In a 3 1/2-hour meeting last night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council spent the bulk of its time discussing a recommendation from its Transportation Committee to rescind a 2011 motion opposing new bike-oriented traffic lights at 4th St. and Rossmore, and 4th Street and Highland Avenue, as part of a bike-friendly 4th Street Greenway project. The motion to rescind the old vote was paired with another motion to adopt a new position supporting the Greenway project, which would install new on-demand lights for bikes and pedestrians at those intersections, along with right-turn-only lanes for car traffic at both Rossmore and Highland. (The setup would be similar to the system installed a few years ago on Rosewood Ave. at La Brea.) But although this was the second time the Board has considered the proposal (it was last discussed at the board’s February meeting), the project still faced considerable opposition from nearby neighbors in Hancock Park and, in the end, the board voted against rescinding its 2011 opposition, and the second motion to support the Greenway project was not considered.
As it was this year, the 4th Street Greenway plan was originally opposed by the GWNC in 2011 after area residents and the Hancock Park Homeowners Association contended that bikes and pedestrians on 4th Street are already able to cross Rossmore and Highland safely with the existing stop signs, so any new signal lights would be unnecessary. Also, said neighbors, forcing all 4th Street car traffic to turn right and Rossmore and Highland would lead to additional traffic congestion on Rossmore, and more cut-through traffic on other north/south streets in the neighborhood. The 2011 opposition motion also requested that the city involve the neighborhood in any future traffic planning for the area.
The new proposal to support the 4th Street Greenway, and the proposed lights and turn lanes at Rossmore and Highland, was brought to the GWNC Transportation Committee in October, 2019 by Michael Schneider, a member of the Mid-City West Community Council who lives near Melrose and La Brea and chairs the MCWCC Transportation Committee. Schneider said at last night’s meeting that extending the Greenway and its proposed traffic control measures further east from its current path through the Miracle Mile area is intended to improve traffic flow, reduce traffic on 4th Street, and provide better neighborhood connectivity for bicyclists who traverse the larger expanse of 4th Street.
At the October Transportation Commmittee meeting, after Schneider’s initial presentation, the motion to recommend that the GWNC board support the 4th Street improvements at Rossmore and Highland was approved unanimously, and it was forwarded to the full board for a final vote. At the February, 2020 GWNC Board meeting, however, the discussion was more vigorous, with several speakers from the Hancock Park Homeowners’ Association reiterating the group’s long-standing opposition to the proposal, and pointing out that the 2011 position of opposition by the Board still stands and would have to be rescinded before a new position could be taken. At the end of that session, the matter was referred back to the Transportation Committee for further discussion.
As the Buzz reported after the July Transportation Committee meeting, that second committee discussion, too, was lengthy and vigorous, with new committee members Cindy Chvatal-Keane and Jon Vein, both Hancock Park residents, saying more research needs to be done before rescinding the old opposition position, or before recommending any new improvements. Chvatal-Keane also argued that any any new improvements should address pedestrian and handicap accessibility, and not just bicycles. Despite those arguments, however, the July committee meeting ended with a vote to recommend that the GWNC Board rescind the 2011 opposition motion, and an agreement to let stand its earlier recommendation to support the 4th Street Greenway proposal.
At last night’s Board meeting, the majority of the discussion addressed the new motion to rescind the Board’s previous opposition to the project. And in addition to board member discussion, nine members of the public – all of whom live near 4th Street and several of whom are also frequent bike riders – spoke up to recommend the Board maintain its previous opposition. Chvatal-Keane also read a new statement from the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, strongly reiterating the organization’s continued opposition to the project. The statement contended that the Greenway proposal is:
“…bad on two counts. It is bad on substance, and worse on process. It’s a proposal made by a short-handed committee, without research, due- diligence, or examination of economic feasibility. But much more disturbing, it betrays a long standing community agreement, without consultation or input from the residents who will be most effected. It literally takes the neighborhood out of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and jeopardizes the legitimacy of the organization. In 2011, hundreds of residents expressed opposition to a similar proposal. Recently, over 300 residents have reinforced their opposition in letters to the Council.”
The statement also contended that even though the matter was referred back to the Transportation Committee after the February GWNC Board meeting:
“The TC still did no due diligence did not seek any professional opinions on the best way to improve 4th street or what conditions and funds were necessary to implement their “motion” for those intersections, they did not seek information from LADOT, Traffic West Division, Details of which HIN intersections are included in the Vision Zero Implementation Plan, Hancock Park HPOZ requirements re Public Realm and Historic Street Scape protections, CAL TRANS studies needed/Highland is a Secondary Highway or speak to the Active Transportation Division of LADOT who is the responsible entity to oversee improvements and seek funding for the 4th St Greenway.”
“There was ZERO outreach by the TC to the community most impacted by their new motion. So I stood up to do the outreach they had NOT done. I wrote letters to the HP Community to ask for their opinions and share information. We have heard from over 300 residents ( see chart included in Board documents) on this issue.”
And it concluded:
“It is time to put this proposition to rest for good. If it is time to improve 4th Street Greenway it should be improved for everyone who uses it.”
Board discussion prompted a fair number of comments on each side of the question, with several board members arguing that the GWNC has, historically, claimed its main mission is to support the positions of its component neighborhoods…so it is obligated to continue that support for the Hancock Park neighbors on this issue. Others, however, said they would like to find ways to improve bike infrastructure and support its environmental benefits. And board member Tucker Carney also contended that a vote for the Greenway proposal would actually be a vote for the kind of traffic study the neighbors have requested before any new lights are added, since the grant that would fund the project would also produce a traffic study and provide exactly the kind of data the neighbors have requested.
In the end, however, most board members were swayed by the neighbors’ testimony, and voted against rescinding the board’s previous opposition. The final tally was 6 in favor of rescinding the 2011 position, 12 opposed to rescinding it, and 1 abstention. Several board members did say, before and after the vote, that the issue merits further research, outreach and discussion, but no specific mechanism for that work was set….so unless and until that happens, the board’s official opposition to the 4th Street Greenway improvements still stands.
While the lengthy 4th Street Greenway discussion took up the bulk of the meeting time last night, the Board did take a couple of other key votes. It voted unanimously to approve Hayden Connor Ashworth as the new head of the GWNC Outreach Committee (taking over from Max Kirkham), and – in a consent agenda vote, it supported several recommendations from the GWNC Land Use Committee:
- To support the demolition of a garage at a single family home at 330 N. Lucerne Blvd.
- To oppose as currently presented the construction of a 6-story multi-family residential buidling with 33 units at 851 S. Manhattan Pl. (GWNC Land Use Committee members expressed support for many aspects of the project at their Juy meeting, but because the project is still in the early stages of planning, asked the project representatives to return to a future meeting for futher discussion).
- To support the efforts of neighbors fighting an illegal “party house” at 310 N. Lucerne Blvd. by sending letters to several city agencies and urging them to fully enforce city laws regarding short-term rentals, party houses and large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To oppose as most recently presented (and pending an updated presentation from the property owners) the construction of a new apartment project at 975-987 S. Manhattan Pl.
A fifth project, construction of a 7-story mixed used building at 3323 W. Olympic Blvd., was also up for consideration, but the Land Use Committee had recommended that the Board support that project only if the developers would be willing to reserve 12 units for moderate-income tenants (in addition to the 12 also currently reserved for Extremely Low Income tenants), and project representative Josh Kreger reported at last night’s meeting that the developers have declined that request. So the board did not take a new vote on the project, and its previous vote of opposition, taken at an earlier meeting, will stand.
Finally, because of then length of last night’s meeting, many agenda items went undiscussed, and the Board voted to adjourn and reconvene a continuation meeting next Wednesday, August 19, at 7 p.m., via Zoom.
[This story was updated after publication to clarify that the only vote taken on the 4th Street Greenway project was to oppose a motion to rescind the GWNC’s 2011 opposition to the project (thus upholding that opposition). No further actions were taken.]