Street improvements shine in West Hollywood
In August, West Hollywood, Calif., completed reconstruction of three miles of Santa Monica Boulevard, which serves as the city’s main street. The $28 million reconstruction is the largest capital improvement project ever undertaken by the city.
For decades, Santa Monica Boulevard served as a regional highway connecting Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles, and, as such, it fell under the jurisdiction of Caltrans, the state Department of Transportation. In 1997, the section of the boulevard that ran through West Hollywood had deteriorated and was characterized by poor pavement, sparse streetscapes and narrow sidewalks. The City Council negotiated with the state to take over jurisdiction for the roadway so the city could redesign it and make improvements.
The roadway is flanked by residential areas and 1,000 small businesses, retailers and restaurants that create large volumes of pedestrian traffic. As the city began to design improvements, officials focused on making the area more pedestrian friendly. For example, they wanted to:
increase pedestrian safety and capitalize on the scale and character of the boulevard;
design the boulevard to better accommodate cultural, recreational and other community activities;
improve existing landscaping and provide additional landscaping;
create distinctive gateways on both ends of the boulevard; and
reconfigure the median to maximize the use of sidewalks.
City staff held a series of workshops to gather ideas from residents and area businesses regarding the street’s improvements. The ideas were submitted to a 42-person advisory committee, which worked with the design team, Portland, Ore.-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership, to finalize the streetscape layout and project priorities.
Throughout the planning process, staff and consultants helped teach residents about complex planning and urban design elements to create consensus on the project’s master plan. In spring 1999, the City Council adopted the Santa Monica Boulevard Master Plan.
The reconstruction project began in September 1999 and included rehabilitating the roadway and sidewalks, planting 1,000 shade trees, landscaping the median and gateways, installing wiring for holiday decorations and decorating crosswalks at major intersections. To keep residents informed of progress on the lengthy construction project, the city set up a storefront where residents could view drawings and ask questions, and it put the Master Plan on the city’s Web site.
By reclaiming the boulevard from the state, the city received $8.6 million from the state for basic roadway and sidewalk reconstruction. Additional funding for the project included $1.5 million in state and county grants, $3.2 million in grants from the Metropolitan Transit Authority and $2.3 million from sales taxes generated by transit-related programs and gas taxes. The remainder of the project cost was covered by the city’s general fund reserves.
Because of the roadway’s improvements, West Hollywood expects to generate more tourism, which will benefit the city through sales and hotel revenues and taxes. That revenue is expected to offset the project’s costs and generate money for additional features such as fountains and artwork.