Op/Ed – Before Garcetti Can Be the Hero, He Needs to Slay the Zombies

To be fair, this does look like an excellent place to be during a zombie attack. Rendering by Rios Clementi Hale Studios via the Daily News

Yesterday’s announcement that a planned pedestrian bridge for most of the corners of Lankershim Boulevard and Universal Hollywood Drive would cost $27 million, instead of the originally announced $19 million, was more bad news for those striving to make Los Angeles’ streets a better place. When Streetsblog last reported on this project, the cost was only $19 million, which seemed an expensive alternative to improving the intersection to facilitate pedestrian traffic.

The project is a bad idea for many reasons: the cost, the reality that too often people choose to ignore pedestrian bridges and the intersections will no longer be timed for pedestrians to cross at street level, the high volume of pedestrians in the area thanks the the Red Line station and bus terminal on two of the corners…the list goes on.

Perhaps a tacit admission that the project is a bad idea, the bridge only connects three of the four corners of the intersection. The fourth corner houses a bus terminal, with thousands of daily passengers. Metro bus passengers going east-west across the Valley need to cross both Campo de Cahuenga and Lankershim to transfer to Line 155 (Burbank/Toluca Lake) from the buses that come from the west on Ventura Boulevard.

Let’s also remember that a pedestrian tunnel, an idea thrown out for being “too expensive” was originally priced at $23 million. I’m not a math expert, but if $23 million was too expensive, how is $27 million a good use of funds? Even if you consider that NBC Universal is pledging to chip in$3.9 million, the project is currently as expensive as the “too expensive” alternative of yesteryear. This is particularly frustrating considering that transit service itself on Lankershim Boulevard is a shade of its former self.

The proposed bridge design serves all three corners of the intersection of Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga. Of course, the intersection has four corners.

True, there’s some politics involved, and a decades-old legal settlement. But, Faramarz Nabavi pointed out in Streetsblog’s story on this project last year, the city and county had room to negotiate away that settlement, but it wasn’t a high enough priority to make the list when it was time to approve the Massive NBC Universal project last year.

This latest disaster points to a larger issue facing Team Garcetti on Day 107. His name is getting dragged down by zombie projects that have been in the works for years. The projects shuffle on even as their original supporters are moved out of office. “Lankershim Pedestrian Bridge” is just the latest man made creation to stagger mindlessly onto the screen joining “Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane” and “Hyperion Bridge Redesign”.

If Garcetti wants to be a Livable Streets hero, and Streetsblog believes that he does, he has to be the one to stand up to the zombies and divert the resources into something better. In some cases, it’s easy to see the alternate solution. On Hyperion, get rid of the highway-redesign and put in the bike lanes called for in the Bike Plan and wider sidewalks. On Spring Street, the zombies may have already overrun the preferred road design, but the city claims the new design is a lot cheaper…which means there should be money to implement the design, which the city claims is better than a traditional bike lane, somewhere else before the credits run.

On Lankershim, the case is more difficult. There’s no obvious answer, although a scramble crosswalk and increasing transit service seem like a great idea to some. The legal settlement with NBC Universal makes it harder to do the right thing, but at this point we don’t even know if the city has ever tried to re-work the agreement.

On the other hand, Lankershim might be the easiest zombie to slay because Garcetti’s fingerprints aren’t already on the project. It was Council Member Garcetti who joined with Tom LaBonge to stop the re-painting of the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane that was the prologue to the ongoing Spring Street Debacle of 2013. And while the Hyperion Bridge Redesign was mostly redesigned before he took office, nobody put a gun to his head and forced him to appear in a promotional video for the project.

It’s clear that Eric Garcetti wants to be the Livable Streets Mayor. He can talk the talk, even the throwing in some jargon. His record as a Council Member is one of the strongest ones we’ve seen in recent years, even if he gets partial credit for Spring Street. He’s pushed forth grand proposals including Great Streets and People St. But it’s not enough to be the visionary setting the tone and putting out the big ideas.

The zombie programs are shuffling forward. Will Garcetti help us hold the line, or is he getting out of the way? We’re waiting.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, is this the same Lankershim that is supposed to get a road diet and bike lanes but Tom LaBonge has held up both?

    Wow, what a surprise that we can make a $27 million gerbil run but can’t seem to treat people like people and design urban streets accordingly.

  • daveedkapoor

    the Mayor’s actions dont match his Livable Streets rhetoric. His video endorsement of the Hyperion Bridge Freeway is most disturbing. As is his lack of position to study the feasibility the feasibility of alternative uses for the old Riverside Figueroa Bridge, which could serve as 17,000sf of public over the LA River. He is drinking the kool-aid from the car loving engineers at BOE

  • Don Ward

    This is soooo frustrating. Do we know if this sapped any Measure R funds? Between this and the downtown trolly I would be surprised if there was anything left of Measure R… Politicians need to use their brains… think about this project in 20 years…. will it still make sense? how much will it cost to run and maintain into the future?

  • Michael Taylor

    Why can’t they just extend a tunnel from the mezzanine level of the metro station. That’s what people need, not to exit the station, go up another flight of stairs, cross and go back downstairs, nobody is going to use this.

  • That’s too expensive. You can’t expect them to spend $23 million to move pedestrians safely across the street.

  • Michael Taylor

    How much more expensive is a tunnel compared to this aerial blight? The mezzanine already has a ‘hole’ punched where the tunnel would go under Lankershim.

  • sahra

    I don’t know if this is the right intervention, but something is sorely needed at that intersection, and those three points connected by the bridge are the appropriate ones. My sister came into town and stayed at a hotel in Universal Studios, meaning I spent several days going back and forth through that intersection a few times a day, either on my bike or coming up from the Metro, and sometimes with a child in a stroller. It was an eye-opening experience. I was truly stunned at just how terrible and dangerous it is. For the tremendous amount of pedestrian traffic those three corners see, it is incredible that the studios and hotels haven’t made something happen in that area sooner. I actually found myself pounding on the hood of a woman’s car who tried to go around me and my one year-old nephew… nevermind that there were at least 50 other people in the intersection at the time. It feels unsafe even walking parallel to Lankershim (crossing in front of what is essentially the driveway to Universal Studios)…it just feels incredibly exposed and didn’t like having to walk that with a child. Again, I don’t know if the bridge is the right solution, but something needs to happen there. Given the tremendous benefit that giving safe passage to their clientele could bring to the studios and hotels, perhaps they need to be ponying up a bit more cash for the project?

  • Joe B

    How do people in wheelchairs get across? Are there elevators?

  • james

    LeCorbusier’s wetdream called. It wants its pedestrian facility back but will let you keep the pedestrians.

  • rickrise

    A pedestrian scramble, as suggested, is the perfect solution. I would certainly be willing to bet that there are more pedestrians than motorists waiting to cross that intersection at most times of the day, given the crowds I see there.

    I have to disagree that Garcetti wants to be the “Livable Streets Mayor.” I think he wants to be the “Business as Usual Mayor,” one of a large crowd of unimaginative politicians who are making Los Angeles a city stuck in its own past, wallowing in car congestion while other towns large and small develop a genuine, healthy, and prosperous street life. I was involved in the effort to get a bike corral put in at Hel-Mel in its heyday, when Garcetti repped the area; I personally got petitions from almost every business on that corner, and promises of maintenance from two of them, more than required, but Garcetti’s council office stonewalled us endlessly, and nothing happened. Nothing, except that three businesses moved away from the corner, which has far fewer visitors as a result.


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