The Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, which represents one of the two neighborhoods that will be most affected by Metro’s proposed closure of Wilshire Blvd. (to install surface-level street decking prior to below-ground construction of a Purple Line subway station at Wilshire and La Brea), met on Sunday, November 1 to discuss the closure options being provided by Metro. In the end, however, board members tabled a vote on the matter until later this week.
Metro has proposed two options for an extended closure of Wilshire Blvd. for the deck-construction project: seven weeks of full closure, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from Highland to La Brea (with six weekend closures after that, from La Brea to Detroit St.)…or 22 weekend closures (16 from Highland to La Brea and 6 from La Brea to Detroit), with the street open to traffic on week days. Metro staff is currently seeking community input on the options, and is expected to announce its choice shortly after a community meeting scheduled for November 12 (see below).
Full Street Closures Required for Both Decking Options
At yesterday’s meeting, Metro representative Michael Cortez distributed handouts illustrating the two closure options, and explained how the current street surface will be removed, and new decking installed, in band-shaped sections that stretch across the full width of the street.
Under the 22-week plan, which was previously approved as part of Metro’s original construction plans, just one small band-shaped section of the street would be removed at a time, and just one decking section installed each weekend, until the full deck is complete from Orange Dr. to Detroit St. (As noted above, Wilshire would be closed from Highland to La Brea for 16 weeks, and from La Brea to Detroit for 6 weeks.)
Under the 7-week closure plan, a newer option just recently introduced by Metro, the street would be fully removed and all of the band-shaped sections would be installed from Orange Dr. to La Brea Ave. before the street is re-opened from Highland to La Brea. Then there would be another six weekends of closures while the decking across the Wilshire/La Brea intersection and west to Detroit is installed. In either option, however, Cortez and contractor representative Billy Parent said the street has to be completely closed during the construction, because beams that hold the decking in place, and the deck sections that cover the beams, stretch the full width of the street. According to Cortez, there is no way to close only one side of the street during the installation.
Neighbors at the meeting had a number of questions about the project, and especially about how traffic would be re-routed during the closures. Cortez said a Traffic Mitigation Plan will be prepared for whichever option is ultimately chosen, and every effort will be made to re-direct traffic along La Brea Ave., Olympic Blvd. and Highland Ave., to prevent cut-through traffic along 8th and 9th Streets in Sycamore Square. Outgoing SSNA president Ann Eggleston recommended a resident and guest permit/pass system for those streets, similar to one she has experienced near the Rose Bowl for street closures there. Mr. Cortez said many options would be considered, but a formal plan can’t be developed until the final closure option is chosen.
Guy “Steve” Catalano, a public relations representative for Beverly Hills BMW, which operates a new car dealership located on the south side of Wilshire in Sycamore Square, and a service center on the north side of Wilshire in the adjacent La Brea-Hancock neighborhood, questioned whether the full street closure is actually necessary. He urged Metro to explore other engineering options that might allow at least some traffic to flow along Wilshire during the deck construction.
Other neighbors expressed concerns about changes in bus routes and stops (and how that will affect particularly elderly and handicapped riders in the neighborhood), hours for nighttime construction, and how possible delays from weather or other factors might affect the proposed schedules.
Multiple Perspectives on Closures
In a straw poll after the presentation, a majority of the residents present expressed a preference for the 7-week full closure, citing a shorter overall period of inconvenience and less nighttime work resulting from that plan.
Local business reactions, however, have been more varied. Dr. Tania White, who owns the Hancock Park Veterinary Clinic at Wilshire and Sycamore, said at the meeting that she favors the longer stretch of weekend closures. She said her clinic does most of its business on week days, so losing weekend customers for a few weeks would be much less harmful than seven weeks of week-day closures. Other neighborhood businesses, however, such as Apollonia’s Pizza, located in the same strip mall as the vet clinic, do more of their business on weekends than week days, and have previously expressed a preference for the 7-week full closure, rather than being affected for 22 weekends of their prime business time.
(Note: all local businesses will remain open during the full stretch of either closure plan, but customers will have to use detours to reach them. For example, the two businesses mentioned above will have to re-direct their customers to approach along Sycamore Ave., northbound from 8th St. That means they’ll have to spend some time and effort educating their customers about the closures, providing maps of alternate routes, and working harder to convince customers to brave the temporary inconveniences during the construction. Metro has also established a Business Interruption Fund to help local businesses make up at least some of the revenue they may lose during construction.)
In the end, a preliminary vote among the four SSNA board members present indicated that two of the four preferred the 7-week full closure, and two preferred the 22 weekends plan. The board members agreed to postpone finalizing a recommendation and to call a Special Meeting later this week, with all seven board members attending, to take a binding vote and formulate the neighborhood’s official position.
More Opportunities for Community Input
In the meantime, both Metro and City Council Member David Ryu are urging residents in all of the affected neighborhoods to weigh in on the two options for Wilshire Blvd. closures. Letters can be sent directly to Metro community representative Michael Cortez at firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Purple Line project team at email@example.com (mention “Decking Options” in the subject line). Ryu’s office has posted an online survey for community members, which can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CD4PurpleLine
Other local neighborhoods are discussing the closure options, too. Last week, the Windsor Village Association hosted a meeting on the subject, and the Miracle Mile Residential Association is conducting an online poll of its members. Preliminary results show a preference among the Miracle Mile respondents for the seven-week closure. (That group will also address the subject at its Annual Meeting this coming Saturday.) The La Brea-Hancock Homeowners’ Association will hold a meeting tonight about the proposals.
After the individual neighborhood association meetings, the topic will be up for discussion at next week’s Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council board meeting (Wednesday, November 11, 7:00 p.m. at the Ebell of Los Angeles) and Metro will hold a larger community meeting, dedicated specifically to this subject, on Thursday, November 12, 5:30 p.m. at John Burroughs Middle School. Metro representatives say a choice between the two closure options will be announced shortly after the November 12 meeting.
[11/2/15 5:07 p.m. This story has been updated to clarify the path of the 7-week closure plan, and to correct Michael Cortez’ name.]