Hundreds weigh in on city’s Great Streets upgrade plan

By Gary Walker

Kids take a crack at redesigning Venice Boulevard Photo by Mia Duncans

Kids take a crack at redesigning Venice Boulevard
Photo by Mia Duncans

Slower traffic. Sidewalk dining. Better parking.

The people have spoken — well, at least started to speak — about the kinds of changes they hope Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets plan will bring to Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista.

Great Streets is an effort to revitalize key neighborhood corridors as pedestrian- and small-business friendly public gathering places through infrastructure upgrades and community networking. The 0.8-mile stretch of Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard is the program’s Westside pilot project.

On Jan. 10, Garcetti and Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin went door to door in Mar Vista to drum up support for the plan and encourage attendance at a Great Streets community open house last Sunday near the Mar Vista Farmers Market. Both say community desire will determine what changes they pursue.

During the event, which featured an interactive board allowing users to rearrange the Venice Boulevard landscape, more than 100 people completed surveys about what they would change — or not change — along Venice Boulevard. Bonin’s office has received 339 completed surveys so far, he said.

Mar Vista resident Andrew Galambos suggested more sidewalk dining as a way to get people out of their cars.

“One of the things that the businesses seem to like is having wider sidewalks so that they can put tables outside. Another idea that has not happened in this area is to take out a parking space or two and replace it with a parklet, a temporary fixture where people can sit and relax. That seemed to be a big attraction with people,” Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman said.

“We’ve also heard about maybe having a road diet on Venice, where the street is made narrower to slow traffic down so that cyclists can enjoy pedaling at a slow speed,” he said.

Parking concerns — specifically more spaces and fewer restrictions — are a major concern among business owners, Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce President Sarah Auerswald said.

“If we want more restaurants here, we’re going to have to build more [parking] capacity. A parking lot could be a gold mine,” Auerswald said.

Susan Klos, a filmmaker and real estate agent for eco-friendly properties who lives on Grand View Boulevard, wants more green features built with pedestrians in mind. A member of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Green Committee, Klos said the group is encouraging drought tolerant or native plants and discouraging artificial turf.

“Mar Vista has been a leader in all areas of sustainability, and that includes getting more people to walk their neighborhoods and get out of their cars,” she said.

Gillman acknowledged that landscape and traffic-flow changes won’t be possible without support from Caltrans, which maintains Venice Boulevard as a state highway, but said the state appears open to working with the city.

Bonin said he was pleased with Sunday’s turnout.

“I think people enjoyed that it was interactive and didn’t feel like a boring government meeting,” he said. “People are jazzed about Great Streets and about being able to shape what that is.”