San Vicente road upgrades balloon into $18 million art project

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The San Vicente Streetscape Project started off as a few shade structures, some street lighting and other minor improvements to San Vicente Boulevard between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose when it was approved in February 2022. The hope was that they would make closing the road for events and rallies a little less of a hassle.

But a lot can happen in two years — especially when consultants get involved.

The plan for road improvements has since metastasized into a mammoth public works project which aims to be many things to many people: nature conservation area, global tourist attraction, crowd control mechanism. 

On Monday night, City Council will get the first look at the highly ambitious project — now dubbed “Sky Sanctuaries” — since they encouraged the landscape architects at !melk to pursue the more fanciful of the concepts they were presented. 

The project was originally going to cost between $1.5 and $2 million. But grand plans call for big bucks, and the final bill could be as high as $18 million.

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Sky Sanctuaries

What the proposal refers to as the Sky Sanctuaries are akin to an elevated forest hoisted on columns above San Vicente Boulevard like a freeway overpass, providing shade below, a wildlife preserve above and various infrastructure perks throughout.

Central to its design are “basket scoops” that capture and reuse rainwater collected in integrated cisterns.

The plaza is supposed to act as a “micro-forest,” aimed at supporting local wildlife such as pollinators, insects and migrating birds. This approach introduces the concept of urban rewilding into a densely populated area. The elevated forests, purportedly low maintenance, will not be accessible to the public. 

The road will no longer have curbs. Instead, the plaza will raised up on a “street shelf” meant to slow vehicular traffic and make travel easier for disabled pedestrians and event attendees. Movable planters on railway tracks below the scoops will be used to close or section off the road for cars or crowds. Permeable pavement will counter the urban heat island effect and assist in stormwater management.

The design includes community education and engagement features, such as a nature watching installation and public information kiosks. These elements aim to inform the public about wildlife, pollination, and micro-climate biodiversity, increasing environmental awareness and fostering community-nature connections.

When built, Sky Sanctuaries will be a difficult sight to ignore, even next to the Pacific Design Center. 

City Hall has another set of consultants forecasting the economic benefits of such an eye-popping investment. The project will nominally boost travel, tourism and support for small businesses through events, ostensibly leading to increased sales tax revenue, spending and job creation. It aims to “enhance equity and access” by providing a fully accessible space that mitigates environmental impacts, thus improving health and wellness. The project will also elevate the city’s brand and attract potential stakeholders, improving walkability and enhancing the quality of life. It might also increase real estate values and tax revenues due to its proximity to accessible public spaces.

Community outreach has been minimal at best, but the feedback City Hall has received from residents includes a number of valid concerns and many questions that have not yet been answered:

• Canopy structures will compress space and encourage traffic to slow
• How are median planters moved?
• How often will the road be closed?
• Are the proposed elements crash proof?
• Are the proposed elements seismic proof?
• What crowd sizes can be expected?

City Hall claims prospective grants will cover as much as 80 percent of the construction costs, they claim. The project’s scheduled completion date is in 2030 — unless City Council is willing to fork over more city funds to expedite it. Doing so would place the completion date in late 2027, just in time for the crowds coming to the Olympic Games.

 

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Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
21 days ago

I wish that rather than just discussing it here, everyone would write to the city and tell them these thoughts! you can write to [email protected]
You have to write them before 2p.m. on Monday Feb. 5. It is agenda item 5A. Make sure you put that in the subject line.
I know it feels good to vent here, but it doesn’t solve the problem unless you let the city know how you feel! Please write them. I just did!

DTF
DTF
21 days ago

While the project as envisioned is very beautiful, its estimated cost is 18MM, 16MM over budget or 900% more than planned. Im actually more concerned that the currently envisioned project saddles the city with enormous ongoing expenses. Those plants aren’t going to maintain themselves and access to them is not easy. While the city is flush now, this is irresponsible financial management for the future.  An also beautiful very low maintenance structure which is also easier to build and make seismically hardened is a pergola and can be built MUCH more reasonably priced and with much less maintenance load, money which we need… Read more »

Larry
Larry
22 days ago

How much affordable housing could the City build with this money?

Larry Block
22 days ago
Reply to  Larry

Per the latest construction costs at the Wetherly Palms each affordable housing unit cost 690k, So about 26 units.

Syd
Syd
22 days ago

I like it. It’s pretty and kinda cool. But is it worth 18 million to build? That’s a whole different conversation. We need affordable housing and to get people off the streets and out living in their cars. That should be a priority and not spending 18 million for a vanity project. Just my 2 cents.

Christopher Roth
Christopher Roth
24 days ago

This looks amazing! Reminds me of Singapore. Would defiantly contribute to WeHo becoming a must see when visiting Los Angeles. Great job!

More Trees Fewer Wires
More Trees Fewer Wires
24 days ago

Instead use this money to… replace every utility pole with a tree. And put the utilities underground. Start with the streets with the most poles and wires.

E. Lawlar
E. Lawlar
23 days ago

Exactly right. Take an action that will benefit the entire city’s air quality, appearance, & ecosystem, while removing the hazardous blight of wires by burying them. Just like a real, grown-up city.

Steve Too
Steve Too
21 days ago

Great idea! Something that helps the whole city.

West Hollywood has spent a disproportionate amount of money on the park and surrounding environs on San Vicente the past 10 years. Sure, this project looks nice, but doesn’t benefit a significant portion of the community.

C'mon Sense
C'mon Sense
24 days ago

Spooky looking and more importantly, unnecessary. Has no one ever heard of the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Guess not. This is just another ribbon cutting event for the City Council.

david
david
24 days ago

An unnecessary project! Love how it’s benefit is based on tourism. At the end of the day what benefit does it provide to the citizens of West Hollywood? At the end of the day San Vicente is a roadway and for special occasions is used for special events. By no means is the price tag worth this. Let’s get back to infrastructure priorities. I also would love to know why once again West Hollywood Park’s master plan didn’t include any of this.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
25 days ago

This city and its treasury continue to be used as a playground for a city bureaucracy that consists largely of employees from out of town. They seem to have a fetish for throwing money in six-figure allotments to crazy consultants (also from out of town) to fix things that aren’t broken.

Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
24 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

IMHO… SUPERFICIALITY!! It seems to be of prime importance to the people who run our city. They don’t want to dig down deep to find the real city, any more than they want to dig down deep to find the real person. if the person is pretty, that’s good enough for them! They just want to gloss over everything and make it look all shiny and over the top. When they run out of ego driven beautification pet projects that we may or may not need, they start gilding the lily. They start dreaming up things that really don’t need… Read more »

Steve
Steve
25 days ago

Yet we can’t get bike lanes and an updated park on the east side. Nice.

Long Time Resident
Long Time Resident
25 days ago
Reply to  Steve

The City doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the east side. We are the step-children of the City. It pisses me off sometimes. All it does is improve (or what they think will improve) the west side.

Needa Bikelane
24 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Did I hear someone make a (valid) complaint about our lack of bike infrastructure? Join us!

How much?!
How much?!
25 days ago

The good thing about the elevated trees is that it will muffle the sound coming from that area when there’s a large event. That’s a big thing for the neighborhood south and north of that area.

Last edited 25 days ago by How much?!
RJH
RJH
25 days ago

It would be one thing if ALL our streets in the city were in perfect shape and we had a huge surplus in the city budget, but we know this is NOT true. Why not FIX and REPAVE all the streets in the city first before moving on to this over the top costly project. Have you driven on Robertson between Melrose and Beverly recently???? This street has been in 3rd World condition for almost a decade and there are plenty more streets like it that need similar repairs.

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