Shoppers may soon begin to notice a more visually appealing atmosphere on major corridors in the Venice and Westchester communities that just might influence them to walk around a bit.
New developments along Lincoln Boulevard in Venice and along Sepulveda Boulevard and adjacent streets in Westchester will be subject to new design guidelines after the Los Angeles City Council has given final approval to Community Design Overlay (CDO) districts for the major thoroughfares. The City Council voted to approve the guidelines for Venice May 7th, and for Westchester May 14th.
The new design standards will cover Lincoln Boulevard in Venice between the Santa Monica border and the entrance to the Marina Freeway. In Westchester, the guidelines cover Sepulveda Boulevard between Los Angeles International Airport and 84th Place, bounded to the west by Sepulveda Westway and to the east by Sepulveda Eastway, La Tijera Boulevard and Kittyhawk Avenue.
The Community Design Overlay districts are intended to enhance the visual and aesthetic qualities of the corridors as well as encourage a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
The districts will have no immediate impact on existing structures in the areas but will place design guidelines on any new development projects and existing parcels that are planned for redevelopment, Los Angeles planning officials said. The guidelines relate to various aspects of the projects, including uses, parking, entrances, setbacks from the street, signage and landscaping.
Los Angeles city planners who were active in the process noted how the efforts to implement the design overlay districts were spearheaded by community groups that worked for years to make the boulevards more appealing.
“We’re thrilled that it’s gone through and we look forward to seeing some incremental change on Lincoln,” city planning associate Shana Bonstin said of the Lincoln design overlay. “It was a community-driven effort.”
Christopher Koontz, the city planning assistant who worked on the Westchester district, said, “It brought people together and defined what the community is.
“It gives everyone certainty and gives the community a visual of what the future growth will look like and where it’s going to happen.”
Among the various design standards are that new buildings must be constructed closer to street curbs, parking lot locations must be constructed away from the sidewalk, new parking structures must contain ground-floor retail, a building’s main entrance must open onto the major street and a majority of the storefront must consist of windows.
Both districts prohibit the construction of drive-through services except for car washes and gas stations, as well as pole signs and flashing or blinking signs. For Lincoln, the standards prohibit the use of outdoor security grills and fences or walls higher than 42 inches.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents both Venice and Westchester, called the design overlay approval a “beautiful moment,” and he praised the work of residents in both communities to see that the new guidelines be put in place.
“All future development on Lincoln and near Manchester Avenue in Westchester will now have a design in place to reflect the community’s vision,” Rosendahl said. “The residents will be able to see the future of those streets have the character, style and class that they want.”
Former City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski introduced motions for the design overlay districts at the request of community members and directed Department of City Planning staff to work with residents, business owners and neighborhood leaders in developing the new standards.
Residents in both communities say the main corridors could use a visual makeover and need to become more pedestrian-oriented. David Ewing, a member of the Venice Community Coalition, which was active in the Lincoln district process, said that the “street looks like it’s been demoralized over time.”
“It’s about making Lincoln a more pedestrian-friendly street — a place that could be a main street for Venice,” Ewing said.
Lincoln has been considered a dividing line between the east and west sides of Venice, so it should be a place where people come together, Ewing said.
The idea for a Lincoln design overlay stemmed from the “Envision Venice” workshop organized by the Venice Community Coalition in 2003, when the community opposed a major proposed project in the area. After community meetings were held on the overlay proposal, Miscikowski first introduced the motion in 2004 and the plan was later approved by the Planning Commission.
“We’re really pleased,” Venice Community Coalition member Laura Silagi said of the overlay district approval. “We worked for many years to have this happen.”
Silagi and Ewing noted how the implementation of a design overlay district for the corridor is a “first step” in the effort to develop a master plan for Lincoln.
The community design overlay for downtown Westchester was called for by community residents after the city updated the community plan in 2004. Westchester residents also said the guidelines will help make one of the gateways to Los Angeles more attractive for business.
“The passage of the Westchester CDO represents a major step forward in improving the business community,” said Don Duckworth, Westchester Business Improvement District executive director.
John Ruhlen, chair of the Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association, said that while the guidelines may take some time to have a real impact, they will help boost the corridor’s visual appeal in the future.
“They will give some good eye appeal to the boulevard in the future and help make it more attractive,” Ruhlen said.
Community Design Overlay districts are also planned for the Loyola Village area and for Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey.