Welcome to the Westside

First, let me assure you that just because I’m moving farther west, Streetsblog isn’t going to suddenly morph into a blog that only talks about the Expo Line, Santa Monica and the inner workings of the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council.  I’m not going to start wearing light blue and make sarcastic comments about USC.  Promise.

But that being said, I wanted to get a handle on my new neighborhood so I asked a group of Westside activists to give me some advice on what to look for in my new neighborhood.  Special thanks to Ballona Creek Renaissance’s Jim Lamm, the LACBC’s Kent Strumpell and Transit Coalition’s Dr. Kenneth Alpern.

One complaint I heard over and over was that the West L.A. street grid is a disaster.  In order to try and protect the communities, there’s a lot of effort going in to getting cars off the local streets and on to the main streets.  North-South arterial roads are particularly troublesome and overburdened with traffic.

Despite L.A. being the home to City Council Chair Bill Rosendahl, there hasn’t been a strong push for more bike lanes nor Sharrows to appear on West L.A. streets.  This is particularly troublesome because while cycling is certainly on the rise, Westside motorists are amongst the worst in the city when it comes to sharing the road.

However, the Ballona Creek Bicycle Trail is growing and improving.  Lamm reports that The Del Rey/Mar Vista stretch of the creek from Sepulveda to McConnell now has three new gateways with more improvements in the works there and upstream.  There are of course plans to connect the Ballona Creek Trail to the proposed Expo Bike Trail which means, although I hadn’t thought about it before, that one will be able to take a bike trail from Downtown L.A. all the way to Santa Monica or Marina del Rey.

Of course, there’s no rail transit of any sort at the moment, and the bus service can be pretty spotty for longer trips, especially to the Downtown.  If I’m planning to take the bus, I need to get there a couple of minutes early because a missed bus means a missed meeting.

Density and development is also a major issue.  Because things are spread out and local retail is on the decline; it does mean that too many Westsiders feel reliant on a car. 

I’ve also been warned not to expect as many pedestrians as I’m used to in the Fairfax Community, but that there is a desire amongst residents for some better pedestrian planning and amenities.  That being said, not all of the traffic and development problems are the fault of the Westside.  Some major development problems go on across the borders in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Culver City that create snarls for Westsiders.  I can’t claim to be an expert on Westside development patterns, but I’d be willing to bet that goes both ways…

That last paragraph wasn’t really a surprise…let’s just say there’s a reason we’re moving next door to our church, a block from Ralph’s and Whole Foods, and two blocks from the local K-6 School.  And if there’s something I need and it’s too far to walk, we do have the baby bike sitting and waiting for us.  Get ready Westside, because here we come.

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