City Council Approves La Brea Avenue Streetscape Project

Bike lanes will be left out of the project for now, but landscaping will allow for their inclusion in the future.


The West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved plans on Tuesday to improve landscaping along the city’s three-block stretch of La Brea Avenue—but without bicycle lanes requested by as many as 50 of the 57 members of the public who have formally commented on the proposed $1.4-million project.

The council voted 5-0 to use a $862,500 grant from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, plus $619, 922 of Weho’s own money, to add 5,729 square feet of green space to La Brea Avenue that would include 40 new street trees and 21 blue, pedestrian-level street lights to match Santa Monica Boulevard.

Although bicycle lanes are not included in the so-called La Brea Avenue Streetscape Project, a set of proposed median islands have been designed to accommodate unprotected sharrows (share the road) bike lanes in the future.

Mayor Jeffrey Prang initiated the discussion about the La Brea Avenue Streetscape Project by pointing out that although many of the public comments associated with the plan raised the issue of bike lanes, the project happens to be under a California Environmental Quality Act review exclusively for landscaping and lighting improvements.

According to a project document provided to the City Council members and the public, because Weho’s stretch of La Brea Avenue has no parking during morning and afternoon peak hour traffic hours, a marked bike lane would not be feasible on the roadway without considerable changes to parking facilities and traffic capacity.

The document also notes that although the City of Los Angeles does not currently have a bike lane on La Brea Avenue, the roadway is earmarked in the city's Bicycle Master Plan "for future regional bicycle improvements."

A number of speakers argued for West Hollywood to get an early start on bike lanes on La Brea Avenue.

Matt Baume, a member of the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, said that if the city is already undertaking construction to accommodate bikes on La Brea in the future, “why not get the work started now instead of waiting?”

The reality, said Baume, is that “La Brea is about to change dramatically—it’s no longer going to be a place you speed though on your way to some place nice.” Instead, La Brea is “going to become a beautiful destination and more people are going to be able to share that road.”

Riding a bicycle on La Brea Avenue is currently a nightmare, Baume stressed. “It’s too scary—the number of cyclists who are able to get to their destinations on La Brea right now is effectively zero.” He added: “When I ride my bike there, I ride on the sidewalk—I don’t want to, but the street is terrifying.”

Besides recommending an early start to bike lanes on La Brea, the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition also “would like the city to keep the public informed about what is going on,” Baume said. “I think we felt a little blindsided by the exclusion of bike lanes from this project when previously it was suggested that [bike lanes] would be part of it.”

Councilman John D’Amico asked if there are signs on La Brea that tell riders it’s okay to ride on sidewalks in the area. “I know that in my neighborhood there are some signs that tell you not to ride on [sidewalks] because there’s a bike lane,” he said, adding: “But I wonder if the opposite is true” on La Brea.

In response, a city official said that there’s precisely such signage on the eastern stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, where bicyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalks. Asked what it would take to install similar signage on La Brea, the official replied that the city would have to do an analysis of the situation there and formally present it to the City Council before taking any action.

Steven Greene, a member of the West Hollywood Transportation Commission and a transportation planner by profession who said he is also a biker, explained that the La Brea Avenue Streetscape Project is “technically exempt from CEQA” in keeping with recent provisions in the state’s environmental quality act.

“But you still have to do a traffic study and a public hearing,” Greene said, adding: “While we’re looking at bike lanes [on La Brea], let’s look at Fairfax, where we could really do them really quickly.”

West Hollywood’s section of Fairfax Avenue is the only part of the roadway that is six lanes wide, Greene said. “In L.A., it’s four lanes [and] we could very easily put in bike lanes.”

Councilman John Duran said that he had been biking for the past few years—“and I know how dangerous it is.” However, he added, “it doesn’t appear that in our 1.9-square-miles we can [add bike lanes] effectively without the cooperation of Los Angeles, which is the giant octopus all around us.”

Installing bike lanes along three blocks of West Hollywood’s stretch of La Brea Avenue “just isn’t practical,” Duran said, not least because for bikers to transition from two lanes of traffic in the City of Los Angeles’ section of the street to three lanes in West Hollywood and then back to two lanes would be “more dangerous in terms of balancing bikes and cars.”

West Hollywood is a linear city that’s “so narrow north to south” that bike lanes on a north-south street such as La Brea is “going to be the most difficult to implement without a regional planning system,” Duran said.

me March 20, 2013 at 05:23 PM
they're really going to put up MORE of those UGLY and very dated blue street lights on La Brea???
Matt Baume March 20, 2013 at 05:27 PM
It's incorrect that there are signs on the eastern part of Santa Monica indicating that bikes can use the sidewalk. There are signs that tell cyclists to yield to pedestrians; and there are signs that say "share the road," but there are no signs that explicitly tell cyclists that they can use the sidewalk or street. It's very confusing.
Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move March 20, 2013 at 05:43 PM
So who is actually paying for all of these cosmetics?
Mary Beth March 20, 2013 at 05:55 PM
I like those blue lights.
George March 20, 2013 at 06:23 PM
That part of town is not wide enough for cars and bikes to share the road safely. Pedestrians get mad at people on bikes riding on the side walk. Even Beverly Hills does have safe lanes for bike riding. Los Angeles isn't set up for safe bike riding. It would be great if they could make Fountain avenue down to Highland as a bike route only but I don't see that happening.A whole stretch just for bike riding and roller skating would be awesome! There is just way to many people who drive cars and traffic is getting worse. Best to go to the beach and bike & blade on the strand.
RTL March 20, 2013 at 07:26 PM
I can't stand those ugly blue street lights; they have no character and are just awful looking; I'm not sure how anyone can say they like these dated eye soars, but to each his/her own.
brad March 20, 2013 at 10:37 PM
You aren't going to slow people down with bike lanes, or shared ones, its just dangerous. I love our "little" city, but have to be reminded we are part of Los Angeles. I don't bike, I'd be terrified! With ever more development (er OVER sometimes) its kinda not going to work to put in bike lanes. More businesses, residences, and more people comes more traffic..
me March 21, 2013 at 02:23 AM
mary beth and heilman are about the only ones who like the street lamps.....i'm told he chose them and refuses to see them go.....fantasy land at any disney park would be more appropriate.....not the "creative city" that we're "supposed" to be....they are cheap fiberglass and many of them are broken and the lights are out
RTL March 21, 2013 at 10:30 PM
They should have something far more creative for street lights; even the type of light towers you see at LAX would bring the city to life; Though I also like classic, historic-looking light fixtures too; but these blue eye soars have to go..The city can surely afford it with the 'feel good' bag tax. Or is that just going to someone's salary?
Matt Baume March 21, 2013 at 11:08 PM
All of the money collected by the bag fee is used by the stores to re-stock new bags. This expense used to be built in to the price of the merchandise for everyone, but now it's only being charged to people who need a bag. I'm not sure how we got so far off topic.
RTL March 22, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Bringing up other concerns of the city is hardly off topic in a news thread; that is what blogs are all about; Have you ever read reddit.com, or any blog for that matter?; they always go slightly off topic. I was commenting on the other contributors' observations noting how dated our light fixtures are, which is on topic; it would be a complete waste of money to continue these unappealing fixtures onto La Brea. And I don't think you're correct about the bag fees. I thought this was a city tax that goes to the city; I seriously doubt grocery stores are lowering their prices to make up for the cost of the bags passed onto consumers..not a chance; I'll have to research more about where the bag tax goes when I have some time, unless you can provide a link proving where this tax ends up.


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