Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD: a Fortress Surrounded By a Moat of Traffic and Malfunctioning Traffic Signals

On Monday, at Vine and Selma, a woman attempting to cross Vine on foot was killed after being hit by a delivery truck. The streets were immediately filled with LAPD vehicles and an investigation ensued. Although it was evident that statements were taken and that measurements and photos were taken, missing from the investigation was any evidence that the traffic signals were tested or surveyed. This is unfortunate because the signal at Vine and Selma is malfunctioning.

On the SW corner of Vine and Selma is the large Vine Village" id="xpwj" href="http://www.ansoniaproperties.com/sunsetandvine.htm">Sunset & Vine Village, a 300 unit residential/retail complex, filled with people who walk across the street to shop at Trader Joe's. At the NE corner of Selma and Ivar is Triangle Square, a 108 unit housing facility for elders. The people who cross the Vine at Selma use traffic control devices that are out of order. Malfunctioning equipment communicates to pedestrians that they are on their own and trains them to engage as opportunity presents itself.

It's been three months since Julia Siegler was killed as she attempted to cross Sunset Boulevard on foot. That incident prompted community challenges to the LADOT's signalization logic and to the LADOT's varied traffic signal strategies. At Vine and Selma, the demand actuated buttons work independently so that a ped call for a crossing on the north side will not yield a walk phase on the south side. Again, does it take a degree from MIT to cross the street? The LADOT has not responded.

Also, as a result of the tragedy on Sunset Boulevard, a request was made to the LAPD to include a survey of signal equipment as a routine element of a traffic collision investigation. Especially one resulting in a death. Apparently that request fell on deaf ears. The LAPD has not responded.

Through it all, the people of Hollywood are told to forget about the details, the uncrossable streets, the brutal traffic, the honking horns, the delivery trucks during peak hours, the taxis jockeying for position, the small streets being used as trucking cut-throughs, the lack of facilities for humans and the absolute contempt for safety. After all, look what the Metro's Hollywood & Vine TOD is doing to the economy! Remember, "It's better than it used to be!"

When did we become surrounded by apologists for mediocrity?

The Hollywood & Vine Transit Oriented Development sits on 4.6 acres of Metro property, bordered by Hollywood Boulevard to the north, Vine Avenue to the west, Selma to the south and Argyle to the east. Encompassing almost the entire block, it took ten years to get to the ribbon cutting and the result is one of LA County's largest Type 1 mixed use, transit-oriented developments (TOD) with not only 2 million sq/ft of gross building area but 29,000 sq/ft of billboard space and 1,322 motor vehicle parking spaces. It's big!

From 1999 through 2008, there were 226 traffic collisions at the four intersections surrounding what is now the Hollywood & Vine TOD. Of those collisions, 14.2% involved pedestrians or cyclists. In 2009 the streets around the TOD were somewhat restricted because of the construction and now that the streets are open, they are fast. They are also deadly as yesterday's tragedy demonstrated when a pedestrian attempting to cross the street was hit and killed by a delivery truck.

One would think that building a TOD in the middle of a busy urban environment would prompt the Metro and the CRA and the City of LA to insist on traffic mitigation from Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners, the developers of the Hollywood & Vine TOD. But apparently this was not the case.

As long ago as 2005, local community members at a neighborhood council meeting asked the City of LA to improve the intersections surrounding the TOD to make them more walkable, to make them safer for pedestrians. Hollywood and Argyle has long been a shortcut for motorists exiting the 101 Freeway into Hollywood and the impending arrival of the TOD prompted requests for ped scrambles, for bulb-outs, for traffic calming.

Instead of improvements that would benefit the community, the developers gave the Metro a Bus Layover Station at the expense of pedestrian safety.

The developers of TOD promise density that reduces congestion by supporting a lifestyle that is possible without a motor vehicle, providing opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers to live and work and shop and socialize and otherwise enjoy life without having to drive a car. That promise hardly panned out at Hollywood & Vine where the large fortress development is surrounded by valet parking on Hollywood Blvd, a bus stop in a right-turn-only lane that is frequently overtaken by cabbies, a motor court entrance on Argyle followed by trucking driveways and a large bus layover bay, seven driveways on Selma, and then Vine Avenue, a street that does not have an enforceable speed limit.

The Metro's Hollywood & Vine TOD is a Fortress surrounded by a moat of traffic, hardly an environment for pedestrians who may wish to cross the street.

Typically, when developers such as Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners present plans to build a project in Los Angeles, City Planning and the LADOT review the plans and evaluate the impact of the project on traffic, on the community on the quality of life in the surrounding area. Granted, this project promised so much, a W Hotel, condominiums, townhouses, apartments, retail and restaurant space, billboards, jobs, energy!

But what about the negative impact of the Hollywood & Vine TOD? Who asks the hard questions such as "What are the planned improvements to the surrounding intersections?" and "How will the surrounding streets be improved so that they are safer for all road users?" and "How will the increase in traffic be mitigated so that the quality of life in the surrounding community is increased, not just for the residents of Hollywood & Vine, but for the community as a whole?"

The Metro, one of the largest developers in LA County, owns great swaths of land and it intends to develop that land as a transportation system strategy and as a revenue enhancement strategy. The Metro has approximately 50 TOD projects on paper with 32 of them in play. It is essential that the community hold the Metro accountable for the impact of its TOD development on the surrounding community and that the Metro immediately prioritize the development of TOD standards that position the individual human experience as a priority. TOD projects work when people enjoy their surroundings, not just tolerate them. TOD projects work when people feel safer walking and riding, not just grateful for surviving the experience. The Metro must take responsibility for the safety and aesthetic experience of the people who use their TOD projects.

The CRA, also one of the largest developers in LA County, engages in development deals that escalate projects, all in the name of public benefit. The Development Agreements that the CRA "imposes" address everything from curtains to awnings but contain nothing of substance when it comes to standards for accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, families with children, transit passengers, tourists, locals, shoppers. Why is there no standard for a delivery service (requested several years ago as a community benefit) or a standard for public space (requested several years ago as a community benefit) or parking variances based on bike-share and car-share (requested several years ago as  community benefit) or intersection improvements that actually contribute to the walkability of Hollywood and Vine (requested several years ago as a community benefit). The CRA must take responsibility for developing and implementing real TOD standards that put the people of the community first.

The LADOT, a partner to every developer in Los Angeles and the department responsible for reviewing and approving projects after ensuring that the traffic caused by the project is appropriately mitigated, was in on the Hollywood & Vine TOD from the beginning. Their real job seems to be to exhaust the community with meeting after meeting, none of which result in any improvements to the surrounding community, but all of which simply get chalked up as "community outreach" and filed under "Whew! I'm glad that's over!" The LADOT must take responsibility for ensuring that every development come with a commitment to improve the surrounding streets and intersections so that the community is left better than before, not simply an increase in traffic resulting in a neighborhood "under siege."

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The Metro's Hollywood & Vine TOD comes with great promise, from the Metro, from the CRA, from the City of LA, from the City Council, from Gatehouse Capital, from Legacy Partners, from the W Hollywood, from Trader Joe's. The Hollywood community has been promised much. As for the benefits to the community, it's imperative that the people of Hollywood call for those promises to become a reality. It is imperative that the people of Hollywood demand safer streets, crossable streets, public space that is safe and clean.

For too long "It's better than it used to be!" has been Hollywood's battle cry of mediocrity. No longer. The standards we set at Hollywood & Vine are the standards that will position LA as a Great City. It's time to reach for greatness!

Hollywood deserves to be so much more than simply LA's Truck Stop!