Advertisement

Planners Say Ambitious Scheme Will Enable Hollywood to Survive, but Critics Say It Does Little to Address What They Consider the Source of Trouble: Too Much Development and Too Many Commuters. : CRA Maps Out Proposal to Ease Traffic Problem

Share via
Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency has unveiled an ambitious transportation plan for central Hollywood that proposes a new freeway entrance, a six-lane “super street,” several city-owned parking garages, one-way thoroughfares, the clearing of all or part of 67 buildings for wider roads and mandatory traffic reduction fees for new businesses.

CRA officials hope the proposed $137-million plan will protect residential neighborhoods from Hollywood’s worsening congestion by moving traffic swiftly and efficiently through the 1.7-square-mile redevelopment area. The plan anticipates a surge in traffic over the next 20 years as renewal efforts spur building in central Hollywood and commuters from throughout Los Angeles continue to crisscross the community.

“This plan will set the conditions under which anybody who wishes (to build) in Hollywood is going to have to participate in the development of a subregional transportation system,” said Steve Andrews, the CRA’s transportation manager. “They can’t just solve the problems outside their front door.”

Advertisement

‘One Large Intersection’

But to some in Hollywood, the 109-page proposal does little to address what they consider to be the source of the aging movie capital’s traffic troubles: too much development and too many commuters. The plan, they say, surrenders to congestion by failing to put any limits on building and by accommodating--and thereby encouraging--thousands of motorists from the Westside, San Fernando Valley and Glendale.

In the words of one local businessman, the CRA proposal would transform Hollywood “into one large intersection” for the rest of Los Angeles.

“Making larger roads is just going to draw more traffic,” said Charles Valenti, who owns a muffler shop on Santa Monica Boulevard. “The roads will turn businesses into empty storefronts.”

One key player in local transportation issues, the Southern California Rapid Transit District, has not taken a formal position on the proposal, but an RTD planner has written a largely critical analysis that concludes Hollywood “would not be a pleasant place to live, walk or recreate” because the plan places too little emphasis on mass transit. The RTD has a keen interest in the plan since it runs 21 bus lines through Hollywood and intends to build three Metro Rail stations there.

CRA officials acknowledge that their proposal contains “some controversial things,” but they said more than a year of research points to one indisputable conclusion: Like it or not, Hollywood is a regional transportation center stuck at the crossroads of Los Angeles and its suburbs. As Hollywood and its neighbors grow, the community simply has to prepare to handle more traffic.

Just Passing Through

“All of our background studies emphasized over and over again the burden that Hollywood carries in transportation because it is both a community and also a major through-pattern for regional transportation,” Andrews said. “The burden of Hollywood is how to survive in this regional context. . . . Without a redevelopment agency, without a transportation plan, you are still going to see increased congestion. . . . If you shut down growth in Hollywood completely, you’re still going to have the through traffic and then you get none of the benefits. . . . “

Advertisement

A study of traffic patterns in the redevelopment area by a consultant to the CRA found that many of Hollywood’s most traveled thoroughfares carry more motorists bound for destinations outside the area than within it. Two-thirds of the vehicles on Vine Street north of Sunset Boulevard, for example, never stop in the redevelopment area. Similarly, more than three-quarters of those on Santa Monica Boulevard east of Van Ness Avenue are just passing through.

The transportation plan, prepared for the CRA by consultants Barton-Aschman Associates, focuses on the 2 1/2-year-old redevelopment area, which is bounded generally by Franklin Avenue on the north, Serrano Avenue on the east, Fountain Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard on the south, and La Brea Avenue on the west. Its proposals, however, are intended to affect traffic movement throughout the Hollywood area, and in some cases, include specific recommendations for changes outside the redevelopment zone.

The proposal is being circulated throughout Hollywood for comment. The CRA staff held a public meeting on the plan this month, and members of the Hollywood Project Area Committee, the advisory panel to the CRA on Hollywood redevelopment, have been mulling it over. The proposal eventually will be considered by the CRA Board of Commissioners, as well as the Los Angeles City Council.

CRA officials expect the plan will take about 20 years to put into place, with certain road widenings and other changes coming in the next five years and others spread out at five-year intervals. The plan, for example, calls for converting Santa Monica Boulevard into a six-lane “super street,” but it does not envision construction of an overpass at Highland Avenue for at least 10 years.

20-Year Timetable

The CRA settled on the 20-year timetable based on economic and real estate projections by Recht Hausrath & Associates. The research firm predicted that the redevelopment area will grow by about 2,080 residential units, or 13%, and 5.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial property, or about 45%, by the year 2010.

Yet even those projections have been the source of controversy, as some ardent redevelopment watchers predict construction in the area will surpass 5.5 million square feet in a matter of years not decades. Brian Moore, a member of the Project Area Committee, said various developers have been talking about building 4.2 million square feet at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue alone.

Advertisement

“It is common sense,” Moore said. “You don’t have to have a lot of figures at your disposal. You have to take a walk in Hollywood. You have eyes to see with. This plan is totally inadequate. . . . It is not going to help any of us. The density of the projects the CRA wants to sponsor have got to be reduced so that they do not promote more parking and more traffic. It is that simple.”

Pat Gibson, a consultant with Barton-Aschman, defended the market projections at the public meeting this month. Gibson said it is not uncommon for developers to float trial balloons about enormous projects, but it is a “different issue” whether those projects ever get beyond the talking stage. He said many of the proposals now “on the street” in Hollywood have been talked about for 20 years.

Even if the projections prove to be wrong, Gibson said, the plan is self-correcting. Barton-Aschman has placed “triggers” in it that require a new plan when traffic levels reach 70% of those anticipated under the plan. For purposes of measuring traffic, the redevelopment area has been separated into east and west zones, with Gower Street as the dividing line. Gibson has recommended that a new plan for the entire area be prepared when the 70% level is reached in either zone.

“We are not selling our recommendations as something that will last forever,” Gibson said. “We are suggesting that our recommendations will accommodate this level of development. If that happens in 10 years, then there are mechanisms in the plan to do this all over again in 10 years.”

Elements of Plan

The plan consists of five elements: roadway improvements, neighborhood protection programs, traffic reduction measures, public transit and parking. Barton-Aschman says the five components are intended to work together to “encourage alternatives to the automobile, shift travel outside of the peak hours, increase system capacity where appropriate and protect the livability of the residential neighborhoods.”

Some of the highlights of the plan include:

Road Improvements

The plan identifies certain streets--namely Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue--to carry most through traffic and thereby reduce the number of cars cutting through residential neighborhoods. The plan also calls for the widening of other roads to accommodate local traffic. Barton-Aschman estimates 67 buildings--all along Fountain Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue--would be affected by the widenings and that the total cost of the improvements would exceed $58 million. Among the changes:

Advertisement

Create a “super street” along Santa Monica Boulevard by widening it to three lanes in each direction, restricting turns, adding double left-turn lanes at certain intersections, and building a bridge over Highland Avenue.

Widen portions of Fountain, Franklin, La Brea and Highland avenues and Hollywood Boulevard.

Extend Fountain Avenue around Le Conte Junior High School.

Operate Wilcox Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard as a one-way pair, with Wilcox running southbound and Cahuenga northbound.

Construct a northbound on-ramp to the Hollywood Freeway at Cahuenga.

Widen the sidewalks on Hollywood Boulevard near the intersections of Vine and Highland to encourage foot traffic.

Neighborhood Protection

The plan allows neighborhoods with large amounts of non-residential traffic to petition the city for a “residential traffic protection study,” which could lead to the creation of such things as one-way streets and street closures. The plan also proposes to make it simpler and quicker for neighborhoods to establish permit parking districts. Barton-Aschman estimates the programs would cost $1.7 million over 20 years.

Traffic Reduction

The plan establishes a mandatory dues-paying Hollywood Transportation Management Organization for all new non-residential buildings, with a goal of reducing commercial peak-hour traffic generated by the buildings. Dues are based on the number of employees in a building and can be adjusted annually depending on whether the building meets the traffic reduction goals. The plan also requires new office and industrial developments larger than 50,000 square feet to implement a ride-sharing plan. Andrews said the requirements are a recognition that “we can’t build our way out of congestion.” The proposals would cost about $11.1 million over 20 years.

Advertisement

Public Transit

The plan proposes a local bus system--similar to the downtown DASH--that would stretch about five miles and connect shopping, medical facilities, recreational areas and social services in the Fountain Avenue area. It also envisions higher RTD bus ridership because of efforts by the Transportation Management Organization.

In addition, the plan delves into issues involving the proposed Metro Rail line through Hollywood. It suggests that parking requirements be reduced for new office buildings within one-quarter mile of Metro Rail stations to encourage subway use. It also calls for detailed “access plans” for the three subway stations, which would deal with park-and-ride facilities, so-called kiss-and-ride locations and bus connections. Barton-Aschman suggests the subway programs would be financed by the Metro Rail project and estimates the shuttle bus service would cost $1.4 million over 20 years.

Parking

The plan estimates that the redevelopment area is short about 1,270 parking spaces, a number that is expected to triple over the next two decades. As a result, the plan recommends several new programs, the most dramatic being the construction of up to nine public parking garages. The plan also suggests increasing the city’s parking requirements for some developments, while waiving them for renovations to historic buildings. The parking proposals are the most expensive component of the plan, estimated at $64.8 million over 20 years.

Because of Hollywood’s regional transportation role, Barton-Aschman proposes in the plan that more than 20% of its $137.3-million price tag come from sources outside Hollywood. The consultants suggest, for example, that city parking meter funds be used to help pay for parking garages and that the city’s Department of Transportation contribute to neighborhood protection programs. The plan also suggests that both the city and state contribute to the roadway improvements.

Within Hollywood, the plan suggests that builders pay for most of the roadway improvements by means of a “development impact fee.” Depending on where a developer builds, projects would be charged a fee for the traffic they generate. Projects in the more congested area west of Gower, for example, would be assessed $2,790 for each additional car they put on the road during the afternoon peak hour. East of Gower, by contrast, the fee would be $1,485.

CRA officials say they are prepared for a tumultuous few months as the plan is scrutinized by the public, including many residents who would rather see the agency leave Hollywood altogether. One official said he fully expects the plan to be “ripped to shreds” by its critics, many of whom took their first shot at the document during the public meeting this month.

Advertisement

The fate of the plan will depend in large part on the Los Angeles City Council, and in particular the views of Hollywood-area Councilman Michael Woo. Woo, who faces reelection in April, said last week that he will not take a position on the plan until he hears “a little bit more in terms of public reaction.” Woo was scheduled to discuss the plan this weekend with several community leaders.

“The general direction of the plan is right,” Woo said. “We have to adopt some bold measures to deal with the traffic problems. From one end of Hollywood to the other, I hear concerns about . . . new development in terms of the traffic impact.”

STREET IMPROVEMENTS

Santa Monica Boulevard

Widen to six lanes between La Brea Avenue and the Hollywood Freeway to create an east-west “super street” with limited left turns; construct a bridge over Highland Avenue; extend access to the southbound Hollywood Freeway on-ramp to Western Avenue; requires complete or partial removal of 39 commercial buidlings.

Fountain Avenue - Widen to allow four traffic lanes, a center left-turn lane and two parking lanes; extend around Le Conte Junior High by means of La Mirada Avenue; requires the complete or partial removal of 27 residential buildings and one commercial building.

Franklin Avenue - Widen to create four traffic lanes and a center left-turn lane between Outpost Drive and Wilcox Avenue; form a cul-de-sac west of La Brea Avenue.

La Brea Avenue - Widen to allow an additional southbound lane between Franklin Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.

Advertisement

Hollywood Boulevard

Widen between Gower Street and Western Avenue to allow an additional lane in each direction; widen sidewalks between Ivar and Argyle avenues and between Orange Drive and Las Palmas Avenue.

Cahuenga Boulevard

Operate as one-way northbound from Santa Monica Boulevard to Franklin Avenue; increase to four lanes with parking on both sides betwen Sunset Boulevard and Franklin Avenue; build a new northbound freeway on-ramp.

Highland Avenue - Widen to add two lanes between Hollywood Boulevard and Franklin Avenue; provide nine travel lanes between the two sections of Franklin Avenue; extend reversible lane operations southerly to Santa Monica Boulevard.

Wilcox Avenue - Operate as one-way southbound between Franklin Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.

Source: Community Redevelopment agency

FORECAST FOR GROWTH

LAND USE EXISTING 20-YEAR FORECAST Residential 15,920 units 17,990 units Retail 3,349,930 sq. ft. 4,095,920 sq. ft. Office 4,466,520 sq. ft. 6,615,480 sq. ft. Hotel 1,693,840 sq. ft. 2,859,845 sq. ft. Industrial 2,643,830 sq. ft. 4,053,845 sq. ft.

Advertisement

Source: Recht Hausrath & Associates

Advertisement