Mayor John M. Erickson and Councilmember John Heilman attempted to course-correct the trajectory of the San Vicente Streetscape project at City Council’s meeting Monday night, raising concerns that city planners had let the wildly ambitious designs careen out of control.
“I mean, one truck down San Vicente, I think we’re gonna say goodbye to this based on the height mechanisms,” Erickson said, referring to the overhanging structures — the “Sky Sanctuaries” — that would be supporting tons of earth and foliage over the boulevard.
He chided city planners for devoting so much attention to this project when so many other languished.
“My concerns are how much staff time did we spend on this when we have many development projects, many housing projects, and a lot of other items that bring in a lot of revenue to the city that we hear about regularly from people saying, ‘We can’t get an email, we can’t get a response, there are corrections, it takes months,’” Erickson said. “We heard the same thing regarding our cannabis organizations that are waiting a long time.”
Heilman wondered what had become of the original directive: to create a flexible meeting space on the boulevard between the Pacific Design Center and the library.
“How did that morph into something that involves permanent structures and movable structures?” Heilman asked. “This seems to be dramatically different than what the original agenda item asked for — and the follow-up: under what authority did you grow this item to be this big?”
Ric Abramson of the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Studio noted the interest in outside “funding agencies.”
“We learned that there’s a major storm drain, a ten-foot diameter pipe under San Vicente that has not been serviced,” Abramson said. “And so, there was tremendous interest in, through this project, creating a portal or connection underground.”
“If the course is going to be changed, it should be changed based on Council direction and not based on what external funders would find desirable,” Heilman replied. “The structure here seems completely unrelated to doing storm drain work. So, I don’t understand that justification.”
Heilman called the renderings beautiful and futuristic but worried about overlapping with future Metro construction.
“I’m also mindful of a different project we undertook on Sunset, which was a streetscape improvement,” Heilman said. “For those of you who don’t remember, it’s gone because it was so ridiculous. And I feel like some aspects of that are replicated here. This seems like the vision of an academic who looked at this and said, ‘Wouldn’t this be wonderful if we did all of this?’ suggesting the construction of a ‘sky sanctuary’ over the boulevard. However, there are many in the public who view this as a very expensive project that isn’t necessarily desirable as a public gathering place.”
Councilmember Lauren Meister took a more favorable stance, advocating for the project and citing its alignment with multiple city goals like climate resilience, biodiversity enhancement and mobility improvements.
‘I think that this project is something that would put us on the map as the Creative City,” Meister said. “I think we’ve sort of lost that a bit.”
Meister was willing to proceed without waiting for definitive answers from Metro, suggesting that the project could potentially influence Metro to choose a route that benefits the city’s commercial corridors rather than residential areas.
Vice Mayor Chelsea Byers also expressed enthusiasm for the project, praising city planners for transcending initial expectations and forming regional partnerships.
She joined Meister and Councilmember Sepi Shyne in voting for a motion to hire a technical consultant at an estimated cost of $130,000 and to increase the budget for the current design and consulting team by an estimated $95,000. This funding is to complete a required technical study within six months to meet the July 2024 grant application deadline for the Los Angeles County Safe Clean Water Infrastructure Grant Program. The motion included instructions for staff to coordinate with Metro to prevent any future conflicts or issues. The motion also called for an allocation of $225,000 from general fund reserves to finance these actions.
Erickson and Heilman voted against the measure.