Competing Visions for 6th Street Viaduct “Iconic,” but Residents’ Concerns More Practical

One of the models of the sixth street bridge, presented by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

“This is an era, a new chapter, a new opportunity to do something different,” said Mayor Antonio Villaragosa of plans to rebuild the 6th Street Viaduct. Replacing the crumbling bridge is one of the major infrastructure projects on the city’s plans for the next couple of years, and there’s no shortage of big visions.

While everyone from Villaraigosa, to 14th District Council Member Jose Huizar, to the architects seem to want an “iconic” bridge that is known worldwide, at the unveiling of the 6th Street Bridge Viaduct proposals, Boyle Heights residents felt that the proposals ignored their needs and the community as a whole.

“In their artwork, they’re really disregarding Boyle Heights,” said Edward Padilla, president of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, gesturing at one proposal.

The proposed replacement bridge projects unveiled yesterday by the three finalists selected by the city — HNTB, AECOM, and Parsons Brinckerhoff — focused on creating a place that is walkable, bike-friendly, and a tourist attraction. Each proposal came with a list of environmental design standards that were employed. All of the proposals included parks and public areas, but the details for how neighborhoods could use the areas was left unclear.

“How does that particular neighborhood decide to use it?” asked Huizar. ”On each side of the river, those land uses around the bridge, there’s concepts and ideas and funding. Now what do you really create on each side of the bridge?”

To those worried about the design, Huizar assured them that, even though the firms were presenting what looked to be pretty detailed proposals, the process is not finished.

During their presentations, the architecture firms focused on building community support, yet only AECOM explained their road map to detailing what would be involved to achieve this kind of plan.

Armando Gonzalez, owner of Soul Skating, a skate shop in Boyle Heights, said that he hoped to see the firms reach out to younger people so they could understand how the viaduct would be used going forward.

“We need to make sure that the young people are also voicing their feedback, because there seems to be a lot of concentration on development underneath the bridge that requires young people to voice what they feel,” Gonzalez said.

Maria Soria, a Boyle Heights resident, said that she didn’t see enough lights along the sidewalks on bridge. A lack of sufficient lighting is one of the major barriers to walking at night in the neighborhood.

Leticia Velazquez, another resident who came with Soria, said that since the parks are away from the residential areas, there should be a bus to pick up elderly people that want to use the park as well.

While Soria’s and Velazquez’s priorities focused on lighting and access, they liked how the projects focused on making the bridges more pedestrian-friendly.

“People in Boyle Heights,” Soria added, “always walk in pairs.”

She and Valezquez  know each other because they met on a walk. The two remain walking partners years later. With well-lit options in a safer community, both hope that in the future, everyone would feel comfortable taking a walk on their own.

Here’s a schedule of the remaining meetings:

Thursday, September 13, 6:30- 8:30 p.m.
Para Los Ninos
1617 E. 7th St. 90021

Monday, September 17, 6:30- 8:30 p.m.
SCI-Arc, Keck Hall
350 S. Merrick St. 90013

Tuesday, September 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center
1600 E. Fourth St. 90033