Is Removing Crosswalks Really The Best Way To Deal With A Los Feliz Homeless Encampment?
Sitting in the middle of the big jumble of an intersection where Hollywood Boulevard, Vermont Avenue and Prospect Avenue all converge is a modest triangular shaped mini-park. Rebuilt into its current form in 2008 by affable man (and then L.A. City Councilmember) Tom LaBonge, the parklet was hailed as a utilitarian use of urban space. For $800,000 of municipal money, the triangle gained some trees, some lighting and some benches for public use.
Of course, Los Angeles' burgeoning population of homeless people means that, over the past couple years, the small park in the middle of three streets has—like so many other parks across L.A.—become a de-facto homeless encampment on a continuing basis.
To "remedy" this problem, the East Hollywood Business Improvement District is proposing to, essentially, revoke public access to the parklet. As the Los Feliz Ledger reports, the East Hollywood BID has developed a plan to remove the four crosswalks that connect the Vermont 'triangle' to sidewalks along Hollywood, Vermont and Prospect, thereby rendering the triangle technically inaccessible. As East Hollywood BID treasurer Susanna Furios explained to the Ledger, "people can walk a bit."
Along with removing the crosswalks, the plan submitted would also remove the parklet's lighting, seating and sidewalks, and would re-landscape the space into one that, as Curbed L.A. phrases it, sends "the message that the space is not for loitering." How exactly that message would conveyed though landscaping (if not a fence?) isn't quite clear.
As the BID's Vice Chair Jeff Zarrinnam told the Ledger, "The Triangle is a median. It's not a park. It never has been a park. People were trying to turn it into a park, but it's a traffic median."
Regardless of whether the space is considered a park or not, the removal of four crosswalks will prompt pedestrians, particularly those walking on the western edge of Vermont Avenue, to take more a circuitous route. Where the journey down Vermont currently entails crossing only Prospect and Hollywood, the same trip after the proposed crosswalk removal would add two extra crossings of Vermont not currently needed. The crosswalks are in a neighborhood with high pedestrian activity, and are regularly used by folks walking throughout Los Feliz Village and down to the Red Line subway station one block to the south on Sunset Boulevard.
It's also probably worth noting that removing the crosswalks doesn't actually bar access to the triangle. It's easy enough to cross the Prospect Avenue to the triangle when there's no oncoming traffic, and if anything removing pedestrian foot traffic from the triangle makes it more appealing to the city's homeless to set up camp.
At the very least, put up a construction fence around the park and leave the crosswalks open. It's only inevitable that jaywalking pedestrians will continue to cross the street without a signal. People can walk a bit, or they can just go straight along the route that makes the most logical sense.