Weekend street closure in West Hollywood to promote outdoor dining and pedestrian use
A block of West Hollywood’s busiest downtown area will soon be limited to foot traffic on weekends in a pilot program intended to make more room for social distancing and expanded outdoor dining.
The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting to approve the test project, which will close Robertson Boulevard for almost a block south of Santa Monica Boulevard, in effect expanding the West Hollywood Park into the street. The closures will start at 6 p.m. Saturdays and continue through 2 a.m. Mondays, though the exact launch date is unclear. The council will reevaluate the program after three months.
“Imagine a yoga class on Sunday morning along Robertson Boulevard with 50 or 60 people doing yoga. Imagine that we could, at the end of the spring, start AA meetings in the parking lot.... Imagine that we could have food trucks with carts from West Hollywood businesses along Robertson,” said Councilman John D’Amico, who proposed a similar measure in 2012. “I think the opportunities are so big and so great.”
Lined with bars and restaurants and a busy hub for ride-hailing stops, the Robertson Boulevard block is already a hot spot for activity.
“If you step off the curb wrong, you could get hit by a car,” said Councilman John Erickson, another coauthor of the ordinance.
The second block of Main Street, which has been closed since last summer to promote outdoor dining, could stay closed through Labor Day.
Erickson said he hopes the program could become a permanent fixture in the community. Although Greater Los Angeles is still reliant on car culture, he said, it is imperative to create safe spaces for a future with more bicyclists and pedestrians.
“It just is a perfect time to, I think, really re-envision not only what that street could look like, but how do we make it better for years to come?” Erickson said.
He said the street closure will allow better access to West Hollywood Park, with its recently renovated recreation center.
Residents said that doing a trial closure during a pandemic would not give accurate results about the effects on the neighborhood in post-coronavirus times. But Mayor Lindsey Horvath defended the timing, saying it presented a unique opportunity to test the closure on a small scale.
“This is an opportunity right now when there is a downturn in traffic and downturn in some of the impacts ... for us to try something new,” Horvath said.
At least one resident complained about the potential increase in noise and traffic.
“When we bought our property many years ago, this was a quiet residential neighborhood.... We’ve seen our quiet neighborhood become overrun with traffic,” said Midge Barnett, who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting. “This program will be a nightmare for our community.”
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