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Mon, May

Huizar’s 245 Abuse: A Bridge Too Far

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HOW I UNDERSTAND LOS ANGELES-As a car-free Angeleno and as a peripatetic rambler that enjoys exploring the City of Los Angeles on foot, bike, bus and rail, I am fortunate to experience the details and nuances of our neighborhood streets and sidewalks. On average, by just going about my daily business, I might travel over ten miles a day on foot.  Back and forth from my house to the subway station, or around various offices in Downtown LA, the joys and the deterrents of the street are etchings that last within me well past the journey. 

 

It’s these human-scale details that accumulate to form the framework for how I understand and value Los Angeles.  It’s these marbled swaths of delight and hindrance that allow me to say “I Love Los Angeles, even with all of its imperfections.”   

However, as a consequence, it’s often these details in error and omission that make me cringe with embarrassment for our nascent metropolis.   One such embarrassment is the prevalence of terrible architecture and poor urban design that is rapidly encroaching upon us like a murder of crows.  This faux-Italianette housing simply lacks authenticity and does very, very little for the morale of one walking past these fortress-like walls along the street.  Often, these housing blocks are too large and lack the fine grain of detail that adds genuine and lasting character to an area.  And most offensively, they are void of ground level activity, landscaping and sidewalk-oriented uses. 

To make matters worse, these projects have the terrible habit of depopulating the sidewalk with the crass installation of privatized pedestrian bridges.  Rather than adding value to the community and placing more eyes and ears on the street, rather than activating the sidewalks in these fledgling areas of Downtown, the developer is draining the communal aspirations of the area and depriving itself from the higher return on investment excellent architecture and urban design deliver. 

To chose to live within these garrisons, which are all too often placed near freeways strangling with air pollution and the incessant whirrs of tire on pavement, must be its own form of sadism.  But that’s a choice that I will allow another to have, if so chosen at their own free will!  What I will not tolerate, though, is having someone else’s poor taste in aesthetics ruin my walk any longer.  And that’s why I am loaning my voice to the uproar and saying “No, Thank You!" to the latest appeal to add a privatized pedestrian bridge at  909 W. Temple Street  (CF 14-0546) .  

Applying the wisdom and spirit of the community-supported Downtown Design Guide  the Central Area Planning Commission denied the appeal.  The professional experts of our Department of City Planning have also shared their recommendation against this bridge.  Yet, despite the clarity of their action, Councilmember Jose Huizar has applied Charter Section 245 so that the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee can make their own determination.   

Although I have much respect and admiration for Councilmember Huizar, I disagree with the premise of his latest motion:  

I disagree that the area in question is an isolated area of Downtown.  It may feel that way at present because there is minimal pedestrian activity and minimal commercial activity at the street level.  However, all that can change.  How?  By not building the pedestrian bridge that once again will separate the residences from the sidewalk in an area that is desperate for more love, beauty and eyes on the street.  In fact, installing this particular bridge will sound a death knell to the area before it’s even given the chance revitalize itself. 

Instead of spending money on this bridge, the developer’s resources should be applied towards improving the aesthetics and environmental performance of the streetscape so that the neighborhood becomes more inviting, enjoyable and commercially vibrant. 

In addition, by allowing G.H. Palmer Associates to surpass the authority of the Central Area Planning and Commission and the expertise of the Department of City Planning, we risk establishing a poor precedent for how decisions get made in this great city of ours.  

Please share your concerns with City Council by attending the May 13th PLUM hearing and expressing your concern.  The concern is that once again we will be bullied by poor urban design choices and  risk the dangers of establishing a precedent for more potential  “Section 245” abuse. 

The item is expected to be heard in PLUM Tuesday. 

 

NEED TO KNOW:

 

PLANNING AND LAND USE MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE

Tuesday, May 13 (3:00pm)

Los Angeles City Hall, Room 350

200 North Spring Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

(Will Wright is the Director of Government and Public Affairs at the American Institute of Architects.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 12 Issue 39

Pub: May 13, 2014

 

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