Those pesky residents are at it again!
This little essay is in response to the city’s pilot program involving the weekend closure of — to begin with — a block-long section of Robertson Boulevard between Melrose and Santa Monica Boulevard.
While I have not a huge argument with the general intention to attempt to make West Hollywood a “walkable city,” an “urban village,” this initial step to do so has not gone over well.
At least three local TV stations and a short mention on ABC’s Nightly News covered the story as part of their desire to show that some things are returning to “normal” and that the citizens are more than willing to utilize the situation to “finally get out”, as one young person responded to the reporter and adding that she felt that the street closure should have been advertised widely.
Such a view could not be shared with many local residents whose concerns were voiced during by Manny Rodriguez, an officer of the West Hollywood West Residents Association, representing the views of many of the association’s members during several TV interviews.
Principal among the complaints was the eventual influence on traffic as awareness of the street closure grows — but, most vexing is the manner in which the program was initiated without conferring with the local residents and simply implementing it as a done deal.
It is not politically smart to imagine that the residents would bow down to the Council’s move to go ahead without their comments and advice. By the way, the intersection of Robertson and Melrose is one of the worst in the city.
Try crossing there without fear of falling or being threatened by cars, especially if you are elderly or have a physical impairment. Now, on weekends we have confused drivers seeking a way around the closure.
Where do those drivers go when the route they know is not available? Why they may try to navigate through unfamiliar residential streets. Signs were erected by the city hoping to get drivers to park in the garage at WEHO Park, but many elect to find some free street parking instead, most often in permit-only areas.
Aware of how much of our city income depends upon all the fees, fines and permits related to parking, such decisions may produce a small uptick in revenue and a greater degree of displeasure from visitors. Of course, on my block I have seen many people park their cars without regard to the rules. It appears they don’t care.
Addressing traffic concerns as a constant burr under the saddle for residents is uppermost in my mind. Moreover, traffic is not just a matter for WeHo, its impact is felt throughout the entire Westside — yet I know of no conference on the matter which involves voices from Beverly Hills, Los Angeles or Culver City, all neighboring jurisdictions dealing with the effects of auto and truck traffic on the lives of their citizens and businesses.
These cities should be preparing for the day, not too terribly far in the future, when traffic may be banned from many streets and citizens will be allowed free movement without the rush, noise, odors and general congestion caused by vehicles.
One odd note brought to my attention on Sunday was that much of Santa Monica Boulevard is a national highway. Ten of us, all but two retired academics, all looking forward to once again sharing a box at the Hollywood Bowl, met for a lunch at Chez Marie on Santa Monica Boulevard in far west Los Angeles.
A note on the menu reminded all that the street outside was still known as “Route 66, the nation’s highway”. Thus, when it comes to traffic and all its ills to consider, there are many masters who will have their say and demand their pound of flesh.
Meanwhile, visitors cars flood our city, especially on weekends. If the pilot project is “successful” which will be the next block too close to accommodate the interests of business? The Council must tread lightly between the interests of our commercial entities and the comfort of our residents.
WeHo is a resort city in every sense of the term. Balancing our budget depends on the restaurants, bars, lounges, clubs, hotels, upscale retail shops and other trades which cater to visitors.
The needs of our residents must also be weighted in the calculations. I have often thought, as the city has become so much more active commercially, that, perhaps, like the City of Commerce or the City of Industry, residents may well become an afterthought.
As Saint Augustine reportedly remarried when asked to consider give up his licentious lifestyle — as he well knew he must – in order to save his soul : “Not just yet.