Good News for Great Streets
City finally gets control of Venice Boulevard, paving the way for a pedestrian-friendly makeover
By Gary Walker
Mar Vista residents can expect to see a little more movement along Venice Boulevard next year — not increased vehicle traffic, but progress on streetscape improvements designed to get people out of their cars.
The mile-long stretch of roadway between Inglewood Boulevard and Beethoven Street is part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative to revitalize neighborhood commercial centers. Great Streets launched in 2014, but until recently the boulevard fell under the authority of Caltrans, not L.A. City Hall.
Following more than two years of negotiations and a legislative push by state Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, city officials took possession of Venice Boulevard earlier this month.
This means ideas that have been taking shape through public engagement efforts begun in 2014 can start being implemented next year, said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
“The things that I’d like to move on fairly quickly are the mid-block crosswalks, protected bicycles lanes and parklets. The order in which things happen is still a little up in the air,” Bonin said.
Mid-block crosswalks accommodate pedestrian movement where there isn’t an intersection. Protected bike lanes are separated from vehicle traffic by curbs, medians or other barriers. Parklets, as one might expect, are tiny parks — typically an expansion of sidewalk over on-street parking spaces to accommodate landscaping, public seating or bicycle parking.
Bonin, who pushed for Mar Vista’s inclusion in Great Streets, hopes to catch up with similar projects in other council districts now that the jurisdictional red tape has been cut.
“I’d like to see everything done in 2017. We could have gone a year ago if we had the boulevard,” he said.
But even as they waited, city officials have been able to make forward progress on other improvements. These include redesigning tree wells, sidewalk repairs and plans to install an interactive SMART bus shelter — complete with a digital display of real-time bus arrival and departure updates — at Venice Boulevard and Centinela Avenue.
Plans for a series of public art murals are also in the works, Grand View Boulevard near the Mar Vista Post Office being one possible location. Mosaic art tiles designed by Mar Vista artist Tracey Corrine — a Great Streets-inspired numbered “hopscotch board” design with an ocean theme — are also being considered for various locations.
“I’m very pleased to see all the activity that’s been going on, with the sidewalks being improved and now the tree wells getting some attention,” said Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce founder Sarah Auerswald, a member of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Great Streets Committee.
“I think the best thing that can happen is that the city will now be responsive to our calls for action — something it couldn’t do before when Caltrans was in charge,” she said.