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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A Transforming Colorado Boulevard

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Colorado Blvd now has bike lanes to improve the safety and comfort of people bicycling

Colorado Boulevard has long held a reputation as an unfriendly street with a notorious traffic safety record. Fortunately, thanks to local leadership from Councilmember Huizar, Take Back The Boulevard, and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, changes have been made to the street within the past few months to improve safety and make the street more pleasant for walking and bicycling.

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Crossing Colorado Boulevard

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.

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A Look at Eagle Rock’s Relationship with Parking

A recurring complaint about the Colorado Boulevard business corridor is that there is not enough parking. So what has happened as a response? Buildings have been torn down to make way for strip malls. But when we gain parking we usually have to lose something in exchange– walkability, attractive storefronts, lively sidewalks. Three of most well-known examples of where parking has been gained through this method in Eagle Rock, the story has not been pretty.

First lets recall the event considered to have sparked the formation of The Eagle Rock Association, April 1st 1986:

“In response to the threatened destruction of the historic business buildings at the corner of Townsend and Colorado. Kathleen Aberman stands on the building’s roof in an attempt to ward off the surprise demolition by the owner.” – Eagle Rock Historic Society

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In the middle right is the building Aberman tried to rescue. Photo credit: Metro Library and Archive

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Bicycle Friendly Alternative to Colorado Boulevard

Bicycling in Eagle Rock is pleasant, for the most part. However, to reach the majority of destinations in our town we often have to negotiate with loud zooming cars on Colorado Boulevard, making bicycling less attractive when considering how to get somewhere.

Thankfully there is a bicycle friendly street that can serve as an alternative to Colorado Boulevard but it is perhaps not so well known. This alternative is Las Flores Drive.

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