City Council Endorses the ‘Sunset Experience’ Project Despite a Harsh Reaction from Councilmember John Heilman

A ‘bulb out’ at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Larrabee. (Photo courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

City Councilmember John Heilman delivered a blistering assessment of the city’s Sunset Streetscape project last night, calling aspects of it “childish,” “kindergartenish,” and “comical” and the overall project an “abject failure.”

“It’s an abject failure. This whole program is a failure. I think we need to acknowledge it and we need to move on,” Heilman said.

He also questioned a survey conducted by Gehl Studio, which was involved in creating the project and whose survey of those walking on the Sunset Strip found major support for a “parklet” installed outside Book Soup and for posters along the Strip that called out the city’s history. “The evaluation from Gehl is comical. You don’t use the firm that implemented the program to evaluate it,” Heilman said. He noted that an online survey conducted by the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association reported major opposition to most aspects of the project, especially the “bulb-outs” at various intersections.

“The only thing that really needs to be addressed is the fast traffic going off Sunset down Holloway,” Heilman said, adding that improving pedestrian safety in the crosswalk on Sunset at Sherbourne Drive also is important.

“The rest of this project is, in my mind, ridiculous. And not really doing what we asked it to do … The real problem on Sunset is restoring it to what it was.”

Heilman said that when one walks down the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard that is parallel to the Sunset Strip Says one sees active businesses. “When you go up on Sunet you don’t see that … “What’s going to have to happen is real economic development where we are creating opportunities for businesses that really are open on the street, that really serve the neighborhoods and visitors,” he said. “You can go for long stretches on Sunset Boulevard and there is no one on the street. That’s the problem. This doesn’t solve the problem.”

Heilman’s comments were made in response to a report on the six-month pilot project, dubbed the Sunset Experience, from the city’s Planning and Development Department. That report recommended removing the temporary “bulb outs,” which effectively are extensions of the sidewalk, installed at the intersections of Sunset Boulevard with Horn and Larrabee and on the southeast corner of Sunset and San Vicente boulevards and the south side of Sunset and Sherbourne.

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

The report also recommended making permanent the bulb outs at four intersections and permanently installing in-ground reflective markers and plastic stripes at them. Those bulb outs are located at the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive, the northeast and southeast intersections of Holloway and Palm Avenue, the southwest corner of Sunset and Clark Street, the crosswalk to the east of the traffic island on Sunset at Horn and on the crosswalk on Sunset at Sherbourne Drive, which the staff report recommended moving to the east side of the street and adding in-road flashing lights.

The report also recommended the city keep in place the “parklet” that it installed on Sunset in front of Book Soup, which will take over responsibility for long term maintenance of that outdoor seating area installed in parking spaces in front of the book store. And it recommends that the city make permanent its “connective sidewalk trail” project, which provides posters about the history of the city and clusters of public benches.

Councilmember Lauren Meister said the bulb outs that the report recommends keeping should be removed.

Councilmember John Duran made a motion to approve the recommendations in the city staff report, which passed in a three-to-two vote, with Meister and Heilman opposing it. Duran also asked that the city consider closing off a small portion of Palm Avenue between Holloway Drive and Sunset Boulevard and using it as a park or other public space.


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Field Trip
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Field Trip

Folks responsible for “The Sunset Experience” would clearly benefit from a “Field Trip Experience”, remember those from our early school projects? Have the planners venture forth from their silos, meet at Sunset Plaza, phones and sketch pads in hand and actually walk from SP east to Crescent Heights. A return trip on the opposite side would give them a complete hands on view of what’s happening. Repeat the following week traveling round trip west to Doheny. Please allow them breakfast, lunch and or dinner conferences at one of the established eateries. Their venture is sure to put them in touch… Read more »

mike fisher
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mike fisher

Applaud John Heilman for his candour. As a one time resident of Sunset Boulevard … and very familiar with the area … I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment. The ‘improvements’ have … for the most part … been a complete waste of public money.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Make a round-a-bout with ripple strips… slows down traffic and gets rid of light

Incompetent Experience
Guest
Incompetent Experience

This incompetent “experience” is just waiting for a crash and subsequent lawsuit against the city.

Robert D
Guest
Robert D

What Woody McBreairty said. This “stuff” is a visual mess & also a hazard. Funny that normally intelligent people would allow this to happen. It’s even worse than the giant rocks in the center strip on S.M. It reminds me of a small desert town with limited resources to do better. Rocks? Well at least they didn’t place them in a traffic lane, but who knows?

mark
Guest
mark

I like the rocks. I like the mixture of rocks and plants. Love the medians. Can we get some more waterfalls too both on SMB and Sunset? It chills people out! The rocks gave the dingy street some character. I’d like to see even more plants, rocks, desert plants to deal with our climate here. Though we had more rain than usual last year, it’s still a dry climate. I think the problem with the parklets is they look too contrived. Maybe with rocks and more natural elements, not hanging over a curb but somehow incorporated it may look less… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
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Alan Strasburg

I wish I could find more eloquence in expressing my disdain for these ridiculous projects, but dumb and ugly is as far as I can get. I’m with John Heilman in his spot-on assessment of this waste of money.

J. T. Anderson
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J. T. Anderson

Heilman is absolutely right! To renew the so-called Sunset Experience is a travesty. The council members who voted for it are either blind or just plain stupid. The “Experience” has ruined Sunset Blvd and now it will get even worse!

Woody McBreairty
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Woody McBreairty

This is absolutely astounding. Making Sunset Strip “more walkable” means setting up painted off spaces with wood flower boxes & mini benches inside a lane of oncoming traffic? These are all a safety hazard to both pedestrians & vehicles & I don’t think anyone in their right mind would choose to leave the safety of the sidewalk & walk in a traffic lane of oncoming traffic. This confusing jumble of “stuff” in the line of traffic defies reason or understanding. I’ve seen numerous cases of those little white posts being flung out into another traffic lane, causing cars to swerve… Read more »

Busy Work
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Busy Work

Could anyone picture this next to Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center or even Trump Tower for that matter?

Ham
Guest
Ham

what’s up with the new light at Robertson and Santa Monica??????? no one understands it……as no one has every seen something similar before. big mistake.

Jim Nasium
Guest
Jim Nasium

I understand it.

Virginia Gillick
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Virginia Gillick

I am not a fan.

Manny
Guest
Manny

Hold your horses! Is the picture above this article for real? What the heck is going on up there?

Mike
Guest
Mike

Yea they are already there