Eyes on the Street: Vista Del Mar Returned to Desolate 4-Lane Highway

Vista Del Mar in Playa Del Rey last week. Diagonal parking markings have been sandblasted, and the roadway has returned to four car lanes. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Vista Del Mar in Playa Del Rey last week. Diagonal parking markings have been sandblasted, and the roadway has returned to four car lanes. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last Friday, Streetsblog L.A. visited the latest iteration of Playa Del Rey’s Vista Del Mar. The scenic coastal route has been returned to four lanes of fast-moving cars.

Vista Del Mar will soon return to four travel lanes, with free parking at the nearby Dockweiler Beach lot. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Vista Del Mar in June, 2017, with beach-side diagonal parking. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Streetsblog readers may recall that in June, responding to pedestrian deaths and lawsuits, LADOT shifted Vista Del Mar’s parking to the beach side. In doing so, LADOT reduced Vista Del Mar car lanes from four to two. These safety improvements touched off an unruly cacophony of driver complaints, many coming from adjacent South Bay cities’ residents who could no longer use the city of Los Angeles’ Vista Del Mar as their own highway. Various commentaries opposed bike lanes on Vista Del Mar, though no bike lanes were ever actually striped there.

Earlier this month, LADOT announced that Vista Del Mar would be restored to four lanes, with on-street free parking to be relocated to a county lot below, at Dockweiler Beach. Nonetheless, the complaints spawned a lawsuit.

As of late last week, Vista Del Mar has been returned to four fast-moving car lanes. With no parking, no pedestrians getting out of cars, and lanes even wider than before, the deserted stretch of coastal road practically invites drivers to break speed limit laws. Though the posted speed is 40 mph, last Friday afternoon, several drivers appeared to be going much faster.

L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin recently appointed a task force to review Vista Del Mar and other Playa Del Rey streets. On the task force is a representative from Los Angeles Walks, which has committed to push “to create a permanent pedestrian facility on the west side of Vista del Mar …to make sure that extra roadway space will not merely be left to encourage unsafe driving speeds.”

The task force will also be looking into possible changes to safety improvements on Culver Boulevard and Pershing Drive, where road diets remain in place for now.

Safety improvements, including bike lanes, remain in place on Playa Del Rey's Culver Blvd
Safety improvements, including bike lanes, remain in place on Culver Blvd though the center of Playa Del Rey’s commercial district.
A portion of Playa Del Rey's Culver Boulevard (through the Ballona Wetlands) features a protected bike lane
A portion of Playa Del Rey’s Culver Boulevard (through the Ballona Wetlands) features protected bike lanes.
  • The area was always listed as a “Speedtrap” on the various websites devoted to warning motorists of Enforcement. I hope LADOT is somehow monitoring speeds and will, at the soonest opportunity, raise the speed limit to 55 MPH just as it is on Pershing on the other side of the former Surfridge neighborhood, the one that was removed by the arrival of the noisy 707 and DC-8 (Modern day Fanjets are much quieter) and created this speedway. Give the people what they want…Vroom, vroom!

  • cygp2p

    As a bonus for the locals, they also finally got what they wanted all along: a removal of the streetparking, restricting lower income people from the rest of LA from using the beach. The “deal” reached was to add more “reduced cost” parking on the beach itself (paving public use natural space for car parking YAY), but there is no guarantee it will be as many spots as are removed along the street, and no guarantee it will be free. Meaning in reality, the locals got to keep their private highway AND got to further restrict other people, who just HAPPEN to be poorer and higher percentage minority than the locals, from coming to their neighborhood. But I’m sure thats all just a coincidence…

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    Why not widen the street towards LAX a few feet and accommodate the desires of all.

  • Just guessing the Coastal Commission won’t allow it?

  • Joe R.

    Hey, why not go for broke and raise it to 80 mph? Vroom, vroom, vroooooooom!

  • Miles Bader

    Street-widening has a corrosive effect on both safety and usability for pedestrians. It is almost *always* a mistake to do that.

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    The CC is usually happy for any improvements that increase access.

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    This wouldn’t be the roadway it’s adding amenities like a bike lane and parking to the existing 4 lanes. I’m all for road diets where they make sense but this one didn’t. Advocates for eliminating lanes need to carefully pick their spots.

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    There are no “locals” at this beach.

  • This wasn’t a road diet. It was Parking relocation to the beach side so that no one would be tempted by the “attractive nuisance” of parking cars on the east side. But in order to do this, and maintain the same number of spots, the spaces had to be angled. This took so much space that only enough was left for one lane in each direction.

  • cygp2p

    Just because the beach itself is under the flightplan doesn’t mean there arent angry locals upset by its existence and use. Most people access the beach through Manhattan/El Porto and Playa, and you better believe the locals complain day and night about the people using “their” streets to get to Dockweiler. I would know, I’ve lived in both areas.

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    As a cyclist, I wanted the original four-lane configuration restored. The previous two-lane configuration meant that I was either queued up with motor vehicle traffic when congested, or was harassed when I “Held up” motorists that could not pass me.

    However, I do not like the new line striping. One, the lanes are wide enough that under CVC 21202, I may be obligated to “Share” a lane with motor vehicles. Two, the striping, stripe removal, restriping, parking block removal have left the right side of the lane in a hazardous condition.

    I wish it was restriped with the original lane widths, leaving the former parking areas as a No Parking Allowed shoulder. Similar to PCH north of Malibu, this would have allowed cyclists the optional user of he shoulder or full lane rights under CVC 21202 (3).

  • Tyler Doe

    This is excellent. Now people can get to work. What a waste of money. They wasted way more with construction than the lawsuit cost us. And now they have new lawsuits to defend against. Incredible.

  • Ben Phelps

    I never saw a beach that didn’t need a good 4 lane highway on it.

  • Do you have a figure to back up this accusation? Actually, the cost was probably quite low, since all this took was some labor and materials/equipment already on hand. Certainly lower than $9.5 Million. And no, while there can always be a new lawsuit, the basic issue of removing the “attractive nuisance” of car storage on the east side of the street has been resolved.

  • But they don’t like asphalt widening. Nor does CEQA.

  • Brian Howald

    Pick our battles much like advocates/lobbyists for more and bigger highways have?

  • D Man

    Why are you riding on VDM? There is an access road and bike strand just down the hill from there that all of us cyclists ride on. Much safer.

  • Tyler Doe

    My friend manages over a billion dollars of construction projects at LAX, Metro, etc., and this is information from him. It’s possible the initial construction was below 10 million, but not changing it back. Funny how you err on the side of things being cheap. lol…. I don’t mind no parking on the east side. I live in Playa and hate traveling VDM with drunk idiots crossing the road with their kids, etc. Although now you will possibly have lawsuits from taking away accessible, free parking from a state beach. We will see how much “free” parking there will be after they are done. Likely very little. You don’t think there might be lawsuits from that? People like you never look further than the end of your nose.

  • Thanks for the insults; yes, there may be an attempt to sue to return the parking on to VdM, and in that case the only configuration which will work is the one that was in place until last week. But that will be a suit against the Coastal Commision for approving the shift, not the City of Los Angeles’ concern. The incredibly frustrating thing about this project is the lack of understanding of all the laws, rules and practices that LADOT had to contend with.

    Let’s find out what this all cost. I suspect it was closer to $100,000.

  • Joe Linton

    Why are you driving on VDM? There’s Lincoln Blvd and the 405 Freeway that plenty of drivers drive on. Much bigger. #replacebikeswithcars

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    Weren’t 2 lanes of traffic eliminated in the re striping? If traffic speed is the pedestrian safety issue then why not use use speed cameras. And yes pick your battles. Throttling a critical north south commuter arterial is was always going to unleash a backlash that you couldn’t win. Look for both/and solutions that accommodate the needs of all and don’t waste time on either/or cheap fixes that blow up in your face.

  • CONSERVATIVESrEVIL

    Not the same thing. Locals everywhere want through traffic kept on the arterial and off neighborhood streets. This road diet pushed unsustainable cut through traffic onto their streets and they responded accordingly. This has little to do with locals protecting surf breaks type of behavior.

  • They had to maintain the same number of spaces on VdM but needed to move them all to the beach side so as to eliminate the “attractive nuisance” of the parking spaces on the east side of VdM. The number of spaces needs to be maintained due to Coastal Commission Requirements. This means that the only option was angled parking because the space may hold anything from a Smart Car to an RV to an Extended Cab (which parallel parking handles better). A buffer is then needed since pulling out into a 40 mph road is not easy. (Reducing the posted speed limit is next to impossible due to the 85th Percentile Speed Trap Law).

    Assuming the asphalt cannot be widened due to Coastal Commission (and CEQA) rules, the parking left only space for two lanes of travel, one in each direction.

    The person who was killed was, from my read of the legal documents, in a crosswalk where VdM and Ipswich meet. While Ipswich is fenced off, a curbed corner exists. It is therefore an intersection and there is an unmarked crosswalk at every such intersection in the State of California. Ms. Larsen was thus in a crosswalk when she was hit by a taxi driver who failed to follow the law and yield to a pedestrian; Ms. Larsen was not a “Fool”, she was following the proscribed system to get to her parked car.

    Traffic signalized crosswalks start at $100K. This was far cheaper to try.

  • Vooch

    city streets are for people not hulking death machines

  • simon rees

    Until the bike path and service road are buried in 6 inches of sand as they are for almost half of each winter. Then you’re forced onto VDM or Pershing.

  • Tyler Doe

    Wrong. That’s why their made of asphalt and concrete, have lanes, signs, speed limits, and on and on. Nice logic though. I sense mild retardation.

  • Vooch

    you’ll enjoy this youtube channel – exposing the evils of the war on cars

  • D Man

    Are we referring to the same thing? The access road called S. Marine Drive on Google Maps? I’ve never seen it covered in 6 inches of sand, or so much sand that there isn’t a constant flow of bikes riding down it.

  • simon rees

    Yes, the same. Last winter there were quite a few times when Marine drive was impassable with maybe 4″ of sand over it (6″ might have been an exaggeration). Usually after a windy day/ night, and it would usually take 2-3 days for them to clear it up. The depths were similar to the sand drifts you get more frequently in the straight bit next to the Hyperion parking lot, or the bit between the El Segundo power plant and El Segundo parking lot. Most of the morning commute/ club ride crown end up on VDM on those days.

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At last night's meeting, Playa/Westchester NC's David Voss arguing against LADOT's Playa Del Rey safety improvements. Photo by Marcia Hanscom

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