poorly executed solution to a non-existent problem, i.e. Walkability on Sunset.

“It should be noted this is not Hollywood Blvd with throngs of tourists. There are no activities on Sunset for tourists, especially in this area. There is virtually nothing left of “historic” WeHo, thanks to the rapid development of hotel row. Spago’s is long gone. Tower Records no longer exists. Is Aahs a destination store? No, and it has a parking lot in back. The cigar and liquor stores and tattoo parlors? Is that who we’re doing this for? For the one destination retail outlet – Book Soup, a couple of parking spots are now gone. There is no other non-local retail nearby other than Sunset Plaza, which is not affected by this project.”


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Blake
Guest
Blake

Can we please stop trying to “save” the sunset strip. It’s immensely frustrating that parking along the strip was recently extended to rush hours. It’s effectively taken a whole lane out of commission – all just to appeal to consumers too lazy to park in any of the numerous empty lots for the all the useless and rightfully dying businesses.

J-J
Guest
J-J

the parklet is another great place for street vagrants to live, sleep and dirty. when west hollywood park re-opens they can go back there where they belong. lol. the sunset strip is a dead zone because the gays have no interest. because it look like something old. because it’s few customers are “euros” or “persians” and nobody wants to mix with them and they don’t seem to want to mix with anyone else. like weho gays. a plan for the sunset strip? because weho has ignored it? lol. typical stuffy weho hypocrisy. call me when the park re-opens in 2038.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Why did we need to pay these to tell us that we would like less traffic, more parking and better public transportation.

James Francis
Guest
James Francis

The experience failed because the scope and magnitude of construction for hotels, valet cars that you cannot walk on Sunset. VIP experiences for the jet setters, club goers to the trendy spots. The wealthy have a monopoly in this district that caters not to the fixed income locals-like ME, by locals that rent I mean. It’s all about the owners and renters grandfathered in who can afford condos and apartments that I cannot afford! Sunset Blvd is all about businesses and flash and keeping it business as usual for them! I for one, have not patronized for the 8 years… Read more »

Phillip
Guest
Phillip

What have the residents living on Palm done to deserve the punishment of additional traffic jams on the street caused by the bulb out while other streets are being given a reprieve?

Palm is already a problematic street because of the narrowness in places. If anyone thinks exacerbating the traffic problem and ensuing road rage and honking creates a pedestrian friendly environment, they need to have their head examined.

Randy
Guest
Randy

It seems clear to me that the overbuilding of hotels along the Sunset Strip has changed the entire make-up of the area, and the train has left the station. We have tourists walking to night clubs, comedy clubs and a few restaurants. And many, not walking at all, but driving, taxiing or using Ubers to leave the strip to do other things (or some, walking down to Santa Monica Blvd). Once again, the train has left the station. We turned the Sunset Strip into a hotel corridor, complete with outlandish billboards, and have a few remaining comedy clubs, night clubs… Read more »

Streetscape Project
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Streetscape Project

$355,000 to Gehl Studio, Copenhagen to design and install streetscape pilot. Add to that the unknown cost of related city and public meetings. The city meetings were presumably with highly paid city personnel who one would expect would have the expertise and high qualifications to come up with ideas about Sunset Strip on their own. Yes, the staff reports do take time to compose and produce but is this what they are paid to do in order to qualify for generous salaries? Blind leading the blind so it fits right in with Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Lacking Vision
Guest
Lacking Vision

A distinct lack of any vision for the Sunset Strip. Rather than assess the interesting landmarks that remain from a time when the Sunset Strip was more highly regarded, the city has allowed incongruous developments to hatch by chance. It would have been so simple for the city to at least sponsor a competition inviting students at architectural schools and practicing architects to present concepts. That would be something to work with. The thoughtlessness here is astounding plus there does not appear to be a single entity within City Hall that possesses an aesthetic eye. Instead the focal point has… Read more »

Michael G.
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Michael G.

The legendary Sunset strip is nothing but a memory. It’s now just a long corridor featurious hideous billboards that hide possibly some of the worst architecture ever created in the last decade. Under the leadership of West Hollywood political hacks paid off by developers and sign companies. They could’ve at least maintained some charm on what was a famous boulevard. But their lack of taste and selling out to any source of pay to play cash … has turned it into a tacky stage to present the likes of a Stormy Daniels being awarded the key to the City.

J-J
Guest
J-J

Yup. And i see no difference between Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards running through West Hollywood. Both are places to pass through on your way to somewhere else. One struggling, the other dead. Understand that in making it a “gay village” you turned off everyone who might have thought about living there. so it’s a no go zone. you made your bed. so there you go. —- it is the most uptight part of Los Angeles, along with parts of West LA.

Greg
Guest
Greg

173 pedestrians vs 2,144 cars tells you the priority should be to keep car traffic moving.
You don’t do that by taking away road for more sidewalk when the sidewalks are fine.
Do the people making decisions live in this town? I drive this route every day and that’s all it takes to know this idea is a failure. Come up with a different plan than reducing the road width.

J. T. Anderson
Guest
J. T. Anderson

“The Sunset Experience” is a disaster. It has turned a world-renown street into a joke. An ugly joke. I have lived near Sunset Blvd. for over 40 years and I walk on the Strip daily. I have hated the “Experience” from the beginning. It trivializes the history and importance of a famous street. The bulb outs are ugly and useless if not dangerous to pedestrians and drivers. The tiny white poles were flattened within days. The ugly red paint and silly stencils are filthy. The “parklet” in front of Book Soup is never used by anyone except an occasional homeless… Read more »

Joe G.
Guest
Joe G.

I only hope that these will be any better than the others they have installed on Santa Monica Blvd. So far, the SMB installations have only been a nesting area for the homeless to sit, gather, sleep, drink alcohol in public, etc. The City of West Hollywood NEEDS to get the homeless issue in Weho under control!!!