At a meeting of the La Brea-Hancock Homeowners Association last night, the board of that organization voted 6-1 (with one abstention) to support Metro’s new option for a 7-week full closure of Wilshire Blvd., between Orange Dr. and La Brea Ave., over a previously-approved plan to close that section of the street for 16 weekends (with the street open to traffic on week days). The Wilshire Blvd. closures, in one version or the other, will be necessary to remove the current road surface and install support beams and concrete surface decking that will allow street use during construction of the new Purple Line subway station underground between Orange Dr. and Detroit St.
Like other nearby neighborhoods Sycamore Square and Windsor Village, La Brea-Hancock residents met with Metro representatives and representatives of Skanska USA (Metro’s construction contractor) to learn details of the newly-proposed full closure option, and to weigh the pluses and minuses compared to the previously-planned weekend closures.
According to the original plan, Wilshire Blvd. would be closed from Highland to La Brea on 16 consecutive weekends, starting early next year, while sections of street are removed and new support beams and concrete surface decking are installed. One small section of street would be removed, and one small section of decking would be installed, across the full width of the street, each weekend until the full distance between Orange and La Brea is covered.
Under the alternate plan recently proposed by Metro, however, the schedule could be accelerated by closing Wilshire Blvd. completely, from Highland to La Brea, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, for seven weeks instead of just on weekends. Metro has been actively seeking input from nearby communities, to find out which of the two options local residents and businesses would prefer.
Last night, as at other recent community meetings, residents expressed concerns about detour routes, traffic congestion on major streets, potential cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets, and – especially – nighttime construction noise. (The 7-week full closure plan would allow surface-level construction until 11 p.m.; the weekend-only closure plan would allow surface-level construction 24 hours around the clock during the weekend construction periods.)
Resident William Funderburk, who cast the one vote against the 7-week option, objected to the fact that the project’s original Environmental Impact Report (EIR) considered impacts and mitigations only for the 16-week option. He said it was not fair to ask neighbors to accept a new plan for which neither potential community impacts nor mitigations of those impacts have specifically been studied or recommended. He also criticized Metro for not having available specific traffic statistics for peak travel periods on Wilshire Blvd.
LBHHA president Barbara Savage, however, reminded neighbors that “We live in a large metropolitan city,” and that the subway is a necessary improvement for our metro area. “We have to accept noise and traffic for progress,” she said. In the end, other board members agreed, and voted for the “rip the band-aid off” option, which would complete this phase of the project in just two months of more intense inconvenience as opposed to more than four months of periodic closures. (Note: regardless of which timetable is chosen for the Orange-to-La Brea section of the decking project, there will be an additional six weeks of weekend closures of Wilshire Blvd., from La Brea to Detroit, while decking is installed on that section of the street.)
More Opportunities for Input
Other neighborhood groups are engaged in similar decision-making processes. In addition to the two mentioned above, Miracle Mile, the neighborhood just to the west of La Brea Ave. along Wilshire, has launched an online poll for its residents to weigh in on the construction options, and will discuss the matter at its annual meeting on Saturday, November 7 (10:00 a.m. at the Korean Cultural Center on Wilshire Blvd.). The Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council will discuss the closure options at its Board meeting next Wednesday, November 11 (7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles, 743 Lucerne Blvd.). And Metro will hold a final multi-community meeting on the subject on Thursday, November 12, at 5:30 p.m. at John Burroughs Middle School. City Council Member David Ryu has also set up an online poll for all area stakeholders…and opinions and comments can be submitted directly to Metro at email@example.com (be sure to include your address in your note, so Metro officials can track which comments and preferences are coming from which communities). Documents and illustrations from recent community meetings can be found at https://www.metro.net/projects/westside/westside-meeting-presentations/
Metro has said it will announce its decision about the closure options shortly after the November 12 meeting.