A Perfect Storm

A Message from Jim O’Sullivan, President of the MMRA

The Miracle Mile Residential Association is beginning to analyze a number of upcoming development projects and some basic questions are already being asked. They deal with mobility and the perennial issue of traffic. While the Miracle Mile isn’t alone in traffic concerns, we certainly have far fewer options than many other areas to get in and out of our neighborhood.

A comment at one of the mayoral debates caught my attention – it was said that what Los Angeles needed was a tunnel under the Sepulveda Pass to connect the Westside to the Valley. My immediate thought was that the Miracle Mile needs a tunnel under Park La Brea, because it sits like a large man-made mountain just to our north, which effectively gives us only four north-south routes into and out of the Miracle Mile. Fairfax, Hauser, Curson and La Brea are the only streets that can get us to 3rd Street or Beverly Boulevard – where many of us go to purchase a number of items we need to live our lives.

Frankly, if we had more retail services in the Miracle Mile this would not be as big a problem as it is. Wilshire Boulevard is designated by the City as a “Regional Center” – which means it serves as a focal point of regional commerce, identity, and activity for a population of 250,000 to 500,000 persons. In the Miracle Mile we have the corporate and professional offices, the restaurants, and the entertainment and cultural facilities that regional centers are supposed to have, but we are severely lacking in retail stores – which is one of the main reasons why so many of us are in our cars trying to get in and out of the neighborhood. The so-called “mixed-use” projects recently constructed aren’t particularly “mixed” – they have provided hundreds of new apartments and a dozen-or-so new restaurants but that’s pretty much it. We did get a cash-for-gold outfit and a bank branch, but no clothing, furniture, or other retail stores. If you need a pair of jeans or a coffee table you’re not going to find it on the Miracle Mile.

Once upon a time we had the May Company at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire where I could get most everything I now have to travel to the Grove or the Beverly Center to get. (The May Company tearoom also had great Cobb salads, which I still miss.) In its place we will get the Academy Museum that I’m sure will be incredible – but it will add an extra 800,000 visitors a year to the 1.2 million visitors that LACMA already attracts. On the drawing board at Wilshire and Curson is a quarter of a million square feet of office space with 300-plus residential units to be added to the 1,200-plus units already built in the Miracle Mile in the last eight years.

The City of Los Angeles is about to undertake an Environmental Impact Report for the Mobility Element Update of the General Plan. It’s the old Circulation Element, which deals with everything that moves. Part of that update requires the City to comply with the state mandated “Complete Streets Act” which will fundamentally change how we use our streets. We have to make them accessible and safe for pedestrians, bicycles, autos and the movement of goods. Given that LA is once again the number one most congested city in the United State that will be a real challenge because some of the plans call for removing traffic lanes from service to facilitate certain mobility goals (i.e., bike lanes). Meanwhile, Metro will start construction of the Bus Rapid Transit project along Wilshire this summer which will divert as much as 30% of rush hour traffic onto 6th and 8th streets and the L.A. Department of Transportation and other forces seem eager to snatch traffic lanes from 6th Street for bike lanes.

It is a perfect storm: unchecked development and utopian transportation schemes colliding into each other and rendering our community paralyzed. Advocates and planners tout high density and bike lanes as the one-size-fits-all solution for all that ails Los Angeles. But the residents of the Miracle Mile want specific solutions to their specific problems. We don’t oppose innovation or change, but there are practical things that were working for us – like the DASH bus system that has seen its budget and service slashed. And if the City wants to talk about mobility, how about they fix the sidewalks first? Why isn’t repaving Wilshire or La Brea a priority to all these whiz-kid urban planners?

The Miracle Mile Residential Association is prepared to participate in any and all efforts to keep our streets and sidewalks usable, livable and safe. But we will not surrender our common sense to achieve these goals. We will ask hard questions and demand answers that our grounded in reality. Pie in the sky isn’t on our menu.

[from the May 2013 edition of the Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter]