First Round of Great Streets Improvements Continue on Cesar Chavez; City Says Community Engagement on Horizon
Tracking the Great Streets program as it has begun to unfold around town has, at times, been a bit of an exercise in frustration. Which never fails to strike me as odd, given Mayor Eric Garcetti’s declaration that the transformation of the 15 chosen streets into gathering places would happen via a “bottom-up and community-based process” in which the city “[worked] with neighborhood stakeholders to develop a vision for each corridor.”
But the incredibly robust public engagement process seen in Mar Vista — one in which the district’s very enthusiastic City Councilmember Mike Bonin used the plans as an opportunity to engage his constituents about how Venice Blvd. could be re-imagined, the neighborhood council created a Great Streets ad hoc committee, and community members were asked their opinion on a variety of potential improvements — has yet to be replicated elsewhere. [See the kinds of options offered to Mar Vista residents on everything from bikeways to crosswalks to bus amenities to street furniture to events/programming, below.]
Instead, the experience in other districts has been decidedly more uneven.
Along Central Avenue (South L.A.), there was practically no outreach early on; when outreach did finally get underway, it was to let folks know what had already been decided upon for their street, not to solicit their ideas on the options for how to transform the area.
The selection of N. Figueroa (Highland Park) as a Great Street seemed to give Councilmember Gil Cedillo the opening he was looking for to re-route the bike lane planned for the corridor, regardless of what some in the community wanted (and possibly inspiring Councilmember Curren Price to do the same for the bike lane planned for Central Ave.)
And along Cesar Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights, curb extensions were first striped at St. Louis in early June — well before the neighborhood council was approached about what was happening in their neighborhood.
The wider community was also only introduced to the plans during a few outreach sessions — one on the corner where installation of the bulb-outs had already begun in late June and at a couple of open houses held in mid-August, long after installation was complete and work was already underway at another intersection on the street.
When asked about the discrepancy in the processes, the mayor’s office responded via email that, “The work on Cesar Chavez was focused on pedestrian safety improvements and was accomplished through a partnership between LADOT [the L.A. Department of Transportation], Councilmember Huizar, and the Great Streets Studio. These kinds of basic improvements, similar to filling a pothole or fixing a sidewalk, may be made on a Great Street segment separately from the visioning process with the community.” Read more…