The Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Transportation Committee met last night to discuss recommendations regarding the 4th Street Greenway, Committee procedures and protocols, and a Metro plan to close part of South Orange Drive for the next phase of Purple Line Extension subway construction.
Over the years, both area residents and the LA City Department of Transportation have looked at ways to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in the neighborhood. Many of these discussions have centered on the 4th Street Neighborhood Greenway, a stretch of 4th Street that runs from Park La Brea to Downtown, running through numerous GWNC neighborhoods.
At the heart of last night’s discussion was a vote to amend or rescind a recommendation the committee made to the GWNC Board in February, recommending support for improvements to the 4th Street Neighborhood Greenway. Those improvements include installation of traffic lights at 4th and Highland and 4th and Rossmore, as well as “diverter” lanes where eastbound and westbound cars would be required to turn right at Highland and Rossmore, but which would still allow pedestrians, bikes, and similar vehicles to cross the intersections with traffic signals. As we reported earlier, the committee’s recommendation was debated extensively at the February GWNC Board meeting, where Hancock Park residents opposed the new traffic lights, while bicyclists generally favored the plan. Ultimately, however, the board at that meeting referred the matter back to the Transportation Committee, where it was taken up again last night.
As it turned out, the discussion on Monday evening was largely procedural because the committee’s earlier recommendation to support the new signals contradicted an earlier position the GWNC board had taken eight years earlier, in September 2011, opposing the signals. However, the procedural discussions were important, because they could set broader precedents for approving policy statements that reflect current community support if the board votes to overturn the 2011 position. (The 2011 motion, approved by the GWNC board, said, “The Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council opposes signal lights at the intersections of 4th and Highland and 4th and Rossmore; supports City Councilman LaBonge regarding not removing the existing stop signs at those intersections; and would like to be involved in the traffic planning for those intersections.”)
In order to present a newly actionable recommendation to the GWNC Board, the Transportation Committee had to revisit its earlier motion, adopted by the GWNC Transportation on January 13, 2020, which said: “The GWNC Transportation Committee recommends the GWNC support the 4th Street Greenway as presented at its October 21, 2019 meeting and that the GWNC communicate its support to the appropriate agencies and request the City support and fund the 4th Street Greenway project, with the condition that the signals will never be opened up to east-west car traffic.”
Alternatively, Cindy Chvatal-Keane, a member of the committee and President of the Hancock Park HOA, proposed amending the recommendation with all new language. Chvatal-Keane urged the committee to think more broadly about improvements and not just focus on “able-bodied bicyclists, but to request sidewalk improvements to improve the area for walkers and runners too.”
Chvatal-Keane’s revised motion read: “That the GWNC Board recommend to LADOT that LADOT, with community involvement and input, implement the following upgrades available per LADOT for the 4th Street Greenway:
1) Crosswalks ( Continental, Decorative or Ladder) at 4th and Highland and 4th Rossmore; 2) initiate an expedited plan for sidewalk repair and curb ramp installation at Las Palmas and 4th, and Hudson and 4th street; 3) conduct a comprehensive traffic study; and 4) ensure any funding available for these upgrades is discussed with the community, Council Office, and full GWNC Board before allocation is decided.” But it failed to secure enough votes to pass.
Committee member Tucker Carney voted against Chvatal-Keane’s motion, saying that COVID-19 has brought about a greater awareness of the need to make “biking more palatable to everyone. There’s a worldwide effort to make streets more bike friendly.”
Committee member Jon Vein disagreed, saying “People won’t get on bikes. We should focus on sidewalk improvements for the broader population.”
“Yes, the purpose of the 4th street Neighborhood Greenway is to make it safer for bikes,” said Chvatal-Keane, “but there also lots of walkers and runners, and we could make streets safer now with crosswalks. There have only been two accidents in 8 years, according to West Traffic Bureau.”
Following the vote, Chvatal-Keane told the Buzz that she was very disappointed the committee focused exclusively on bicyclists when so many other people use the sidewalk and streets, too.
“The motion asked for a study to really find out what we need,” said Chvatal-Keane. “But immediately, we could put in crosswalks, accessible curbs at Hudson and Las Palmas, and whereever they are needed, but the committee voted no. It’s very, very disappointing.”
But the discussion did not end with the Chvatal-Keane’s failed motion. The Committee effectively allowed its earlier recommendation supporting the signals and diverter lanes to stand, and then approved another motion requesting the GWNC Board rescind its 2011 motion opposing traffic signals at 4th and Highland and 4th and Rossmore.
Citing the desire for to have a “fresh start on the issue,” Committee member Jeffry Carpenter seconded the motion, which passed with a 6-3 vote.
The GWNC Board will take the Transportation Committee recommendations up at its next regular board meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, 2020 at 7 p.m. via Zoom – ID #966 7700 1434. (The item will not be on the agenda for the special GWNC Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday of this week.)
In other matters last night, the committee also approved a motion to support the installation of a crosswalk on Melrose Avenue at Orange Drive. And it approved a draft of committee procedures and protocols, which are subject to final approval by the GWNC Board.
Also, at the start of the meeting, Metro officials presented a plan for the closure of Orange Drive at Wilshire Blvd., to facilitate for what they described as “appendage” construction for the Wilshire/La Brea station. Up until now, Metro has been concentrating on the rectangular station box, but it is now starting to build out several underground appendages to the main stataion area.
Appendage construction is scheduled to begin on Friday, August 28, and will continue through Saturday, February 27, 2021. Wilshire Blvd. between Detroit St. and June St. will be reduced to two lanes in each direction. Orange Dr. north of Wilshire Blvd. will be closed. Left turns from Wilshire Blvd. to Sycamore Ave. and Orange Dr. will be restricted and concrete K-Rails will be placed on Orange Dr. and on the north side of Wilshire Blvd. between Mansfield Ave. and Sycamore Ave.
The next meeting of the GWNC Transportation Committee is planned for Zoom on Monday, September 28, 2020 at 7 p.m. Visit the GWNC website for agendas and more information.