Once-predominant African-American communities across LA have become Latino-majority and eventually disappeared. However, Leimert Park remains the sole hold-out as the village retains its culture, but is fully aware of the societal changes that may invoke future change. The community successfully fought to have a stop for the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line added. Even though residents are concerned that the community is in a decline due to retail options elsewhere, the same residents have largely opposed developments that might bring new businesses. Those advocating for a revival believe that any effort should also foster the local arts community as well as local businesses.
Even as the City of Los Angeles advances its bike plan, no one is lost on the reality that biking in LA remains a harrowing ordeal. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez concluded as much when he joined city bike coordinator Michelle Mowery on a ride that explored some of the new facilities on Glendale Boulevard and 2nd Street (the latter featuring a buffered bike lane in a tunnel) near Downtown LA. Despite new bike lanes running along existing city streets, some of these, including the buffered lane in the aforementioned tunnel, required taking a lane away from car traffic, leading to automobile congestion and frayed nerves. Moreover, drivers perceive that the bike lanes are hardly used for the amount of street space they take. Nevertheless, Mowery states that the city hopes that 5% of all commuters will use bikes even as elements of the bike plan come online in the coming years.
Metro is on a roll as the agency schedules public meetings covering a variety of topics. One of the first public hearings on proposed service changes was recently held in Van Nuys, which had a surprisingly good turnout. Riders were generally supportive of the new Line 588X, a proposed express service between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, despite skipping service to Sherman Oaks. Meetings for other service areas (except South Bay, where no service changes are proposed) are listed in Upcoming Events.
Additionally, Metro is hosting meetings on its arts program, where participants can learn how to form part of the program. A hearing on the proposed fare restructuring will be held on Saturday, March 29. Finally, a pair of meetings updating community members on the Purple Line Extension will be held on Thursday, February 13. Information on these is also listed in Upcoming Events.
When Los Angeles officials last fall released its proposals for a reconfiguration of the Hyperion Street Bridge as part of a seismic retrofit, bike and pedestrian advocates assailed the plans as being too car-centric, with no allowances for alternative modes of transport. After a sudden and passionate outcry from opponents and further brainstorming, LADOT released new designs that would eliminate a car lane and provide bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge instead of just one side at present.
CicLAvia organizers recently announced the next 3 dates of the popular event, with the next one coming Sunday, April 6. However, CicLAvia leaders also hinted at what may be in store for 2015 and beyond, starting with a possible event outside the central city for the first time. CicLAvia itself aims to establish as many as 9 events annually from 2017 onward. Moreover, groups unaffiliated with CicLAvia are proposing their own events at disparate locations within Los Angeles County. Funds provided by Metro would make CicLAvia and similar events a more regular occurrence in future years. Architectural pundit Chris Hawthorne argues that holding more of these events will prove crucial inchanging people’s attitudes towards bicycling, mass transit and walking in a city otherwise designed for the automobile.
Members of the Metro Board and other dignitaries were on hand last week to break ground for the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Project. The groundbreaking effectively begins heavy construction of the new line. The 8.5-mile line represents a return of passenger rail service to part of this corridor, which saw its last streetcars in 1955. Protesters gathered outside the event, however, expressed concern that Metro is not doing enough to hire local workers. Click here to learn more about the project and to receive construction notices.
The Metro Board voted to advance four peoplemover options for rail service to LAX into the environmental study phase, initially scuttling all light rail options. Airport officials have long cited the cost and security issues as the main reason direct rail service to airport terminals is impractical. However, the Board also voted to include two light rail options that would at least keep the possibility alive. As expected, no one is happy with this outcome, since the peoplemover options represent a complete disavowal to the notion of having a rail network directly connecting to LAX. Nevertheless, Transit Coalition Chair Ken Alpern chimes in as to why the peoplemover may very well be the most optimal option for both the airport and Metro Rail.
A federal bill that would encourage transportation agencies to hire local contractors garnered the blessing of the LA Times editorial board. Pasadena officials contemplate placing a road diet and enhancing pedestrian amenities on the part of Colorado Boulevard that runs through Old Town. Union Station operators have opted to ease their restrictions on transients using the station. Finally, don’t become alarmed, but self-driving cars are already cruising around the Bay Area, albeit as part of a demonstration.
Just like the Arts District cited above, things are looking up for the rest of Downtown LA. That’s the conclusion of an article in GQ, which hailed the community as “ America’s Next Great City“. The boom in activity is largely attributed to loosened restrictions on redeveloping older buildings approved by city officials during the previous decade. Previously, businesses opted not to operate downtown, only to reluctantly open shop at the behest of officials and with the availability of incentives. Today, new businesses are sprouting up along Broadway and elsewhere out of their own initiative. This new vision is reflected in the Academy Award-nominated Spike Jonze film Her (2013), which takes place in a dramatically reimagined Downtown LA of the near future.
The LA County Board of Supervisors approved new design concepts for the Grand Avenue Project. The Board asserted that an older plan that they rejected in September did not leave much for pedestrians, while the new concept encourages pedestrian access from surrounding streets. The Grand Avenue Authority will consider approving the new designs this Wednesday. LA Curbed features additional renderings and models of the BOS-approved designs.
Down in the South Park district, things are looking even brighter. What was once a sea of parking lots and low-level industrial space is fast becoming a destination in its own right. New residential towers are already under construction, and many more are underway. The long-proposed Metropolis development on 9th Street, abutting the Harbor Freeway, may finally happen as well. Investors are also funding new hotels that would undoubtedly enhance the appeal of the LA Convention Center. Most notable, however, is the sale of the two parking lots immediately east of LACC and Staples Center, which were once slated for retail development but may morph into mixed-use developments. In fact, the last amenities missing in all of this are national chain stores that are recognized by the public but have been averse to opening shop in Downtown LA.
New transportation facilities are coming to the Los Angeles River. After 22 years of dreaming, plans to bridge the Elysian Valley with Taylor Yard are finally taking shape. Metro and LA City officials presented a model of the proposed bridge during a recent community meeting on the subject. The new bridge, a required mitigation for the Metrolink maintenance yard, would connect two disparate bike paths and provide previously inexistent connections to the two communities. The city is also working towards purchasing more property on the Taylor Yard side that would serve as open space. Nearby, demolition work on the Riverside Dr./Figueroa St. bridge will start. However, historic preservationists plan to make a last-minute attempt to preserve the bridge for recreational purposes, even though the new bridge that would replace it requires its removal.
Additionally, discussion continues on the possibility of converting the former Harbor Subdivision railway into a bike and pedestrian trail (see rendering) that would connect South Los Angeles with the LA River. Metro, in consultation with Alta Planning + Design, will launch a feasibility study that will address basic questions such as cost, possible designs and connections to other transit facilities. A presentation on the process this study would take is now available.