De-Uglifying Hollywood: How to Make Our City Pedestrian-Friendly

As part of a personal re-visioning process, Friedman looked at 15 sections of Hollywood area streets to see what LA. could look like. You can see all the images in a much larger size after the jump.

Tourists arriving in Hollywood from all over the world are fascinated, at first. The Walk of Fame, historic Hollywood and Vine, glamorous Hollywood & Highland shopping center and Grauman’s theater – all of these attractions make an impression…

…Unless you deviate a block or two. Once you accidentally leave the tourist area, real Los Angeles opens-up: utilitarian low-rise buildings & warehouses, auto body shops & pawn shops, tattoo and smoke stores, old box-type apartment structures, blighted development, and an endless parade of empty concrete sidewalks. In addition, there are countless numbers of creepy individuals and drug addicts, smoking pot as though it’s Amsterdam!

“Why are there no public areas or plazas?” “What about parks?” “Where can I safely walk with my family?” “Who created those naked concrete sidewalks?” Those are some of the issues unsuspecting newcomers immediately face.

Welcome to City of Angels! You’re now in a car-centric town where pedestrians are treated like second-class citizens, and where car dominates our life. Except for a handful of small pedestrian spots in parts of Hollywood, Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, the Santa Monica civic center, and artificial outdoor malls the Grove and Americana, the “Nobody Walks in L.A.” notion is still in place. Sidewalks exist in most areas, but their anti-pedestrian design – or rather, lack of any proper urban design – makes walking in L.A. extremely unappealing.

In this case, we’re talking about middle of Hollywood! All of the surrounding streets – Sunset Blvd, La Brea Ave, Highland Avenue, Vine Street (south of Sunset) – offer nothing but primitive utilitarian automobile corridors. Lack of crosswalks and pedestrian-oriented intersections frustrates even further.

Anyone who travels beyond Greater Los Angeles will notice how much more other cities offer: wider, decorative (not concrete) sidewalks, plenty of plantings and trees, large buffer zones, public areas and plazas. Embarrassingly, L.A. does not yet offer its visitors (let alone residents) normal conditions for a family outing, unless long driving and parking hassles are involved.

After being stagnant for decades, Los Angeles is finally starting to improve. Buses and trains are returning. Density is slowly flourishing. Downtown L.A. is transitioning from a high-crime area to a safe family-friendly district. Various regions now offer improved pedestrian conditions, though as a whole L.A. lags  behind other world-class cities.

Sadly, our city municipalities still demonstrate their outdated car-only approach, refusing to properly invest in our sidewalks and landscaping. Private developers thus far are our only hope, as every new project improves a given area. But developers only improve individual spots, not the city overall. It’s time for City of L.A. to step-in, and to build the environment for people, not cars. It’s time to give our sidewalks the deserved width and aesthetics, implement decorative crosswalks, plant deciduous trees and creating buffer zones, build pedestrian plazas, and get rid of blight and concrete.

I’m an advocate for sustainable, family-friendly infrastructure, and decided to create renderings of improved sidewalks. Ironically, I did not have to go anywhere far to present compelling evidence: ugly sidewalks and lack of pedestrian environment is just outside the door, in Hollywood! While working on the project, I realized more and more just how awful our sidewalks are. As you will see on the photos labeled “PRESENT STATE”, Hollywood streets are a shame, compared to even our own Downtown. So, please see some examples of just a few popular spots that I photographed, and then created renderings – to demonstrate how much better things can look.

Area #1. Sunset Blvd (south side) and Orange Drive

PRESENT: Utilitarian concrete sidewalk, poor (if any) landscaping. Primitive crosswalk.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk with brick-block decorative pavement, enhanced landscaping. Distinctly marked crosswalk, also with decorative pavement. Note: many surrounding areas already have decorative marked crosswalks.

As part of a personal re-visioning process, Friedman looked at 15 sections of Hollywood area streets to see what LA. could look like. You can see all the images in a much larger size after the jump.

Area #2. Sunset Blvd (north side) and Orange Drive, at Hollywood high school

PRESENT: Utilitarian concrete sidewalk, poor landscaping, ugly bench. Overall primitive setting.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk, enhanced landscaping (with planted flowers). Decorative streetlights.

Area #3. Sunset Blvd (south side), east of Highland Ave.

PRESENT: Naked concrete sidewalk, no landscaping or trees. Outright primitive setting.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk, plenty of trees. Dramatically improved streetscape. Safe pedestrian “buffer zone”.

Area #4. Sunset Blvd (south side), west of Wilcox Ave.

PRESENT: Primitive concrete sidewalk, full of cracks & breakage. Unmaintained trees’ base area.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk. Trees guarded with decorative protection (safer for pedestrians, better for trees).

Area #5. Sunset Blvd (north side), east of Highland Ave.

PRESENT: Primitive concrete sidewalk, barely any landscaping, no deciduous trees.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk, plenty of trees, decorative streetlights. Greatly improved walkability.

Area #6. Sunset Blvd (north side), just east of Highland Ave.

PRESENT: Primitive narrow concrete sidewalk. No landscaping, no deciduous trees. Old unmaintained lawn.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk. Deciduous trees, maintained lawn with fresh grass. Flower planters on sidewalk.

Area #7. Orange Drive (west side), north of Sunset Blvd.

PRESENT: A truly ugly spot! Old building with nondescript colors. Primitive concrete sidewalk/driveway, no landscaping or trees. Paradise for graffiti vandals and skateboarders. Note: Only a block away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
IMPROVED: Repainted building garage. Added planters. Partially decorative sidewalk, decorative streetlight, deciduous tree. Note: those few inexpensive additions can dramatically improve the spot! Less concrete means better environment.

Area #8. Orange Drive (east side), north of Sunset Blvd.

PRESENT: What an ugly sidewalk! Primitive concrete, barely any landscaping or trees. Once again, this embarrassment is only a block away from world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.
IMPROVED: Decorative block-stone sidewalk. Planted trees with guarded base. Dramatically improved environment.

Area #9. Orange Drive (east side), just south of Hollywood Blvd.

PRESENT: Ugly sidewalk continued. Same old concrete with gum & gunk. Nondescript trees with unprotected base.
IMPROVED: Decorative block-stone sidewalk. Trees are now protected with guarded base. Overall major improvement!

Area #10. Orange Drive (west side), just south of Hollywood Blvd.

PRESENT: Primitive concrete sidewalk. No trees or buffer zone. “Green wall” (left side) barely adds to walkability.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk with partial block-stone pavement. Planters are placed, serving as a “buffer zone”. Note: even without trees the sidewalk landscaping can be dramatically improved!

Area #11. La Brea Avenue (overall).

PRESENT: Typical L.A.’s primitive street, built only for automobiles, with little-to-no landscaping, primitive sidewalks.
IMPROVED: Center median with trees and plenty of greenery. Improved sidewalk landscaping. Note: The nearby Highland Avenue is much better developed, providing a center median; and better, wider sidewalks with landscaping. La Brea Ave could be redeveloped similarly to Highland Avenue. In general, La Brea Avenue has great potential. With many galleries and upscale restaurants, the street should be upgraded to be a true pedestrian boulevard!

Area #12. La Brea Avenue (east side), north of Sunset Blvd

PRESENT: Primitive sidewalk, mix of half-broken concrete slabs with layers of asphalt. Barely any landscaping, consisting of a poor nondescript trees.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk. Plenty of deciduous trees planted, now serving as a buffer zone. Dramatically improved pedestrian environment.

Area #13. Highland Avenue (east side), north of Santa Monica Blvd

PRESENT: Primitive concrete sidewalk, no landscaping. Ugly black building. Generally, buildings should never be black- colored, as they carry no aesthetics! Note: existing wider sidewalk and decorative streetlight does not improve the overall streetscape due to naked concrete sidewalk (no landscaping) and presence of black-colored building.
IMPROVED: Decorative widened sidewalk, added planters and bench. Black building is replaced with much better, aesthetically correct buildings. You can notice dramatic improvement of the streetscape.

Area #14. Highland Avenue (east side), south of Sunset Blvd

PRESENT: Primitive sidewalk consisting of concrete slabs. No landscaping or any (!) other pedestrian-friendly facilities.
IMPROVED: Decorative sidewalk, planted trees with guarded base. Dramatically improved overall landscaping.

Area #15. Bus stop at Sunset Blvd and Highland Ave. (south-west corner)

PRESENT: One of the dirtiest, least maintained bus stops you could ever encounter! Tons of trash, filthy concrete sidewalk, no bus shelter, ugly trash bin. Note: this is only two blocks from Hollywood & Highland, a major tourist center!
IMPROVED: Partially decorative sidewalk, with lawn. Added planter. Clean bus shelter. Simpler trash bin. Decorative streetlight. Better maintenance of bus stop. Note: this setting is already used on nearby Santa Monica Blvd bus stops.

Conclusion:

Images above show a dramatic difference between: “PRESENT” and “IMPROVED” conditions. All we need is a proper mindset of city planners, who would consider pedestrian-oriented infrastructure. Intersection by intersection, area by area, district by district, our streets can be revitalized, and the pedestrian environment can be improved.

I’m embarrassed to keep hearing, “L.A. is an ugly, underdeveloped city” from friends and visitors. Nevertheless, Los Angeles has many advantages: great & warm climate, flat terrain, wide streets. Our city has a huge potential to become a true pedestrian-friendly place where families can enjoy time outdoors year-round, and where people can walk safely. It’s rather ironic that the city with the best climate has the worst possible pedestrian (and bicycle) infrastructure! As a result, car dependence is not going away any time soon.

People don’t have to be confined to cars. And Los Angeles can be rebuilt as any other normal city. That’s why we have to embrace density, and stop the notorious sprawl with induced car dependence. Density, smart urban growth and pedestrian environment go hand-in-hand.

Los Angeles’ population ranks the second in the country, just following New York City. Perhaps L.A. can learn from New York how to create walkable streets. Time for a transition, Los Angeles! Time to upgrade from car-dependence to reliable public transit; from dangerous roads to safe sidewalks and parks; from endless concrete to aesthetical streetscape; from ugly box warehouses to beautiful & architecturally rich buildings; from creepy “Tattoo” and “Smoke” shops to upscale retail centers; and from cheap & health-degrading fast-food stands to family-friendly restaurants.

Popularity of The Grove and Americana has proven the dire need of creating pedestrian spaces with retail centers. But instead of building artificial limited areas (The Grove and Americana) – where people are forced to walk in circles – the city as a whole should follow the concept of that same Grove and Americana. Those places are highly popular, stylish, safe, and have proven to work well in urban environments. After all, European cities are built that same way; The Grove and Americana are actually a replica of European design standards.

We need walkable streets. Our sidewalks need a serious overhaul. And we need family-friendly parks and public plazas. No doubt, it’s time for Los Angeles to catch-up to the rest of the world!

  • Anonymous

    IMHO, while brick or paver sidewalks look nice, the scale of development is much more important for walkability. Manhattan has pretty much all concrete sidewalks and no one complains about the pedestrian environment there, except maybe to say that a lane should be take away from traffic to make the sidewalks wider. In addition, these types of sidewalk treatments are harder to maintain and therefore are not always popular with the disabled. Personally, I’d rather see the city dedicate money into maintaining the existing concrete sidewalks in better condition, and allowing denser development. The additional revenue generated by denser development, or creation of a BID, could allow for nicer sidewalk treatments down the road.

    I do agree that we need more street trees, benches, better bus stops, more bulb outs, etc. There is a lot of low hanging fruit to be had in things like parklets, letting neighborhood businesses open out onto the sidewalk or convert a parking space into seating, etc.

  • LA LAME

    I think most of the planters are barriers to pedestrians and will end up damaged or carted away to someones backyard. Too many expensive elaborate paving/surface types…The city can’t even maintain the plain stuff. One block of this could pay for 5 blocks of: a planting strip at the edge for big street trees, plants, pedestrian street lights, and stormwater capture. These all need bike lanes!!

  • Roadblock

    I grew up in Hollywood and it would take some major major money and gentrification to clean that place up…. Bum vomit is harder to clean from bricks just sayin… 

  • Mmatasc

    Couple things –

    First off, I find the “nobody walk in LA” mantra to be incredibly inaccurate. People walk here, and lots of them. LA is certainly far from the worst city for pedestrians and cyclists (ever been off-strip in Vegas?).

    Secondly, while the renderings look nice they don’t seem to do anything to improve functional walkability, just look pretty. I’d take more crosswalks, pedestrian crossing lights and bike lanes over these (undoubtedly) expensive yet seemingly ineffective improvements. I do like the LaBrea rendering, and with all the new development along the corridor I agree it needs to be overhauled. Where that money comes from is the biggest issue.

    Third, there is good news because the Hollywood Community Plan specifically outlines pedestrian-friendly design requirements for developers within Hollywood.

     

  • Danny

    The greatest improvement I see from those mock-ups are the non-palm trees. Walking through these streets when the sun is high is miserable. While palm trees are iconic, they are not as nice as having real shade that would encourage people (or maybe just me) to walk more.

  • First off, I find the “nobody walk in LA” mantra to be incredibly inaccurate. People walk here, and lots of them. LA is certainly far from the worst city for pedestrians and cyclists (ever been off-strip in Vegas?).—————
    We agree. I think Alexander was referring to a city that is planned and built as though nobody walks not that nobody walks.

  • Anonymous

    I urge you to not revert away from concrete to brick so quickly. I love the renderings however in the name of efficiency, quality, and being cost effective, the city can look into working with the concrete, coloring it and shaping it into new design so that we do not have to lay each individual brick (which takes far more effort and makes the sidewalk far less useful for skateboarders (of which LA has the potential to have a lot of). 

    A city we should really look to is Barcelona, who hosts a similar climate and culture to us however boasts thriving walk paths, with one of the largest corridors (La Ramble, being almost entirely pedestrian. Santa Monica has started with the 3rd Street Promenade, but the rest of LA needs to catch up.

    Love the idea though, I want to see my city become beautiful, what people imagine when they hear LA.

  • Glad to see this kind of post. LA is shockingly, disgustingly ugly in many areas, and that’s absolutely unacceptable. 

  • John Coanda

    Good idea, but bricks are going to be expensive and not friendly to our wheeled friends (strollers, wheelchairs, skateboarders, etc.).  I do like the idea of beautification and especially like the idea of more region appropriate greenery and pedestrian and bike-rider focused improvements.

  • PaulCJr

    most of these went from ugly to less ugly. The only real improvement was #11.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Paul, thanks for your comment,
    but how can you be so negative?..
    Likewise, do you have better ideas than the ones that I created?
    If you call the vastly improved landscape-rich sidewalks (with guarded trees, better pavement, etc.) as simply “less ugly”, then… there’s really no hope for Los Angeles, is there! ;-)
    Seriously, what do you suggest if you so much dislike my renderings?I’d be curious to hear.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Thanks, David.

  • Anonymous

    Beautification is well and good, but this needs to be pursued within the larger task of employing “cool pavements” to address climate change.   Brick pavers are pretty, but difficult to clean and inhospitable to skateboarding (which is still not a crime.)  Also, clean concrete can reflect more light and heat than some darker pavers.  http://www.irmca.org/site/DownloadableContentHandler.ashx?mediaId=0478b460-f144-46a1-adca-774804f42db2
    http://www.gilbertaz.gov/planning/urbanheatisland.cfm

    Along these lines, we do more trees, but they need to be natives. Perhaps live oaks or sycamores.  I too think overall “walkability” of the respective neighborhoods should be a higher aspiration than mere aesthetic appeal, ie more crosswalks, ped crossings and bike lanes over pretty bricks. 

    As far as learning from New York: I think we can figure it out ourselves without looking to a place where sidewalks are used to pile garbage.

  • Johnastig

    We can always get rid of the homeless.

  • Matswaltin

    I think you hit the nail right on the head there.

    The sidewalk width is the main issue.  The rest is just lipstick on a pig.  The only thing you could do to combat the scale of the street is to crane in some gigantic 60-80′-tall trees to humanize the space, which would hardly be cheap.  Even if we just took away one lane of traffic and widened sidewalks on both sides by four feet, thus allowing for the fifth traffic lane to be reversible dependent on which way rush hour is headed, it would make a big difference.  Honestly, though, I wish LA would just make most of its streets one way already and take away the center lanes, thereby reducing street widths.  Traffic would improve immensely if people were given fewer opportunities to hold up traffic with every which way they wanted to turn.

    As a landscape architect, I am vehemently opposed to stamped concrete.  Sunset Boulevard is not an Orange County backyard.  It is nearly impossible to keep clean given all of the nooks and crannies for dirt to collect in.  Just stick with plain scored concrete.  Pavers are fine, but I seriously think the problem with Hollywood’s streets in general is their width.

  • PC

    “In addition, there are countless numbers of creepy individuals and drug addicts, smoking pot as though it’s Amsterdam!”

    Oh, for the love of God…is this Streetsblog, or Focus on the Family?

    I don’t know which is more embarrassing: the outdoor-mall style “improvements” this author suggests, the unintentionally funny social commentary, or the fact that this stuff is published at Streetsblog at all.

  • MIke

    Lighten up, pal.
    He is right: it is disgusting to see drug addicts and marijuana smokers on the streets. The author seems to use some humor (which I admire) yet he hit the nail on the head! Because of homelessness, dirt, and too much freedom given to drug addicts, I cannot go out with my wife and kid to take a walk in Hollywood. Family-friendly atmosphere is crucial in every city, but Hollywood and surroundings is anything BUT a normal city atmosphere. I suggest you travel around a bit, and I’m sure you’ll change your opinion.
    The article IMHO provides some very good points.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    The “harder to maintain” excuse of not implementing better pavement is not a good excuse, sorry.
    If other cities (around the world, not just the U.S.) have been able to somehow maintain the decorative pavement, I’m sure LA can, as well. Unless you think our Bureau of Street Services is completely incompetent! ;-)
    Thanks for the comment, though.

  • Anonymous

    @f28fe3596c72620ee9b3305cf4a59001:disqus Alex, thanks for your reply. The Bureau of Street Services tries to do a good job, of course, but they do have a lot of people competing for their attention and resources. Some people would rather see money spent on bike lanes, others would rather get benches and trees, etc.

    The “harder to maintain” issue really comes into play regarding ADA regulations, which if I recall correctly only allow for 1/4″ of vertical discontinuity. I used to live in Boston, and the city loved putting in pavers and brick sidewalks. Many people with disabilities lobbied against this because it resulted in a rougher ride – they wanted concrete. I’m not sure what the regulations are like in the rest of the world, but that may be one issue. I think cost and ADA compatibility are the reasons that a lot of cities have started using stamped concrete and stamped asphalt designs.

    Best regards, Matt

  • PC

    What makes you think I haven’t traveled, “Mike”?

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Thanks for the comment, Danny.
    I couldn’t agree more!
    Palm trees are indeed iconic, but they provide no shading, or protection (both physical and psychological) against road traffic. In general, the way sidewalks are built creates a strong psychological effect. The more urban aesthetics and proper design are implemented, the more people will use it. Properly built sidewalks serve as a magnet for pedestrians. Improperly built ones do the opposite.
    Deciduous trees provide not only better shading, but more important – better protection and “buffer zone” against traffic. And when combined with paved decorative sidewalks, these improvements can do wonders!

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Thanks for the comment, “Roadblock”. I loved it!
    I agree: revitalizing Hollywood would take a major dedication and investment.
    But if there’s a will, there’s a way.
    Let’s not forget: Downtown LA was revitalized. Santa Monica Civic Center was revitalized. Downtown San Diego was revitalized. All of these major areas feature rebuilt sidewalks with properly used urban design guidelines.
    If other cities can do it, so can Hollywood!
    Little by little, it can be done.

  • Anon

    This article is spot on with how LA should proceed into the future. Although palm trees are iconic, there needs to be more variation with shade being preferred.

    I would suggest that with the recent talk in the LA City Council of how bad the sidewalks are in LA that any and all suggestions on fixing them include how to bring these design elements to bear so that the  future sidewalks of LA are not drab pieces of concrete.

  • Erikmar

    I also think that the scale and density of development is the primary generator of walkability. The overwhelming majority of NY’C’s sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure would look similar to those in the unimproved photos; the major differences would be seen in the types of uses at the ground story and the height of the residential developments that line those sidewalks.
    I also think that outdoor malls, and POPS in general, are absolutely the wrong precedent types for cities to follow. By copying and pasting legitimate urban forms from other contexts and other historical periods, they create a disneyland version of those urban precedents, thereby pre-empting the possibility the development of a more organically derived LA vernacular. Those urban precedents developed out of particular economic, climactic, and cultural characteristics, and none of the enduring versions which we all profess to love were built from one year to the next. So, too, must an LA urban vernacular develop; our job is to get the framework of values right, not to focus on the superficial manifestations / forms of success from other contexts.

  • brudy

    @ Alexander – I’d say that DTLA is in the process of being revitalized – it’s far far far from a normal city. Very little is open at night except for the higher end restos – there is a complete lack of middle-end eateries that are open at night (most are just lunch places). There is still very little retail. And the homeless situation is out of control. Heavy drug use is rampant and I’ve seen more urination than I thought possible. Loads of crappy blocks and parking lots. It’s on the up for sure, but nowhere close to arrived. In 6-10 years lets have that talk. That all said, you can walk for most basic things and the subway is close by to go some other places. And Grand Park is awesome.

  • Joe B

    Your improvements are nice looking, but they all have one huge flaw. Why do we need cars down the middle of every single street, 24/7? You can engineer the nicest park-like setting in the world, but as soon as you run cars down the middle of it, it kind of kills it for pleasant walking.

    In all of the thousands of blocks of Hollywood, can we maybe have just 2 or 3 blocks of one business-oriented street permanently closed to cars during business hours?

    In Santa Monica, the highest rents are on the Promenade. I don’t understand why landlords aren’t clamoring for the city to close their streets to cars and open them up to foot traffic.

  • MIke

    @ Erikmar:
    What are you talking about??
    You call the renderings “Disneyland”. Sorry, but to say you’re completely off track is an understatement. You talk about “…organically derived LA vernacular”. That’s the problem: LA has no style! LA has no “organically derived vernacular”! LA (in its majority) got nothing, except ugly streets, blight & homelessness. If we let the city officials to continue with – as you call it – “organically derived style” – we’ll end-up at a complete dump.
    The success of other cities is a good lesson for Los Angeles to perhaps change the whole approach and implement a different strategy. As it’s obvious, for many years the current “concrete & cement” with palm trees has not worked.
    Once we start following other cities’ success, we will immediately see the difference.
    Alexander’s renderings may not be perfect, but they’re by no comparison depict a huge improvement from what we currently have.
    If you call the renderings “Disneyland”, perhaps it might be time for you to visit the real Disneyland, and learn for yourself what it looks like! :)

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Thanks for your posts, folks.
    @ Erikmar: I have to disagree. In fact, I just came back from New York a few months ago. True, some of their sidewalks are concrete, but (and it’s a big “But”!) – it’s still not plain concrete, but layers of pavers, patterns, sometimes blocks, stone, etc. The sidewalks in NYC have much more variety and patterns added to them. They’re also much better designed for people, they’re wider, have lots of trees & greenery, and have better landscaping. My “present state” photos taken in Hollywood look nothing like the sidewalks in NYC, sorry! I have to agree with Mike: LA indeed has no “organic style” (as you put it). Unless you mean that LA is organically ugly. ;-)
    @ Mike: You hit the nail on the head! I love your comment. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    “LA indeed has no “organic style” (as you put it). Unless you mean that LA is organically ugly. ;-)”

    This is where I’m tempted to invite the author to relocate, but I will refrain, if only for the smiley.  Denying Los Angeles’ identity is pretty irritating.  Erickmar wrote : “a more organically derived LA vernacular”.  This implies we are still defining those terms.  This is a young city, growing within its own specific geographic and historic context. You dedicated an entire column on the aesthetic merits of replacing all our paved common area without taking into considering the unique challenges and opportunities associated with managing the globe’s only Megacity existing in a Mediterranean climate.  That deserves consideration, and from a so-informed dialogue would be derived a more developed “organic” identity.  Stop look at Manhattan and start looking at the Pueblo and the Santa Monica Mountains.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    @ nslander:
    Thank you for your comment.
    I always enjoy reading feedback, especially when someone jumps to extremes and suggests me “to relocate” from LA. You know, “moving away” would mean “giving up”, which is a sign of weakness.
    I believe, we shouldn’t give up on opportunities, especially that L.A. currently is on a transition mode. I’m glad to see that some areas are indeed improving, along with walkability.
    You’re absolutely right, there are always “unique challenges” when it comes to improving quality of life in a given city. But again, all these obstacles you mention are pitiful excuses. Third-world countries are able to rebuild their cities, while LA is lagging behind… The “climate” excuse is also not quite relevant because various cities around the globe – some of which have similar climate – are able to provide MUCH more pedestrian-friendly environment. Decent sidewalks can be built in any climate. Especially in LA.
    Last but not least. LA is not that young; 100 years is plenty of time to build / rebuild a city. Again, it’s just another excuse.
    Hopefully the renderings will be an eye-opener for City planners to see what can be done for a great city like LA!
    All the best.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for putting this out there.  This is a discussion worth having. 
    However, I’m not sure how you interpreted my comments as “excuse making”.  They were intended to support the proposition the needs of this city are considered properly within their own context. You are going for visual appeal but I contend this must go FAR beyond that.  Prioritizing native landscaping, cool pavement techniques, heat reflecting textures, local water drainage and retention, etc, are not “excuses”.  They are necessities which are not addressed in your suggested approach.  If we don’t have the public desire or ability to maintain the humble state of our current pedestrian infrastructure, we need to find a way to mobilize that political will.  Combating climate change is that opportunity.   

  • PC

    You mean to tell me that remaking a district with centuries of historic and cultural significance in the image of a corporate shopping plaza WON’T solve any of its social or sustainability ills? This placemaking business is trickier than I thought!

    But on the real, I’m curious as to why you (nslander) are so resistant to taking any cues from Manhattan. Or is it just that you’re sick of hearing people hold out its sidewalk culture as the grand exemplar of how cities should be?

  • Anonymous

    @f28fe3596c72620ee9b3305cf4a59001:disqus I guess when I was thinking of New York, I was thinking of places like this: http://goo.gl/maps/ky69V, or maybe places like my old hood in Boston (surprisingly… the North End). Personally, I think I have an affinity for concrete streetscapes not shared by many, but I recognize the value added by having more trees, street furniture, parklets, sidewalk cafes, etc. and as I said I’m in favor of those things.
    The discussion about NYC, and the view out the window here in downtown LA, has got me thinking more, though. And I keep coming back to scale of development and density, because those are the things that create enough value (either through taxes or things like BIDs) to allow street improvements to be funded. The two really need to go hand in hand – otherwise we end up with, as Jane Jacobs put it, “promenades with no promenaders”.

    Best regards, Matt

  • Anonymous

    I’ll admit to the later, but it’s not the main reason.  Other cities can, and should, inform discussions like this.   But simply emulating any superficial look will prove inadequate.  We need to proceed with an understanding of the context of this locale and, more importantly, the needs of a future city in which we will increasingly need to mitigate against urban heat islands.  This is a reality your prized New York has not sufficiently addressed and I see little reason to look there when the answers so much closer at hand. 

    These possibilities also include other, larger infrastructure issues identified by others in the very thread: more one- way streets, wider sidewalks, more ped-crossings etc.  My question to you is why are you focusing on cosmetics at the expense of these larger concepts (which would include cosmetic elements)?

  • Anonymous

    Some food for thought: the costs for many of these cosmetic changes can be justified, and ultimately recovered, by implementing cool paving strategies:
     
    “Earlier research analyzed a combination of mitigation measures in the Los Angeles area, including pavement and roofing solar reflectance changes, and increased use of trees and vegetation. The study identified a 1.5ºF (0.8ºC) temperature improvement from the albedo changes.18 A subsequent report analyzed the monetary benefits associated with these temperature improvements, and estimated the indirect benefits (energy savings and smog reductions) of the temperature reduction in Los Angeles from pavement albedo improvements would be more than $90 million per year (in 1998 dollars).19”
     
    http://www.epa.gov/hiri/resources/pdf/CoolPavesCompendium.pdf
     
    http://www.epa.gov/hiri/mitigation/pavements.htm

  • Erikmar

    Alex and Mike,
    My comments on disneyland were based on the last paragraph, where Alex says, ” the city as a whole should follow the concept of that same Grove and Americana. Those places are highly popular, stylish, safe, and have proven to work well in urban environments. After all, European cities are built that same way; The Grove and Americana are actually a replica of European design standards.” 
    That’s a kind of disneyland – the copying and pasting of forms generated as responses to other conditions with the goal of evoking the “signifieds” (e.g., walkability, siestas, extended family life, etc)of those other conditions.
    I don’t think I ever said that all of the photos in the article were disneylandish. In fact, to the contrary, they could work well, but if and only if the other, more important parameters were in place and implemented, such as revised zoning codes allowing for greater density and mixed uses.
    And you’re also missing the point about organically generated LA urbanism – yes, what we have now is in a way organically generated, but it’s generated by a framework that has all of the wrong values – primacy of the private automobile, privileging of individual property values over social good, endless consumption of fossil fuels, etc. What we should aim for is first to get the framework of values right, and I’m sure the appropriate forms will follow.
    That having been said, I realize that there’s a dialectical process between form and the parameters within which form is generated, so urban interventions such as Long Beach’s bike boulevards or Civlavia can trigger public debate over the meaning of streets, opening up space for the implementation of more positive zoning codes and the like. 
    Design has a certain power, yes, but in many if not most cases, codes, economics, and politics have far greater determinative power, and we, as designers, both overstate our own importance and render ourselves politically ineffective when we forget that.

  • PC

    @nslander:

    I confess to visiting and enjoying old Gotham from time to time, and even to seeing some things there that I wouldn’t mind seeing modeled here, but calling it my “prized New York” is really a bit much. Perhaps you had me mixed up with one of the other commenters who brought up New York originally?

    More importantly, please–for the love of all things holy–do not confuse me with the author of the article on which you and I are commenting. If you want a coherent explanation of why or how he thinks cute bricks, shrubbery, and Grove/Americana-like architectural hokum will solve anything that’s wrong with Hollywood, I’m afraid you’ll have to ask him for one. I wish you luck.

    And thank you for your answer. I agree with you that slavishly copying anything, whether it be an actual present-day city or an awful corporate megamall trying to evoke a city of the past, is a poor way to improve any part of Los Angeles.

    I also agree with most of the concrete (eh? eh?) suggestions made by other clueful commenters here, with the major exception of “more one-way streets.” No. No, no, a thousand times no. Dear Ghod, no! As a cyclist I would actually prefer Friedman’s ideas, which are merely expensive and pointless, to any expansion of existing one-way road mileage. Yes, they inconvenience cars, in a hamfisted sort of way–and that’s about the best that can be said for them, even by those who adhere to that “four wheels bad” school of kindergarten urbanism. And really, the less said about them the better.

  • Louis H

    As a person who helps design streets capes in New Orleans, I’ve gotta say that the pavers should only be used as a decorative element along the curb where people aren’t walking. I’s better for mobility devices, easier to maintain for utilities, easier for everyone to walk on (walking on stones gest old real fast). The less expensive a treatment is, the more miles of sidewalk you can improve. Keep it to I stamped concrete for the most part and add the flares in that furniture zone.

  • Anonymous

    Decorating the sidewalk is not the solution. No matter how you dress it up, walking by a parking lot, a block long fence, a set of garage doors, will never make for a good pedestrian experience.

    Land use, and the architecture of the street wall are the first things that need to be addressed. There has to be places to walk to close by, and the walk has to be interesting and engaging to people. Secondly, street design – traffic calming, narrower streets, and people friendly amenities like tress and benches.. Thirdly, density-without other people around, nobody wants to walk.

    Work on solving those three main issues, and only then decorate the sidewalk. Don’t waste your money until the real issues are addressed.

  • Sprague

    In regards to the author’s suggestions for areas #14 and #15, although the proposals are pleasing to the eye, they would constrict the flow of pedestrians and wheelchair users at times when they are well used.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    Dear “WaltSDCA”,
    Thanks for your comment.You’re right in the sense that all of the issues you mentioned need to be addressed. But we have to start somewhere. Implementing “all of the above” would take decades and an unimaginable investment, and will unlikely happen in the foreseeable future. Not in Hollywood & vicinity. Also, you referred to my ideas as “decorating the sidewalks”; I’m suggesting not “decorating”, but REBUILDING them. Sidewalks – as you probably know – are in awful shape and are an eyesore. They need an overhaul, not a superficial “decorating”. Sidewalks is a good, and relatively inexpensive, start. Once sidewalks are rebuilt and pedestrian amenities are added (landscaping, benches, trees, improvement to building exteriors), walkability will dramatically improve, as experience has shown. Simultaneously, as new upscale developments are added, the whole transition into better pedestrian environment is all but certain. Once again, thanks for your thoughts.

  • MIke

    @ nslander:
    Your comments are well put together. Though I disagree with your claim that “emulating any superficial look will prove inadequate”. We’re not trying to emulate, but simply a suggestion to apply a concept that has worked perfectly worldwide!
     

    @ PCYour comments truly amaze me. And not just for your sarcasm and utter disrespect towards the author’s work (as well as your attempts to kiss-up to the commenter “nslander”) but for your primitive thinking, so to speak. Do some learning, and try to think outside the box, my friend.
     
    Personally, I probably wouldn’t go with brick paving, but I do commend the author’s (Alexander) ideas. Someone who has guts to demonstrate the improvements (albeit not perfect) and spends time to generate such compelling ideas – deserves a thumbs up. I agree, many parts of Los Angeles are in neglect, and naked concrete sidewalks need a serious upgrade. We also need more crosswalks and bike parking. Do we want to use brick everywhere? Probably not. And yes, “nslander” is right: L.A. does have its own kind of style, though underdeveloped style, I guess… But occasional brick pavers and patterned concrete combined with other improved pavement is definitely needed. On Alexander’s renderings I think the best are #4, #5, and #6 (Sunset Blvd). #7 is pretty cool. I love #10 (Orange Drive south of Hollywood, with a bunch of parked taxi cabs). And the best I think is # 12 (La Brea east side), where a weird-looking trimmed tree is replaced with “Plenty of deciduous trees planted, now serving as a buffer zone” . If La Brea would like this way, I’d go out with my family every night!
     
    Remember, folks, Los Angeles is already using the type of design the author mentioned. It’s not a new concept for L.A. If you visit Downtown, you’ll find plenty of streets with pavers and patterned brick sidewalks. And that’s why in part Downtown is much more walkable than Hollywood – not just thanks to upscale restaurants and shopping, but for having much better pedestrian-oriented sidewalks. So, once this same concept – that’s already used in Downtown LA, Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and others – is applied to Hollywood, we’re talking about major improvement. Mr. “PC” calls it “cute bricks”, but the whole world calls us “walkable streets”.

  • These show some forward thinking. However, making the sidewalks more attractive by using cobblestones is not a good idea since walking on stone paving is not easy and can cause problems for elderly or women in heels. Keeping the sidewalks clean and in good repair is the most important factor for ease of walking.

    The added trees and greenery are great, but a way to water them must be considered or they will die — adding to the barren ugliness!

    Alternatives to plantings are sculptural pieces –even decorative trash cans (Long Beach has some with mosaics).

    It would be good to see more benches, even at places where there isn’t a bus stop. Some creative groupings of seating can make an area more inviting. Benches of different sizes and having sculptural feel can make an area appealing and inviting.

  •  I recommend doing those on Hollywood Blvd, where it’s diagonal between Vermont and Hillhurst.  The grid is still perfectly connected around it, and it’s becoming a pretty good business district, and would be better when that intersection at the other end is easier for pedestrians to deal with.

  • PC

    Easy now, “Mike.” It’s just criticism. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were taking my remarks about Friedman’s article personally. But there’s no reason for that, is there?

    When you get down to it–and this has been amply pointed out by now–these ideas are essentially the same hokey sidewalk beautification schemes that countless failing downtowns have been attempting for years without noticeable results, along with some of what Jim Kunstler has memorably labeled “nature band-aids.” (I’m not referring to the shade trees, which are of course useful and necessary, but are not exactly a new idea either.)

    As the other posters have been trying to tell you, a lack of terra cotta pavingstones and planters is not what ails the Hollywood sidewalk–it’s that the built landscape on either side of it has been done horrifically wrong for seventy years. Fix that, and I promise you that people will be happy to walk on them, and they won’t notice or care how “plain” they are.

  • MIke

    @ PC:
    Sorry, pal, didn’t mean to come down hard on you. It’s just… when people show complete lack of common sense, that sometimes irritates me. Likewise, I hate arrogance and especially mean sarcasm. A respectful discussion will be much more efficient.
    But – hey, it’s no problem. Let’s agree to disagree.
    At the end, we all want our city to look good, and we want improvement for people, don’t we!
    Cheers!

  • PC

    Well, thanks, “Mike,” for respectfully accusing me of having no common sense during this respectful discussion. And yes, clearly we will have to agree to disagree–respectfully, of course–about your…er, I mean Mr. Friedman’s proposal for the mallification of Hollywood.

  • BC

    “Once sidewalks are rebuilt and pedestrian amenities are added
    (landscaping, benches, trees, improvement to building exteriors),
    walkability will dramatically improve, as experience has shown.”

    No, there are attractive, landscaped, benched, and ‘upscaled’ sidewalks that are not livable, not walk friendly, because the adjacent traffic on the street is too fast and thus too noisy, and also because the sidewalk is too narrow.   Your giving the politicians and other decision-makers a chance to congratulate themselves for addressing walkability/livability without making any changes that actually matter.

  • Alexander Friedman (author)

    @ BC:
    Thank you for your comment. I couldn’t agree more! As already mentioned, I also believe we need to invest into comprehensive changes, not only sidewalks. Yes, we definitely need traffic calming, center-medians on major streets (e.g. my image #11), fewer car lanes and more bike lanes, street-accessible retail, etc. However, LA being notorious for “car city” we cannot realistically expect all of the above implemented at once! Too many politicians are bought into the automobile & oil industry, thus would be opposed to traffic calming in many areas. That’s why we have to take one step at a time. 
    Please note: other areas of LA (and the country, for that matter) have successfully undergone sidewalk improvements without significant change in traffic patterns, but – despite your claim – this did greatly improve walkability. The adjacent traffic and sidewalks are not necessarily mutually exclusive, if implemented properly.
    Thanks again for the comment. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Davistrain

    “Centuries of historical and cultural significance”?  A hundred years ago there was a city ordinance regulating the number of sheep that could be herded along Hollywood Blvd.  Two hundred years ago, any human settlement in the area would have been a group of native-built huts or maybe an adobe ranch house.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Welcome to “The Avenue Hollywood”, Another Anti-Pedestrian Project

|
Mixed-use developments are rising all over Los Angeles, particularly in Hollywood and West Hollywood. Some buildings look better than others, though sadly none show the classic architectural spark that once existed in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, most new projects aim for common goals: sustainability and improved pedestrian infrastructure. But not all mixed-use projects follow […]

What now for the West Hollywood Transit Corridor?

|
(I noticed an uptick in press discussions about “density and transit” and “density and West Hollywood.”  To respond to these articles, many of which are predicting doom for anyone foolish enough to try and densify their cities, I asked Dan Wentzel, a transit advocate who resides in West Hollywood, to take take a turn at […]

Celebrating Bimini Place

|
Council President Eric Garcetti, department heads from the Department of Public Works, CALTRANS, LADOT and Metro joined the community surrounding Bimini Place and the Los Angeles Eco-Village to celebrate the completion of the East Hollywood Shared Street Project.