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 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.