Planning Department Holds First Workshops on New Transit Neighborhood Plans

 

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Map showing the section of Wilshire Blvd. and adjacent areas involved in a new long-range planning effort.

On Wednesday, June 29, the city Planning Department held the first of two public workshops to begin the process of creating new Transit Neighborhood Plans for the areas near the three new Purple Line subway stops at Wilshire and La Brea, Fairfax and La Cienega.

The workshops, and the draft plans that will emerge in the next step of the process, are focusing generally on the areas within half a mile (equivalent to a 15-minute walk) of each of new transit station, but most specifically on Wilshire Blvd. itself, between La Brea and La Cienega.  The process is funded by a grant from Metro, but conducted by the Department of City Planning, which has recently created other new Transit Area Plans for areas along the Expo Line, Crenshaw Line and Aviation station (near LAX).

Introducing the workshop, and the planning process itself, city planner David Olivo said his department is guided in our area by the city’s General Plan, Wilshire Community Plan and the even more specific Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay zone (which provides design guidelines for Wilshire Blvd. from Sycamore Ave. to Fairfax).

He said the goal of the long-range planning process, in general, is to direct future growth to areas that have the capacity to handle it, including major transit corridors.  The more specific goals of the new Transit Neighborhood Plan process are to encourage livable communities near transit, improve mobility for everyone in those areas, reduce environmental impacts and create a better built environment.

The planning process for our Purple Line areas is just beginning, said Olivo, and these workshops are part of an initial ”community involvement” phase.  Next will come a first draft of a plan for the station areas, followed by a public comment phase and draft revisions.  The whole process should take about 2-3 years, according to planner Andrew Jorgenson, who co-chaired the workshop.

Last night’s session began with an introduction of the planning process, followed by a brief overview of the current zoning on Wilshire (mostly C4 commercial, which has restrictions on overall floor area of a building, but no height limits), and current amenities such as museums and other cultural destinations, adjacent historical districts, and a variety of retail establishments.

After that, the planners sought input from the meeting attendees, asking for specific ideas for Wilshire Blvd., especially in the areas of land use, mobility and parking, building design and livability.

062916tnp01This turned out to be a surprisingly intimate process, since – while the meeting was originally planned for about 50 attendees – there were only nine at last night’s session.  Both planners and attendees gathered around an area map and spent at least an hour marking it up to point out neighborhood features, areas and trends people like or don’t like, and places they feel are ripe for improvement.

During the group discussions, Carthay Circle resident Shirlee Fuqua said she has been dismayed by recent “monstrous” developments, which have greatly changed her formerly low-density, walkable neighborhood.  Another Carthay Circle resident, Ivan Light, said there’s a big need for greater pedestrian safety, via repaired sidewalks, better markings and signage for crosswalks, and speed humps in residential neighborhoods to slow vehicle traffic.

Several Carthay Circle residents noted the unique, characteristic network of small pedestrian passageways from Wilshire Blvd. south to their neighborhood, as one of their favorite neighborhood features.  While those paved passages provide terrific pedestrian paths, however, said the neighbors, their safety could be improved…by adding curb cuts, street markings and flashing lights where the paths cross busy streets.

South Carthay resident Alex Olivares said he would love to be able to walk and use public transit every day, but it’s not yet possible with the current transit network – while he can get to work on a bus, the line only runs until 7 p.m. and he often works later than that.  Light added that because many people don’t live within walking distance of a subway stop, and there’s still little north/south connectivity between the major east/west transit lines, there should be more parking planned for the new subway stations, and/or an Uber-style van pool that could transport people to and from the stations, on demand.  When asked about bike lockers at the stations, planner Patricia Diefenderfer said those are already in the works.

Olivares’ wife, Susan Nickerson, said she would love to be able to bike more in the area, but currently doesn’t feel safe doing so – “I’m afraid I’d leave my children motherless.”  Nickerson said she would like to see more protected bike lanes, which would make biking safer for everyone.

062916tnp03When discussing the mix of businesses people would like to see along the Wilshire transit corridor, many said they’d like to see more restaurants and a true variety of shops (not all restaurants), including things like food stores, drug stores, hardware stores, etc….with opportunities to attract as many unique (non-chain) businesses as possible.

Diefenderfer noted that each of the three new station areas has unique characteristics, and said the city will take that into consideration in the long-range planning process.  At last night’s workshop, the area approaching the La Cienega station was identified as having the least residential orientation of the three station areas, and many attendees said even the cafes on that stretch of Wilshire seem to be geared more toward serving employees of the area’s businesses, rather than nearby residents.  Several agreed that Wilshire Blvd. between Fairfax and La Cienega seems “desolate” after 5 p.m., and that it would be good to find a way to bring more life to that section of the street.

Among things requested for all of the areas of Wilshire under discussion were better nighttime lighting (several people noted that it’s currently very uneven, with well-lit areas suddenly giving way to dark blocks), greenery and pedestrian shelter from traffic along busy streets.

When Diefenderfer asked where the attendees would recommend increasing density, or building the largest buildings, most agreed that the largest, tallest buildings should be built along Wilshire, and not along the intersecting north/south streets, especially Fairfax, which has always been a narrower, more residential street than either La Brea or La Cienega, and which is already severely over-burdened with traffic.

Concluding the workshop, Diefenderfer noted that the long-range planning process is very complicated, with many elements and variables – “like a science project…that affects people.”  She reiterated that the Planning Department has made no decisions yet, but its job is to look at and plan for opportunities for long-term grown in major transit areas.

If you’d like to be part of the discussion process, the Planning Department will hold a second public workshop on the new Transit Neighborhood Plans tonight, Thursday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd.  The workshop is open to everyone, and – like last night’s session – will examine planning issues within half a mile of each of the three new Purple Line transit stations (Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega).

For more information, see the Planning Department’s Transit Neighborhood Plans website at http://www.latnp.org/ or contact the involved planners at:

Patricia Diefenderfer
patricia.diefenderfer@lacity.org
(213) 978-1170

David Olivo
david.olivo@lacity.org
213-978-1205

Andrew Jorgensen
andrew.jorgensen@lacity.org
213-978-1281

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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