Fountain of Sorrow: A walk down WeHo’s worst street

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A major upheaval of Fountain Avenue looms on the horizon, but exactly what this vital West Hollywood corridor will look in the future is anyone’s guess.

The underlying truth in Bette Davis’ famous quip — asked by Johnny Carson how an aspiring starlet could get to Hollywood, the actress replied “Take Fountain” — is that this notoriously narrow road was and remains to this day the fastest way to drive east or west through WeHo.

But it won’t be much longer, at least for drivers.

City Hall is already spending between $5 million and $10 million on a project that will re-invent Fountain Avenue, first and foremost by turning the four-lane road into a two-lane road with protected bike paths. That also means eliminating 150 of the coveted parking spots along the north side of the road. The second half of the project, set to begin in early 2025, includes the reconstruction of the sidewalks, reconfiguring utilities and evaluating how the changes have affected traffic flow and quality of life thus far. The cost of this phase could run as high as $35 million.

Since you won’t get to see the thick, professionally bound reports that City Hall has commissioned from their high-priced consultants for many months or years, if ever, WEHOville decided to get a jump on things by giving you a look at the state of the road and the sidewalks as they are today — and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. I suggest you buckle up.

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LA BREA TO FAIRFAX

 

Our journey began Thursday mid-day in the hinterlands of this fair realm, the intersection of Fountain and La Brea. For many WeHoans, Shalom Peace Square marks an unofficial border crossing between West Hollywood and not-West Hollywood, between the bourgeois bubble and the barbarian wastelands beyond.

That’s the “East of La Brea” joke, which is classist and condescending but based in reality. The East Side of WeHo is plagued by potholes, piecemeal repairs, shitty old buildings, bewildering signage, crumbling concrete, vagrancy, urban blight galore and the sad pallor of long-term neglect. But as you head west, you see improvement with each passing block. By the time you get to Fountain’s western terminus at La Cienega Boulevard, you may as well be in a different city. It’s shameful.

For this part of my investigation, I *walked* my bike on the sidewalks from La Brea to Fairfax, a 1-mile stretch that took about 20 minutes at an unhurried pace. I didn’t *ride* my bike because 1) y’all with your torches and pitchforks 2) Riding a bike on these sidewalks is at best a pain in the ass, and at many spots it’s impossible 3) I wanted the experience of a pedestrian who wasn’t empty-handed — a parent with a baby stroller, a dog walker, an unhoused dude with a grocery cart.

Note: I started off walking on the north sidewalk until I got to Plummer Park, when I remembered the north side of the street isn’t actually in West Hollywood. But WeHo’s sidewalk has the same problems as L.A.’s parallel section does:

  • Utility poles poking right out the middle of the sidewalk.
  • Road markings so confusing they may as well be encrypted.
  • Important parking signs placed in easy-to-miss spots.
  • Sidewalks uprooted by beautiful shady trees that, sorry, are just too big now.
  • Manic or unconscious homeless people
  • Bird and Lime scooters improperly parked or willfully left in harm’s way
  • A minefield of random obstacles: construction debris, tension cables, utility boxes, traffic cones, bollards, garbage and, not infrequently, steaming piles of shit.

There are many places on Fountain’s sidewalks that are borderline impassable for an able-bodied adult on foot. For someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, someone who was partially sighted or recovering from an illness, or a caregiver, or even someone only slightly klutzier than I am, this would be a nightmare.

It suddenly occurred to me how often I was tripping on ornamental grasses, ducking tree branches and squeezing past overgrown privacy hedges. Aren’t these code violations? Why is so much valuable space taken up by planter boxes and half-assed landscaping, fences, walls, unused private patios and unpaved dirt?

As a car driver, I’d seen bicycle icons painted on roads before but I didn’t know they had any real purpose and had no idea they were called “sharrows.” Did you? Sometimes they’re in the middle of the road, sometimes they’re on the edges. Like most of the signage on Fountain and elsewhere, there’s little uniformity. Some crosswalks have a button and warning lights, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes sidewalks have ramps, sometimes they’re just steep dropoffs. Sometimes little plastic sticks divide the road so drivers have to make a right turn, and sometimes they get run over.

Between La Brea and Fairfax, there were about 20 parked cars and 10 empty parking spots on the road’s north side at this time of day, when many people are away at work and parking restrictions are at their loosest. The south side had far fewer empty places to park, and certainly not enough to accommodate the cars if there were no northside parking spots.

Thursday is apparently a trash pickup day on Fountain, so blue bins added to the melee, and the Athens trucks were out in full force. I’m still not clear how the city expects them to operate with the bike lanes in place. Will the trucks stop in the middle of the (two-lane) road while they empty each bin, halting all traffic behind them?

Few other pedestrians were out and about during my journey. Passing by them required some planning and maneuvering and courtesy yielding.

On my entire trip, I saw only one other person with a bike on Fountain Avenue.

Click here to read PART 2: FAIRFAX TO LA CIENEGA

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J Cross
J Cross
6 months ago

By Fountain becoming gridlocked will make Sunset Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd even more gridlocked

J Cross
J Cross
6 months ago

Time to build our own parallel competing Government, why listen to a Government no one wants to participate in other than the corrupt politicians that we outnumber 99,999 to 1? Our Government will garner 99% of the voters. We are all the new mayor now. Not a unbeatable monopoly.

JCB
JCB
6 months ago

Ahh another article from a Texas transplant who thinks Los Angeles needs to do more to encourage driving and less to encourage biking and other healthy ways of getting around.

This is seriously becoming the Fox News of Weho news.

Next he’ll suggest to remove all bike lanes in the city and expand each roadway to 6 lanes.

kab1200
kab1200
6 months ago
Reply to  JCB

Baloney. You didn’t read the article.

Val
Val
6 months ago

Sorry if you don’t like it. Tough Cookies. Move if you don’t like. WeHo doesn’t care.

kab1200
kab1200
6 months ago
Reply to  Val

You are not Weho.

Jacob
Jacob
6 months ago

Last Monday I took Fountain East to West to Weho during the morning rush hour. It was so congested it took 25 minutes to get from La Brea to West Hollywood. What on God’s earth is going to happen when this is 2 lanes?? Truly the most brainless idea on the planet.

Also who in LA is cycling to work every day? Literally nobody apart from one person on the City Council, and that’s just to try and prove their mindless point.

Go fix something that’s broken please.

kab1200
kab1200
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacob

Exactly

JCB
JCB
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacob

I cycle to work every day from WeHo to DTLA….

tulip
tulip
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacob

It’s 10 minutes on a bike.

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J Cross
J Cross
6 months ago
Reply to  tulip

How often is that bike stolen or hit by a car?

C.R.
C.R.
6 months ago
Reply to  Jacob

The weather in LA is perfect for a lot of things, including a lot of cycling, Jacob. It might do you some good if you give it a try!

Richard
Richard
6 months ago

Our City Planners are the dumbest f#@ks on the planet!!! Remember the bump out disaster that were removed after a 6 month trial? Traffic on Fountain during rush hour is already a nightmare and when there are shows at the Hollywood Bowl it’s worse. Removing valuable parking spots? Are you kidding? PARKING IS ALWAYS A PROBLEM AND THIS WORSENS AN ALLREADY BAD SITUATION! The Progressives that want a “bike friendly” city are out of their minds. Most Traffic in our tiny city going East-West are not residents. They will always pass throughout WeHo in cars. The bikers are a miniscule… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Spot on

Shane
Shane
6 months ago

I live on the north side of Fountain between Harper and Sweetzer and I’m LIVID about this. You’re going to take away all the parking, and clog up traffic for bikes that don’t take this street? Who asked for this? NOBODY.

SO ANGRY.

kab1200
kab1200
6 months ago
Reply to  Shane

Exactly

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[…] journey down Fountain, West Hollywood’s most “With or Without You” thoroughfare, continues on its final […]

Brad
Brad
6 months ago

Yes, after much thought and as much as I advocate for more bike infrastructure, I think you’ve convinced me. This is not a good idea. First something should be done to make driving Fountain safer. Too much weaving in and out because of the parking east of Laurel, but I’m not saying get rid of the parking, maybe just a slower speed limit. As a bicyclist, why would I take Fountain when all the businesses are on Santa Monica? Answer: I would not, it is out of the way. Even if I’m going east and west, I would have to… Read more »

tulip
tulip
6 months ago
Reply to  Brad

Exactly! Why would anyone take the 10 freeway when Olympic is right there! As a driver why would I take the 10 when the business are on Olympic??

Truly...
Truly...
6 months ago

Actually, the northen border of WeHo along Fountain does include the north sidewalk but ONLY the north sidewalk, norhing north of this line.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
6 months ago
Reply to  Truly...

No, the roadway up to the north curb is WeHo‘s. Curb, sidewalk, and all property north is Los Angeles. Brandon can verify with Public Works that our city doesn’t maintain those sidewalks.

Truly...
Truly...
6 months ago
Reply to  WeHoMikey

I spoke with an official at City Hall. According to this quite reliable source, the WeHo property line extends north from just east of La Brea to Fairfax to include the north sidewalk but nothing more. Once you reach the west side of Fairfax, the Fountain demarcation line moves north towards Sunset. FYI – I think that City Hall stlll offers maps of the WeHo’s geograohical boundaries OR maybe you can locate this on line via the City website or perhaps through other searches. I have submitted a request to have the traffic signals at La Brea and Fountain include… Read more »

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