Creating Safe Routes to School for Delevan Elementary

On just about on any weekday it is an all too familiar sight–  bumper-to-bumper traffic surrounding our local school. Children cannot drive yet they contribute remarkably to local traffic congestion because most of their parents drop them off at school by car. The comparatively few children that do walk, bicycle, or take transit are put at risk by street designs that promotes driving children to school. Wide streets, high speed limits, and poor pedestrian infrastructure all signal to parents that their children are better off being driven to school, even when a family might live within walking distance from school.

Unless this is a status quo we are satisfied with, something needs to change. But where do we start? No public school in Eagle Rock is as pedestrian hostile as Delevan Elementary, as it sits immediately adjacent to a freeway on and off-ramp. If there is consensus to start where there is the greatest need, maybe it should be here.

What Delevan Elementary (and every other school in the area) needs, are “safe routes to school.” What does this mean? It means that, for example, if one lives within a mile of their local school that there should be safe, pleasant, and convenient infrastructure provided to walk and bicycle there. This is intended to not only make it safer, but to also promote walking and bicycling as a common-sense choice for those fortunate enough to live close to school.

Often times it is not sufficient for there simply to be sidewalks and crosswalks. If a kid still has to cross 100 feet of asphalt just to get to the other side of the street it does not matter if a crosswalk is provided, there is too much exposure to potential danger for any parent to feel comfortable letting their children walk to school. Similarly, it does not matter if the speed limit is 25 miles per hour when drivers are capable of far exceeding this speed.

What would conditions that promote walking and bicycling to school look like for Delevan Elementary? Below is a sampling of some potential solutions:

Have the intersection of Wawona St and Ave 42 go from this…

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Difficult-to-see crosswalks, minimal curbcuts, wide crossing distance, and little greenery.

…to this

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Shorter crossing distance, more visible crosswalks, added greenery, and additional curb cuts.

And what if the existing pedestrian overpass went from this…

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Narrow, poorly lit, and closed-in.

…to something more like this…

The Berkeley Pedestrian Bridge

Wide with separate bicycle and pedestrian space, well-lit and more open feel.

Perhaps the freeway on-ramp outside of the school could be made more pedestrian friendly by consolidating the two entrance points and reducing the exposure to traffic entering the freeway. This would also force drivers to slow down before entering the freeway and improve visibility of those crossing. It would go from this….

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Two entrances to the freeway make crossing here as a pedestrian unsettling and unsafe.

…to this

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Closing one entrance and replacing it with a sidewalk will reduce exposure to traffic entering the freeway. Having freeway-bound traffic cross at a perpendicular angle will improve visibility of pedestrians and require traffic to slow down (rather than speed up) before getting onto the on-ramp.

Of course, while wider sidewalks, better crossings, and more pleasant overpasses are well worth their investment, not everything need be so elaborate either.

What if we simply got rid of signs placed literally in the middle of the sidewalk? Just outside of Delevan Elementary a “no parking” sign obstructs the sidewalk  while a “stop ahead is placed to the well outside of the usable sidewalk space. From this…IMG_2288.JPG

…to this

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Red curbs send the same message as “no parking anytime” signs. Replacing the existing sign with a red curb here could free up sidewalk space.

These are just some ideas of varying intensities that could improve conditions for walking to Delevan Elementary but there are surely many other ways we can make safe and pleasant conditions for children walking or bicycling to school. Even if it does not make morning traffic magically disappear, it will at least give families a viable option, and make it safer for those that make the socially responsible, as well as healthy, choice of walking and bicycling.

Making The Oinkster More Pedestrian Friendly

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A man transporting groceries bikes past The Oinkster’s parking lot

Colorado Boulevard has become a more people-friendly boulevard over the years, in part due to the guidance of the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan, which largely prohibits the addition of auto-oriented businesses and requires new businesses and developments be more pedestrian-oriented. One of the many properties which has been transformed thanks to the Specific Plan is the current site of The Oinkster, a local favorite that draws customers from all over the County.

Before it was The Oinkster, the building was home to a fast food joint named “Jim’s Burger.” Although Jim’s occupied the same building that The Oinkster does, it was less pedestrian friendly as it had a drive-through, little landscaping, and a modest outdoor patio fronting Colorado Boulevard.

Due to provisions in the Specific Plan, when The Oinkster opened it no longer had a drive-through, and it increased the amount of greenery on the property. The existing outdoor patio was made more pleasant for those dining, in part because of the added greenery and lack of drive-through with idling cars, but also because the new property owners also took it upon themselves to make an inviting space for customers to enjoy outdoors.

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By all accounts, The Oinkster is much more pleasant to walk by than Jim’s was– there is more landscaping and less asphalt, one no longer needs to dodge cars lined up for a drive-through, and the patio is more lively than ever which adds “eyes on the street” and allows for more people watching. The pedestrian-friendly nature of The Oinkster however is limited by the two large surface parking lots that sandwich the main building. Not only are surface parking lots inherently unfriendly to pedestrians, one cannot even enter the restaurant without navigating its parking lot.

Although The Oinkster cannot nor should not completely eliminate its parking, there is one way the parking lot’s presence can be softened while vastly improving the pedestrian experience walking past and to the restaurant. Adding a “frontage” patio (one possibility is depicted below) to the parking lot immediately adjacent to Shearin Avenue could mask the existing parking and provide a number of benefits if designed properly.

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A rendering of a potential “frontage” patio for The Oinkster. Although it occupies 3 parking spaces, it could provide a number of benefits.

What the frontage patio does is place a people-oriented space immediately against the sidewalk and hides the necessary though often unsightly surface parking. The rendering shown above does require the removal of 3 parking spaces but arguably creates more benefits.

What are these benefits, you ask? Well the benefits of a frontage patio could include:

  • Added greenery which provides additional shade for customers and reduces water run-off.
  • More outdoor seating (the outdoor seating at The Oinkster is almost always more desirable than the indoor seating, often completely full during peak business hours)
  • Secure and convenient bicycle parking to promote customers and employees alike to bicycle to The Oinkster knowing there will be a safe spot to lock up on the property. Not only that, but if effective, having additional customers and employees arrive by bicycle relieves demand for scarce on-street parking.
  • Improved pedestrian and ADA access to the business
  • A more aesthetically pleasing exterior that will draw additional attention and exposure to the business.
  • Improved bicycle and pedestrian safety by removing direct access to the eastern parking from Colorado Blvd. This removes a conflict point and creates more reliable movements in and out of the parking lot.
  • An additional public curbside parking space can be created if the driveway into the eastern parking lot is removed. Many people prefer to park on the boulevard and during The Oinkster’s active business hours it will likely be occupied by one of their customers. Outside of The Oinkster’s hours that space can then be used by patrons of nearby businesses such as The Coffee Table.

Surely adding a frontage patio can be a topic worth exploring since all the benefits described above could be had at the cost of 3 parking spaces.*

*Really only 2 parking spaces are lost as the construction of a frontage patio would allow for an additional curbside parking space directly in front of The Oinkster.

Improving Our Local DASH Service

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is currently re-examining its transit system and looking to improve the City’s bus service with the help of the public under an initiative called “Moving Forward…Together.” In Northeast LA, the most prominent LADOT transit service is the Eagle Rock/Highland Park DASH line. This line does something peculiar when traveling between Avenue 54 and Avenue 58 that the LADOT may want to consider changing.

Before

The local DASH route as it goes through “downtown” Highland Park, each blue circle denotes a bus stop. The DASH makes a very inefficient loop-like movement (noted by the red circle) to serve the Highland Park Gold Line Station.

If heading toward San Pascual Park, currently the DASH travels south on Avenue 54, turns left onto Figueroa, makes 2 stops on Figueroa (at Avenue 55 and Avenue 56), turns left onto Avenue 57, stops at Highland Park Gold Line Station on Marmion Way, turns right on Avenue 58, then makes a left onto Figueroa again and heads northeast on Figueroa. It makes the same motion in reverse if heading toward the Eagle Rock Plaza. On Tuesdays, the DASH does not stop at the Highland Park Gold Line Station due to the weekly farmer’s market.This portion of the route is very inefficient and is needlessly complicated with the weekly farmer’s market throwing the route off four times a month.

After

The DASH route can be simplified and still serve the Highland Park Gold Line Station without making an inefficient loop. This re-routing would also eliminate conflict the weekly farmer’s market. LADOT might also consider consolidating bus stops to reduce how often the bus needs to pull over to pick up and drop off passengers.

However, this situation could be simplified through a minor adjustment. Rather than making a left onto Figueroa from Avenue 54, the DASH should instead make a left onto Monte Vista St, make two stops on Monte Vista St (at Avenue 54 and Avenue 56), turn right on Avenue 57 with a stop at Marmion Way, then continue south and make a left onto Figueroa from Avenue 57. 

This would:

  1. Speed up service by eliminating the unnecessary looping and zig-zag the route currently makes.
  2. Eliminate the route’s conflict with the weekly farmer’s market and the re-routing that occurs every Tuesday.
  3. Improve the DASH as a means of reaching the Highland Park Gold Line Station.
  4. Provide a more direct and predictable path of travel for DASH users.

When heading toward the Eagle Rock Plaza, the DASH route can make the same proposed motion in reverse. The bus would make a right onto Avenue 57 from Figueroa, stop at Marmion Way to let passengers off the bus to hop on the Gold Line (or visit the farmer’s market, if on a Tuesday), then make a left onto Monte Vista St followed by a right onto Avenue 54. An alternative would be to simply run the DASH on Figueroa rather than Monte Vista but doing so would remove the possibility for a stop directly in front of the Gold Line Station.

The Eagle Rock/Highland Park DASH route is far from efficient, after all it is primarily intended as a local circulator than a speedy connection. Even if the route made the change proposed in this post it would still be relatively inefficient for most trips but service would be improved considerably. The loop the DASH makes in this area exists solely to drop people off at the Highland Park Gold Line Station is likely a result of a route revision made after the Gold Line station opened without much thought given to the impact on the quality and speed of the DASH service. If several such modifications are made over time, a bus line can become near useless and a pain for those that depend on it. The proposed modification in this post eliminates the loop altogether while still serving the Gold Line (and dropping riders off even closer to the station’s entrance if the DASH stops at the same bus stop as the 256), creating a seemingly “win-win” situation. There are other parts of this local DASH route that may warrant re-evaluation, in particular the portion between Figueroa and San Pascual Park, but any potential changes there will not be as simple or inconsequential.

(For more information about LADOT’s “Moving Forward…Together” initiative, click here. To take an LADOT survey or to participate in the Department’s forum on improving DASH (or creating a new DASH line), click here. And for more information about the Eagle Rock/Highland Park DASH line, click here. If you have any suggestions for improvements to DASH service in Northeast LA, be sure to let the LADOT know via their forum and contact information on their website.)

Eagle Rock’s Freeway Revolt

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Looking West on Las Flores Drive from Ellenwood Drive.

Las Flores Drive is about 20 feet wide, curb-to-curb. It is one of the narrowest streets to run contiguously for as long as it does, and to also feature sidewalks on both sides of the street. It’s no surprise people sometimes mistake it for an alley, it really is a quaint street. However, without community engagement, there is a good chance the street would not exist in its tranquil state, if at all.

134 Freeway Plans Take Shape

In the 1950s, plans to complete the 134 Freeway (then referred to as the Colorado Boulevard Freeway) started to take shape. At this point, the freeway already ran through Burbank and Pasadena, but it did not yet go through Glendale or Eagle Rock[i]. Initially, there were a few routing configurations being considered for the portion through Eagle Rock. One proposal had the freeway running south of Colorado Boulevard along Chickasaw Avenue, while the other two placed the freeway north of the boulevard, with one along Las Flores Drive and the other on Hill Drive.

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The grey thick lines show the proposed Las Flores and Chickasaw freeway routes. Image credit: Eagle Rock by Eric Warren

These routes were immediately opposed by a substantial portion of the neighborhood, including local elected officials  and the Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of people attended meetings lasting several hours. In 1959, Eagle Rock’s Assembly Representative, John Collier, boldly proclaimed that a freeway through Eagle Rock “brings no benefits” to anyone [ii]. Eagle Rock residents protested on the behalf of the numerous residents that would be displaced by the freeway routing with one local at the time stating:

“A freeway that would cut Eagle Rock in two would kill this community as a lovely residential suburb.” [iii]

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EL Mercado and York Park Grand Opening

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Folks had a rare opportunity to enjoy strolling York Boulevard free of cars during the York Park grand opening.

Yesterday Highland Park enjoyed a very special event, the grand opening of the long anticipated York Park, located on the corner of York Boulevard and Avenue 50. Planned in conjunction with what has great potential to be a recurring street fair on York Boulevard between Avenue 50 and Avenue 52, El Mercado, it was a memorable day for all in attendance.

IMG_1944Before the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the York Park, Councilmember Jose Huizar detailed the hard work it took to get to this day. The park’s grand opening reflects years of meetings and dedicated community engagement. Huizar also took the opportunity to share how proud he is of improvements that have been made over the years in the district, including the development the neighborhood’s bicycle network and piloting of small-scale innovations for more walkable streets (now formally adopted in the city’s People Street program).

Senator De Leon spoke of the park’s importance as a symbol of environmental justice. He noted that some westside neighborhoods have front yards larger many homes in the area and that every neighborhood deserves access to parks, particularly so that children have a safe spaces to play and grow.

Congressmember Becerra, aware that children were very eager to start enjoying the park, was brief in his remarks but recounted his advocacy for the community on the federal level to help secure funds for civic improvements such as the York Park.

Assemblymember Gomez, who walked to the event from his Eagle Rock home, said he is proud to live in a walkable neighborhood and frequents the bustling York Boulevard corridor often to patronize local businesses. He said he is pushing for further improvements to make the district he represents more livable, with a focus on Los Angeles River revitalization and improved bicycle infrastructure connecting to the River.

While most attention was rightfully dedicated to the York Park opening, here are some additional highlights from the event looking at the street fair along the two block stretch of York Boulevard:

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York Boulevard was truly a street for people.

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Colorful sidewalk chalking .

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Some of the businesses open during the event benefitted from the additional foot traffic.

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This was the scene at the edge of the street fair. Traffic was re-routed onto Meridian Avenue and Lincoln Avenue, streets paralleling York Boulevard.

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York Boulevard felt more like space for neighbors to gather than an thoroughfare to rush through.

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Crowd gathers around the park as it finally opens. Note the amusing sign overhead.

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The city’s first bike corral was filled beyond capacity. Many other parked bikes dotted the street fair.

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One of the delightful sights during the event was seeing bikes with child-seats.

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The focus may have been on the children, but the day was truly for everyone. Here an elderly couple takes a pause and does some people watching, utilizing the city’s first public parklet

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Old roadway marking visible in the center of the street (the dark grey lines in the middle) reminds us of a time not long ago when York Boulevard was two lanes in each direction with a center turn lane at intersections. That York Boulevard would be populated with people like this would be unimaginable just ten years ago.

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The intersection of York Boulevard and Avenue 51 became a communal outdoor seating area reminiscent of Downtown’s Bring Back Broadway initiative.

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By all accounts, the celebratory day was a huge success. A question many had before the day was over was “when can this happen again?”

A big thank you to all who made the day possible!

(ps. No pictures of the park in this post but some great pictures can be found on twitter, including this one, taken from the roof of the building across the street. Also, see The Eastsider LA’s coverage for some additional pictures of the park.)

York Boulevard Park Nears Completion

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In 20 days, this lot on the corner of Avenue 50 and York Boulevard will be a public park.

On Saturaday, February 21, a long anticipated park on the corner of Avenue 50 and York Boulevard, currently under construction, will finally open. The day will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting and a street fair as the most ambitious part of the York Boulevard Vision Plan, a comprehensive and community-driven plan for improvements along the boulevard, comes to life. However, as we count down the days to what is now an inevitability, it is important to remember that four years ago the park was just an idea and its location an empty, privately-owned lot.

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Eagle Rock Walking Tour on August 23

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In March, LA Walks hosted a walking tour of Eagle Rock. On August 23, 2014 we at Walk Eagle Rock will host our own walking tour.

It was not long ago in March that Los Angeles Walks hosted a walking tour of our neighborhood. Topics of interest ranging from architectural landmarks to transportation history and recent civic improvements were covered by two knowledgable local guides. We here at Walk Eagle Rock have long discussed the possibility of hosting walking tours and we are pleased to announce that on August 23, 2014 we will finally be doing so.

As the environmental impact report (EIR) comment period for the Scholl Canyon Landfill is coming to a close (the deadline is August 29), we think it would be appropriate to host a walk focused on community and civic engagement. Eagle Rock has a long history of being an active community and it certainly would not be as fantastic as it is today without the efforts of residents taking the time to participate, on all levels, to improve the neighborhood.

Find the details of our walk below and (if you would like) RSVP to our Facebook event:

Community and Civic Engagement in Eagle Rock

  • Date: Saturday, August 23, 2014
  • Time: 9:00AM-12:00PM
  • Location: 2035 Colorado Blvd (Eagle Rock City Hall)
  • Walking Tour Length: 6 miles
  • Event is free and open to the public. Restrooms/water fountains will be available at mile 2 and 4.
  • Questions? Email us at walkeaglerock@gmail.com