Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD: a Fortress Surrounded By a Moat of Traffic and Malfunctioning Traffic Signals

On Monday, at Vine and Selma, a woman attempting to cross Vine on foot was killed
after being hit by a delivery truck. The streets were immediately
filled with LAPD vehicles and an investigation ensued. Although it was
evident that statements were taken and that measurements and photos
were taken, missing from the investigation was any evidence that the
traffic signals were tested or surveyed. This is unfortunate because
the signal at Vine and Selma is malfunctioning.

On the SW corner of Vine and Selma is the large Vine Village" id="xpwj" href="http://www.ansoniaproperties.com/sunsetandvine.htm">Sunset & Vine Village,
a 300 unit residential/retail complex, filled with people who walk
across the street to shop at Trader Joe’s. At the NE corner of Selma
and Ivar is Triangle Square,
a 108 unit housing facility for elders. The people who cross the Vine
at Selma use traffic control devices that are out of order.
Malfunctioning equipment communicates to pedestrians that they are on
their own and trains them to engage as opportunity presents itself.

It’s been three months since Julia Siegler
was killed as she attempted to cross Sunset Boulevard on foot. That
incident prompted community challenges to the LADOT’s signalization
logic and to the LADOT’s varied traffic signal strategies. At Vine and
Selma, the demand actuated buttons work independently so that a ped
call for a crossing on the north side will not yield a walk phase on
the south side. Again, does it take a degree from MIT to cross the
street? The LADOT has not responded.

Also, as a result of the
tragedy on Sunset Boulevard, a request was made to the LAPD to include
a survey of signal equipment as a routine element of a traffic
collision investigation. Especially one resulting in a death.
Apparently that request fell on deaf ears. The LAPD has not responded.

Through
it all, the people of Hollywood are told to forget about the details,
the uncrossable streets, the brutal traffic, the honking horns, the
delivery trucks during peak hours, the taxis jockeying for position,
the small streets being used as trucking cut-throughs, the lack of
facilities for humans and the absolute contempt for safety. After all,
look what the Metro’s Hollywood & Vine TOD is doing to the economy!
Remember, "It’s better than it used to be!"

When did we become surrounded by apologists for mediocrity?

The
Hollywood & Vine Transit Oriented Development sits on 4.6 acres of
Metro property, bordered by Hollywood Boulevard to the north, Vine
Avenue to the west, Selma to the south and Argyle to the east.
Encompassing almost the entire block, it took ten years to get to the
ribbon cutting and the result is one of LA County’s largest Type 1
mixed use, transit-oriented developments (TOD) with not only 2 million
sq/ft of gross building area but 29,000 sq/ft of billboard space and
1,322 motor vehicle parking spaces. It’s big!

From 1999 through
2008, there were 226 traffic collisions at the four intersections
surrounding what is now the Hollywood & Vine TOD. Of those
collisions, 14.2% involved pedestrians or cyclists. In 2009 the streets
around the TOD were somewhat restricted because of the construction and
now that the streets are open, they are fast. They are also deadly as
yesterday’s tragedy demonstrated when a pedestrian attempting to cross
the street was hit and killed by a delivery truck.

One would
think that building a TOD in the middle of a busy urban environment
would prompt the Metro and the CRA and the City of LA to insist on
traffic mitigation from Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners, the
developers of the Hollywood & Vine TOD. But apparently this was not
the case.

As
long ago as 2005, local community members at a neighborhood council
meeting asked the City of LA to improve the intersections surrounding
the TOD to make them more walkable, to make them safer for pedestrians.
Hollywood and Argyle has long been a shortcut for motorists exiting the
101 Freeway into Hollywood and the impending arrival of the TOD
prompted requests for ped scrambles, for bulb-outs, for traffic calming.

Instead
of improvements that would benefit the community, the developers gave
the Metro a Bus Layover Station at the expense of pedestrian safety.

The
developers of TOD promise density that reduces congestion by supporting
a lifestyle that is possible without a motor vehicle, providing
opportunities for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers to
live and work and shop and socialize and otherwise enjoy life without
having to drive a car. That promise hardly panned out at Hollywood
& Vine where the large fortress development is surrounded by valet
parking on Hollywood Blvd, a bus stop in a right-turn-only lane that is
frequently overtaken by cabbies, a motor court entrance on Argyle
followed by trucking driveways and a large bus layover bay, seven
driveways on Selma, and then Vine Avenue, a street that does not have
an enforceable speed limit.

The Metro’s Hollywood & Vine
TOD is a Fortress surrounded by a moat of traffic, hardly an
environment for pedestrians who may wish to cross the street.

Typically,
when developers such as Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners present
plans to build a project in Los Angeles, City Planning and the LADOT
review the plans and evaluate the impact of the project on traffic, on
the community on the quality of life in the surrounding area. Granted,
this project promised so much, a W Hotel, condominiums, townhouses,
apartments, retail and restaurant space, billboards, jobs, energy!

But
what about the negative impact of the Hollywood & Vine TOD? Who
asks the hard questions such as "What are the planned improvements to
the surrounding intersections?" and "How will the surrounding streets
be improved so that they are safer for all road users?" and "How will
the increase in traffic be mitigated so that the quality of life in the
surrounding community is increased, not just for the residents of
Hollywood & Vine, but for the community as a whole?"

The
Metro, one of the largest developers in LA County, owns great swaths of
land and it intends to develop that land as a transportation system
strategy and as a revenue enhancement strategy. The Metro has
approximately 50 TOD projects on paper with 32 of them in play. It is
essential that the community hold the Metro accountable for the impact
of its TOD development on the surrounding community and that the Metro
immediately prioritize the development of TOD standards that position
the individual human experience as a priority. TOD projects work when
people enjoy their surroundings, not just tolerate them. TOD projects
work when people feel safer walking and riding, not just grateful for
surviving the experience. The Metro must take responsibility for the
safety and aesthetic experience of the people who use their TOD
projects.

The CRA, also one of the largest developers in LA
County, engages in development deals that escalate projects, all in the
name of public benefit. The Development Agreements that the CRA
"imposes" address everything from curtains to awnings but contain
nothing of substance when it comes to standards for accommodating
pedestrians, cyclists, families with children, transit passengers,
tourists, locals, shoppers. Why is there no standard for a delivery
service (requested several years ago as a community benefit) or a
standard for public space (requested several years ago as a community
benefit) or parking variances based on bike-share and car-share
(requested several years ago as  community benefit) or intersection
improvements that actually contribute to the walkability of Hollywood
and Vine (requested several years ago as a community benefit). The CRA
must take responsibility for developing and implementing real TOD
standards that put the people of the community first.

The LADOT,
a partner to every developer in Los Angeles and the department
responsible for reviewing and approving projects after ensuring that
the traffic caused by the project is appropriately mitigated, was in on
the Hollywood & Vine TOD from the beginning. Their real job seems
to be to exhaust the community with meeting after meeting, none of
which result in any improvements to the surrounding community, but all
of which simply get chalked up as "community outreach" and filed under
"Whew! I’m glad that’s over!" The LADOT must take responsibility for
ensuring that every development come with a commitment to improve the
surrounding streets and intersections so that the community is left
better than before, not simply an increase in traffic resulting in a
neighborhood "under siege."

6_23_10_box.jpg

The Metro’s Hollywood & Vine
TOD comes with great promise, from the Metro, from the CRA, from the
City of LA, from the City Council, from Gatehouse Capital, from Legacy
Partners, from the W Hollywood, from Trader Joe’s. The Hollywood
community has been promised much. As for the benefits to the community,
it’s imperative that the people of Hollywood call for those promises to
become a reality. It is imperative that the people of Hollywood demand
safer streets, crossable streets, public space that is safe and clean.

For
too long "It’s better than it used to be!" has been Hollywood’s battle
cry of mediocrity. No longer. The standards we set at Hollywood &
Vine are the standards that will position LA as a Great City. It’s time
to reach for greatness!

Hollywood deserves to be so much more than simply LA’s Truck Stop!

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