Just How Great Will Those Great Streets Initiative Sites Become?
Yesterday and today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the sites for his Great Streets Initiative. The mayor’s Streets initiative now has an initial budget of $800,000. SBLA previewed six of these Great Streets announced during Garcetti’s State of the City address. The full list now includes 15 street segments, one per City Council District. Here is how Garcetti describes Great Streets:
We’ll saturate your street with services. We’ll make your street accessible to pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers and bicycles–not just cars. We’ll create an environment where new neighborhood businesses can flourish. We’ll pave the streets and make them green streets — clean and lush with plant life, local art, and people-focused plazas.
Below is the list, from yesterday’s L.A. Times article:
District 1: North Figueroa Street between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60
District 2: Lankershim Boulevard between Chandler and Victory boulevards
District 3: Sherman Way between Wilbur and Lindley avenues
District 4: Western Avenue between Melrose Avenue and 3rd Street
District 5: Westwood Boulevard between Le Conte Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard
District 6: Van Nuys Boulevard between Victory Boulevard and Oxnard Street
District 7: Van Nuys Boulevard between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and San Fernando Road
District 8: Crenshaw Boulevard between 78th Street and Florence Avenue
District 9: Central Avenue between MLK Boulevard and Vernon Avenue
District 10: Pico Boulevard between Hauser Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue
District 11: Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard
District 12: Reseda Boulevard between Plummer Street and Parthenia Avenue
District 13: Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue & Gower Street
District 14: Cesar Chavez Avenue between Evergreen Avenue and St. Louis Street
District 15: Gaffey Street between 15th Street & the 110 Freeway
View Great Streets Initiative in a larger map
The street mileage is listed here. The total mileage is 12.4 miles.
I want to be excited about any effort to make streets more livable, more walkable, and more bikeable, but frankly the initiative feels a little timid. One step forward for every dozen-plus steps backward.
I am reminded of Yonah Freemark’s recent article about the limits to recent light rail project success. Freemark writes:
But spending on new [light rail] lines is not enough. Increases in transit use are only possible when the low costs of driving and parking are addressed, and when government and private partners work together to develop more densely near transit stations. None of the cities that built new light rail lines in the 1980s understood this reality sufficiently. Each region also built free highways during the period [...] and each continued to sprawl[.] These conflicting policies had as much to do with light rail’s mediocre outcomes as the trains themselves — if not more.
I hope that Garcetti’s $800,000 streets initiative is the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it (combined with other new bike, walk, and rail investments) will result in lots of great foot traffic, then that will catalyze a positive spiral of ever-increasing investment in livability.
It looks more likely to me that that Great Streets livability efforts could get lost in the face of so many other initiatives taking things in the other direction. Here are just a few of the wrong-headed projects that come to mind:
- The city of Los Angeles is spending nearly $70 million to construct one new freeway-scale bridge, tearing out a historic neighborhood-scale bridge. Many other historic bridges are threatened.
- The city of Los Angeles is looking to add even more car traffic via its proposed “Vehicle Enhanced Network.”
- The region keeps on widening freeways: $1.8 billion widening the 5 Freeway, $1.1 billion widening the 405 Freeway.
- The city’s street standards, parking standards, speed limit standards, etc. all still continue to try to force us back into a car-centric future.
What do you think readers? Will $800,000 worth of improvements stave off millions and billions stacked against it? Can Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative result in real change toward livable walkable streets? Will it?