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.

  • Man, I hope a westsider complains about traffic to my face when I have a pocket mirror handy. I won’t say anything. I’ll just hold up the mirror facing the other person.

    Westsiders love to complain about density and mixed uses and shoot down transit. They’re their own worst enemies. “Too many people are driving!” We’ll, (to that hypothetical person) set up your neighborhood for something else or PLEASE shut up.

    Hope you like your new neighborhood. I’m sure your bike will be the fastest peak hour transportation option.

  • Big Blue Bus line 8 will take you straight to UCLA. We have some great transportation lectures here, despite the rhetoric coming out of the “UCLA Bicycle Academy”.

  • Francine

    Welcome to the Westside. I’m actually looking forward to future posts on about the Expo Line, Santa Monica, and the inner workings of the Mar Vista Neighborhood Council.

    I have the bus grid memorized if you ever need advice.

    Thanks for the great blog — I read it every day.

  • Welcome to the neighborhood. You are now legally required to look down on anyone from the Eastside, which we Westsiders consider anything east of La Brea.

    Seriously, though, I’m not sure just where you are in West L.A., though I could take a guess based on the comment about Ralphs and Whole Foods. But this area is a lot more walkable than people may assume; I find I can walk to virtually anything I need in half an hour or less. And the 704 and 728 buses get me downtown almost as fast as I can drive, at a lower cost and with a lot less aggravation.

    On the other hand, if you do have to drive, Beverly Hills is a bottleneck to points east, whether you’re taking Wilshire, Santa Monica or Olympic.

    So, does this mean I have a new coffee buddy now?

  • Evan

    Man, I love the Big Blue Bus. I know it doesn’t cover all of the westside…going east of Westwood, you’re pretty much reliant upon the #5, #7, and #12, but if it’s a choice between taking a BBB, or a Metro bus, then that really isn’t a hard decision to make at all.

  • The Big Blue Bus is great.

    I’d gladly pay $1.25 per ride for service that runs later that 8:00 p.m. on lines like Line 14.

  • Andi

    You are in Bruin territory. We claimed he West Side long ago. You better get used to wearing light blue and making fun of SC. It’s all we do on the BBB :)

  • Evan

    Sadly there are plenty of Trogans (spelling intentional…Google Markeith Ambles if you don’t get it) on the Westside. Are you one of them, Damien?

  • West side is totally Trojan territory. UCLA grads can’t afford to live here :D

  • Erik G.

    Like Chewie said, after 2pm your bike will be the fastest thing on the roads.

    But like the folks in Cheviot Hills say, who needs rapid rail transit?

  • daniel


  • Growing up on the westside, I can tell you what you’ll hear a lot of. There are a lot of entitled baby boomers on that side of town. These folks love to whine about automobile traffic, but will fight tooth and nail to ensure that automobiles are first and foremost in every land use and transportation consideration.

    There is also a lot of the “I Got Mine F U” going on out west. In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was yuppie invasion. That has since turned into a total turn over in demographics. All the working class families I knew are gone. They’ve been replaced with rich, out-of-town, entertainment, thought worker, and service work employees. There is a lot of latte liberalism, and a lot of ignorance about the area’s history and geography.

    In short, why Damien, why?! What have we done to offend you?

  • Evan

    Westside NIMBYism vs. Silverlake/”East Side” hipsterism…let’s agree that many areas of LA have their drawbacks, but also a lot of great things going on.

  • Spokker

    The Westside looks down on the Eastside and the Eastside looks down on the Westside. It’s all a bunch of bullshit anyway.

  • dave

    As a valley boy, let me say that Spokker put it quite accurately and with appropriate eloquence.

  • Damien,
    Welcome to the Westside! As someone who grew up in Hollywood/SoofMelroseHill (Juan oft-corrects me in pointing out that despite the V.girl accent, I actually spent the first 14 years – or one-half – of my life in 90028 and 90004), I never thought I would actually live here. But I do, and I have for the past three years. I miss living near my family, and the Thai food that I could eat in Thai Town and N. Hollywood, but my quality of life – and commuting experience – is so much better to UCLA because I am able to live near the campus. But I hope you are able to make your way up to UCLA for our neat transportation talks. And you are always welcome to come visit us at UCLA Transportation.

  • I really applaud you choosing to structure your life in a way to make it as walkable and transit friendly as possible.

    Before I rent an apartment, I walk around the neighborhood to see what is in realistic walking distance, what transit lines are available and how frequently they run. I always make sure there is a grocery store I like, a dry cleaners, a pharmacy, a convenience store, and a backup laundromat in easy walking distance. These are essentials. I also check out to see if there is a vet, a gym, a movie theatre and a coffee house as well. The apartments I have lived in since 1996 have all had these things in walking distance.

    Granted, this means I choose to live in a denser neighborhood than many, which is fine and comfortable for me.

    One cannot justifiably choose to live in La Canada Flintridge in a vast single-family home while having a job in Norwalk, and then complain that they don’t have door-to-door one-seat rail service for their morning commute.

  • i just moved to the westside myself.. from silverlake. can’t wait to read more of your thoughts on the hood. love your blog. read it every day as well!!!


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