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LA wants to kick its car habit, but ‘people in Hollywood will always require cars’

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The Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council might put up a fight against the city’s plans for bus and bike lanes

Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.

Dense and transit-rich, Hollywood is one of the easiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles to traverse without a car. City planners want to capitalize on that by boosting transportation options in the neighborhood, to the alarm of some residents.

“It’s kind of out of control. We are a car city, and you can’t make changes like that without total gridlock,” says Anastasia Mann, the president of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council. “We have total gridlock right now, so where do we go with this? It’s a shot in the dark. The city is going to come to a complete stop.”

Mann wants the neighborhood council to send a letter to the Los Angeles Department of City Planning challenging several aspects of its draft community plan for Hollywood. The plan calls for studying whether to put dedicated lanes for bikes and buses on most thoroughfares in the neighborhood.

That means that roads such as Los Feliz Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, La Brea Avenue, and Western Avenue could, one day, get their own dedicated bus lanes. Also outlined in the draft plan is an idea to study putting in fully protected bike lanes on Hollywood Boulevard, Vine Street, Virgil Avenue, and Melrose Avenue, as well as regular bike lanes on several other Hollywood streets.

Mann says she fears adding bus lanes and bike lanes will remove car lanes, and only serve to make traffic worse.

A letter she drafted says the goal of encouraging more people to walk, bike, and use public transit is “admirable.” But the letter encourages the city “not be unrealistic about the number of people who still rely on vehicles to move about the Hollywood area.”

“The plan must acknowledge that Hollywood is attached to the Hills and people in Hollywood will always require cars,” it says.

The letter hasn’t been sent yet, but it’s creating tension with activists for safe streets and improved bicycle infrastructure.

The neighborhood council is also proposing an addendum that dismisses several potential bike-lanes in Hollywood as “infeasible;” it suggests they should removed from the community plan update without any formal analysis.

“What are they afraid we might learn from a feasibility study?” says Ben Creed, member of the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition who commutes by bicycle daily from East Hollywood to West Hollywood via Sunset Boulevard.

“The evidence that bike infrastructure makes streets safer for everyone is endless. So it’s hard to take seriously the [council’s] overtures to safe streets and traffic decongestion when they seem so opposed to simply allowing people who want to ride a bike safely to do so if it costs cars even a sliver of road space.”

A draft document from the City of Los Angeles that maps out corridors to be studied for potential bike infrastructure in the future.

“Los Angeles has to add that transit infrastructure, and Hollywood is the most logical place to start, because it is one of the most dense and congested areas of the entire metropolitan region,” says Alexander Totz, a Hollywood resident who serves as a Neighborhood Bicycle Ambassador for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

A subway line and multiple bus routes run through Hollywood already, but at least 290,000 cars travel through the neighborhood daily, making for a hellish and sometimes dangerous commute.

A draft document from the City of Los Angeles that maps out corridors to be studied for potential bus infrastructure improvements in the future.

Taking street space away from from private vehicles and dedicating it instead to public transit and people who walk and bike is consistent with what Los Angeles leaders have outlined for the entire city in Mobility Plan 2035.

City planners are trying to entice more people out of their cars with better bike and pedestrian infrastructure and faster bus service. But parts of that plan have been meet with resistance all across LA.

“Many Angelenos are essentially locked in a mindset that they are their cars and that their cars are Los Angeles,” says Totz. “I believe that this mentality is changing in places that are not so far away from Hollywood, but they require leadership.”

The Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council will consider sending the letter on February 21.