Monday, April 4, 2016

"Will More Transit Actually Ease L.A.'s Traffic?"

Deeply mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we desperately need to spend more money, more effort and more serious thought on public transportation, and it seems almost certain that rail should play a key role. On a more specific note, the proposed extensions of LA Metro Rail should have been done years ago.

On the other hand, there's a lot here that makes me nervous: lack of focus on the fundamental problem of getting commuters quickly, cleanly and reliably to their jobs around the county and back; gentrification; questionable developments that threaten to make congestion worse in certain areas that are already trouble spots (and no, the owners of those upscale condos aren't going to forego driving just because you put an Intelligentsia Coffee on the first floor); and the disturbing signs of muddled and wishful thinking that I've increasingly come to associate with utopian urbanists.

 Gene Maddaus writing for the LA Weekly
The idea is that building high-density projects around stations creates walkable neighborhoods and lessens the impact of traffic while providing much-needed housing. But wherever this theory is applied, it seems to generate a backlash.

In Hollywood, developers have been putting up high-rises and mixed-use complexes around Red Line stops. The proposal for one particular project — the Millennium Hollywood — calls for nearly 500 condos, plus 200 hotel rooms, inside two towers — one 35 stories tall, the other 39 stories. And it has spurred an anti-development revolt.

The project would be about a block away from the subway stop at Hollywood and Vine, and its developers contend that it would help ease traffic by providing convenient transit access. But it also would include 2,000 parking spaces — an indication that no one truly expects residents of the luxury project to give up their cars.


The Platform development [in Culver City] — a mix of high-end galleries, boutiques and pastry shops — just opened to the southwest of the train station, on the site of a former used car lot. On the southeast corner, where a roofing supply store once stood, builders are finishing work on a 115-unit luxury apartment complex with ground-floor retail.

On the northwest corner, where there used to be a nursery, developers plan to build the Ivy Station, a 200-unit residential building with office and restaurant spaces, plus a 148-room hotel. Restaurant supply store Surfas has been located on the northeast corner for nearly 30 years. Developers plan to tear it down and put up an 80-unit condo building with creative offices and ground-floor retail.

Some residents to the east of this intersection view this development with alarm.

“The traffic already on Washington Boulevard is atrocious,” says Ken Mand, of the group Arts District Residents for Responsible Development, who argues that the traffic studies for these projects were deeply flawed. “They are far underestimating the reality of traffic as it currently stands. Nothing they did was illegal or wrong. But the reality is it’s all fucked up.”

The city did not mandate that a portion of the housing units be set aside for lower-income residents, and Mand doubts the new residents will take the train.

“They’re just adding a ton of apartments and a ton of retail that is not geared toward Culver City residents,” he says. “Culver City residents are not shopping for $150-an-ounce hand lotion. … It’s all about the Google people that are coming to town. It’s all about pour-over coffee.”

Worse yet, from his perspective, is what’s in the works for the La Cienega train station, one stop to the east, within the Los Angeles city limits. There, developers are planning to build the Cumulus project — 1,200 housing units, plus a grocery store, restaurants, office space and 2,400 parking spaces.

The current height limit at that intersection is 45 feet. The height limit at other transit stations on the Expo route — such as Sepulveda and Bundy — tops out around 160 feet. The Cumulus project will tower 320 feet above the ground.

“It’s pretty crazy,” says Jamie Hall, an attorney for La Cienega Heights, a predominantly African-American and Latino homeowners group, which is fighting the project. “It’s gonna make traffic a lot worse.”

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