First, it unveiled plans to beautify Hollywood Boulevard by uprooting mature ficus trees and replacing them with palms. Then it proposed spending $175,000 for street paintings that would soon be erased by traffic. And now, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency has a new idea to showcase one of the world’s most famous streets:
Resurface it with a glittery asphalt.
Under a plan approved Friday by the City Council, the CRA will spend $500,000 to resurface and re-stripe Hollywood Boulevard between Vine Street and La Brea Avenue. A key element of the quarter-mile make-over will be the use of asphalt that contains recycled glass.
Part of a $4.3-million boulevard beautification, the project is an experiment in the use of “glassphalt,” which could lead to its appearance on other Los Angeles streets, CRA officials said. Lillian Burkenheim, the agency’s manager for the boulevard project, said glassphalt is commonly used in many East Coast cities, including New York, and serves as a way to recycle glass that otherwise might be trucked to landfills.
But just as other CRA projects in Hollywood have run afoul of some residents, the proposal to resurface the boulevard has sparked criticism that officials are throwing away money as if it were, well, broken glass.
“The whole idea is wasteful,” said redevelopment critic Robert Nudelman. “The reality is that they need to clean the sidewalks and the streets . . . not put glass in the pavement.”
“If you really want Hollywood Boulevard to glitter, the city should clean it,” another Hollywood resident, Norton Halper, told the council. “It’s filthy.”
Earlier this year, Halper, Nudelman and other critics of Hollywood’s redevelopment took aim at the CRA when it won approval to uproot 24 mature ficus trees for jacaranda and palm trees, work that has not begun.
In June, amid new protests from the group, the council blocked a CRA plan to commission three paintings for the boulevard--at a cost of $175,000--because the art would be worn away by street traffic in seven to 10 years.
The CRA’s latest undertaking, however, won unanimous council backing, enabling street maintenance crews to begin work in the next several weeks. The job will be done on an overtime basis, officials say, because resurfacing and striping the street will be safer and faster from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when traffic is lightest.
The cost of purchasing recycled glass, the CRA’s Burkenheim said, is estimated at $8,000. But the only bid to date offered the glass for $59,537, a price rejected by the CRA.
Burkenheim said agency officials are negotiating with two companies to buy the glass for the city’s estimate.
Another $3,000 or so, she added, will be spent painting stars along the traffic lanes--as was done years ago along the boulevard.
Councilman Michael Woo, whose district includes Hollywood, took exception to criticism of the project, arguing that it was an integral part of the boulevard’s overall beautification, which includes new street lights, traffic signals, sidewalk repairs and landscaping.
“Hollywood Boulevard needs dramatic improvement and the glassphalt is just one small part of that project,” Woo said.
Before the council’s action, Woo said that critics of the resurfacing were the same people who have challenged other elements of the Hollywood redevelopment.
“I am sick and tired of those naysayers,” he said. “They never saw anything they liked. . . . They do not represent any constituency and they are out of touch with Hollywood’s needs.”
As Woo and other officials see it, Hollywood Boulevard is not just any street.
City street maintenance records show that it was last repaved nearly six years ago--meaning that it would not be due for another make-over for another four years, according to maintenance officials.
While Woo and other see the “glassphalting” as a potential showpiece for the city, not everyone sees the project as groundbreaking. One City Hall employee wondered whether the fusing of glass into the boulevard would really make it look that much different.
“They’ll probably have less glass on Hollywood than they normally have,” the employee quipped.