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Times’ Reports on LADOT’s Car Culture Catastrophe at LACMA

2:33 PM PST on February 4, 2008

It's not often I'm singing the praises of the LA Times, but an article from today's paper, A lack of street smarts near LACMA," really hits one of the main problems with LADOT's traffic management plans right in the head.
The Times reports:
As part of the expansion, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, the museum proposed extending a drop-off lane along the north edge of Wilshire at Ogden Drive, directly in front of its new plaza and entry pavilion. The request triggered a bureaucratic back-and-forth between LACMA and the city's Department of Transportation. The short version goes like this: The DOT refused to approve the new lane unless the museum also was willing to remove the stoplight and crosswalks at the intersection and extend the median strip running down the center of Wilshire. The agency apparently worried about new traffic bottlenecks as drivers dropped off museum visitors and as pedestrians crossed Wilshire to enter LACMA...
...This might be an insignificant story except for a couple of factors. One is that a central priority of LACMA expansion has been to open the museum up to Wilshire Boulevard and to pedestrians. For decades Angelenos have complained that LACMA turned its back on the boulevard. Piano's new entry plaza, which features a large installation of antique lampposts by the artist Chris Burden, was designed in large part to reverse that. Once the plaza is open, the museum's sidewalk frontage along Wilshire promises to be livelier and more crowded than it has ever been. Second, developers on the south side of this stretch of Wilshire, responding to the LACMA expansion, have begun taking similar steps to re-engage with the streetscape. Wayne Ratkovich, who owns the property at 5900 Wilshire, directly across from LACMA between Ogden and Spaulding, has been working with Richard Weinstein, the former chairman of the architecture department at UCLA, to redesign the lobby of the building and landscaping around it....
...Lynn and Ratkovich say changes to the intersection led a potential tenant for the restaurant building to pull out. That's hardly surprising: Instead of being able to walk directly from the LACMA plaza to their tables, customers would now have to walk east to Spaulding Avenue or west to Fairfax Avenue, then cross Wilshire and double back to reach the restaurant.
Why does this sound so familar...the DOT, scared to death about bottlenecks does what it can to alleviate car concerns, comes up with a plan that, while good for car traffic, messes up the pedestrian environment and throttles local business development...
It you said this plan sounds like the city's controversial Pico/Olympic plan, there's good reason. The LACMA project manager at LADOT and the project manager for Pico/Olympic are the same person, John Fisher.
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