Overlooking where the 134 and 2 freeways tie together– Downtown LA is visible off in the distance.
It may be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when freeways didn’t cut through Northeast LA. The land occupied by freeways today was not undeveloped: homes had to be demolished, hillsides flatted, streets removed altogether to make way for the massive automobile infrastructure that encircles the neighborhood. Large parts of Northeast LA were erased for freeways – lost in the name of progress – leaving residents with little more than memories of a pre-freeway Northeast LA, memories which will fade as those who lived through local freeway construction continue to age and become a smaller portion of the population. Old photos and local newspapers from the area documented freeway construction in Northeast LA, but there is little physical evidence one can encounter today that shows signs of the past; things were either destroyed or preserved–very few parts of the urban landscape were only partially destroyed for the freeways.
Maps offer good indications of how things used to be; looking at a map, one can see streets currently bisected by freeways, mentally “connect the dots,” and visualize how the streets used to run uninterrupted before the freeways arrived. However, every now and then, if one looks closely, one will notice subtle hints in the urban landscape – in addition to what maps and street names offer – from the time before freeways came to Northeast LA. In northern part of Glassell Park, close to the neighborhood’s border with the city of Glendale, there is a fascinating hint of the past, which now sits as a scar from the 2 Freeway’s destructive path through the neighborhood. Continue reading →
As many likely know by now, Colorado Boulevard will undergo some changes this August to make the street safer and improve conditions for walking and bicycling. Currently, one of the barriers to a pleasant and convenient walk on Colorado is the glaring absence of safe, comfortable crossing opportunities. In August, alongside buffered bike lanes, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will also add a couple of crosswalks to where our neighborhood’s main street intersects with El Rio Avenue and Glen Iris Avenue. While additional crosswalks are sorely needed, one cannot help but to wonder if two additional crosswalks will be enough to make Colorado Boulevard a pleasant street for pedestrians.
Where Are Crossings Needed?
Upon a quick review of Colorado Boulevard, it appears that the LADOT opted to add crosswalks so that crossing opportunities are spaced more evenly throughout the neighborhood’s main commercial corridor; they will be adding crosswalks to the big gaps in crossing opportunities. While that certainly is one way to approach the need for crosswalks, it can overlook other details of the street, including: how people use the street and where crosswalks would be most useful.
On commercial corridors, crosswalks are most needed where people are found walking. While this may seem obvious, not all portions of commercial corridors are necessarily attracting foot traffic and this is certainly true of Colorado Boulevard. Due to the street’s history and inconsistent development patterns along its commercial portion, certain parts of the street attract more travel by foot than others.
The most walkable part of Colorado Boulevard is 0.7 mile long stretch between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Townsend Avenue. This portion developed as it did largely because it had a streetcar running along it, encouraging pedestrian oriented commercial development during the neighborhood’s earlier years. Thanks to the effort of historicpreservationists, a considerable number of pedestrian oriented buildings remain here, and as a result, this part of Colorado Boulevard attracts the most foot travel because it provides the most pleasant and convenient walking experience. It is perhaps no surprise then that this is also where there is the most demand for safe and pleasant crossing opportunities. Continue reading →
Sign telling pedestrians they are not allowed to cross the street at this corner
Colorado Boulevard needs more crosswalks, because while any corner unless signage dictates otherwise is technically an “unmarked crosswalk,” the experience of crossing at an unmarked crosswalk on the street is very unpleasant. Rarely, if ever, do motorists yield to pedestrians as they should at unmarked crosswalks. Here’s what one typically sees at Colorado Boulevard’s “unmarked” crosswalks:
People running across the street
Waiting for a break in the flow of cars (because the drivers won’t yield)
Westdale Avenue is one of Eagle Rock’s shorter streets, only about a quarter of a mile long according to Google Maps. The street is bisected by Eagle Rock Boulevard, cut into two distinctive sections.
Westdale Avenue as seen from Google Maps. Image credit: Google Maps
Two blocks east of Eagle Rock Boulevard, Westdale Avenue terminates by Occidental College where the street meets with Campus Road. Many residents in the area have probably traversed at least part of this section of the street between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Campus Road– perhaps to reach Oxy or to get onto or off of Eagle Rock Boulevard.
Westdale Avenue, “Not A Through Street”
The western portion is an unassuming a cul-de-sac, as signified by a “Not A Through Street” sign placed where the street intersects with Eagle Rock Boulevard, one block before the street terminates. Oddly, Westdale holds the distinction of being the only street in Eagle Rock that ends in a cul-de-sac one block immediately west of Eagle Rock Boulevard. Most streets that intersect with Eagle Rock Boulevard connect to Ellenwood Drive, if heading west. But what does this part of Westdale really look like? What is this unique cul-de-sac like in person, beyond what a Google Map street view tour can provide?
Eagle Rock is very proud to be home to the humble and increasingly well-known Occidental College, or Oxy as it is known among the college’s students and locals. The sign that welcomes people at our town’s eastern end, at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Wiota Street, reads “Eagle Rock, Founded 1911. Home of Occidental College”. Every year when Occidental College starts the Fall semester a banner hangs at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard that welcomes Oxy students back to Eagle Rock. These are literally signs of the affection and positive relationship fostered between the College and Eagle Rock.
There is no doubt that Occidental College has had a positive impact on our community, and that Eagle Rock has been good to Oxy. Though perhaps Eagle Rock can be more welcoming to Occidental College, particularly to its students, and equally benefit to the community at large through ways that embody the messages we put on our welcome sign and the banner that hangs over our town’s major intersection.
While Eagle Rock has always been home to a handful of Oxy students, about 60% of the school’s students are not from California, which demonstrates quite clearly many students are seeing Eagle Rock for the first time. Eagle Rock being the lovely and cool neighborhood that it is is definitely worth exploring, but is our community accessible and inviting to the many car-free college students who’ve never been here before? Our residential streets are typically relaxing and nice to walk along, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of our car-centric commercial corridors– which is a shame because that’s where our local businesses are! But things can change, for the better.
A view of the veteran memorial. Photo credit: Waltarrrrr
At the intersection of York Boulevard and North Figueroa Street in Highland Park sits a triangular parcel of land known as the Highland Park veteran memorial. Unfortunately, because the memorial is relatively small and flanked speeding traffic on all sides it can be an unpleasant place to spend time.
However, it seems things could perhaps change for the better. The veteran memorial recently became property of the Department of Recreation and Parks and there is talk that the veteran memorial public space may be expanded by possibly converting the adjacent right turning pocket or parking lot into an extension of the memorial space.
The intersection of York Boulevard and North Figueroa Street. The triangular veteran memorial space could be expanded by converting the right turn pocket and/or adjacent parking lot into parks pace. Image credit: Google Maps
The summer is over which means that Walk Eagle Rock is migrating north to Berkeley for an other semester of university. While there’s no place like home, there are occasions on which I feel Eagle Rock can learn from Berkeley, particularly about street design and especially now with Take Back The Boulevard afoot.
Downtown Berkeley’s main street is Shattuck Avenue and it may not resemble Colorado Boulevard much but there are elements from the street that seem they could be happily embraced along Colorado Boulevard. Let’s take a look…
Earlier this summer I walked some streets in Eagle Rock, observed conditions and noted my impressions. One of the streets I walked was Las Flores Drive. Las Flores is perhaps one of Eagle Rock’s narrowest and must unassuming streets, it rests parallel between our main commercial corridor – Colorado Boulevard – and one of our most prestigious and wealthy streets – Hill Drive.
Las Flores Drive is marked in blue (with a brief jog onto Hill Drive as Las Flores is bisected by Caspar Avenue), Colorado Boulevard is marked in red, and Hill Drive is the unmarked, winding street roughly parallel Las Flores to the north.
Now, Las Flores is a little disjointed, as I’ve noted in a previous post, but it can be understood, especially with the image above, that it mostly parallels Hill Drive and Colorado Boulevard.
I started my walk on the eastern end where Las Flores intersects with Townsend Avenue
Looking west on Las Flores Drive from Townsend Avenue
A lone pedestrian tries to cross Colorado Boulevard to reach Trader Joe’s
A vibrant commercial corridor is in part identified by how easy it is to cross the street. The easier it is to cross, typically, the more shopping and people friendly a street is. Think about Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena or York Boulevard between Avenue 50 and Avenue 53 in Highland Park. Both these streets have safe, convenient crossings on every block that make it easy to stroll while fostering a low stress environment for people on foot. Along these business corridors pedestrians are not confined to one side of the street for long intervals.
Conversely, on Eagle Rock’s main commercial corridor – which is frequently defined by Colorado Boulevard as it runs between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Townsend Avenue – only 7 of 12 intersections have crossing opportunities. At roughly 3,800ft long, the “downtown Eagle Rock commercial corridor” has two major gaps in crossing opportunities.
Colorado Boulevard, the commercial center of Eagle Rock, will undergo a transformation if the initiative Take Back The Boulevard can maintain the momentum it is experiencing at the moment. A lot of ideas about how to improve the boulevard are being circulated– everything from angled parking to sidewalk extensions, to increased greenery, to bike lanes, and more! Just the other day Eastsider shared the idea of reversed angle in parking as solution.
While there are many popular ideas, I feel that it is important to reflect on the mission of this worthy effort to reclaim our main street from the dangerous freeway it currently resembles. Take Back The Boulevard seeks to transform Colorado Boulevard into a safe, sustainable, and vibrant street in order to stimulate economic growth, increase public safety and enhance community pride. Given that we cannot accommodate all the possible ideas being discussed due to limited space on the street I would like to share why I believe a solution that includes protected bike lanes, also known as cycle tracks, could fulfill as many of the desires of this initiative and is perhaps the most promising solution available.