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OUT on Robertson is no more, as the West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously on July 21 to end the controversial pilot program that closed Robertson Boulevard south of Santa Monica Boulevard to vehicles on the weekends.
City officials and opponents agreed that the pilot program was a good idea but ill-timed. OUT on Robertson launched in April, when businesses were beginning to return to normalcy and refocus on their pre-pandemic operations.
Megan Reath, the city’s event services supervisor, said the program was successful in creating “additional pedestrian space” on Robertson, and that the street closure enabled staff to approve two OUT Zone permit requests for nearby businesses.
“However, staff did find that a combination of health officer orders, state or county permitting requirements and operational challenges created barriers to more widespread business participation,” she said.
Reath said other “programming elements” could have been possible, but businesses outside the street closure were limited by county restrictions and other factors. She said most of the OUT on Robertson participation came from nonprofits.
Several speakers called on the council to cancel the program. Resident Mel Greenwalt said he doesn’t see a future in the project, which only benefitted one business, The Abbey.
“This is not something like CicLAvia, which the city of L.A. has had success with,” he said.
Resident Jordan David said the city has failed to “activate the space” since the pilot program’s inception. Prior to the soft-launch, the city towed cars “en masse” with little to no warning, he said.
“Because of the way it was managed, OUT on Robertson is doing more harm than good,” David added.
West Hollywood West Residents Association Vice President Manny Rodriguez said the program was implemented in the wrong location at the wrong time. He said he did appreciate the attempt to promote more walkability in the city.
“But, not on empty, barren streets and not at the expense of eliminating a heavily-used public road that serves residents and visitors well,” Rodriguez added.
Staff members presented the council with four options: continue the program for another three months, continue it as part of the annually-evaluated “work plan,” allow live entertainment as part of the program or conclude it altogether.
Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister said the program should end, but the city should also reconsider the pilot at a later date.
“I’ve always believed that this program … is the type of thing you do when you have a full house in terms of businesses on both sides of the street,” she said.
Councilwoman Sepi Shyne agreed. She said the council’s vision, which included outdoor fitness classes, farmers markets and so on, did not materialize.
“It didn’t end up being that, but the intent was good,” Shyne added.
Mayor Lindsey Horvath said she is open to exploring other OUT Zone options in the area.
“This is a great example of trying something new and seeing if it worked,” she said. “While I don’t think it actually created all the problems that were feared, I do think that giving it another think is the right way to go.”
Councilman John D’Amico asked the council to consider ending the program on Aug. 2 so that The Abbey could have a couple of weeks to adjust and consider alternatives. The council agreed.
“I don’t disagree that it’s very much been focused on one business, but that one business brings a lot of business into the city,” D’Amico said.
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