Mayor Breaks Ground on Westlake/MacArthur Park Development…But Is It TOD?

On Monday, Mayor Villaraigosa and a host of government and private officials celebrated the ground breaking of Phase I of the "Transit Oriented Development" Project located one block from the Westlake/MacArthur Park Development.  While The Source has been promoting the project, Soap Box has been scorning it leading me to another exciting round of "Is it TAD or TOD?"

Veteran readers of Streetsblog may remember TAD, the evil twin brother of TOD.  While TOD, i.e. Transit Oriented Development, is a Smart Growth tool that allows for redevelopment of a community in a clean manner, TAD, i.e. Transit Adjacent Development, looks like TOD at first glance but does everything wrong.  Instead of promoting a community redevelopment, it promotes gentrification and does little to encourage use of the transit facilities that are right under its nose.

In the past, we've examined whether the W development at Hollywood and Vine is TAD or TOD by evaluating the development on these standards: does the design take advantage of the transit node, does it create an attractive and safe pedestrian network, how are the bike amenities, does it create a mix of housing options and uses, and is their a restriction of automobile parking?

Screen_shot_2010_04_14_at_9.17.30_AM.pngThe yellow is the parcel for the new development.  The big M is the rail station.  Photo: Fred Camino/Google
Does the Design Take Advantage of the Transit Node:

Technically, Transit Oriented Development is supposed to be within a quarter-mile of the transit node to which it is Oriented.  While it certainly would be preferable to have the station be located on the same block as the rail station, its certainly within a quarter mile of the station.  I also can't help but notice that the development is nearly surrounded by Metro bus stations.  Too bad none of the public relations pieces for the new development mention the bus stops.

Is the Development Going to Be Pedestrian Friendly?

The early news on this development is good, as industry website Construction Photos notes:

New public infrastructure such as sidewalks, curbs and gutters, street trees and underground utilities will all be documented. MacArthur Park Apartments is meant to serve as a catalyst to spur development within the local Community Redevelopment Agency adopted Project Area. MacArthur Park Apartments will have a positive economic impact on the neighborhood in the short and long term.

Now it's been noted extensively at Soap Box, just because something is promised in the early phases doesn't mean that it's going to actually be on the ground later.  That being said, the devil will be in the details and we'll have to wait until the construction is done to really take in what the pedestrian amenities are.

Bike Amenities

As near as both I can tell; there's no bike parking planned in the development.

Does It Create a Mix of Housing and Development Opportunities

The good news is that there are 90 affordable housing units putting it miles ahead of the W and there are plans for retail on the ground level.  A level of skepticism should be involved on the promises of on-street development can be excused because some of the developers are the same ones that were involved with the Hollywood and Western TOD, which currently has a fifty percent vacancy rate a full five years after the development opened.  h/t Soap Box

Restricted Automobile Parking

As with most "TOD" projects in Los Angeles, this is where the project stumbles.  The development promises three levels of subterranean parking, and 100 commuter spaces in addition to the parking for the retail and residential development.  That's a lot of parking!

To make matters worse, the parking construction is subsidized by Metro, through a "Call for Projects" grant to the City of Los Angeles.

The good news is that the developer is paying Metro $1.4 million to lease the property and a small percentage of the money from the parking charges.  In addition, renters will receive a monthly Metro pass when they pay their rent.

While it certainly appears to be a big step up from the W development, the parking issue still remains a loadstone around this project's neck.

The Verdict

While there is a lot to be excited about with this proposal, there are some troubling aspects as well such as the de-emphasis of the bus, the lack of bike parking in an area which (anecdotally, because the city doesn't do bike counts) has a large number of cyclists and the levels of car-parking make it difficult to to declare it an example of Transit Oriented Development.  Perhaps the free transit passes will help make the residents transit users, but we'll have to wait until people are moving in to make that distinction.