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. Read more…