The first project in LADOT's People Street program has opened in a former alley near corner of Magnolia and Lankershim Boulevards in North Hollywood. The project, called NoHo Plaza, has been repurposed with cafe tables, chairs, umbrellas, a colorful surface treatment (which looks almost exactly like the dotted green and gold surface of Silverlake's Sunset Triangle Plaza), and perimeter planters. People Streets allows community groups to partner with the city to make public spaces. Each project type—including parklets, plazas, and bicycle corrals—offers a preapproved kit of parts containing packaged configurations to choose from. NoHo's kit of parts was supplemented by technical design (road marking, signage, signals, etc) from LADOT. According to LA Streets Blog, the park cost only $57,000. The plaza is managed and maintained by the NoHo BID. Two more plazas are about to open in Leimert Park and Pacoima, while four parklets are set to open this summer throughout the city. According to LADOT Assistant Pedestrian Coordinator Valerie Watson, all of People Streets' inaugural projects are running ahead of schedule.
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It seems like just yesterday that Los Angeles opened its first downtown Parklet, a sparkling new design on Spring Street by architects utopiad.org, designers Berry and Linné, and builders Hensel Phelps. But a few weeks ago that design (already getting a little shabby from weather and use) was rammed and badly compromised by an errant motorist, leaving it closed, and leaving downtown without a parklet to speak of more than two years after the city’s parklet program began. According to CBE Los Angeles, the driver had moments, earlier been, kicked out of a club nearby and commandeered a friend's car using its keyless ignition. The suspected drunk driver side-swiped several parked cars before hitting the parklet. Three people sustained injuries from flying debris during the incident and were hospitalized. LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) spokesperson Lisa Martellaro-Palmer told AN that the city is in the process of rebuilding the parklet, and that the fix will happen “in the near future,” although the timeline has not been determined. Its sister parklet, about a block north, remains intact. So far, there are seven more parklets and plazas moving ahead in the city as part of the LADOT's People Street Program. One of them is downtown, on Hope Street.
After four years of stops and starts, MyFigueroa, the $20 million proposal to transform Los Angeles’ Figueroa Corridor from a regional throughway to a bike- and pedestrian-friendly destination, appears to be moving ahead. Overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) with design assistance from Melendrez, Troller Mayer Associates, and Gehl Architects, MyFigueroa will add separated cycle tracks or buffered bike lanes, bike racks, and improved transit shelters, lighting, and landscaping to 4.5 miles of streets between LA Live and Exposition Park. The project hit its first major bump in the road at the end of 2011, when the Supreme Court of California dissolved the state’s redevelopment agencies, including the original custodian of MyFigueroa’s Proposition 1C grant funding. In April 2012, LADOT agreed to take over, and the project appeared to be on track. But in 2013, a traffic study indicating negative impacts combined with fierce local opposition to prompt changes to the design. Progress on MyFigueroa slowed to a crawl as stakeholders failed to agree on a path forward. On August 28, 2013, Councilmember Curren Price filed a motion calling for further traffic studies and design alternatives that did not involve removing a lane of automobile travel. Two weeks later, Shammas Group CEO Darryl Holter, who owns seven car dealerships along the Figueroa Corridor, filed a formal appeal against MyFigueroa. The fate of the project remained uncertain until March 2014, when, before a hearing of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM), representatives from the offices of Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Price announced that the opposing parties had agreed to work together toward a solution. Throughout this time, LADOT and Department of City Planning put in long hours of research and analysis, first to answer Councilmember Price’s motion [pdf] and, later, in response to requests made by the stakeholders’ summit [pdf]. Finally, at the end of April, their hard work paid off as the Shammas Group withdrew its appeals. LADOT’s Tim Fremaux confirmed that MyFigueroa will move ahead with only minor changes, including tweaks to left turn pockets to facilitate ingress and egress at auto dealerships, and the formation of an advisory group to explore the possibility of bike lane closures during large events at Exposition Park. MyFigueroa is still in the design phase, said Fremaux, so the construction advertise/bid/award process has yet to begin. If all goes well, construction may start in January 2015. Funding, meanwhile, is an open question. Under Proposition 1C, the $20 million grant was to have been spent by the end of 2014. LADOT, said Fremaux, is waiting on official confirmation from the state that funding will be extended beyond December 2014.
We hope you’ve stretched your hamstrings—there have been a lot of developments in U.S. bike sharing programs lately, and we’re taking another whirl through them now. Although not without hang-ups, New York’s Citi Bike has at least not killed anyone yet. People love to joke about clueless tourists riding on the sidewalk, or on heavy-traffic avenues, or “salmoning” the wrong way down one-way streets — that’s true in Chicago as well as New York — but the fact that no bikeshare has so far produced little to no traffic carnage should come as no surprise, writes Charles Komanoff for Streetsblog. Crunching the numbers, Komanoff points out “for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.” So while Citi Bike ridership has exceeded expectations, it’s still only a small bump in the city’s total bike ridership. The bikes themselves could be a contributing factor, too — they aren’t racing bikes, and crowds of bikers further leaden their slow pace. The naturally lower car speeds in popular Citi Bike areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn may also play a role. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a proposed bikeshare system was stymied by existing restrictions on street furniture advertising. Smaller systems may move forward in some of L.A.’s municipal fiefdoms — Long Beach and Fullerton are apparently moving ahead, while West Hollywood and Santa Monica are conducting reviews. For now, though, what was once proposed as the nation's second biggest bike sharing program seems to have hit the brakes. Instead Chicago’s Divvy bike share is poised to become the largest such program in North America after announcing the addition of another 75 stations. Divvy already has 300 stations, with plans to add 100 more in 2014 (the additional 75 brings it to a total of 475). Federal funding enabled the $3 million expansion. CDOT also announced that it has applied for $3 million in state money to fund another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. “As Divvy expands into more neighborhoods, and we build a 650-mile bikeway network throughout our communities, Chicago is quickly becoming the best biking city in North America,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein in a press release. It will be one of Klein’s last as Chicago’s transportation commissioner — he announced his resignation effective at the end of the month. Klein oversaw Divvy’s development and implementation, and was known for riding his bike to work. Sustainable transportation advocates told Streetsblog Klein’s successor will have big shoes to fill.