Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, and City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, have proposed a plan to make major improvements to Hollywood Boulevard from Gower to Western Avenue.
They want to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment and encourage new business. The city is holding a series of workshops where members of the public can provide input on what improvements they think should be made. The area includes Hollywood Boulevard, as well as Western Avenue between Santa Monica Boulevard and Franklin Avenue. A meeting will be held tonight from 6:30 to 8:00pm, at the Assistance League of Southern California headquarters, 1370 N. St. Andrews Pl.
The effort is being spearheaded by Garcetti, whose Hollywood field office is located at the corner of Western Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. His deputy Julie Wong said the area has a lot of potential but could use some new amenities, such as new street trees, wider sidewalks and improvements to get traffic moving more smoothly. Although the city is facing a severe budget crisis and no money has been made available for the project, the idea is to develop a “shovel ready” plan that the city can use to apply for federal grants, and to be ready if money does become available in future city budgets, she said.
“It’s the next step in Hollywood’s revitalization. It’s an area where we have seen a lot of pedestrian activity, a lot of cyclists. We have seen the community blossom and people are really interested in this area,” Wong said. “We are not planning for a pie in the sky project, we are looking at real improvements where we can aggressively go after funds.”
The improvements could include anything from new street lighting to decorative crosswalks and landscaped medians. Garcetti is partnering with LaBonge because LaBonge’s district includes a stretch of Western Avenue that extends north from Hollywood Boulevard to Franklin Avenue. While LaBonge conceded that it may be difficult to find funding, he is optimistic these projects could be completed soon. It is not known how much they would cost, but similar previous improvement projects have cost approximately $1 to $2 million.
“It will take time, but like a lot of things, you have to have a plan, and you never know what you can do,” LaBonge said. “At this point, there is only enough money to come up with an idea, but the community redevelopment agency is interested, and there is a lot of interest among the community, so it is something we want to prepare for.”
Several neighborhood groups have expressed an interest in participating. Steven Whiddon, vice chair of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council, said a revitalization of Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue would dramatically improve the community.
“It’s a small amount of money to spend, and it would be a big benefit in convincing businesses to stay here, and new businesses to locate here,” Whiddon said. “The sidewalks need to be cleaned and trees need to be planted. There needs to be new lighting around transit stops. The west side of Hollywood looks really nice now, and we are trying to make the same transition to the east side as well.”
Anastasia Mann, president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council, agreed that improvements to the boulevards are important, and that her organization is supportive.
“It’s a very good example of the types of local community efforts that can be made,” Mann said. “It’s a matter of cleaning up the area. That’s what we want for the whole of Hollywood, but it has to be one step at a time.”
Joel Fisher, a member of the Hollywood Business Improvement District and a former president of the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council, added that the project could be a catalyst for new business.
“We have an opportunity to do something very nice, and it’s important that we lay the foundation.” Fisher said. “I’d like to see some smaller businesses come in, some mid-sized hotels, and some new shopping. I’d like to see some more mixed-use projects and more variety in the restaurants.”
Wong added that it is important for members of the community to participate in the planning process, and hopes many more people will get involved.
“We have taken neighborhood improvements very seriously throughout our district, and we are also very interested in creating improvements along these major corridors,” Wong added. “We really want these neighborhoods to get involved in the planning.”
The meeting tonight is one of several that will be held during the next few months, leading up to a draft report on the plan being released in June. For information, call Garcetti’s office at (323)957-4500.
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