Santa Monica Boulevard, one of West Hollywood's most prized thoroughfares, has been named a Great Street by the American Planning Association. The city formally accepted the designation at a press conference Tuesday morning.
The 2.8-mile stretch was chosen as one of 10 streets through the Association's Great Places in America program. Others included Front Street in Lahaina, HI; Washington Avenue in St. Louis, MO; Market Street and Market Square in Portsmouth, NH; and King Street in Alexandria, VA.
The American Planning Association singled out Santa Monica Boulevard "for its ability to meld a variety of cultural influences into a dynamic streetscape that supports almost continuous use," according to a city announcement.
“Santa Monica Boulevard is the center of the city’s LGBT and Russian-speaking communities," said Paul Farmer, chief executive of the APA. "Here, municipal flagpoles proudly fly rainbow flags alongside the American flag and ethnic grocery stores and Jewish delis cater to the City’s Russian-speaking residents."
Anchoring the street on either end is a thriving LGBT community and a long-standing Russian-speaking immigrant population, with a new LEED certified West Hollywood Library on the west end and the soon-to-be renovated Plummer Park planted in the east.
“The Boulevard, as many locals refer to, is home to the annual Gay Pride Parade, the world-renown Halloween Carnival and the epicenter of many of the LGBT struggles for equality," said Mayor John Duran, ". . . home of a diverse, bohemian and creative community."
But there was a time, not too long ago, when “you took your life in your hands just to cross Santa Monica Boulevard,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Prang.
In 1984, the newly incorporated City of West Hollywood buried the utility lines, tore up abandoned railroad tracks, and planted 1,200 trees along Santa Monica Boulevard. The city began a two-year, $34-million project to renovate the boulevard and its sidewalks after taking control of the state-owned street in 1999.
Today, a Climate Action Plan is in the works for bicycle/car sharing programs and electric-vehicle charging stations along the boulevard, and a transit overlay zone has been proposed to incentivize mixed-use development.