Will WeHo’s lofty dream for San Vicente Blvd. fly with residents?

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Designers reveal their eye-popping (and probably budget-busting) plan for a plaza in the middle of the road.

In the city’s futuristic vision for San Vicente Blvd., tree-covered islands between the library and the Pacific Design Center will tower over the road below, which the city will be able to convert with ease into a covered outdoor space for public gatherings of all shapes and sizes.

Both pedestrians and drivers will travel beneath the canopies created by the richly landscaped pedestals, which appear in renderings like forests perched on giant martini glasses. Even next to visually iconic landmarks like the PDC and the cantilevered staircase at the park, the San Vicente Streetscape project will no doubt turn heads — whether that’s in awe or horror remains to be seen.

The project is being designed by !melk, a New York-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, and the city’s own Urban Design + Architecture Studio. Representatives from both groups held a Zoom forum Tuesday to get feedback from residents and answer questions about their highly ambitious concept for the one of the busiest spots in WeHo.

Overhead view of the streetscape when closed to traffic
Overhead view of the streetscape when the road is open
Rendering of the streetscape used for a rally or concert

WHAT’S THE POINT?

The project began ostensibly to make closing the street easier and more efficient. The city says it shuts San Vicente Blvd. to traffic between “20 to 30 times a year” so events like the Elizabeth Taylor ball can be held there. The designers say the project will also provide an outdoor gathering space able to accommodate impromptu events like the recent candlelight vigil for Mahsa Amini or the rally to protest Roe v. Wade, both of which were held in the recently finished WeHo Park. Additionally, the high-tech streetscape will help mitigate reckless driving.

CLOSING THE STREET

The road beneath the canopies will be raised and reconfigurable. Monolithic planters will serve as bollards when the street is closed and a median to divide traffic when it isn’t. The planters sit on rails that criss-cross the streetscape, allowing them to be moved and realigned with IKEA-like versatility. The road will be outfitted with a “rumble surface” that will slow traffic.

When closed to traffic, the streetscape will function as a plaza.
Diagram showing the planters blocking the road.
Rendering of the planters

‘A MICROCLIMATE’

One of the designers’ dreamy goals for this project is the creation of a “microclimate,” or what we might call a nature reserve, to foster biodiversity and habitat regrowth via irrigation and shade in a locale full of concrete and direct sunlight.

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Q&A

Residents brought up a number of valid qualms and useful questions to the designers:

Q: Aren’t rumble surfacesand textures difficult for narrow bicycle tires?
A: They’re only intended for the vehicular portions of the roadway.

Q: What about the Metro train subway coming to this location?
A: One of the alignments would entail the subway being underground at this location but it would be further west under West Hollywood Park, approximately 60 to 80 feet below ground.

Q: Won’t the pillars be a traffic hazard? What happens if a car hits them?
A: Trust the structural engineering, the designers said. They also intend to incorporate street lights, utility poles and other vertical obstacles into the pillars.

Q: What events will be hosted here?
A: “Mostly what’s on the current calendar,” the designers said, with the allowance of an impromptu protest or vigil from time to time. But the design of the streetscape is obviously intended for much more than that. The designers brought up food festivals, car shows and a farmer’s market as potential bookings.

“We do not understand creating a street park and we do not wish to have 20 to 30 events in this area!!! Wrong direction.”

Stuart Deninberg spoke for many residents when he made the above comment in the Zoom meeting chat room.

While intrigued by the space-age structure, its ecological impact and its potential functionality, residents had many concerns, including:

  • ‘The person on the sidewalk won’t see the trees on top of the design element.”
  • “The trees will detract from the AIDS Monument.”
  • “I’m concerned about seismic issue with the weight of the trees.”
  • “Cobblestones and rails would be very dangerous for bicycles. The ecology structures look very expensive to build and will look dated in a few years.”
  • “I have participated in the vigil and the protests in the park. There was plenty of room.”
  • “Mario Buatto put a ring of trees on top of the building…talk to them…they died and are no longer there.”

OUR THOUGHTS

The San Vicente Streetscape as envisioned would definitely create the “destination” (landmark) the designers are gunning for.

But why again?

The city just spent millions on the new West Hollywood Park and the adjacent Aquatics Recreation Center. Despite some hiccups, they both turned out beautifully and serve a wealth of purposes. Do we really need another gathering space? Or floating forests requiring untold amounts of water and maintenance? Despite a lack of shade, the wide open expanse of the park has proven perfect for the vigils and rallies that have recently been held there, demonstrating that not only will crowds show up, they will fit comfortably.

Unsurprisingly, the estimated cost of this project — likely a jawdropping figure — went completely unmentioned.

That leads us to think the city sees a money-making opportunity. The streetscape plaza would provide WeHo the large-scale, outdoor, city-owned event space it doesn’t currently have — and with that comes the potential to generate serious revenue from those aforementioned ice cream festivals or car shows. And there’s little incentive to pass up on the huge concerts that residents are worried about.

The San Vicente Streetscape project is ___________________________.

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Mike Carter
Mike Carter
1 year ago

Half of the worlds bird species is in decline. Over 60% of species existing in 1970 have disappeared. This is a clever disguise for trees in pots. What is going to live there? Yesterday close to 200 countries reached an agreement to stem loss of nature, worldwide, pledging to protect nearly a third of earth’s land and oceans as a refuge for the planet’s remaining wild plants and animals. How will we support this aim? With this? Aside from a modest increase in biomass, I do not understand any appreciable increase in habitat. Another self-serving project brought to us by… Read more »

Awareness
Awareness
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Carter

Excellent Comment Mike. Too many folks are oblivious to these elementary facts. All West Hollywood has done in the positive lane is make a grand gesture about preserving the Tree Canopy. Nice symposium for a minimal group that actually got the info. How about introducing this concept to the developers that are responsible for the tree destruction? A few years ago an HPC Commissioner that had graduated to the Planning Commission while paving his way to becoming a Developer’s Facilitator strip mined a property on Spaulding Drive which had been a magical urban forest, without an ounce of regret. The… Read more »

JR Birdsong
JR Birdsong
1 year ago

Really is a colossal waste of money. Let the subway project get finished. All WeHo need is yet another traffic congestion issue. How about hiring more Sheriffs and taking care of what we currently have in WeHo.. The “art” on Santa Monica Blvd. is a joke! Quit wasting money on things that are not necessary.

CHLOE ROSS
1 year ago

As I once heard a two year old baby – needing his diaper changed and getting no action scream…”For cryin’ out C…..t!, I wallowing in poop here’ MOM!” I feel the same way! As an opener, the “do-Bees” start out full of enthusiasm, usually with badly conceived plans and then midway through, they run out of buzz and money. The residents of WeHo wind up with another atrocity half finished and brand new space for blight and blighters to set up housekeeping. Don’t we EVER learn????

Harley Robert
Harley Robert
1 year ago

What happened to the low rent Senior housing that the City was going to build using all of the Digital billboard money?

April Lang
April Lang
1 year ago

Just who came up with this ridiculous, expensive idea? Do we really need this NOW? But we do need funds spent on urgent things- like the homeless problem on the east side- and the garbage they leave all over the streets and the drugs being used and sold around those streets. How about fixing more potholes? How about more traffic bumps to protect kids and pedestrians? How about putting those designers to use figuring out how to lesson the glut of traffic we have to deal with daily? AND more police instead of the bike brigade? I have heard West… Read more »

Rose
Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  April Lang

OH I KNOW! I KNOW Seriously – IT HAS TO BE HEILMAN He with the developers will claim the plants in the idiotic (too nice a word) each plant will be given credit for the developers who by law, to get permission to build bigger & taller than Zoning Law allows if.. A long list including planting of new green (water/drought resistant I am pretty sure is in it) parking spaces (new – hence the $30 million Robo Garage behind city hall (which HAD NO PARKING SHORTAGE TO BEGIN WITH) not for residents use, but credit given to developers but… Read more »

April Lang
April Lang
1 year ago
Reply to  Rose

Some of these “officials” are so corrupt and in bed with those exchanging favors with them. We the people have little say about how funds are spent or who gets to spend them. i’ve been to community meetings where “the public” is invited to voice their opinions. DEAF EARS.
I’m disgusted.

Gecko90069
Gecko90069
1 year ago

This is a brilliant idea, even if the turner concept has some legitimate concerns. Cities all over Europe design streets this way and it creates a safer, more enjoyable environment for residents and visitors alike. Who wouldn’t love to see a Christmas market in West Hollywood? It’s high time we gave greater priority to pedestrian-centric public projects like this instead of worrying about what cars will do. We could use less vehicles tearing recklessly through our city anyways.

Ben McCormick
Ben McCormick
1 year ago
Reply to  Gecko90069

Totally agreed.

Mick in Weho
Mick in Weho
1 year ago

I like the concept, but seems a bit impractical. Maybe if the PDC outdoor space was open to the public, it would be another story, otherwise there is plenty of open space in the park itself. I know this is dreaming big, but always thought it would be kind of cool and artsy to have an elevated space that connected the Beverly Hills bike path and walking trail the ends at Doheny to the West Hollywood Park, winding above ground between the future buildings and spaces that are being planned/built between Doheny and Robertson. A high line of sorts for… Read more »

Joe Bologna
Joe Bologna
1 year ago

How about no to this idea? Because you know they’re going to be having an event and blocking off that street every 30 seconds of every day. And when you block off the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente, it causes ripple-effect gridlock throughout the entire city of L.A. Does anybody remember what it’s like during gay pride weekend?!? Imagine having to deal with that every day. What an absurd idea.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joe Bologna
Mark
Mark
1 year ago

Enough construction. Give it a rest. The new park was finally finished (it’s great) and just a few feet to the West there is major construction pending. Stop already. We need a break. I know this is in the planning stages and will take a lot of time, but….it’s too much.

Rose
Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

Great … At $500,000 million. In other words HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. At the same time BH needed to build a new facilities buildings for city park & public space equip & whatever. A needed project, totalling $11 million. The wealthy residents thought it was way way too expensive. Where 33,000 residents spent half a billion on park & library. Meanwhile claiming no money for police protection, finding (required by law) for our city to have the social services (by contracting out to large City & County departments/facilities for all the social services. And HEILMAN in, back on the table,… Read more »

Brad
Brad
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark

I sort of agree. Too much construction on Melrose and then you would be building these structures with trees on top? A good view for the birds, I guess; but I like my nature staring me in the face. How about a much less expensive planting of many, many leafy, airy shade trees. Once you have San Vicente shaded, then consider the planters in the median (with flowers and trees). Now, I’m rethinking: Why do we need this gathering space? Please – no Farmers Market (there is already one on Melrose Place), no Concerts, and please no Car Shows! The… Read more »

KayAre
KayAre
1 year ago

WeHo continues to pour money into the west side and leaves the east side, it’s poor stepsister, in tattered rags. Yeah, thanks for the colored balls overhead. They are really nice but we could do without the titty lounge, the car repair shops, the pawn brokers and nail shops.

Randy
Randy
1 year ago
Reply to  KayAre

I live on the eastside. Are you expecting them to close those businesses, just because you don’t like them? Do you want a “boys town east?” Do you want more expensive places to eat, like they have over on the west side? How will the city close these businesses down?

Regarding capital improvement, what do you suggest? Other than Plummer Park, which they attempted to modernize, what City property should be changed? There are plans to improve Plummer Park, with citizen involvement this time.

CHLOE ROSS
1 year ago
Reply to  Randy

Randy…I spent over a year being one of the “citizens”. who, with a small but outraged group of residents, saved Plummer Park the last time. And in doing so we were able to gain the park state and national certification and recognition as an Historic Landmark. Plans to improve Plummer Park with citizen involvement this time make me very nervous. Cutting down old growth trees WE saved last time around are part of the improvements. You must be new in WeHo.

Rose
Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

The True Heros of Both Plummer Park & The Foundation of WeHo.

Seems your hard work may be needed again.

Never heard what happened to both the Money & Bonds Issued and Sole for the Plummer Park Tear down you prevented. 🙂

Stephanie Harker
Stephanie Harker
1 year ago
Reply to  CHLOE ROSS

It’s been a battle for 11 years, actually, and it is not over yet. I hope EVERYONE remains vigilant and shows up or writes in when the City asks for input this time. It cost me, personally, thousands and thousands of dollars for an attorney to stop the original plan.

KayAre
KayAre
1 year ago
Reply to  Randy

I live on the east side and have since 1985. Who said anything about closing down businesses. But when businesses close down, the city could make an extra effort to attract businesses, yes, like the west side. Do we need a nude girls from the house of Paris on Santa Monica Blvd? Do we need a half a dozen pawnshops between Fairfax and La Brea? The reason restaurants don’t thrive on the Eastside is because no one wants to go there except for Astro burger. At least the former pink pussycat theater/tomcat is finally closed and up for sale. The… Read more »

Rose
Rose
1 year ago
Reply to  Randy

I do believe the is a Ban of Chain Fast food restaurants within the city.

I’m on a tight budget, don’t usually eat out, but on occasion a fast food could be all I can afford if I wanted to.

BH has that kind of ban ….. But they are BH the official city for super rich people.

The McDonalds on Crescent Heights & Sunset was in the City of LA.

Stephanie Harker
Stephanie Harker
1 year ago
Reply to  Randy

The original Plummer Park Master Plan was not so much to “modernize” but to scrape it of its trees and nationally designated building, so they had an excuse to put in underground parking as a cash cow for the city to sell parking spaces to businesses along SM Blvd. Just what the neighbors wanted (not). I believe the new plan WILL have public input, something that was sorely lacking last time around.

CHLOE ROSS
1 year ago
Reply to  KayAre

How true it ’tis, how true. I live over in Hooterville and so little has changed I have learned to ignore it after 30 years. We have personally created an escape route to pleasanter sections of the area in general. Those areas are called Beverly Hills And Larchmont Vilage. The basic rule of thumb for any change in east WeHo is generally “UGLY”; predicated on the idea that we who live here are far too esthetically or culturally deprived and just won’t notice anyway. Or that this is the “lower east side” (think NYC in the early 1900’s) and every… Read more »

Toms
Toms
1 year ago

With the millions of dollars overspent on the PARK now this. So the park is not good enough that’s the truth. So now throw this in. Are the people that support this delerious.

Wacky Weho
Wacky Weho
1 year ago

Jfc.

Boondoggle

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 year ago

This is beautiful, to be sure, but a colossal waste of time and money. The park is sufficiently large enough to host the smattering of people who have shown up for recent protests and demonstrations. The days of civil rights giants (think David Mixner, Lori Jean, John Duran and others) rallying truly massive crowds are over and the performances are now mostly done in social media echo chambers. There are two wonderful farmer’s markets nearby, including a charming one on Sundays on Melrose Place (the closure of which has minimal impact on traffic flow). This proposal suggests that impromptu closures… Read more »

Trees On Top
Trees On Top
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

So true. All of it. The social media echo chamber has kept the crowds in. Except when calling out the troops for a good old fashion smash and grab or car stunts.

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