Miracle Mile Bike News:

CicLAvia Returns to the Miracle Mile
Sunday • April 6th

On Sunday, April 6th, CicLAvia repeats its Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route from downtown to the Miracle Mile. The popular car-free event allows people to explore the sights along Wilshire by foot, bike, or any other non-motorized means. This will be the last CicLAvia to visit the Miracle Mile until the completion of major street level construction of the Purple Line Subway extension, which is scheduled to begin work later this year.

Once again Fairfax Avenue will serve as the western terminus of the route from One Wilshire Boulevard in downtown. Wilshire between Curson Avenue and Fairfax will be a pedestrian zone featuring activities sponsored by the cultural institutions along Museum Row. The event runs from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Click on map to enlarge.

Last year’s CicLAvia attracted thousands of cyclists and pedestrians to the area and introduced many to the museums and the historic art deco architecture of the Miracle Mile. Here’s a link to a terrific walking guide of Wilshire Boulevard architecture prepared for last year’s event by Catherine Gudis.

Additional information:

CicLAvia.org: Iconic Wilshire Boulevard – 4/6/24

LAist.com: CicLAvia’s Wilshire Takeover Will Be The Last For a Few Years

Councilman LaBonge Delays
Proposed 6th St. Bike Lanes

In January 2014 the Los Angeles Department of Transportation [LADOT] announced Phase 2 of their ongoing efforts to add new bike lanes throughout the city. LADOT will begin traffic and safety assessments on these proposed bike lanes and will then hold public hearings to gather community feedback on the routes.

The city approved the Los Angeles Bicycle Master Plan in 2010. LADOT will evaluate approximately 40 miles of potential new bike lanes each year. The goal is to install 1,600 miles of new bike lanes over the next 30 years.

Two new bike lanes on the Phase 2 list would directly impact the Miracle Mile: San Vicente Boulevard from Venice to Wilshire [2.3 miles] and 6th Street between La Brea and Fairfax Avenues [1 mile]. The San Vicente Boulevard bike lanes would not require the removal of any parking spaces or traffic lanes and have generated little opposition or controversy – but the 6th Street bike lanes are a different story.

Plans for 6th Street involve a “road diet” where one lane of traffic in each direction would be removed and street parking would be eliminated in order to create bike lanes. The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] has staunchly opposed any plan that would remove traffic lanes or parking on 6th Street and further exacerbate congestion in the area. The MMRA issued a statement in March 2013 detailing our position on 6th Street bike lanes [click here to read].

Councilman Tom LaBonge recently informed the Park La Brea News/Beverly Press that he would not support bike lanes on 6th Street until the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project is completed next spring. He then went on to state that he thought it would be better to delay the bike lanes until the “heavy construction” is completed for the Purple Line Extension, which would be many years in the future – well after LaBonge is termed out of office.

“Right now, we have been closing the boulevard [Wilshire Blvd.] for a number of nights and there has to be alternative routes,” LaBonge was quoted in the Park La Brea News/Beverly Press. “I want to look at the whole picture. Right now, I want to make sure it’s safe for everybody.”

Increased congestion generated by the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit project – which will create bus-only curb lanes during rush hour periods ­– and by a decade of subway construction are principal reasons why the MMRA opposes the 6th Street bike lanes. The MMRA is pleased that Councilman LaBonge agrees that this is not the time to consider a radical restriction of such a key east-west route.

Additional information:

LADOT Bike Blog: LADOT announces Priority 2 list of planned bikeways

Park La Brea News/Beverly Press: Local streets identified as possible bike lane sites

Mid City West Community Council
Makes Recommendation
 for a New
North/South Bike Lane through
the Miracle Mile

 Mid City West Community Council [MCWCC] has submitted recommendations to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation [LADOT] for two new bike lanes. Their proposal selects Rosewood Avenue as an east/west route and Cochran Avenue, Alta Vista Boulevard, and Formosa Avenue as a north/south route [see map below].

LEGEND
Red: Existing bike lanes on Burton Way and Hauser Boulevard
Yellow: Existing and future bike route on 4th Street
Blue: Proposed Rosewood and Cochran/Alta Vista/Formosa bike route

These proposed routes for “Bike Friendly Streets” will be evaluated by LADOT for possible inclusion in Phase 5 bike lane projects scheduled for 2017.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] has not yet taken a position on these recommendations. Although, the MMRA did oppose original plans to use Hauser and Martel as a north/south bike route on the grounds that it would be too dangerous due to the volume of traffic and the narrow bends in Hauser south of Olympic.

The MMRA will wait to see if LADOT endorses MCWCC’s proposal before taking a position on this matter. The input of residents along Cochran Avenue will be an important factor in any decision made by the MMRA.

To read the full Mid City West Bicycle Friendly Street Proposal click here.

MMRA Endorses Mid City West Trolley Plan

[From the November 2013 edition of the MMRA newsletter:]

preferred trolley

The Mid City West Trolley Plan

[or how to get you husband to leave the car at home…]

Last June billionaire developer Rick Caruso introduced the idea of an extension of the Grove’s fixed rail trolley to connect the popular shopping center with Museum Row at Wilshire and Fairfax. Recently, it was announced that the Los Angeles Museum of Art had teamed with Caruso to study the proposal. The results of an engineering study Caruso commissioned are expected later this month.

But several years before Caruso’s plan, Julie Anne Brame had a problem. Brame, who lives in the Crescent Heights/Melrose area, likes to walk – her husband doesn’t. After work, Brame would often encounter resistance from her husband when she suggested that they walk down to 3rd Street to try one of the many restaurants there. He would usually prefer to drive, even though parking is always difficult. Out of her idle wish that there were some easy way to quickly get around the area – so that she could get her husband out of the house without driving – came an idea: the Mid City West Trolley.

Brame is a resourceful woman and persistent, too. She kicked around the idea with like-minded friends and a plan evolved to have a rubber wheel trolley that would connect Melrose, Fairfax, the Grove, the Miracle Mile, La Brea, 3rd Street, the Beverly Center, and the Cedars-Sinai medical complex. She and her supporters did their homework, studying successful rubber wheel trolley projects across the country.

Trolley map

They took a fresh and modern approach to develop a program that would connect densely populated neighborhoods, existing parking garages, and popular destinations to facilitate circulation and reduce local automobile traffic. Their target riders would be residents, business patrons, employees, students, and tourists.

Their research helped them devise a check list: the trolleys would have to come every 15 minutes, their time of arrival easily monitored via a GPS smart phone app, they would have to provide free wifi access for passengers, and be comfortable and fun. The trolley program would also have to be flexible to allow for route expansion and to navigate around obstacles, like the upcoming subway construction in the Miracle Mile.

They knew that to succeed their trolley would need savvy marketing and promotion and both private and public support. And it would take a lot of outreach. That’s when Brame looked around for a way to learn the ropes and promote her trolley plan. So, in 2011 she got herself elected to the board of Mid City West Community Council [MCWCC]. As she got the lay of the land – how things get done in L.A. – she began to pitch her trolley idea to fellow board members, representatives of homeowner and residential associations, City council members, and anyone else who would listen.

Her skills of persuasion and well thought out approach began to win fans. She did not have to make a hard sell: ever worsening traffic congestion constricts travel and commerce in the area and the advent of the Purple Line subway extension makes “first mile-last mile” transportation from subway stations imperative. And the projected one million visitors a year to the soon-to-be Academy Museum at the former May Company will only exacerbate gridlock along Fairfax. The consensus was clear: something had to be done.

Soon, MCWCC endorsed a motion in support of studying the feasibility of Brame’s trolley plan, Councilmember Tom Labonge publicly announced his support at recent meeting of the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce, and the Miracle Mile Residential Association will consider a motion in support of the project at its upcoming board meeting on November 7th. And even Rick Caruso gave a nod to the Mid City Trolley by asking his engineers to include a review of Brame’s plan in the study of his fixed rail trolley, which many residents strongly oppose on grounds that it would only further clog traffic and present many safety issues.

While Caruso’s fixed rail trolley grabs all the headlines, Brame’s rubber wheel trolley steadily gained traction. Brame is clear that her plan is very much a work in progress and that the current proposed route could and probably will change depending on which parts of the area are most supportive. Hence, the inherent advantage of a rubber wheel trolley – the route can be expanded to meet new demand and include more of the Mid City West area.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation would operate the system, but the financing is complex. It will take a mix of private and public money to get the trolley rolling and, long term, it would take an ongoing financial commitment from the City to sustain it. Although, Brame aspires to follow the example of other successful rubber wheel trolley programs that generate substantial income from advertising revenues.

The initial plan is to begin on weekends to test the concept with service beginning of Fridays from 6 PM to midnight; Saturdays 10 AM to midnight; and Sundays from 11 AM to 10 PM. If this pilot plan succeeds service would be expanded to 7 days per week.

And, perhaps – in a year or so – Brame and her husband (and the twins she is soon expecting) will be able to leave their car at home when they go out for dinner.

[A motion endorsing the Mid City West Trolley Plan was adopted by the Board of Directors of the Miracle Mile Residential Association at our November 7, 2013 meeting.]

A Very “Hesitant” Planning Commission Denies Appeal of Petersen Facade

Petersen CDO Wilshire Elevation

The September 10, 2013 Central Area Planning Commission hearing on the appeal of the Planning Director’s approval of the new Petersen Automotive Museum facade had a cliff-hanging ending when two commissioners reluctantly joined the third commissioner and voted to uphold the approval and deny the appeal. Both Commissioner Chanchanit Martorell and Commissioner Samantha Millman – who were visibly uncomfortable when a dizzying set of motions and procedural maneuvers left them with no choice but to vote down the appeal – used the word “hesitant” in explaining their actions.

MMRA President James O’Sullivan filed the appeal on the grounds that the Petersen façade was a radical departure from the guidelines and standards of the Miracle Mile Community Design Overlay District [CDO]. The CDO was created to preserve the unique historical context of Miracle Mile and approved by the City Council in 2004.

A key objective of the CDO is to create a pedestrian friendly environment in the Miracle Mile. The Petersen Museum has never maintained a pedestrian entrance on Wilshire Boulevard and didn’t include one in the proposal they submitted to renovate their exterior – nor did their proposal even include a sign identifying the museum on the Wilshire side.

In his appeal O’Sullivan hammered the Petersen for continuing to turn their back to Museum Row and criticized the Planning Director for not mandating a Wilshire Boulevard entrance when he approved the façade. O’Sullivan’s point had obviously caused concern within the Planning Department that it would give the commission good cause to uphold the appeal because the lack of a Wilshire entrance and signage is a flagrant violation of the CDO. At the very beginning of the hearing planning staff indicated that – although they were recommending that the appeal by denied – they had additional conditions to add to the Director’s approval. Those conditions turned out to be that a Wilshire entrance and signage be stipulated.

The Petersen representatives maintained that the new façade was a “Twenty-First Century interpretation” of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne. This was rebuffed by Commissioner Martorell, “I am very familiar with Art Deco, I appreciate Art Deco, I am passionately in love with Art Deco . . . [This is] Not what I would personally consider Art Deco myself.”

In his presentation to the commission O’Sullivan pointed out that this was the first time in its thirty-year existence that the MMRA has filed an appeal. “We always find a way to compromise on projects,” he stated. “But the Petersen submitted this and got it approved by the City without any community outreach. We were kept in the dark.”

In a brief that O’Sullivan submitted he demonstrated how the Petersen and planning staff had cherry-picked their way though the CDO – stretching certain design guidelines and ignoring others to demonstrate compliance. At the hearing he warned the commission that if they upheld the Director’s Approval it would virtually nullify the CDO by establishing a precedence that would allow other developers and building owners to sue the City if they were forced to strictly comply with the CDO.

“It would have been better if the Petersen had asked for a complete exemption from the CDO or more honorable if they had asked the stakeholders to revise the CDO rather than to twist and torture it to get approval for their project,” said O’Sullivan. “This will cause irreparable harm to the CDO.”

Despite a roster of supporters endorsing the Petersen façade and the Director’s interpretation of the CDO – including a surprise appearance by Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose joviality trivialized the proceeding – everyone in the hearing room was caught by surprise when it came time for the vote.

Commissioner Young Kim introduced a motion denying O’Sullivan’s appeal and supporting the Director’s Approval with the additional conditions regarding the stipulation of a Wilshire entrance and signage – but it did not receive a second. That is when it became apparent that Commissioners Martorell and Millman had been receptive to O’Sullivan’s presentation and had reservations about the façade’s compatibility with the CDO.

Absent a second to the motion some confusion ensued. It was explained that without a second the motion would fail and the appeal would be automatically denied – and the original Director’s approval would stand, which did not stipulate a Wilshire entrance. So, Commissioner Kim re-introduced the motion. Finally, a soft-spoken Commissioner Millman offered: “A very hesitant second.”

When the vote was taken Millman and Kim voted in favor of the motion, but Commissioner Martorell [right] prefaced her vote with: “I have to say that I find the design somewhat problematic and . . . I think that there could be another design that’s more emblematic of this area, and I just have problems, so I just say no. I vote no.”

But then Martorell found herself painted in a procedural corner: the only way the commission could insure that the Petersen would have a Wilshire entrance and signage was to unanimously vote in favor of the motion.

“That [the lack of a Wilshire entrance] would be a loss to the community, irrespective of the design element. This is difficult. I don’t agree with this design,” Martorell said before changing her vote to affirm the motion and deny the appeal.

The MMRA Board of Directors, which endorsed and fully supported O’Sullivan’s appeal, is considering other options to preserve the integrity of the CDO.

MMRA Vice President Ken Hixon, who attending the appeal hearing, remarked, “Jim didn’t win the appeal, but he personally unlocked the Wilshire entrance to the Petersen Museum. That’s something we’ve been trying to do for the last 20 years.”