Sunset Boulevard Reimagined

VIEWPOINT

By DR. MARK GRINBLATT

Special to the Palisades News

 

                Imagine a two-block stretch of downtown Pacific Palisades where Sunset is defined by a landscaped center island. The island separates opposing traffic, signaling the heart of our town, providing halfway respites at three crosswalks, and giving the commercial village a distinctive identity.

 

This dream represents a potential reality, but the dream is in danger. The Caruso Affiliated development proposes a new parcel map that awards the developer about 15,000 sq.ft. of public land. The map shows the city vacating three public land parcels—the alley connecting Swarthmore with Monument, the strip of park next to the Mobil station (the “Paseo”), and a key third public parcel: Sunset’s sidewalk and a portion of the roadway. The vacated parcels are then merged with the private land acquired by the developer. Merging the Sunset parcel kills the dream.

There is an attractive alternative that does not cede the Sunset parcel and awards the city a small amount of private land as token reimbursement for the other two parcels. This alternative could be the genesis for one of Caruso’s greatest legacies: a famous street with a center island that generations would admire for its beauty and village-defining character.

Unfortunately, the proposed map’s review by City Planning staff failed to suggest even a token land exchange—justifying their position by the lack of “current or prospective uses for the vacated public parcels.” Really? Remember, this isn’t Lincoln’s vast prairie, with public homestead parcels that need to be ceded to encourage westward migration. It’s dense L.A., in need of public parks, however small, and space for roads.

In particular, that “useless” Sunset road is the key to intelligent planning of our village’s future. The proposed vacation of the Sunset parcel thrusts Caruso’s property line towards Sunset. And Caruso’s latest plans show the project’s only Sunset building sitting atop the current public sidewalk in front of Mobil. Given the legal requirement for a wider public sidewalk, the developer asked that a portion of Sunset’s roadway be converted to sidewalk. City planning staff again endorsed the request, even though compliance with the wider sidewalk requirement could have seemingly been achieved with a small (2 ft.) increase in the building setback rather than a roadway conversion.

The proposed narrowing of Sunset would make it more pedestrian-friendly by shortening the crosswalk at the Mobil station. But Sunset with a center island would enhance the pedestrian-friendliness of three crosswalks, not just one. Yes, Caruso needs to give up some land. But giving back a land parcel that is smaller than the 2,400 sq.ft. Paseo widens Sunset enough to accommodate a generous (up to 19-ft. wide) island. The island could stretch from the pedestrian crosswalk at Carly K’s (halfway between Swarthmore and Monument) to the Via de la Paz left-turn lane. We keep the same number of through, right-turn, left-turn, and parking lanes as exist now. The three crosswalks maintain their current length, but would possess an “intermezzo” that offers the option of crossing Sunset in two stages.

 

                (Editor’s Note: Mark Grinblatt is the Senior Associate Dean and director of the UCLA Anderson School’s Ph.D. program. He is a member and on the board of advisors for Protect Our Village. Visit: protectourvillage.org.)

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