The Hyperion Bridge Uprising Storms the Gates

I’m going to make a little confession. When I first wrote about the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue Complex of Bridges redesign project, I was resigned to a negative outcome. I believed the Bureau of Engineering was too far along in the process, and city leaders too entrenched in the outcome.

At the time, the city noted that the bridge design was a small part of a larger seismic retrofit and final design needed to begin by this Spring or state funds would be lost. Getting a livable Hyperion Bridge seemed longer than a long-shot.

Less than two months later, the narrative has completely changed.

All three of the Neighborhood Councils from the surrounding communities, Silver Lake, Atwater and Los Feliz, passed resolutions condemning the freeway-lite design style the city proposed. Countless advocacy groups, from Los Angeles Walks to Friends of the L.A. River, have taken a stand. Even as the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council Governing Board moved to condemn the plan last night, news broke that the Alliance of River Communities, a coalition representing 14 Neighborhood Councils, wrote their own letter (above) calling for a bridge that supports all travel modes.

Basically, every major advocacy and Neighborhood group in the areas surrounding the bridge has weighed in on the matter in a short time frame. The overwhelming verdict is: give us a better design that prioritizes people and communities over speeding cars.

How did we get from there to here in less than 2 months?

A powerful team of advocates, including both “outside the community bicycle activists” and community leaders from the areas surrounding both sides of the bridges, responded to the call to arms. Hundreds of public comments (including two by elected officials), a well-mannered but forceful show at a public hearing, and dozens of designs written by architects, advocates and the bicycle coalition demonstrated that the people of Los Angeles are hungry for infrastructure that embraces all modes of transportation. The design proposed by the Bureau of Engineering and highlighted in a  video by the two local Councilmembers, Mitch O’Farrell (CD 13) and Tom LaBonge (CD 4) and Eric Garcetti is dead on arrival.

Instead of cheering the current proposed design, which now includes 3 feet gutter bike lanes, a cement “crash barrier” in the median and only one sidewalk, Garcetti is now seeking to alter the timeline for the project to give more leeway for changes to be made.

Councilmember O’Farrell took the initiative to create a Citizen’s Advisory Committee consisting of appointees from each Council Office and the immediate Neighborhood Councils. The “Stop the Hyperion Freeway” working group, which now has over 400 members on Facebook, announced some of the appointees from CD 13 (the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins, L.A. Walks’ Deborah Murphy, Friends of Atwater Village’s Netty Carr) and CD 4 (Don Seligman from the Los Feliz Improvement Association, Daniel Chamberlain, and Karin Flores from FOLAR, Friends of the L.A. River.) At first glance, this is a pretty progressive group of people.

With momentum having overwhelmed the city’s attempt to “design and defend” a bridge design that would have sped up traffic on the bridge and likely through the surrounding community, the project can now move into its next phase. How can the city and its community groups work together to get the best design possible while ensuring a needed seismic retrofit happens.

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