Wednesday, March 24, 2010

santa monica boulevard + century park west, century city


On paper, Santa Monica Blvd. seems like a farily progressive street. It's got bike lanes, frequent bus transport, and a good number of businesses mixed with residential buildings. It connects Westwood to Century City to Beverly Hills — all major destination spots. But the boots-on-the-ground experience is very different.

In reality, Santa Monica is a beast. It is a composite road, comprised of the main boulevard and the one-way "little" Santa Monicas flanking it to provide access to shops + houses. In other words, its design exactly mimics a freeway, with feeder roads acting as a buffering interfaces between high-speed traffic and slower, local activity. The total width of this two-headed serpent can reach up to 17 lanes wide including 3 medians (count 'em!), an absolutely colossal swath that eliminates any sense of speed on the part of the driver — here, 55mph feels normal, and 25mph feels like an intolerable crawl. On foot, it is a truly awesome sight to behold: a freeway that thinks it's a local road; the ultimate collapse of form vs. function.

Narrowed, the street becomes unrecognizable and, amazingly, still remains far too wide (that rampart-like wall on the left doesn't help). It is a classic example of engineer-driven LADOT thinking, in which every street is a "regional conduit." I like to think of Santa Monica as a perfect candidate for infill — a potential real estate goldmine of new shops and apartments that would turn this corridor into not just an actually desireable place to live but also a river of cash for the city. See it narrowed!
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Los Angeles, CA, United States
Writer, designer, and urban planning geek.

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