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Posts from the "Hollywood" Category

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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 guidelines on creating pedestrian environment. Some developers continue constructing 1980’s-style automobile-oriented buildings, without adequate streetscape or aesthetics. A classical example of an anti-pedestrian development is The Avenue Hollywood, located in the heart of Hollywood, on La Brea Avenue just south of Hollywood Blvd.

From a distance, we see an attractive, modern midrise building, designed with good contemporary standards. And unlike most other low-to-midrise buildings, The Avenue Hollywood building is based on concrete and steel – not wood. Therefore the building is much more durable and offers better fireproofing and soundproofing.

All pictures by Alexander Friedman

The new complex certainly enhances the appearance of otherwise dull La Brea Avenue. But then one starts to wonder, why don’t you ever see pedestrians near the new development? Likewise, why is every single ground retail space still empty, with distinct “For Lease” signs?

Let’s find out what went wrong with The Avenue Hollywood, and why hasn’t a single ground-level space been occupied by any type of vendor.

The Avenue Hollywood offers a half-dozen spaces for ground-floor retail, and 5-6 levels of apartment renting. Location is very convenient: just next to the famous Hollywood Walk-of-Fame, Hollywood & Highland shopping mega-center, and a popular Red line subway station. Thus The Avenue Hollywood sits on a perfect transit-oriented development location.

But once you approach the complex, first good impressions dissipate. A grim reality of concrete & cement starts to unveil. Lack of pedestrian activity or amenities makes you want to walk away. The building surroundings indeed are cold and unwelcoming. Read more…

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Friends of the Hollywood Central Park Challenge Us to Design Our Own Park

Can you do better? Rendering from the Friends of the Hollywood Central Park

Friends of the Hollywood Central Park (FHCP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a 44-acre street-level park over the Hollywood Freeway in a densely populated and park-poor area of the city, launched a new facet of thir website today to encourage everyone to tap their inner architect and create their own dream park. You can visit the Design Your Own Park Tool inside the Hollywood Central Park website by clicking here.

The new feature allows individuals to create their own version of Hollywood Central Park,  by offering a wide gamut of possibilities features to choose from. These range from large multipurpose fields, cafés, dog parks and libraries to the smaller features such as rocks, trees, stones and benches. For those with more time and immagination, it also adds the ability to invent your own park element at the exact location they desire, orient it as you wish, and write notes to explain your thinking.

“Knowing the level of interest in the community about Hollywood Central Park, we decided the best way to get input on what should be built was give everybody a chance to create their dream park,” said Laurie Goldman, FHCP president. “This is everybody’s park, and everybody should have an opportunity to submit their own ideas. Now they can, and in the process can be involved in creating Hollywood history!”

One of the first users of the new website is Council District 13′s newly minted Council Member, Mitch O’Farrell. O’Farrell, a longtime proponent of the park since his time working in the field offices of his predecessor, is impressed by the new site’s simplicity and the open-ness of inviting all to participate in the design process.

“Friends of the Hollywood Central Park continue to embrace community input through the use of cutting edge technology,” said O’Farrell via press release. “The new park planner feature on the organization’s website allows real-time engagement, as well as visualization of another great public space in Los Angeles.” Read more…

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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. Read more…

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LADOT Brings Bike Friendly Design to Yucca Street

Yucca Street, L.A.'s first "Bicycle Friendly Street."

“Bicycle Friendly Street.”

Yucca and Wilcox, facing north. For more images fro Yucca Street, visit LA Streetsblog/Flickr

The term first appeared in the City of Los Angeles’ Draft Bike Plan in 2009. Despite its nice sounding name, advocates groaned. Instead of the universally approved “Bicycle Boulevard,” LADOT, City Planning and their consultants had coined their own phrase. At the time, it was widely assumed that whenever the City tried to innovate, disappointment would soon follow.

Today in Hollywood, just north of Hollywood Boulevard, the LADOT has christened their first “Bicycle Friendly Street”. On Friday, I had a chance to ride on all .8 miles of the “Bicycle Friendly” Yucca Street. Back and forth, back and forth. I rode the length between Vine and Highlands four times, following the Sharrows.

I admit it. I liked it. And I wasn’t alone.

“Designing the Yucca project was a collaborative process with the city and local residents and it’s been a win-win for the community, explains Council Member Eric Garcetti. “It reduces cut-through traffic and creates a safer environment for bicyclists as well as pedestrians.”

To earn the “Bicycle Friendly” designation, a street needs to undergo three treatments that make the street a friendlier place for cyclists to ride. The side effects of the new design and infrastructure are lower car speeds, fewer cars and a more pedestrian friendly environment. On Yucca, Sharrows direct cyclists across the .8 mile stretch with ease. Learning from past mistakes, the Sharrows direct cyclists away from turning lanes when necessary. Following a change in state guidelines, some of the Sharrows are even in travel lanes where there are no parked cars with the point four feet from the curb.

Stay out of the turn lane! This Sharrow approaching Cahuenga Boulevard directs cyclists into the through travel lane.

The Yucca Street bike signs have earned LADOT some positive press in social media after they were unveiled on the LADOT Bike Blog. Instead of the traditional “bike route” signs that even some members of LADOT Bikeways admitted were close to useless, these signs place the bicycle image next to the street name. It sends a clearer message that these streets are safe ones for bicycles more than the uniquitous and vague “Bike Route” signs that can be found nearly everywhere.

But the really exciting part is the third treatment.

The really exciting part. Cherokee and Yucca, facing west.

Last year we wrote about an effort by Council Members Garcetti and Tom LaBonge to restrict car access to Yucca Street. The residential portions of the street were being used every day by commuters tired of the congestion on Hollywood Boulevard. To that end, pedestrian islands and signs forbid left turns and through traffic onto Yucca making it nigh impossible for use as a cut through. As a result, cars accessing the streets are almost uniformly cars making local trips.

“The bollards were originally put in to mitigate some negative impacts in the neighborhood,” adds LaBonge. “This new route has turned a negative into a positive. This is another great addition to our bike infrastructure, though we have more work to do.”

I didn’t have my notebook or voice recorder with me, but I did stop to talk to some residents of the apartment buildings to ask about the changes to their street. To a person, they said there was less traffic at rush hour and the street was a better place to walk. The two cyclists I chatted with agreed, Yucca is one of L.A.’s best .8 miles of bikeways.

Of course, some communities have proven resistent to changes that make their streets more livable. While advocates point to the beautiful Vista Street Bike Boulevard in Long Beach, Yucca provides a case study closer to home. There’s three major differences between Yucca and Vista.

First, Vista Street is entirely residential in its Boulevard while Yucca stretches east through some shopping areas. Second, while Vista uses traffic circles to slow cars, Yucca outright stops certain turns and through traffic, making a cut-through not difficult and slow, but impossible. Last, Vista Street is a mostly upper-class area of Long Beach where most people are homeowners. Despite the Lowes mixed-use development at its eastern end and its proximation to Hollywood, Yucca is mostly middle-income rental properties.

All in all, Yucca provides a great first start to the Bicycle Friendly Street Program. In some ways, this “Friendly” street is even superior to Long Beach’s boulevards. It will be interesting to see going forward if Yucca is an outlier of the program, or an example of what can and will be done.

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Aileen Getty Foundation Donates $1.2 Million to Hollywood Central Park

One step closer to reality. Rendering from the Friends of the Hollywood Central Park

Friends of the Hollywood Central Park (FHCP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a 44-acre street-level park over the Hollywood Freeway in a densely populated and park-poor area of the city, accepted a $1.2 million gift today from the Aileen Getty Foundation. The donation, combined $825,000  from the city fully funds the park’s environmental study, a study needed before fundraising can truly begin for design and construction.

“FHCP is overwhelmed by Aileen Getty’s magnificent donation – her indomitable spirit and commitment to Hollywood knows no bounds,” said FHCP President, Laurie Goldman in a press release. “Aileen Getty is an extraordinary and special person whom we are honored to call our friend. The Aileen Getty Foundation gift allows FHCP to begin the environmental review process and takes us one major step closer to building the Hollywood Central Park.”

Or more simply, ”There are many angels in this City of Angels, but Aileen Getty has some of the biggest wings,” Council Member Tom LaBonge said. “There is a growing movement around the world to take back infrastructure to create public spaces, and the Hollywood Central Park will be another great example.”

For her part, Getty seems to grasp what a game changer the park could be to Hollywood. Despite a strong international brand because of the film and tourism industry, Hollywood, East Hollywood and the City of West Hollywood are among the most park-poor communities in L.A. County.

“The Hollywood Central Park is all about building community and celebrating our commonality in a natural environment – an imaginative urban park built atop the Hollywood Freeway,” said Aileen Getty. “The Park will allow people of all ages to connect to each other and to nature. I am energized by the opportunity to support this project. I believe it is a vital link in creating greater quality of life in our city.” Read more…

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Five Mega-Projects that Will Transform La Brea

Hollywood is changing.

People traveling along La Brea Avenue have probably noticed there’s a lot of construction happening. Considering that the area has been stagnant for a while, new construction is immediately noticed by anyone familiar with the corridor. And it’s no wonder; many abandoned buildings, parking lots, and blighted areas have been neglected for years.

But now, revitalization is finally upon us. La Brea is gradually transforming from a dull car corridor to a pedestrian-friendly street.

In addition to the “Wilshire / La Brea” project (also under construction) in the mid-Wilshire district, the largest developments are happening in the Hollywood / West Hollywood area, within a 5-block radius, or exactly 0.5-mile span. Thanks to the developers, as well as City of West Hollywood and City of L.A., the projects are moving ahead full-speed. Please see renderings with information below to learn what awaits La Brea within the next two years!

Project #1. La Brea and Fountain

FORMERLY: Jons supermarket with a large parking lot.

FUTURE: Mixed-use project, with luxury apartments, underground parking, ground-floor retail, and pedestrian space.

Note: While many of us were saddened to part with Jons Marketplace, the area was uninviting for most transportation uses. Utilitarian parking, no landscaping, and a nondescript supermarket served few users who are without cars. The new project will make the intersection a welcoming site, with plenty of outdoor activities, and will bring the community closer together. According to the developer and City of West Hollywood, this project will be the largest mixed-use development in West Hollywood’s history. Read more…

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Advocates, Rep. Schiff Meet with Secretary LaHood on Hollywood Cap Park

Secretary LaHood and Congressman Schiff (seated) talk about the proposed Cap Park for the Hollywood Freeway. Photo: Office of Representative Dan Schiff

Advocates for more open space for the park-starved community of Hollywood had a moment to shine yesterday.  Congressman Adam Schiff, members of the Hollywood Central Park Committee and other neighborhood advocates had a meeting with USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss their proposal to place a 44-acre street level park “on top” of the 101 Hollywood Freeway.

One unintended consequence of Los Angeles’ spaghetti-bowl of freeways is that many communities end up either divided from other communities or from themselves by giant asphalt walls.  The concept of reconnecting communities by “capping” a freeway with a park is not a new one.  The Freeway Park in Seattle is one popular example, but a cap park also exists locally in La Canada.

The proposed project would cap the 101 Freeway between Hollywood and Santa Monica Boulevards, and create a 44-acre street level park over the capped Freeway.  There’s no details for the plan yet, but advocates and the Congressman talk excitedly about baseball and soccer fields, an amphitheatre, and just a place for Hollywood residents and visitors to be outside away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood’s congested streets.

“It’s my hope that the Hollywood Central Park will one day have the iconic status of Griffith Park, and become a place for local residents to enjoy as well as a destination for visitors from all over the country,” said Schiff after the meeting.

Hollywood is one of the most park poor parts of California with just .005 acres of open space for each resident  For comparison’s sake throughout the City of Los Angeles there is  0.12 acres of open space per resident, which is still less than half the .30 acres per resident for San Diego.

As for the results of the meeting, Schiff gives a big thumbs up.   Read more…

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Open Space Starved Hollywood Breaks Ground on “Cahuenga Alley”

Turning This...

Its no secret that outside of Griffith Park, Los Angeles is a city starving for open space.  There is nowhere this is more true than Hollywood, where even a weekly farmer’s market is under attack because it blocks access to a parking lot.  Thus, while Hollywood waits for projects such as the Hollywood Freeway Central Park, it’s important to try and create pockets of places where people can be outside in a safe and welcoming environment.

To that end, yesterday the embattled Community Redevelopment Agency, City Council President Eric Garcetti and Hollywood-area business leaders gathered to break ground on the “Cahuenga Alley” project which will turn the currently hideous alley into a clean, protected, pedestrian walkway.  The first-of-its-kind project is a sort of public-private partnership where the city will create the pedestrian plaza and local businesses will will install landscaping and decorative lighting, set up outdoor dining and patio space.  Maintenance and security will be maintained by the businesses.

...Into this. Image one: Office of Eric Garcetti. Image two: CRA

“Today we begin the Cahuenga alley’s transformation into a thriving pedestrian environment where locals and tourists alike can come to relax and enjoy our beautiful weather.  It’s going to be great for business and great for Hollywood,” said Council President Garcetti through a press release.

This project is reminiscent of outdoor mall projects such as The Grove or The Promenade in Santa Monica, but the here the alley itself will remain a publicly owned street.  Businesses will create the atmosphere, but the street will be open for public use and as a thoroughfare regardless of people’s dinner plans. Read more…

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Controversy Over Hollywood Farmer’s Market Raises Question: Who Owns the Street?

The Hollywood Farmer's Market last February.  Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/20990388@N04/4338490433/##Alex de Cordoba/Flickr##

The Hollywood Farmer's Market last February. Photo:Alex de Cordoba/Flickr

The uncertain future of the Hollywood Farmers Market has inspired much energy and advocacy that food and street advocates in Los Angeles can be proud of. Market operator See-LA rallied allies and supporters. Farmers’ market patrons flooded City Councilperson Eric Garcetti with messages of support for the market. Garcetti in turn helped extend the permit and is trying to negotiate a solution that preserves most of the markets’ existing footprint and access. But the controversy also raises a question that in turn suggests a way to save the market and others like it.

Who owns the streets?

Or, in this situation, why in the @#*^ can a single adjacent business veto the continuation of a farmers market that is one of the cornerstones of social life, healthy food access, and community supported agriculture in Los Angeles?

To be even more specific, why is the Board of Public Works giving residents and business owners adjacent to proposed farmers markets, street fairs and other special events a quasi-property right in the streets that lets them veto temporary closures of public streets? Read more…

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Summary of the Major Decisions from Today’s Metro Board Meeting

If Downtowners want to see a Regional Connector Station at 5th and Flower, they're going to have to find the money themselves.  Photo:##http://www.pbase.com/clovis86/profile##Clovis Bouhier/PBase##

If Downtowners want to see a Regional Connector Station at 5th and Flower, they're going to have to find the money themselves. Photo:Clovis Bouhier/PBase

Here’s a quick rundown of the major votes by today’s Metro Board. Each of these five motions were discussed at Streetsblog over the last couple of weeks, and links to those stories can be found at the end of each summary.  Streetsblog will have links to all news reports on today’s meeting tomorrow.

Westside Subway Locally Preferred Alternative/Environmental Studies
As expected, the Metro Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve the Westside Subway “Locally Preferred Alternative” as the 9 1/2-mile route to the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Brentwood from the current end of the Purple Line at Wilshire/Western in Koreatown.  Despite over an hour of public comment from the Beverly Hills’ NUMBY’s, there was no decision made on whether the subway should have a stop on Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City or Constellation Avenue.

Yaroslavsky’s motion, which seemed to place the concerns of Beverly Hills regarding the Constellation Avenue/Santa Monica Boulevard debate ahead of those of other communities, was amended by the author to urge the staff to provide a detailed account of the impacts of both alternatives through the Westside.  This would have happened regardless under the Final Environmental Impact Statement that the Board approved funding for today.  For background on this motion, read yesterday’s Streetsblog story or an update on today’s vote from LA_Now.

Regional Connector Locally Preferred Alternative/Environmental Studies
The Metro Board also approved the “Locally Preferred Alternative” and funding for the environmental studies needed for the Regional Connector.  The debate was dominated by Little Tokyo business groups concerned that “cut and cover” subway construction would disrupt the community and cost them business. Downtown interests and LA City Councilwoman Jan Perry also expressed concerns about the exclusion of the 5th and Flower stop from the LPA.  The Board narrowly voted to exclude the 5th and Flower for now, but left the door open to include it in the environmental studies, if local businesses raise the roughly $2 million needed for that part of the study.  For more background, read this story at Streetsblog or an update on today’s vote from Blog Downtown.

“BikeWood” Hub at Hollywood and Vine Read more…