Page 1

fractured access The Built environment, urban development and uneven use patterns Greater Arts District

Culver City, California USA

Brock Hicks

Master’s Candidate in Urban Planning UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

UP 274 Introduction to Physical Planning

March 2014


De ve

lop m en

t, an

d Un e

ven Use Patterns

Fr a c

d e r u t Access

ilt u B e Th

, t n e m n o r E nvi n a Urb


About this report

How to read this report

I created this report for a class in Physical Planning at UCLA. We were asked

This report should be read as a visual narrative, knit together with critical written

to look intensively at a neighborhood in Los Angeles for eleven weeks. This

analyses of the interplay between the built environment, users, and space.

report is the synthesis of that research, and includes analyses of land use, Lynchian elements, users and space, and the built environment in the Greater Arts District. Finally, I discuss design and development considerations, make recommendations for improvements, and propose interventions into public spaces. Two of these interventions are envisioned in the final chapter.

Layout The layout follows a clear pattern. Graphics and photos are put center stage. Like the current spread, graphics are typically placed on the left with text on the right, accompanied by original photographs in the right-

Throughout the district, there are multiple points characterized by

hand column. The placement of graphics next to text on a two page

different degrees of inaccessibility. The interplay of built form with user,

spread allows the reader to see visual and written analyses side by side.

space, and environment is the central thread that ties the analyses within in this report together. The tension between this interplay and the fractured access that characterizes the district results in specific guidelines for further research as well as four specific recommendations for intervention in the structure of the urban environment. These interventions focus on the Washington Blvd corridor, its connectivities with important adjacent districts and new transit stations, and the potential for new uses along the closed off segment of Ballona Creek.

Target audience

Âť Âť Âť

Planning practitioners Interested publics Employers!


Introduction 6 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7

Fractured access 7 The geographic context 9 What’s in a name? 11 Methodology 11 Key issues 13 Recommendations and avenues for further research Visioning interventions 13

3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

Image elements 17 Legibility, structure, and identity Imageability 21 Image problems 21

CONTENTS

Methodology 14 Lynch analysis 16

13

20

Land use analysis 22 4.1 Inferred land use 4.2 Zoning and land use

23 23

User/space analysis 28 5.1 Sites of study and methods 5.2 User groups 29 5.3 User/space dynamics 37

29

Built environment analysis 40 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4

General observations Impaired access Mixed use ordinance Ballona Creek 45

41 41 41

Towards interpretation: Design + development considerations 48 7.1 Transit-oriented development 49 7.2 Revitalization of Ballona Creek 51

Recommendations + avenues for further research 52 8.1 Key recommendations 53 8.2 Four proposals for interventions into public spaces 54 8.3 Matching recommendations with Design for Development guidelines

Visioning interventions 56

9.1 Visioning interventions 57 9.2 Repurposing traffic lanes on Washington Blvd 59 9.3 Connecting the Ballona Creek bikeway to Washington Blvd

Bibliography 66 Index 68

55

63

This report was designed to be viewed at 11” x 17” landscape. Content is best viewed with both facing pages visible so that the eye can look back and forth between graphics and written text easily.


1-1 1-2 3-1

5-1 5-2 5-3 6-1 6-2 6-3 7-1 9-1 9-2 9-3 9-4 9-5

10

Key locations in the Greater Arts District

Lynch analysis

18

Zoning overlay

25

Inferred land use inventory

8-9

27

Public vs private use: Washington Blvd corridor on a Saturday Day vs night use on Washington Blvd

32-33

34-35

36

User/space dynamics

Impaired use continuum

42-43

Ballona Creek: a collision of jurisdictions

44

Ballona Creek: spheres of use + a symbology of power

46

Design for Development zones + new transit-oriented developments

Repurposing two traffic lanes (plan view)

50

58

Repurposing two traffic lanes (cross-section) Keyhole pocket park

FIGURES

4-1 4-2

Where in the world is the Culver City Arts District?

60

61

Extension of the Ballona bikeway (plan view)

62

Extension of the Ballona bikeway (cross-section)

64

All photographs and graphics are creations of the author unless otherwise indicated.


1

Introduction 1.1

Fractured access

1.3

What’s in a name?

1.2 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7

The geographic context Methodology Key issues

Recommendations + avenues for further research Visioning interventions

[Satellite image taken from Google Earth] 6


1.1 Fractured access The Arts District lies at the epicenter of a fracturing of street grids. It is

hours of the day. It can be an onerous and unpleasant journey, as

the legacy of different historical development patterns. When the Spanish

well as a significant risk to one’s safety— whether arriving by foot,

founded a colonial outpost during the eighteenth century, they designed

bike, or car. Once one arrives, walking along Washington Boulevard

the street grid according to the Laws of the Indies, which dictated that

provides a sense of calm after the chaos. Yet, it filters back in by

the city’s plaza be oriented 45 degrees off the cardinal directions.

way of car traffic. When compared with Venice Blvd, Washington is small and calm. Yet, it is four lanes across with consistent traffic. The

When the US conquered Los Angeles in 1847, they imposed American

dissonance, between the calm aspirations of Washington Blvd and the

cartographic standards on the patterns laid out by the Spanish colonizers—a

intensity of noise and movement created by through traffic, is potent.

prerequisite for converting urban land into private property. As development moved west from Downtown LA, it became regimented to the US national

Within the district—as defined by its structural form, not necessarily just

survey grid. This giant grid, running north-south and east-west from Ohio

the area branded as the Arts District—access is uneven as well. The

to the Pacific is bisected at irregular angles by infrastructure developed to

prohibition of access to the Ballona Creek waterway is the most important

support interurban rail lines. These lines were constructed running southwest

example. At the southern edge of the district, formed by the impenetrable

towards the ocean and today are major boulevards like Santa Monica,

Expo line rail tracks that parallel National Blvd, lies the terminus of

Exposition, Culver and Venice. Grids laid out by several different colonial

the Ballona Creek bikeway, which follows the cemented in channel all

settlements in the present day Westside further fracture the cityscape.1

the way to the Ballona wetlands and Marina Del Rey on the Pacific coast. The segment within the Arts District—between National Blvd and

Because of this conflict of grids, the Arts District is shaped like an

Washington Blvd—is gated off at both ends, as well as blocked by fences

irregular water drop, with the narrow southwest end at the intersection

and the backs of industrial buildings and houses along its entire length.

of

Washington,

towards The

the

result

National

northeast is

a

small

and until

Venice

boulevards

spreading

Aerial photograph of fractured street grids (Los Angeles, 1939).

out

it

reaches

La

Cienega

Boulevard.

Throughout the district, there are multiple points characterized by different

oasis

besieged

by

roaring

boulevards.

degrees of inaccessibility. The interplay of built form with user, space, and environment is the central thread that ties the analyses within in this report

Access to and within the district is constricted. The main purpose of this report

together. The tension between this interplay and the fractured access that

is to explore the structural environment in the Arts District and its adjacencies

characterizes the district results in specific guidelines for further research.

and the interplay between built form and formal, informal and public/private

Four key recommendations for improvements are made. Four specific

uses of space; observed land uses and formal zoning designations; patterns

interventions into the structure of the urban environment are recommended.

of urban development; and the uneven access this interplay creates.

These interventions focus on the Washington Blvd corridor, its connectivities

.

with important adjacent districts and new transit stations, and the To reach the Arts District, one has to walk along and cross inhospitable, four and six lane boulevards that rush with traffic throughout all

potential for new uses along the closed off segment of Ballona Creek.

[From the California Historical Society Collection, USC Libraries]

7


FIG

1-1

Where in the world is the Culver City Arts District?

Los Angeles County

8

INTRODUCTION


1.2 The geographic context The Greater Arts District straddles on the northeastern edge of the City of Culver City, with a small portion in the City of Los Angeles. Culver City is a municipality in central-western Los Angeles County,

The Greater Arts District

California. Its boundaries extend from La Cienega Boulevard in the east to Lincoln Boulevard in the west, near the Pacific Ocean coastline. It is surrounded on all sides by the City of Los Angeles. As one would expect, there are arts and craft-oriented retail stores, home furnishing outlets, art galleries, and the offices of architectural firms. There are also several cafĂŠs and restaurants, as well as an art-centric book store. Less expected are the auto body shops and the quiet, tree-lined residential streets sandwiched between the big boulevards of National and Venice (highway CA 187). Venice Blvd and the new Metro Expo light rail line act as clear edges for the district. The I-10, a transcontinental pathway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, acts as a peripheral edge. West Washington Boulevard is clearly the central vein tying the district together linearly. On one end of the boulevard sits the historic Helms Bakery building and adjacent pedestrian mall, on the other the hard, lifeless gouge of Ballona Creek. The Culver City Expo line stop lies adjacent to the western edge of

.

the district, at the intersection of Washington and National boulevards. The Jefferson/La Cienega stop is near the southeastern edge.

1.2 THE GEOGRAPHIC CONTEXT

9


FIG

1-2

Key locations in the Greater Arts District Washington Blvd

Terminus of Ballona Creek

Helms Walk

Metro Expo light rail station

10

INTRODUCTION


1.3 What’s in a name?

1.4 Methodology

The Arts District lies within what is designated by the City of

Four principal phases of research were conducted over eleven

Culver City as the Jefferson neighborhood. I have chosen to

weeks,

call my focus area the Greater Arts District for three reasons:

followed by a final phase in which secondary research via analysis of

(1)

I concentrated my observations and analysis on a subsection of

the larger Jefferson neighborhood. There is no physical cohesion between all parts of the larger neighborhood; my initial observations centered on the Washington Blvd corridor—the heart of the Arts District—and spun off from there to include the adjacent spaces along Ballona Creek, as well as near the new Metro Expo light rail stops. (2)

During research, I could find no mentions of the “Jefferson

neighborhood”. The Arts District is known by name; therefore, it is more appropriate to refer to the area this way than by an official designation

which

has

no

meaning

to

residents

in

the

area.

each

planning

of

which

documents

included and

extensive

institutional

fieldwork.

This

reports—as

was

well

as

informal conversations with planning professionals—was conducted.

Phases 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7)

Lynch analysis Land use analysis User/space analysis Built environment analysis Towards interpretation: design and development analysis Guidelines for further research and recommendations Visioning interventions

.

Please see chapter two on methodology for a more in depth discussion.

(3) The district is likely to become more of a destination with the opening of the

.

Expo line and the current transit-oriented development projects underway. As the most recognizable identifier, the “Arts District” makes the most sense.

1.3 WHAT’S IN A NAME?

11


12

A typical intersection on Washington Blvd in the Arts District窶馬o crosswalks and no stoplights. INTRODUCTION


1.5 Key issues (1) Infrequency of crosswalks and stop lights along the ten block

pleasant

environment

in

the

district

and

its

relative

disuse.

Washington Blvd corridor between National and La Cienega boulevards.

infrastructure to extend the Ballona bikeway from National Blvd north to the Arts District. This would enhance access to open space in the area.

Currently, there are only two stop lights and two crosswalks. If

(2) Create actionable guidelines to mitigate gentrification. The Mixed

attempting to cross elsewhere, one is forced to dodge traffic, run

Use Ordinance, the transit-oriented development district around the Expo

(3) Develop effective wayfinding from transit stations. Current signage is

to the median, and repeat to cross the other two lanes of traffic.

transit station, and any improvements made to the built environment—

confusing or non-existent. Because of the fractured pattern of street grids,

including greater access to Ballona Creek—will create displacement

effective wayfinding devices are critically important for creating ease of access.

(2)

Poor

connectivity

infrastructure

and

and

important

wayfinding nodes

between in

the

key Arts

transit

pressures for low and even middle-income residents in the area.

District. (3)

(3) Mismatch between the seemingly calm nature of the district

Conduct a spatial demographic analysis that will allow planners

(4)

Create

and

Washington the

Arts

a

pedestrian-friendly boulevards

District

from

in the

crosswalk

order Expo

to light

at

enhance rail

National

to to track any displacement or migration patterns in the area.

to

station.

(4)

1.7 Visioning interventions

with the intensity of car traffic at certain times of the day. (4)

Disconnection

center

of

bikeway,

between

activity an

for

important

Washington

Blvd

the

district

and

open

space

for

the

as

the

major

City Expo station area. Currently, development is guided only by

Ballona

Creek

the Mixed Use Ordinance and the Design for Development report

Westside

.

residents.

1.6 Recommendations and avenues for further research

transit infrastructure. I envision four specific interventions into public space:

an opportunity to develop a new urban village centered on Washington Blvd within the Arts District. The four key recommendations are:

determine

the

1.5 KEY ISSUES

comprehensive

causes

of

the

user

observed

survey mismatch

in

developers, who have a distinct set of priorities from the public.

.

and connecting the Ballona bikeway to Washington Blvd might look like.

with the goal of fostering development beneficial to pedestrians and public

as well as to translate the problems created by fractured access into

a

Agency. This leaves a great amount of any visioning to private

In the final chapter, I envision graphically what repurposing traffic lanes

dedicated to envisioning enhancements to public spaces throughout the district

key recommendations to improve connectivity and safety for pedestrians,

Conduct

from 2005, created by the now defunct Culver City Redevelopment

Based on these four recommendations, I also recommend that resources be

Based on observations in the field and secondary research, I make four

(1)

Create a strategic master plan for the Arts District and Culver

.

access

order

between

to the

(1)

Repurpose two traffic lanes on the Washington Blvd corridor,

creating a linear greenwalk on the north side and a two-way bikeway on the south side. On-street parking would not be affected. Narrowing the corridor from four lanes to two would make crosswalks and fourways stop signs possible at each intersection, knitting both sides of the street together and improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. (2) Connect the Ballona bikeway to Washington Blvd by utilizing existing

13


2

Methodology

Four principal phases of research were conducted over eleven weeks, each of which included extensive fieldwork. This was followed by a final phase in which secondary research via analysis of planning documents and institutional reports—as well as informal conversations with planning professionals—was conducted. Several of the phases overlapped.

Phase three: User/space interaction Next, I employed passive participant observation in order to analyze how users of the district interact with several key spaces. A perplexing anomaly was observed—while the district is generally inviting and hosts important amenities such as eateries, art galleries, a pedestrian mall, and a public park, it sees limited use by both

Phase one: Lynch analysis

outside visitors and residents. Some significant differences between

For the initial phase of research, the tools provided by Kevin Lynch were used to deconstruct the researcher’s image of the district in order to identify

uses of public versus private space were also observed, with users concentrating activities in private spaces in preference to public ones.

important relationships between the built form and users and space. The five key Lynchian elements were identified and mapped. Analysis of these elements served as important stepping stones to deeper analyses.

Phase four: The built environment The built environment and how it shapes use is the focus of this report. During this phase, I filtered data gathered in the previous phases through the lens of

Phase two: Land use

the built environment; this allowed me to move towards deeper interpretation

In order not to bias the researcher’s eye, land use was inferred through observation in the field and then mapped. This was then compared

of how use is shaped by built form and the environments it creates. Methods employed were observation and analysis of municipal planning documents.

with official zoning designations in the Culver City and Los Angeles municipalities with a transparent overlay to highlight the difference between actual (and perceived) land uses and formally designated ones.

1 14

Weeks 1 - 2

Lynch analysis

2

Weeks 1 + 5

Land use analysis

3

Weeks 3 - 4

User/space interaction


Phase five: Towards interpretation—design and development considerations During this phase I primarily conducted secondary research of futureoriented and strategic planning documents, as well as spoke to public officials on the phone. My main sources of information were the Culver City Mixed Use Ordinance and the Design for Development document for the Culver City Expo station. I also gathered information about new developments in the district via an examination of newspaper articles. Several reports, including one by Loyola Marymount University on Ballona Creek and the LA River Master Plan were helpful for thinking about the benefits and challenges inherent in revitalization of Ballona Creek.

Phase six: Guidelines for further research and recommendations During this phase I synthesized my field work with the findings from my research via secondary sources, leading to a set of guidelines for further research, recommendations, and proposals for physical interventions.

Phase seven: Visioning interventions This was the fun phase, where I imagined what my proposed interventions view

might

graphics,

4

look

like.

cross-sections,

Weeks 5 - 7

The built environment

It

generated and

a

a

series

SketchUp

of

plan

rendering.

5

Weeks 8 - 9

Design + development considerations

6

Weeks 9 - 11

Further research + recommendations

7

Weeks 9 - 11

Visioning interventions 15


3

Lynch analysis 3.1

Image elements

3.3

Imageability

3.2 3.4

Legibility, structure, and identity Image problems

Intersection of Venice and National boulevards 16


3.1 Image elements Districts

the east, and small, quiet single family residential to the north and west.

The Arts District as a whole is recognizable as a distinct area. This

Ballona bikeway starts, paralleling the creek all the way to Marina Del Rey

is mainly due to the great number of galleries, art shops, and home furnishing stores along Washington Blvd, as well as distinct branding elements installed by the municipality of Culver City. The city dubs itself the “Heart of Screenland,” because of several famous film studios and a history of motion picture production. This is apparent as you walk down Washington Blvd—the palm trees on the sidewalks are framed with small metal structures that have the titles of classic American films as well as the names of their directors and stars. Within the Arts District, several areas stand out as subdistricts. Kevin Lynch defines districts as areas which one “can mentally go inside of, and which have some common character. They can be recognized internally, and occasionally can be used as external reference as a person goes by or towards them”.2 For an outsider to the neighborhood, the area

around the historic Helms bakery building would be the most likely to be referenced as somewhere to visit. A section of Helms Avenue has been bricked over—known as Helms Walk—creating a pedestrian mall with a café, a restaurant bar, and several home furnishing stores. It features open air seating, a small grass strip, and a fountain. The two adjacent blocks on Washington Blvd to the east have an arts bookstore, art shops, and restaurants. While Helms Walk is a clearly defined subdistrict, the adjacent blocks are less clearly legible as a cohesive area even though they have a common character (art-centric retail). A pedestrian mall is easy to recognize as a district, an area split by four lanes of traffic less so. Of a different character is the subdistrict around Syd Cronenthal Park, a community open space, and the private Echo Horizon elementary school. The Expo line and bike path run along its southern edge, Ballona Creek to

While Ballona Creek is inaccessible to the north, next to the park the and the Pacific Ocean. For the passerby walking along the Expo bikeway, the area would immediately stick out as a place with a common character distinct from the desolate urban areas to the south, and is accessible from the Arts District to the north and the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Edges

The Expo light rail line and bikeway bound the district to the south.

The edges that shape the district are pronounced and not easily penetrated. Amongst Lynch’s five elements, the edges of the area are the most legible. These boundaries are principally in the form of large boulevards. Ballona Creek also forms the eastern edge for the residential area south of Washington Blvd. It is an impenetrable edge and the creek is completely inaccessible until the bike path starts next to Syd Cronenthal Park. Even at this point, at the District’s southern edge, you cannot cross the creek except at certain street overpasses and the water is a small trickle far below the bike path level.

Ballona Creek forms an inaccessible, uncrossable edge between Washington and National boulevards.

The district is bounded by the inhospitable expanse of Venice Boulevard to the north and the new Metro Expo light rail line and bike path to the south, which runs parallel to National and Jefferson boulevards. To the east it is cut off at La Cienega Boulevard, and to the west runs into the tangle where several dominant pathways collide (National, Washington, and Venice boulevards). Beyond Venice Boulevard to the north lies the swath of the I-10 freeway, a formidable barrier to pedestrian, bike, or car. Walking from downtown Culver City or the Culver City Expo stop, one is forced to cross National Boulevard, a large and always busy street. The Arts District is a good example of why Lynch says that “high speed arteries may not necessarily be the best way of visually delimiting” an area. 3 Continued on page 17 >>

17


Major

Minor

District

Map not to scale

Problems Discontinuity/Spatial Mismatch

I - 10

?

Direction Ambiguity

na

Path

ee

Edge

k

Incomplete/Broken Path

Cr La

il St

ne

d W

Harg

is St

ng

i ash

W

Blv n to

tney

Sen Ave

Ave

erts

Rob Ave

Ballon

Jaco

Syd Cronenthal Park

Metro Expo Lightrail

Blvd La Cienega

Ave

Ave

Ave

a Cre ek

e s Av

t bS

anu

Ave

gus

arau

rne

rbou

She

Catt

Fay

WW

Blvd McM

n ngto i h s a

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line

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e s Av

National Blv d

d

Blv

Ave

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Ave

Ave Helm

Cu Expo LinelveSr City top

ga

anus

Ave

arau

rne

rbou

line

Caro ve sA

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McM

Fay

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Melv

Catt

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La Ciene ga

Landmark

18

Cie

Ave

Node

S Fair fax Blv d

Elements

N

llo

3-1

Lynch analysis

Ba

FIG

?

W Jefferson Blvd LYNCH ANALYSIS


>> Continued from page 15

Paths The district is defined and bounded by the intersection of several large paths, mainly dedicated to car-use. It is the site of a chaotic collision of distinct grids and cross-city thoroughfares. The effect is simultaneously one of an oasis from the barren stretches that surround it and of constricted flows through and around the district. Large boulevards, while providing pathways, also create a fragmentation of access, particularly on foot. Washington Blvd is the main path that runs through the heart of the Arts District. However, it also bisects it, cutting it in two. Crossing the boulevard on its roughly half mile stretch within the district is difficult. There are only three traffic lights where pedestrians can use a crosswalk to get to the other side of the boulevard. Otherwise, they are forced to scamper across two lanes to the median after a set of traffic passes, and then across another two lanes to the other side. Most intersections have no right of way for pedestrians to cross. Traffic flows at a constant rate throughout the day. The

of Washington, National, Venice, and Culver boulevards represents a major node of transportation modes. On the eastern edge, there are major nodes at Washington and La Cienega, Venice and La Cienega, Fairfax and La Cienega, and Jefferson and La Cienega. Along Washington Blvd—in the heart of the Arts District, there are minor

Public artworks spanning Ballona Creek on Washintgon Blvd serve as landmarks

nodes at Helms Ave and La Cienega Ave—the only crosswalks on the stretch between La Cienega Blvd and National Blvd. Where the Ballona Creek and Expo line bike paths intersect can be considered a minor node. The Culver City and LADOT bus stops function as minor nodes. As well as a subdistrict, Helms Walk can be thought of as a node, where people from different parts of the city arriving by different modes intermingle. It is a strongly introverted node, as are the other nodes in the area. There is little sense of interconnectivity with other parts of the city or major landmarks or paths. The disruptive edge boulevards are more strongly present in the image.

Landmarks

absence of bike lanes on Washington Blvd forces bikers into the fast flowing

The district is not characterized by distinct landmarks. Almost all

traffic lane or along its edge where they are in danger of getting doored.

buildings are one story and flat roofed. There is not much in the way of interesting architectural detail. The single family homes that hug

Driving along Venice Boulevard to the north or National Boulevard to the

Washington Blvd on both sides are largely California style bungalows.

south, you could easily pass the district with no clue to its whereabouts. The same can be said for Metro passengers disembarking at the Jefferson/La

The

historic

Cienega or Culver City Expo stations. Even a driver passing swiftly along

Walk

are

Washington Blvd might only briefly notice that he was in a distinct district.

bakery

Helms the

houses

most home

Bakery

building

recognizable furnishing

and

adjacent

landmarks.

stores,

cafes,

Today, and

Helms the bars.

The scale of the pathways does not invite the passerby to stop or linger.

Nodes Each end of the Arts District is marked by major nodes, where the large boulevards intersect. The end of the Expo line at the junction 3.1 IMAGE ELEMENTS

Washington Blvd, at the eastern end of the district, is transected by Ballona Creek. The stream has been relegated to a large cement trough running below the boulevard. Culver City has attempted to make this more remarkable by installing large painted metal overhangs on the span where 19


Washington Blvd crosses over the creek. The structures help call attention to the fact you are crossing a water drainage instead of just another city block.

3.2 Legibility, structure, and identity

Lynch defines identity as “distinction from other things”, and “recognition as a separable entity”.4 The Arts District is identifiable, if not strongly

so. When one walks from one of the large boulevards surrounding the The Culver City Expo station is a landmark in the making, striding the

district to the central Washington Blvd corridor, there is a distinct sense

confluence of Venice and Culver boulevards, striking out towards the I-10

of entering a different place. One goes from very wide streets with few

and the Pacific. The large parking lot adjacent to where National and

trees or stopping places for pedestrians, to a corridor with many trees

Washington boulevards meet is an abrupt rupture of landscape and clearly

and some places designed for people to linger. Walking east along

identifies the station. The clean line of the light rail tracks cuts through an

Washington Blvd from National Blvd, a central median with mature trees

otherwise chaotic tangle of paths, leaving a clear image in the viewer’s eye.

heralds the transition, popping up where before there was only open

A central median with mature trees runs the length of the corridor.

street and painted yellow lines. An interesting route for pedestrians is Both the park and elementary school function as important landmarks for

attempted with the classic movie structures and funky bus stops. The

neighborhood residents, particularly children. Buried in quiet residential

district has branded with lamp post banners. Helms Walk stands out as

streets, it most likely does not serve as a landmark for outside visitors.

particularly distinct from surrounding areas, which are not built or scaled

The I-10 might serve as a landmark, but as Lynch observes, it is built with

for humans. Washington Blvd is clearly legible as the main pathway.

vegetated embankments in order to disappear. Getting off the freeway at the Robertson exit nearby is particularly disorienting due to the junction of the

Even so, the structure of the corridor and its buildings is typical of Los

off-ramp with several major boulevards. The second phase of the Expo line

Angeles. It has roughly ten feet sidewalks with flat building fronts; one story

passing by overhead helps locate travelers and construct a sense of place.

structures with unused flat roofs; and very few street-side benches. Little

.

about its structure is remarkable. The residential area to north and south

The north end of Helms Walk, with Washington Blvd visible at the far end.

act as buffers from the fast-paced, barren streets to all sides of the district. Traversing the Arts district, its irregular teardrop shape stands out clearly

.

in the mind’s eye. Walking along the Washington corridor there is a clear sense that major edges, running at odd angles, are present nearby.

20

LYNCH ANALYSIS


3.3 Imageability “That

quality

in

a

physical

object

3.4 Image problems which

gives

it

a

high

probability of evoking a strong image in any given observer.”

5

Several images stand out in the district: the Helms Bakery building, with its white stone and façade detailing; the inviting pedestrian mall on Helms Ave with its dark bricks, fountain, and open-air seating; the colorful murals along Washington Blvd; the quiet tree-lined streets with classic bungalows; and the vantage points looking down into lifeless Ballona Creek, particularly at the access point adjacent to Syd Cronenthal Park. The bright, chaotic points where paths, edges and nodes clash along the surrounding large boulevards also stands out. The image is of passing through a hard, inhospitable, and disorienting gray desert to a small, brief oasis. Of the value of an image, Lynch contends it must be adaptable/openended, contain blank spaces where the user can “extend the drawing for himself”, and be communicable to others. In the immediate sense, the image of the Arts District does not strongly evoke any of these values. However, it does invite greater changes to the image; it is not the highly developed downtown where there is little space for invention. Ballona Creek in particular has these qualities, inviting the mind to draw in a space full of green, the sounds of water, and smiling people strolling its edges—to change its blank walls into a canvas where the surrounding city serves as backdrop. The same can be said of Washington Blvd, where the ample width of the roadway lets the passerby imagine more

.

Immediately recognizable was the discontinuity, or spatial mismatch, between the human friendly sidewalks and Helms Walk, and the large boulevards, particularly the main Washington Blvd corridor. Sitting at a café on the Helms Walk, the instinct is to relax, enjoy the fresh air, and soak in the warmth of the sun. However, the mind is constantly, if minutely, pulled away by the constant hum of traffic along Washington Blvd. The side streets are quiet and shady; walking along Washington there is a sense of being in a smaller, human friendly place. The four lanes of traffic stand out like a sore thumb; the continuity between the mature trees, shops, and small eateries buffered from the city by quiet residential is disrupted. Coming from outside the district, walking past the Culver City Expo station, one could easily miss the district. Where pedestrians’ feet might lead them if there were useful wayfinding devices, or bigger restructurings of the built environment, is obscured. There is no clear, unambiguous pathway into the district from either of the Expo line light rail stations, nor from Venice Blvd or downtown Culver City. If one were approaching the zone from the southeast, along the Expo line bike path, he might be excited to see the beginnings of a new

Access northwards on the Expo bikeway is prohibited, cutting the path off from Washington Blvd

path below, along the edge of Ballona Creek. Going down into the

.

trough next to the park, the path stretches off to the southwest. Access northward along the creek—into the Arts District—is prohibited.

human-friendly uses in the space and to envision turning the unfriendly scale of these expanses into a resource for creative reinvention.

3.3 IMAGEABILITY

21


4

Land use analysis 4.1 4.2

Inferred land use

Zoning and land use

22

Except for this mix-use development, the Washington Blvd corridor is dominated by one to two story, flat-faced, and single use buildings.


4.1 Inferred land use

4.2 Zoning and land use

Inferred land use is classified into seven basic categories. Retail/Commercial

Zoning is largely consistent with observed land uses. Notable exceptions

and Single Family Residential dominate. Vacant/Abandoned and Institutional/

include: while housing is predominately single-family, both Culver and

Public are the least present. Parking, similarly to Vacant/Abandoned, is

LA cities zone the areas as varying degrees of multi-family housing;

depicted in gray, alluding to the vacant quality of parking lots. There is one

where I observed institutional uses, a private school is zoned residential,

true mix-use building, with housing above and commercial spaces below.

and a children’s foundation is zoned industrial. As discussed previously, little suggests that mixed-use is permitted via the 2008 ordinance;

The district has several areas of open space: the pedestrian mall on

and the Helms Walk pedestrian mall I assumed was public open

Helms Ave, the Syd Cronenthal community park, the Expo line bike path

space is in fact private and zoned industrial, as is the whole Helms

running along its southern edge, and Ballona Creek. It is contestable

Bakery complex. This is a vestige of its historical use as a producer

whether the inaccessible cement trough where the creek crawls should be

of mass market bread. The large-scale development on the corner of

demarcated as open space. A bike path runs along its edge starting at the

Washington and National boulevards—once completed—will

park, but going north into the heart of the Arts District it is closed to public

greater presence of mixed-use to the district. Named Access Culver

use. I chose to include it as open space because it has ample room

City, it will feature commercial on the ground floor with residential above.

along its edges and has great potential as an area for public recreation.

bring a

See Figure 4-1 (a transparent overlay)>>

Lumping retail and commercial together is misleading; the category is overly large to accurately depict the types of use along the Washington Blvd corridor. If I were to do a detailed land use map, I would look more closely at this category, stratifying it so that the

The Washington Blvd corridor is dominated by low, bluff-faced buildings

great number of arts and architecture offices, galleries, auto body shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as retail establishments, showed up. See Figure 4-2>>

23


24

LAND USE ANALYSIS


FIG

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Zoning Overlay

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Multi-Familiy Residential

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4.2 ZONING AND LAND USE

National Blv d

Syd Cronenthal Park 25


THIS PAGE IS NOT FOR PRINTING WHEN PRINTING, OMIT THIS PAGE. THIS ALLOWS THE CLEAR ZONING OVERLAY MAP ON THE PREVIOUS PAGE TO BE VISIBLE ON TOP OF THE INFERRED LAND USE INVENTORY MAP

26

LAND USE ANALYSIS


FIG

4-2

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Inferred Land Use Inventory

Cie

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Retail/Commercial Single Family Residential

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4.2 ZONING AND LAND USE

National Blv d

Syd Cronenthal Park 27


5

User/space analysis 5.1

Sites of study and methods

5.3

User/space dynamics

5.2

28

User groups

The inhospitable intersection at Washington and National boulevards, adjacent to the Culver City Expo light rail station


5.1 Sites of study and methods The principal method used was passive participant observation. I visited

the sidewalk that crosses Ballona Creek. I did see one roofless man

the district at different times throughout the day—from the early morning

sunning on the ledge of a raised grassy strip on Helms Walk. While

to late at night—over the period of study. I first canvassed the Greater

strolling Washington Blvd I came upon what looked like two policemen

Arts District, then concentrated on three key spaces: the Helms Walk

harassing a roofless man. In the end, the roofless man was allowed

pedestrian mall adjacent to the historic Helms Bakery buildings on the

to walk away, lecturing the two policemen in a loud voice. Despite this

northwest end of the district; the Washington Boulevard corridor itself

one incident, Washington Blvd is calm and pedestrians are infrequent.

Washington Blvd sees little pedestrian use and the transit stops are typically empty

from Helms Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard on its eastern end; and the area around the small Syd Cronenthal community park where

There were some significant differences in age between the customers

the Expo Line bike path intersects with the beginning of the Ballona

at Father’s Office, a hip microbrew bar on the north end of the Walk,

Creek bikeway. I also explored the gated-off section of Ballona Creek

and those at La Dijonaise café, which abuts Washington Blvd on the

directly north of the beginning of the bike path to where the creek flows

south end of the Walk. While age lines were not strict, people in

underneath Washington Blvd. I never encountered anyone, though there

their thirties, forties, and some in their fifties congregated at the café

were signs that people had passed through, such as graffiti art and trash.

while the younger twenty and thirty something crowd gathered at the bar. The customers at the home furnishing shops tended to be in

Conversations with users were minimal. Most findings come from close

their forties or fifties, but there was no strong trend for age group.

observation of users and how they interacted with the different spaces.

5.2 User groups Washington Blvd and Helms Walk The greatest differences between user groups were observed between Helms Walk and along Washington Boulevard, where users congregated around a few cheaper restaurants and auto body shops. Helms Walk attracted wealthier users, distinguished by dress, luxury cars, and shopping behaviors. The stores, eateries, and bar along the Walk were more costly than nearby places like Pinches Tacos. Even the sausages truck that parks next to the Walk on the weekends charged

An analysis of Washington Blvd. user groups was more difficult, mainly because there are typically few people on the street. There were two men working at the auto body shop and occasionally someone coming to pick up their car. Of the handful of shops along the corridor, I observed few people in them. Many of the spaces are galleries and only open on weekend nights, usually Saturday. One afternoon, I saw the residents of a dilapidated apartment building in front of their doors, the only residential on the street besides the second level apartments in the mixed-use building. I did not observe almost any movement from the residential streets adjacent to Washington Blvd onto the boulevard itself. Those who came to the Walk typically came by car and parked in the adjoining

$6 for a sausage, whereas a full meal costs $9 at Pinches Tacos.

parking lot behind the arts bookstore or across Venice Boulevard,

Two roofless men often sit at the far end of Washington Blvd, on

encounter a person in the residential streets north and south of

in parking lots designated for users of Helms Walk. It is rare to 29


30

Two men have constructed an encampment directly underneath National Blvd, along the edges of Ballona Creek. Until recently, the encampment was more ANALYSIS extensive, with a large shelter constructed out of many shopping carts and tarpsUSER/SPACE and sheets as roofing


Washington Blvd. Those I did encounter were walking their dogs alone.

Weekend nights on Washington Blvd On weekend nights, a young hip crowd comes out for art galleries. When walking down the otherwise dead Washington Blvd corridor

the occasional biker or walker. Because of the lack of users, few trends were identified. In general, they seemed to be the white, middle-income

This series of diagrams focuses on public versus private space use to the

residents who live nearby, as well as some long-distance bikers is full gear.

exclusion of typical user group classifications. I observed few socioeconomic

Ballona creek

on a Saturday night, I all of the sudden came upon a large line

Ballona Creek path—directly below the Expo bike path—is a different story.

stretching around the block, waiting for a 6:00 PM gallery opening.

It is usually vacant except for the occasional biker or runner. However, two men have set up a semi-permanent encampment under the multi-

and ethnic differences between users in the district. However, the uses in public versus private spaces were dramatically different, as the use patterns throughout a typical Saturday demonstrate. Use concentrates on the Helms Walk; Washington Blvd sees little use throughout the day, except when there is a gallery opening. Although Helms Walk is privately-owned public space, I classified it as public in this context. See pages 32 — 33 >>

On Saturday night, the eastern end of the corridor came to life for a few brief

tiered overpasses of National Blvd, an old railway bridge, and—above

hours. This was muted by the fact that not all galleries have showings on the

both—the new Expo light rail. The camp is nestled on the opposite side

same nights, so any multiplier effects from a concentration of people are lost.

of the creek from the bike path, on multiple levels of concrete ledges that

It is also somewhat distant from Helms Walk, the only place on the corridor

sit directly below the roadway. On the lower tier they have constructed a

While weekends see greater use throughout the Arts District, there are

that would currently support people lingering in public, outdoor space. Almost

makeshift shelter comprised of many large box store shopping carts, with

still few people along Washington Blvd. This can change quickly on a

no one was observed walking between Helms Walk and the art galleries.

clothes and sheets strung atop them as a roof. Chairs are place on the

weekend night when there is a gallery opening. Canvassing the corridor at

steep concrete embankment above the shelter. Sheets have been strung

this time provides greater opportunties to observe user/space interactions.

up in the space created by the concrete wall leading up to the underside

Gallery goers typically spend little time on the street except when waiting

of the National Boulevard overpass. This is someone’s home, intimately

in line, and I observed few people walking from outside the district or

viewed across the hard chasm that Ballona Creek has been confined to.

along the Washington Blvd corridor. Instead, they parked in adjacent

Little privacy is afforded whoever lives there. Perhaps this is why, in the

residential streets and along Washington Blvd. As noted throughout this

multitude of my visits to the location, I have rarely observed anyone home.

report, the district suffers from pedestrian access issues.

Syd Cronenthal Park and the Expo bikeway There is generally some activity at Syd Cronenthal Park, less on the two adjacent bike paths. The park has two baseball diamonds opposite each other, with soccer field in between. It also has a playground, a community center, a basketball court, and two tennis courts. As expected, the main use is sports. An adult men’s softball league plays there every Saturday morning and there is basketball and soccer practice on the basketball court regularly. I also observed the occasional tennis match and gym classes from the adjacent elementary school. I only observed one couple sitting in the grass. People who came to the park were

Figure 5-1: Public vs private use—Washington Blvd corridor on a Saturday Due to the length of the Washington Blvd corridor—and in order to clearly see the spatial relationships between the corridor and the surrounding

there to play sports, along with a few people who came to watch them.

cross-metropolis boulevards—I plotted users at a relatively small map scale.

The Expo Line bikeway see infrequent use. The stretch edging the single-

users, and the hexagons are roofless public space users. Because roofless

family residential south of Washington Blvd, parallel to National Boulevard, is particularly nice and well protected from the busy street. I have only observed 5.2 USER GROUPS

The triangles represent public space users, the squares are private space

Figure 5-2: Day vs night use on Washington Blvd

The

district is a destination for gallery goers and those who eat and drink on Helms Walk. It see little local use from adjacent residential neighborhoods, demonstrated by its near desertion when there are no gallery openings. Greater pedestrian traffic along Washington Blvd highlights the lack of crosswalks and pedestrian-friendly intersections. It is common to see people sprinting from one sidewalk to the median then to the far sidewalk, a particularly dangerous practice at night.

See pages 34 — 35 >>

users typically interact with public space differently, I make a distinction between them and general users. Hollow shapes represent five people each. 31


10:00

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Washington Blvd corridor on a Saturday

La Ciene ga Ave

5-1

Public vs private use

Ave

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32

USER/SPACE ANALYSIS


Ave

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vd

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33

Ave

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WW

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FIG

5-2

Day vs night use on Washington Blvd

Typical weekend afternoon...

34

USER/SPACE ANALYSIS


Saturday night when there is a gallery opening...

5.2 USER GROUPS

35


FIG

5-3

rne

rbou Ave

Parking lot Home furnishing store

Public space user (one person) Public space user (five people) Private space user (one person)

She

ve sA

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He

Users congregate at food and drink establishments. A few people come and go from home furnishing stores, but almost no one lingers in the pedestrian mall privately-owned public space.

e n Av

Ve

d v l B

hiso

The Helms Walk area on a Saturday afternoon

e c i n

Hutc

User/space dynamics

Home furnishing store

Pub

Private space user (five people) Home furnishing store

lvd B n o ingt

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Restaurant

as WW

People passing leasurely through without stopping CafĂŠ

36

USER/SPACE ANALYSIS


5.3 User/space dynamics Helms Walk

Those who do come arrive mostly by car. It is not a space used heavily

The pedestrian mall is an inviting place; the street has been bricked over

a specific reason, to shop, eat a meal or drink beer. On weekdays,

and is effectively isolated from both Washington and Venice boulevards. It has a good sense of place. As one enters from Washington Blvd, he passes by outdoor seating at three different eateries. Beyond that, there is a mature tree in a large raised planter, with a circular bench around it. And beyond that, a narrow raised strip of grass with several rocks, bounded on one side with a two-tiered ledge that provides a great place to sit. At the end of the grass strip there is a fountain. On each side of this middle area of the Walk there are expensive home furnishing stores. At the far end of the Walk area is Father’s Office, a microbrew pub with ample outdoor eating space. This end of the walk is buffered from Venice Blvd by a small section of street that still exists to give access to one side of the Helms Bakery parking lot. Overall, it is nice place to relax. It is a place that brings to mind the idea of 6

the environment as “a way of enabling connections to occur” (17).

If thinking about how “the location and proximity between buildings and spaces enhance or impede the interaction of people”,7 Helms Walk seems

to fulfill the criteria for a space that would enable interaction between people and the built environment. It is an enjoyable place to pass time in. However, observation led to some clear, counterintuitive patterns. While people do not seem to be in any rush, walking leisurely through the open public-private space. Except for the occasional outlier, people do not stop or linger. They are passing through, on their way in or out of a store, usually from the adjacent parking lot, or they are sitting at one of the cafes or restaurant bars. According to William Whyte, the space would invite passerby to linger. It is well connected to the street, has ample sitting room with his preferred ledges, and is small and bounded by historic buildings on each side. 5.3 USER/SPACE DYNAMICS

by nearby residents that live within walking distance. They come for there is often a lunchtime crowd. People do linger, but only in the private outdoor seating spaces and within the eateries themselves. I did observe a few families with small children stop and play on the grassy strip or around the fountain, but this was rare. It was common for one, sometimes two, people to sit for a brief time under the large tree with circular bench around it. It is easy to imagine what the space would be like if it reached a critical mass of people; it has an inviting environment for stopping along its edges or in its center to chat in groups.8

People tend to congregate on the end away from the traffic-laden Washington Blvd when Father’s Office is open (starting at noon Friday – Saturday). It is impossible to identify the cause of this pattern. It seems that people prefer the end away from the street—to be away from the constant, wearying sound of traffic—but a number of other explanations exist, such as the food and drink being of higher quality at Father’s Office, or having greater appeal for young people. A

This strip of grass and ledge seating, complete with fountain on the far end, sees infrequent use despite providing inviting features

detailed survey of users and determinants of preferences would need to be conducted in order to disentangle correlation and causation. What, then, disuades people from utilizing the open space instead of just passing through? Multiple possible explanations exist. The space is largely catered to commercial uses. The central portion of the Walk is dominated by home furnishing stores. While they are set up with a good physical connection to the pedestrian mall, they do not invite passing in and out. The few people who came out of the stores and sat down were husbands waiting for wives who were still shopping. The outdoor seating is relatively distant from the central open space with ledge seating and the grass strip and fountain. It seems plausible that if the outdoor seating was closer

37


The Washington Blvd corridor

38

USER/SPACE ANALYSIS


to the benches and ledges in the open space, there would be a more

The theories of Edward T. Hall are useful here for analyzing user

social atmosphere and more people would stop in the space. It could also

dynamics along Washington Blvd—and the mismatch between its

have to do with the besieged character of the area. The district has a

pleasant character and vacant status.

unique character and is friendly to pedestrians. However, one has to cross

of the street reflects our monochromatic culture. As Hall writes,

the great moats around it formed by large, car dense boulevards first. The Walk space does not have a community use character, lined as it is with commercial establishments. There is a small group of women who practice yoga up against one side of the walk. Besides this, I could detect no community use of the space. Those who lingered in the area were consumers paying to use private space. Though Helms Walk is private, it acts as public open space. This pattern of use evokes the idea of the “commoditization of public space.” The public is bounded by the private and the private is the principal draw to the public-private space. It fits the mold of US urban development. Public—or public-private— open space as centers of consumption. In other words, you have to pay to play. The Helms Walk open space functions as an accessory to the consumption, a peripheral space that adds value to the private.

Washington Blvd Corridor The Washington Blvd. corridor is an inviting environment, with large trees and a quiet character detracted from by the wide boulevard that bisects it. None of the rushing cars stop in the district, instead passing through. Few people walk along the corridor, even though it has several eateries, bus lines, shops and galleries. I have observed very few people engaged in conversation, and have never encountered a group of more than three people. The exception is when there are gallery openings on weekend nights, which brings out large groups. Even then, activity was concentrated during the time

The spatial organization

The Spanish plaza and the Italian piazza serve both involvement and polychrome functions, whereas the strung-out Main Street so characteristic of the United States reflects not only our structuring of time but our lack of involvement in others (174). This shines through clearly in the lack of interaction between passerby. Another telling explanation for the lack of social vibrancy lies with the car. Hall says, The automobile is the greatest consumer of public and personal space yet created by man. In Los Angeles, the automobile town par excellence, Barbara Ward found that 60 to 70 per cent of the space is devoted to cars (streets, parking, and freeways). The car gobbles up spaces in which people might meet. Parks, sidewalks, everything goes to the automobile. There are additional consequences of this syndrome that are worth considering. Not only do people no longer wish to walk, but it is not possible for those who do wish to, to find a place to walk (175). 9

While nearby Venice Blvd is the ultimate expression of this phenomenon, Washington Blvd has many human-friendly qualities. Traffic creates a mismatch between the quiet aspirations of the corridor and the busy roadway. To cross the street, one either has to detour several blocks or run to the median and then across the next two lanes. This constriction

.

of pedestrian movement and the lack of people on the street seems directly correlated to the consumption of space by the automobile.

while people waited for the gallery to open, at which point they filed inside.

5.3 USER/SPACE DYNAMICS

39


6

Built environment analysis 6.1

General observations

6.3

Mixed use ordinance

6.2 6.4

Impaired access Ballona creek

Historical rail lines [David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, 1928] 40


6.1 General observations Throughout the period of study, I have been struck by the Arts

The pedestrian mall, however, also suffers from a lack of use except

in the channel wall. The access road goes straight to Washington Blvd,

District’s quiet, inviting nature. It is a pleasant set of places, yet

as peripheral amenity to retail shops and eateries. I originally thought

but this is not apparent unless you cross into clearly prohibited space.

it lacks vitality. Even during events, such as gallery openings and a

that it was public space, being on top of Helms Avenue. However, it is

There are no clear wayfinding devices, and simply getting onto the bike

recent Zine Fest, movement and interactions on the street remain

zoned for industrial use by both Culver and LA cities (it straddles both

path or into the park is difficult. A sign on Washington Blvd points users

muted and scarce. Why is this so? Is it a product of inadjacency to

jurisdictions). And as evidenced in the accessibility spectrum graphic,

in the opposite direction of the Ballona bikeway. Even Helms Walk, which

where people live and work? Or the structural, planned environment?

it is in fact private property and part of the Helms Bakery complex.

seems like a pleasant outdoor public space, is actually private and sees little use except by consumers on its periphery (see Figure 6-1 on pages

The Washington Boulevard corridor is characterized by a low street wall

The district is difficult to access by foot or bike, which likely contributes

of one to two stories, with only a few breaks for small parking lots. It has

to its relative disuse. All of these elements provide interesting avenues

roughly ten foot wide sidewalks with regular street trees, some benches, and

to pursue. However, I continually found myself drawn away by Ballona

is interspersed with offices, cafes, eateries, and retail shops. The corridor

Creek, particularly to the section at the head of the bike path and adjacent

is surrounded largely by single-family housing, though it is proximate to

to Syd Cronenthal Park and Echo Horizon elementary school. The area,

denser multi-unit residential buildings. It is a short walk from two light

while proximate to the Washington Boulevard corridor, the Arts District,

rail stations as well as the active Culver City Central Business District. I

and an Expo line station—as well as being intersected by the Expo line

have observed a small lunch crowd visiting the area regularly, mainly via

bikeway—also does not see much use and faces access issues. Again,

car. These observations contradict a remoteness from people’s homes or

environmental issues instead of proximity seems to be the critical factor.

work hypothesis. After several weeks of participant observation and some document research, I hypothesize that the seemingly inviting nature of the area is countered by environmental and political constraints. This is most clear in the range of possible perceptions of access to and within the district, and by the political inertia around dynamic uses of Ballona Creek. My sense is that a lack of enclosure and the linear dispersion of uses for neighborhood residents and visitors contributes to the peculiar lack of activity in the district on a regular basis. The street wall is generally flat, bluff, impermeable, and therefore unengaging. It is difficult and dangerous to traverse from one side of the street to the other because of a lack of crosswalks. One exception is the point where Helms Walk intersects the boulevard on the western end of the corridor, providing a sense of space comfortable for lingering in.

42-43 for a graphic representation of impaired access in the district).

6.3 Mixed use ordinance The Arts District area will most likely be an example of the slow process of urban structural change. A Mixed Use Ordinance was passed in Culver City in 2008 that directly affects the permitted uses and development of the area, particularly Washington Blvd as an arterial street and the streets that intersect it. It allows mixed-use structures, with commercial use on the ground floor and residential above. It also classifies the Culver City

6.2 Impaired access

Expo station area as a TOD site (which is attached to community benefit

Accessibility is a major issue for the area. Even seemingly accessible spaces

on the environment or built form of the district. It was passed six years

are impaired, and many places are prohibited or beyond reach. While the

ago, little time in urban development years, and the Expo line only

public park is accessible, it is surprisingly difficult to locate and arrive at.

opened recently. The streets to the north side of Washington Blvd are not

To the north are quiet residential streets with mature trees that make for

subject to the ordinance as this is the border of LA and Culver cities.

easy walking. However, there is a subtle effect at play. Walking along Washington Blvd, these qualities make venturing through the neighborhood

requirements). Uses, however, remain largely segregated and structure is not dense. In short, the ordinance has yet to have a significant impact

.

uninviting to the outsider. No one walks there—it is clearly the domain of others. Ballona Creek has major access issues. To the north of National Blvd, there is an access road, but it is gated off. To get to the creek level, one has to climb through the fence and scale down a ladder embedded 41


[ [ [ Wayfinding is largely nonexistent in the district. Where it does exist, it does more to hinder access than help it. This sign for the two bikeways points in the opposite direction.

Hostile, dangerous interections like this one at Venice and National boulevards surround the Arts District, making access for pedestrians and bikers difficult.

Syd Cronenthal Park is relatively accessible and clearly for public use—if one can find it.

Access to Helms Walk on its north side is not clearly legible; the pedestrian space does not extend all the way to Venice Blvd, but is instead cut off by a short section of street.

All but two intersections on the eleven block Washington Blvd corridor lack crosswalks, imparing access for pedestrians making it dangerous to cross freely from one side of the street to the other.

Two intersections along the Washington Blvd corridor provide crosswalks, the only legible points for crossing the boulevard.

While Helms Walk has the appearance of public space, measures have been taken to clearly delineate it as private property.

While one can travel to the district via the Expo light rail, where to go from there is unclear. One has to cross a large parking lot and the busy National Blvd arterial.

The intersection at Helms Ave is the most inviting space for pedestrians, providing clear access onto the pedestrian mall from the street.

While this quiet residential area with mature trees south of Washington Blvd seems inviting, few people traverse it on foot. Walking along Washington Blvd, there is a clear sense that it is the domain of others.

Their is no direct access from the Culver City Expo line station to the Expo bikeway, except across this curved section of National Blvd. There is no crosswalk nor intersection, and the path is not clearly visible.

LEGIBLE

42

ILLEGIBLE ACCESS

FIG

{ { {

The Expo bikeway cuts a clear, relatively accessible, and easy to follow path along the southern edge of the district.

IMPAIRED ACCESS

BUILT ENVIRONMENT ANALYSIS


While the Ballona bikeway turns into a service access road north of Syd Cronenthal Park, access is clearly prohibited by this gate.

The neighborhood streets closest to Ballona Creek dead end into this tall fence. A pedestrian could easily be unaware that a waterway flowed just a few feet away.

While there is a service road running along Ballona Creek, it is difficult to walk along its edge between Washington and National boulevards. This section is particularly difficult due to overhanging trees and large pipes suspended across the creek.

This ladder is the only way to access Ballona’s creek bed. It is located along the gated off service road.

National Blvd and Hayden Tract to the south of the Expo bikeway are impossible to reach on this stretch of the path, as the light rail runs at grade along its entire length.

While the Expo line is clearly visiuble from Syd Cronenthal Park, arriving at one of its stations is difficult. One has to cross large boulevards and fences.

While it is possible to climb into the creek bed via the ladder above, all other points along the creek are gated off.

A metaphor for access in the Arts District—intriguing spaces just out of reach!

Access to Syd Cronenthal Park from the Expo and Ballona bikeways is difficult due to the small space entry which only allows one person at a time to pass.

If one does slide through the gate barring access to the service road at the terminus of Ballona’s bikeway and walk its length, he is confronted with yet more barriers that must be climbed in order to arrive on Washington Blvd.

The far side of Ballona Creek, where two roofless men live, is impossible to reach from the bikeway. It can only be reached by jumping off the road on the far side and sliding down the steep hill.

6-1

{ { {

Impaired access continuum

[ [ [ Long walls disconnect the Expo bikeway from the neighborhood streets to the north and Washington Blvd beyond it. There is no clear way to reach the path from the district’s central thoroughfare.

IMPEDED ACCESS

6.1 GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

PROHIBITED

OUT OF REACH

Inaccessible

43


FIG

6-2

a collison of jurisdictions....

Ballona Creek at National Blvd is the intersection of 3 local jurisdictions, plus the US Army Corps of Engineers. LA County

Culver City

LA City

US Army Corps of Engineers

CULVER CITY

LA

COUNTY 44 44

LA

CITY

BUILT BU B UIILT LT L TE ENVIRONMENT N NVIR NVI NV VIR VIRONMENT VIRO V IRONMENT IRO RONMENT RON R ONMENT O ON NMENT NME NM NMENT MEN ME NT T ANALYSIS AN A ANALYS N NAL NA AL ALYS A LY LYS L YS Y YSIS SIIS S SIS IS


6.4 Ballona Creek Ballona Creek has influenced the physical shape of the landscape and

use. I was interviewed by a group of elementary school students at the head

its use by humans for centuries (if not longer). It was an important

of the bike path who are revisioning its structure and use. They are polling

resource for Tongva Amerindians, who used it to harvest materials for

people who pass by about their plans to paint murals and attempts to get

housing, to make canoes, and for transport. It was (and is) a highly

the LA County of Public Works to remove parts of the large sloping concrete

seasonal and precipitation-variable waterway. Floods would frequently alter the course of the creek and the land around it. This geographic variation affected Spanish settlers who came from the south to ranch in the area. Unlike the Tongva, they did not know how to adapt to the floods. It wiped away the first adobe house and continued to impede the rigid and fixed

“The [bike] trail is the only non-vehicular inland walking and bicycle trail that exists to serve approximately three million people who reside within three miles of the amenity.”

settlement pattern of the colonizers. In 1934, the issue

walls and replace them with native grasses and plants. The intersection of multiple jurisdictions results in political inertia for structural changes. The creek is zoned as open space by both LA and Culver cities, and is an important public recreation corridor in urban areas poor in outdoor amenities. Yet use remains sparse, most likely due to the oppressive, stark and lifeless concrete channel. The

was laid to rest when in response to a large flood, the US Army Corps

points of access to the creek are not inviting and the views from the path

of Engineers straightened it and imprisoned it in a concrete trough that

to the surrounding city are of faceless back walls and tall dusty fences.

regimented hardscape runoff patterns and fixed it’s course to the ocean. 10

This act established the current form, and access to the waterway was significantly impaired. The creek is the subject of efforts by several organizations, like Ballona Creek Renaissance Project and Loyola Marymount University, for revitalization and renewed access and use. According to a study done by Loyola Marymount University, “the [bike] trail is the only non-vehicular inland walking and bicycle trail that exists to serve approximately three million people who reside within three miles of the amenity.” 11 The bike path begins at the south edge of the Arts District area.

Figure 6-2: A collision of jurisdictions Figure 6-2 graphically represents this jurisdictional collision with abstracted geography. The main institutional actors responsible for the creek are the LA County Department of Public Works and the US Army Corps of Engineers. This is compounded by the Culver City and LA municipal jurisdictions, which conflict at several points along

Historic municipal jurisdictions, Thomas Bros. Map of Los Angeles and Vicinity (1938)

the creek and at two points within the greater Arts District area. Continued on page 47>>

Ballona Creek falls within the jurisdictions of five different institutional actors: LA County Department of Public Works/Flood Control District, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Culver and LA cities, and the State of California. This collision of jurisdictions has led to what a teacher from the adjacent elementary school termed, “a jurisdictional no man’s land.” The creek is the subject of several initiatives for its revitalization and renewed

6.4 BALLONA CREEK

[from David Rumsey Historical Map Collection] 45


FIG

6-3

Ballona Creek: spheres of use + a symbology of power Metro Expo light rail Cutting across the sky, the new light rail is a potent yet complex promise of greater public access and structural change in the the district.

Surface The formal city, shaped by the automobile age and hostile to humans. Underpass Caught between the formal and informal city, between disuse and the blur of metropolitan economics. Both the residents of the formal and informal city seek to escape the frankenstein above. Ballona Creek Inaccessible and uninviting, the concrete trough is unusable by residens of the formal or informal city. Waterways—typically magnetic spaces for human activity—have been rendered peripheral in the modern metropolis. As a symbology of power, the layered uses represented here clearly put the formal, automobile-dominated city first with the rest relegated below.

46

BUILT ENVIRONMENT ANALYSIS


>> Continued from page 45

Figure 6-3: Ballona Creek—Spheres of use + a symbology of power This graphic represents the layered use of space where Ballona Creek passes beneath National Blvd. The creek flows along the bottommost layer, usually sedately but more swiftly during and after storms. There is little to no use by humans here. It is an inaccessible waterway rendered peripheral to the bike path by the high concrete channel walls.

Worlds divided between enclaves of economic power and military might and sectors of poverty and precariousness, between sites of overabundance and scarcity, between the wanted and the unwanted. One thing I am sure of: at this moment when the economic power of the privileged sites of development has collapsed, it is time to suggest that it is in sites of scarcity–not of abundance– where the new urban paradigms will emerge, to construct new ideas about infrastructure, housing

The underpass layer is the domain of pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as some seeking shelter. They pass beneath the surface layer, which is dominated by vehicular traffic. This is perhaps the most interesting layer, sandwiched between disuse and decay below and the dictators of urban development and great consumers of public space above. It is the layer where those who actively fuel this destructive and alienating model of urban development, and those who have been

Here we find an example of informal use providing insights into the functioning of the urban environment and suggestions for alternatives. Cruz talks about California bungalows—replaced by concrete buildings— are exported to Tijuana and put to creative reuse. A shopping cart could be thought of in a similar way. Depicted in the graphic is a poor

Unusable and inaccessible in the formal city, the underpass is productive space in the informal one.

marginalized by it, attempt to escape their own creation. The surface layer contains the Expo bike path that parallels National Blvd, the vestiges of an old rail line, and omnipresent cars. The topmost layer is a new light rail line connecting the Westside with Downtown LA, a potent yet complex promise of greater public access and structural change in the district. The underpass layer has a host of difficult questions bundled up in it. The central question lies in the exchange and conflict between two urbanisms, one formal, institutional, and regimented, and the other informal and flexible. It is a microcosm of the processes discussed by Teddy Cruz. He says,

meaning and not simply limited to the imageability elements of Lynch.

and density. 12

It is also a locust for pollutants and waste, as

evidenced by the myriad types of trash and the multi-colored water.

.

human city. The development of urban structure is bound up with

representation of a large shelter made of shopping carts and tarps. The shopping carts, evidenced by their prolific use as mobile closets and shelter throughout Los Angeles, are expendable to box stores. Roofless people take advantage of the effective surplus to create a flexible mode of housing. In this case, they use

Ballona Creek where it intersects with National Blvd

the overpass to construct a living space. Unusable and inaccessible in the formal city, the underpass is productive space in the informal one. This highlights the agency of the informal city as response to institutional apathy and/or failure; while institutions remain powerless to adapt their own creation—the Ballona Creek trough—informal uses are not constricted by jurisdiction or political inertia, putting the space into use. The graphic also touches on Appleyard’s symbols of power idea. Clearly depicted are the formal uses above, mounted on costly concrete with clearly delineated bounds of use and adjacent to urban amenities. Below are the less powerful. Nature too is clearly extricated from the

6.4 BALLONA CREEK

47


7

Towards interpretation: Design + development considerations 7.1 7.2

48

The Platform, a new development across Washington Blvd from the Expo Line station.

Site plan for The Platform. The entire development is dedicated to retail.

Access Culver City—at the intersection of Washington and National boulevards—a mixed-use development with commercial on the ground floor and residential above.

Transit-oriented development

Revitalization of Ballona Creek

[All renderings taken from Curbed LA blog articles]


7.1 Transit-oriented development Due to the recent opening of the Metro Expo light rail, which stretches

existing amenities and sense of place. Both the Culver City Mixed Use

from

Transit-Oriented

Ordinance and the Design for Development report support new, creative

Development (TOD) has become an important consideration for future

enhancement of public space. These will be discussed in greater depth

urban design. The Arts District is sandwiched between two new light rail

in Chapter Eight. Methods to deal with existing mismatch issues are

stations, providing opportunities and challenges for future development.

discussed in Chapter Eight and further envisioned in Chapter Nine.

Abigail Thorne-Lyman, Director of the Center for Transit-Oriented

Challenges

downtown

LA

to

downtown

Culver

City,

Development at Reconnecting America, said of the Expo line, “There are opportunities that exist along Expo that don’t exist along other proposed or recently constructed alignments in California. But there’s these issues of equity that need to be somehow addressed and mitigated.”

13

TOD is already underway at two sites within the TOD designated district surrounding the Culver City Expo station. In 2012, days before the dissolution of the Culver City Redevelopment Agency, the City approved a mixed-use retail and luxury housing development on the corner of Washington and National boulevards.14 Known as Access Culver City,

it broke ground in October 2013.15 The Platform, a 40,000 square foot

As Stephens writes, “Perhaps the most delicate issue facing planners is that of addressing affordable housing. The Expo Line runs through relatively poor neighborhoods filled with older housing stock.” 17

It

is important to develop concrete guidelines of how to proceed with development processes and how to include affordable housing in any new development. Los Angeles faces a chronic shortage of

.

affordable housing; the Expo Line poses many opportunities but also many challenges to future urban development on the Westside.

development dedicated purely to retail is also in the works for a site directly south across the street from the Culver Expo station. The Arts District is also adjacent to the Hayden Tract, which holds promise for future TOD sites because of large pieces of land and old warehouses.16 The

neighborhood lacks a main thoroughfare for residents and professionals.

Opportunities The growth of TOD development in the area creates opportunities to enhance the built environment for new user groups as well as existing ones. Improvements to public spaces could have a multiplier effect, generating denser, transit-oriented developments in the area. Washington Blvd has the potential to be the main street of a new urban village. Between the two Expo stations, it has the greatest 49


FIG

7-1

Design for Development zones + new transit-oriented developments

Culver City Expo line stop TOD developments under construction

Access

The Platform

50

[Map from the Culver City Design for Development Expo Transit Area report]


7.2 Revitalization of Ballona Creek Efforts

to

revitalize

political

inertia.

University

As

and

a the

Ballona

Creek

are

study

conducted

by

Baldwin

Hills

handicapped Loyola

by

Marymount

conservancy

notes:

Barriers to increasing the Bike Path’s usage and enhancing this community asset are primarily institutional. Because many government agencies share jurisdictional responsibility for Ballona Creek, there is no uniform approach to its operation or maintenance. For example, no signage exists indicating the length of the Bike Path or its access or termination points, which fails to promote its use as a recreational or commuter facility. As well, many of the proposed improvements to the Ballona Creek Bike Path will require approval by the government agencies and municipalities which may have inconsistent regulations, codes and

Challenges Urban waterway renewal often acts as a Trojan horse. Equity and affordability are undermined by infrastructural improvements. Because markets largely dictate urban development processes, what may seem like a win-win opportunity often produces contradictory results. Waterways are popular urban amenities in other cities across the world and provide many benefits. It seems obtuse not to pursue their revitalization where possible. However, for low-income residents, renewal projects can be more curse than blessing. The current LA River Revitalization Master Plan is a good example. It includes a discussion of the gentrification pressures it will create, yet provides no

18

ordinances. (7)

actionable guidelines for how to deal with them and no funding mechanisms or planning apparatus to build on the momentum around revitalization to

Opportunities

provide affordable housing for low-income residents.20 The inevitable result

The report identifies several opportunities for revitalization of the creek. Revegetation with native plants requires minimal construction costs. As the only pedestrian path and bikeway for approximately three million people, the costs are worth the benefits. The creek would also provide excellent spaces for outdoor classrooms and interpretive signage, as it is adjacent to several schools, public amenities like libraries, and residential neighborhoods.

is displacement of existing residents once neighborhoods become more physically attractive. The LA-RIO improvement district, once approved, has

.

implications for the greater LA area. The design standards implemented there could be applied in other watersheds, including Ballona Creek.21

I spoke with a group of elementary school children who were advocating for revegetation and public art projects next to their school, where the bikeway begins. A non-profit organization, called Ballona Creek Renaissance, also advocates for long-term renewal of the creek.19 Recommendations discussed

in

for

Chapter

improved Eight

connection

and

7.2 REVITALIZATION OF BALLONA CREEK

of

envisioned

the in

bikeway Chapter

are Nine.

51


8

Recommendations + avenues for further research 8.1

Key recommendations

8.3

Matching recommendations with Design for Development guidelines

8.2

Four proposals for interventions into public space

Mural art on the Washington Blvd corridor 52


8.1 Key recommendations The fracturing of grids centered on the Arts District and its multiple issues

enhancement of the built environment, but also for displacement of

of access create a disjointed set of pleasant places that see little use. A

low and even middle-income residents. Strategic development plans

revisioning of strategic points throughout the district holds the promise of

should incorporate anti-displacement measures as core principles, with

knitting them together. Current and future transit-oriented development will

institutional and financial mechanisms to ensure their implementation.

change the demographic makeup and character of the Arts District and its surrounding neighborhoods. A larger-scale, long-term vision, paired with strategic interventions into key public spaces, could shape development to be more beneficial to a broader set of citizens. A failure to do appropriate research, community engagement, and visioning of strategies to make the district more human-friendly will result in missed opportunities to create a new urban village centered on Washington Blvd, adjacent to transit, open space, and amenities. In order to accomplish these goals, I recommend several avenues for further research and comprehensive planning, followed

Conduct a spatial demographic analysis

Spatial analysis of residents will generate important information about historical processes, current resident makeup, and the potential for future development and displacement pressures. It will be impossible to tell if measures to counteract displacement are successful if housing patterns are not tracked. Baseline analysis, followed by periodic updates will help determine the success of planning interventions.

by four specific proposals for interventions into the built environment.

Create a strategic master plan

Conduct a comprehensive user survey

on the Culver City Mixed Use Ordinance as well as the Design for

During eleven weeks of field research, I observed a mismatch between the pleasant environment within the district and its relative disuse. Most activity centered on Helms Walk, and sporadically around the art galleries when there was an opening. In order to tailor interventions to user groups, as well as encourage greater use by nearby residents, more information is needed than observation alone can provide. Therefore, I recommend conducting a structured survey in order to determine in greater depth current uses of the Greater Arts District. The survey should pay particular attention to whether users are local

Current guidelines for development are poorly developed and depend Development report created in 2005 by the now defunct Culver City Redevelopment Agency.22 These basic guidelines can serve as the

foundation for a more comprehensive visioning for the area. Guidelines do not create a plan about how spaces can and should relate. Left as is, visioning will be left to developers, who have a distinct set of priorities from residents. The Culver City Planning Department, in collaboration with other key agencies, can turn the challenges created by fractured grids into opportunities for more inviting, functional public space.

residents or not and where people travel from to visit the district.

Therefore, I recommend devoting resources to envisioning enhancements

Create actionable guidelines to mitigate gentrification

for realizing the goals outlined here, as well as those in the Design for

Multiple

pressures

for

gentrification

exist.

The

transit-oriented

development zone around Culver City Expo station, as well as potential upgrades to Ballona Creek, have the potential not only for

to public spaces throughout the district. Specific interventions hold promise

.

Development report (see table on page 55). This is outlined briefly in the following section, and envisioned with greater detail in Chapter Nine.

53


8.2 Four proposals for interventions into public spaces During regarding

my

research,

access

to

and

I

observed within

the

.

four

key

issues

street at La Cienega and Washington boulevards, they would be

adjacent to it. Structural improvements would serve the twin purposes of

Greater

Arts

District:

pushed north or south to Venice or National boulevards, circumventing

greater safety and greater legibility for pedestrians and transit-riders.

the Arts District entirely. Multiple benefits could be derived from these (1) Infrequency of crosswalks and stop lights along the ten block

interventions without decreasing street parking or dramatically altering

Washington Blvd corridor between National and La Cienega boulevards.

traffic patterns (see Chapter Nine for more detail). In particular, it

Currently, there are only two stop lights and two crosswalks.

could support greater investment in mixed-use infrastructure and help turn the area from a TOD zone into a true urban village. Drawbacks

(2) Poor connectivity and wayfinding between key transit infrastructure

could include: greater congestion on Venice or National boulevards and

and important nodes in the Arts District.

more complicated deliveries for supply trucks along Washington Blvd.

(3) Mismatch between the seemingly calm nature of the district with the

Connect the Ballona bikeway to Washington Blvd

intensity of car traffic at certain times of the day.

Extending the bikeway north to Washington Blvd would create many benefits,

(4) Disconnection between Washington Blvd as the major center of

Concrete removal and planting of native grasses would make the creek more

activity for the district and the Ballona Creek bikeway, an important open space for Westside residents. Four interventions, large and small, have the potential to mitigate or solve these issues.

including greater access to an important open space for local residents. inviting while controlling erosion and decreasing moisture runoff to the ocean. The node where the current terminus of the bikeway lies would benefit from public art installations and mural projects, in the tradition of Tujunga Wash.

Develop effective wayfinding from transit stations into the district Current

Repurpose two traffic lanes along the Washington Blvd corridor

Within the ten block corridor, repurpose one lane in each direction to new, creative uses. A greenway, imagined as a greenwalk paralleling the existing sidewalk, could be constructed in the westbound outer lane. A two-lane bikeway could be designated in the outer eastbound lane. The change from four lanes to two would allow the easy installation of stop signs and crosswalks at every intersection within the Washington Blvd corridor. It would also create a natural redirect for cars traveling west along Washington Blvd; once they encountered the narrowed 54

the

signage

fractured

devices

are

is

pattern critically

confusing of

or

street

important

for

non-existent.

grids, creating

effective ease

Because

of

wayfinding of

access.

Create a pedestrian-friendly crosswalk at National and Washington boulevards

This intersection is a key access point from both downtown Culver City and the Expo Line light rail station. Currently, it is non-descript, wide, and dangerous.

Installment of colorful paving and public art would

herald to visitor’s their arrival in the Arts District. This intersection is bound to become more popular due to the two new TOD developments RECOMMENDATIONS + AVENUES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH


8.3 Matching recommendations with Design for Development guidelines Design for Development guidelines

23

Recommendations

General objectives “Create an environment that promotes and facilitates pedestrian and alternative modes of travel (such as transit and bicycles)”

All four recommendations (repurposing two traffic lanes, extending the Ballona bikeway, wayfinding, and a pedestrian-friendly crosswalk).

Development standards Special controls>General Plan>Land use element>Policy 6.I All recommendations except extension of the Ballona bikeway. “Plan for streetscape improvements (street trees, landscaping, street furniture, special lighting, decorative paving, screening walls) and façade improvements along commercial corridors that complement each focus area and improve the physical environment.” Special controls>General Plan>Circulation element>Policy 4.D “Enhance the aesthetic qualities of pedestrian access routes by increasing amenities, such as trees, awnings, lighting, street furniture, and drinking fountains, etc.”

All four recommendations.

Special controls>General Plan>Circulation element>Policy 4.G “Establish pedestrian access across existing barriers such as freeways, Ballona Creek, and long uninterrupted blocks, and require pedestrian links across potential future access barriers.”

All four recommendations; in particular the repurposing of traffic lanes changes Washington Blvd from four lanes to two, making it possible to install stop signs and crosswalks at every intersection. Extension of the Ballona bikeway provides greater access along the creek if not across it.

Special controls>General Plan>Open space element>Policy 5.A “Provide urban design amenities such as plazas, courtyards, and extended sidewalks as part of new developments to visually enhance public access ways in commercial areas.”

The repurposing of two traffic lanes widens the sidewalk on the north side of Washington Blvd, creating a greenwalk with pocket parks and other enhancements along the commercial corridor. It helps connect Helms Walk in the west with the art galleries in the east as well.

Access and circulation “Because this area will be a hub of travel mode transfer activity (i.e. LRT, bus transit, park-and-ride commuters, motorists, and bicyclists), access and circulation issues are vital to the area’s success and to the safety of all users. Each development project shall be required to be designed to provide prominent connection to the City sidewalks in order to create a continuous pedestrian-oriented circulation system”

The repurposing of traffic lanes and connection of Washington Blvd with the Ballona and Expo bikeways strongly supports access and circulation for pedestrians and byciclists, as well as visitors who arrive via public transit and car.

“Access to the area and development sites shall be barrier free, (except for protections to residential neighborhoods). The pedestrian experience shall be continuous and pathways shall be provided at strategic points in the street system.”

The crosswalk at National and Washington boulevards creates a continous pedestrian experience from the Expo Line station. Repurposing traffic lanes, as already stated, allows for the installation of stop signs and crosswalks along the Washington Blvd corridor.

“Vehicular circulation shall be segregated from pedestrian uses and designed as to minimize adverse effects on adjacent arterials, such as National, Robertson, Venice, and Washington Boulevards.”

The natural redirect where Washington Blvd would narrow east of La Cienega would achieve the goal of segregating traffic away from pedestrian uses in the district.

“The DFD area shall be a hospitable environment for bicyclists who are The repurposing of the southernmost lane in the Washington Blvd passing through, visiting the area, and for those making mode changes.” corridor as a two way bikeway will change the current inhospitable environment for bicyclists. 8.3 MATCHING RECOMMENDATIONS WITH DESIGN FOR DEVELOPMENT GUIDELINES

55


9

Visioning interventions 9.1

Visioning interventions

9.3

Connecting the Ballona Creek bikeway to Washington Blvd

9.2

56

Repurposing traffic lanes on Washington Blvd


9.1 Visioning interventions This chapter provides rough sketches to give flesh to two of the proposed recommendations for physical interventions. Each section provides a plan view, a cross-section, and accompanying text explanations. Also included in the repurposing traffic lanes section is a SketchUp rendering.

Repurposing traffic lanes on Washington Blvd

see pages 58 — 61 >>

Connecting the Ballona Creek bikeway to Washington Blvd

see pages 62 — 65 >>

57


FIG

9-1

Repurposing two traffic lanes

N Map not to scale

A greenwalk parallel to existing sidewalk Two lane bikeway in place of existing traffic lane

I - 10

La Ciene ga

d W

Harg

is St

ng

i ash

W

Blv n to

Ave

tney

Sen Ave

Ave

erts

Rob Ave

Ballon

Jaco

Syd Cronenthal Park

Metro Expo Lightrail

Blvd La Cienega

Ave

Ave

a Cre ek

e s Av

t bS

anu

Ave

gus

arau

rne

rbou

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WW

Blvd McM

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National Blv d

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Cu Expo LinelveSr City top

lvd

Caro

lB

d

Blv

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Ave

gus

Ave

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Helm

Na

McM

Fay

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Ave

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lm

He

line

Caro

rbou

She

V

il St

d Blv Catt

e

ic en

Melv

ga

S Fair fax Blv d

ne

Ba

Cie

Ave

La

llo

na

Cr

ee

k

Traffic reroutes around district

W Jefferson Blvd VISIONING INTERVENTIONS


9.2 Repurposing traffic lanes on Washington Blvd Description

Rationale, benefits, and potential drawbacks

Repurpose the two outermost traffic lanes on the Washington Blvd

This intervention would serve multiple purposes and solve several key

corridor between La Cienega and National boulevards. On the north

issues identified during research. The narrowed trafficway would allow

side, install a greenwalk (linear green open space) in the existing

for crosswalks and four-way stops at every intersection, solving issues

parking lane, parallel to the existing sidewalk. Parking would not be

of safety and inhospitability in the district. It would help match the quiet

eliminated, but one lane of traffic would, leaving only one lane for traffic

aspirations of Washington Blvd by reducing the volume of through-traffic and

in each direction. Instead of a monotonous strip of grass, uses could

traffic speeds. Moreover, it would provide green open space and missing

be mixed from block to block or within blocks. For example, one block

infrastructure for cyclists without reducing the amount of on-street parking.

could feature a stretch of grass for people to lay on next to something akin to a permenant parklet, with trees, shrubbery, and tables or street

The narrower street combined with crosswalks at every intersection would

furniture. Imagined on page 61 is a hybrid between a pocket park and

knit the north and south sides of the street together, allowing for the free

a design concept borrowed from intensive horticulture, the keyhole bed:

flow of pedestrians back and forth between art galleries, eateries, and bars.

a narrow pathway leads to a small enclosed patio space with benches

For eastbound traffic, the point where Washington Blvd would narrow at

surrounded by dense shrubbery and mid-sized trees, creating an outdoor

La Cienega would function as a physical redirect to the north and south of

living room affect sandwiched between the street and the sidewalk. Many

the district. While this has the potential to exacerbate congestion on Venice

different designs could be developed to create a sense of spontaneity

and National bouelvards, it would have the benefit of decreasing traffic

and to match with the existing retail and residential uses of each block.

before it is funneled into downtown Culver City; Washington Blvd merges with Culver Blvd for the three blocks that comprise the center of downtown

On the south side of the street, replace the existing traffic lane with

before splitting away again. Downtown Culver is another epicenter of

a two-way bikeway. The 10 foot wide parking lane would be split into

fractured grids where large boulevards collide with one another. Traffic

two 4.5 foot wide bike lanes—one in each direction—with a 1 foot

patterns would not be dramatically altered; cars would only be redirected

protective median built between the bikeway and the new parking

thirteen blocks before reaching downtown Culver City. However, there

lane, which would take the place of an existing eastbound traffic lane.

is the potential for complication of things like deliveries for supply trucks. The few bus stops in the corridor could simply be integrated with the

Repurposing two lanes would change the corridor from four lanes

greenwalk. A small break could be provided with benches and signage.

of traffic to two—one in each direction. This would then make it possible to install crosswalks at each intersection, as well as

Redirecting traffic would also have the benefit of making the National Blvd

four-way stop signs. Currently, cars do not stop except at the

crossing—from the Culver City Expo station to Washington Blvd—more inviting,

two traffic lights, which is the reason there are no crosswalks.

drawing the pedestrian’s eye with greenery and sidewalk activity. This would also be beneficial for the connection between the Expo station and downtown

9.2 REPURPOSING TRAFFIC LANES ON WASHINGTON BLVD

Culver City, making the light rail the most convenient means of arriving at the central business district from the east and eventually the west as well. The benefits of this bold intervention would combine to give Washington Blvd and the Arts District a greater sense of place. It holds the promise of converting it into the main street of a new urban village adjacent to light rail, residential, and downtown Culver City. The district has many existing characteristics that make it a pleasant place, yet it lacks vitality and movement. Unique public spaces paired with upcoming transit-oriented development could transform the district and create a vital pedestrian corridor—all the way from downtown Culver City to La Cienega Blvd—by building on already existing infrastructure and turning the negative impacts of fractured spaces into an opportunity to create an urban oasis in the midst of roaring boulevards.

Future considerations Depending on how successful the intervention was in creating a pedestrianoriented district, it could be expanded and extended. A greenwalk could be constructed on the south side of Washington Blvd as well. On-street parking for this side of the boulevard would have to be removed, replaced by the two-lane bikeway. The greenways on both sides of the boulevard could be extended further west on Washington Blvd, ending in downtown Culver City, where Washington Blvd merges with Culver Blvd. This would have the potential to make a clearly delineated and inviting pedestrian corridor from the currently unoccupied triangle of space where these boulevards intersect directly to the Arts District, facilitating movement between both districts. It would also further enhance the sense of place within the Arts

.

District and movement across Washington Blvd, building energy between galleries and other amenities currently separated by four lanes of traffic.

See Figures 9-2 and 9-3 on pages 60-61>> 59


FIG

9-2

Repurposing two traffic lanes

2-way bikeway 60

One traffic lane remains in each direction

N Not to scale

Parking shifts to an existing traffic lane

Greenwalk parallel to existing sidewalk VISIONING INTERVENTIONS


FIG

9-3

Keyhole pocket park

9.2 REPURPOSING TRAFFIC LANES ON WASHINGTON BLVD

61


FIG

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9.3 Connecting the Ballona Creek bikeway to Washington Blvd Description Convert the existing access road that runs along the creeks western edge

View south from Washington Blvd where it bridges Ballona Creek. While this section closest to Washington Blvd is overgrown with trees, the large majority of the stretch between here and National Blvd is a concretecovered access road, which could easily be converted into a bike and pedestrian path .

into a pedestrian and bike path so that the Ballona bikeway is directly connected to Washington Blvd. Remove the concrete embankments above the road and replace them with hardy, deep-rooted grasses and native shrubbery and trees. Where Sentney and Reid avenues dead end into the creek, construct pedestrian stairways to further enhance access to the creek. At the current terminus of the Ballona bikeway, next to Syd Cronenthal park, hold public mural art projects. Convert the extra space where the path descending from National Blvd meets the bikeway into an outdoor classroom and rest stop with benches. View of Washington Blvd from the broad shelf above Ballona Creek. As it is, this area is disconnected and inaccessible from Washington Blvd, but could be easily connected as the space and basic infrastructure already exists.

Rationale and benefits The infrastructure for this intervention already exists and the barriers and costs to implementation are small. Even without removing concrete and planting greenery, the extension of the bikeway would be beneficial by itself. The pathway would create direct public access to Syd Cronenthal and the Expo bikeway, connecting Washington Blvd with the area as well as the Ballona wetlands and the Pacific Ocean. It would also be easier to arrive at from

.

downtown Culver City and the Expo Line station. Direct access to the creek would also be provided for the residential area south of Washington Blvd.

See Figure 9-5 on page 64>>

9.3 CONNECTING THE BALLONA CREEK BIKEWAY TO WASHINGTON BLVD

63


FIG

9-5

Extension of the Ballona bikeway

N Not to scale

Greening of the concrete banks

Extension of Ballona bike path

64

VISIONING INTERVENTIONS


The access road , gated off to public use, as it currently exists. It runs between the terminus of the Ballona bikeway at National Blvd and Washington Blvd. 9.3 CONNECTING THE BALLONA CREEK BIKEWAY TO WASHINGTON BLVD

65


>

Bibliography

1 Nathan Masters, “Why L.A. Has Clashing Street Grids | LA as

Subject | SoCal Focus,” KCET, accessed March 20, 2014, http://www. kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/history/la-as-subject/tracing-the-pathsthrough-las-past.html.

ment in 5 Days,” Curbed LA, February 6, 2012, http://la.curbed.com/ archives/2012/02/culver_city_creates_new_expoadjacent_development_in_5_days.php.

2 Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (MIT Press, 1960).

15 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

16 Guy Horton, “Can Hayden Tract Be More Than an Architectural Curiosity?,” Curbed LA, February 25, 2014, http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/02/can_hayden_tract_be_more_than_an_architectural_curiosity.php.

4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Roslyn Lindheim, “New Design Parameters for Healthy Places,” Places 2, no. 4 (1985).

17 Josh Stephens, “New Light Rail Line Opens Up World of TOD Possibilities.” 18 James Landry, Ballona Creek Trail and Bikeway Environmental and

7 Ibid.

Recreational Enhancement Study: Report to the Legislature (as Required by SB 259, Chapter 3, Section 32556)

8 William Hollingsworth Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces,

19 “Ballona Creek Renaissance,” accessed February 22, 2014, http://

1980, http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=521122.

www.ballonacreek.org/.

9 Edward T Hall, The Hidden Dimension, vol. 1990 (Anchor Books

20 City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works, and Bureau of

New York, 1969).

10 “Culver City > Visitors > City History & Info > Ballona Creek.” Accessed February 22, 2014. http://www.culvercity.org/Visitors/ CulverCityHistory/BallonaCreek.aspx. 11 James Landry, Ballona Creek Trail and Bikeway Environmental and Recreational Enhancement Study: Report to the Legislature (as Required by SB 259, Chapter 3, Section 32556) (Los Angeles, CA: Loyola Marymount University and Baldwin Hills Conservancy, 2004), http://www.bhc.ca.gov/documents/Ballona_Creek_Study_by_LMU.pdf. 12

Peterson, Garry. 2006. “Teddy Cruz – What Adaptive Architecture Can Learn from Shantytowns.” Resilience Science. http://rs.resalliance. org/2006/03/15/teddy-cruz-what-adaptive-architecture-can-learnfrom-shantytowns/.

13 Josh Stephens, “New Light Rail Line Opens Up World of TOD

Possibilities,” California Planning & Development Report, July 24, 2012, http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3235. 66

14 Neal Broverman, “Culver City Creates New Expo-Adjacent Develop-

Engineering, Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan (Los Angeles, CA: City of Los Angeles, April 2007), http://boe.lacity.org/lariverrmp/ CommunityOutreach/pdf/LARRMP_Final_05_03_07.pdf.

21 James Brasuell, “City Considering Plan to Start Un-Paving and Spiffing the LA River,” Curbed LA, December 8, 2011, http://la.curbed. com/archives/2011/12/city_passes_plan_to_start_unpaving_and_spiffing_the_la_river.php. 22 Culver City Redevelopment Agency, Design for Development for Exposition Light Rail Transit and Station Area (Culver City, CA: Culver City Redevelopment Agency, 2005). 23 Ibid.


Remnant of the old rail track which lies parallel to National Blvd and the Expo bikeway, below the new Expo light rail Line, and above Ballona Creek and the terminus of the Ballona bikeway. 67


>

Index

A

access 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 13, 19, 21, 31, 37, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 51, 53, 54, 55, 63, 65, 70 affordable housing 49, 51 art galleries 9, 14, 31, 53, 55, 59 automobile 39, 46

B

Ballona Creek 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 41, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 62, 63, 66, 67 Ballona Creek bikeway 4, 7, 10, 13, 29, 54, 56, 57, 63 bicyclists 47, 55 bike path 17, 21, 23, 29, 31, 41, 45, 47, 63, 64 bikers 19, 31, 42

C

car 7, 13, 17, 19, 29, 37, 39, 41, 54, 55 connectivity 13, 54 crosswalks 12, 13, 19, 31, 41, 42, 54, 55, 59

D

density 47 design and development 3, 11, 15 Design for Development 4, 5, 13, 15, 49, 50, 52, 53, 55, 66 displacement 13, 51, 53

E

edges 9, 17, 20, 21, 23, 30, 37 elementary school 17, 20, 31, 41, 45, 51 Expo 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 28, 29, 31, 41, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 58, 59, 63, 66, 67

F

formal 7, 46, 47 formal city 46, 47

G

gentrification 13, 51, 53 greenwalk 13, 54, 55, 58, 59

H

Helms 9, 10, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 53, 55, 58, 62 68

I

T

J

U

informal 7, 11, 14, 46, 47 informal city 46, 47 jurisdictions 5, 41, 45

L

landmarks 19, 20 land use 3, 4, 5, 14, 22, 23 Land use 4, 11, 14, 22, 55 linear green open space 59 Lynch analysis 4, 5, 11, 14, 16, 18

M

main street 49, 59 methodology 11 mismatch 13, 21, 39, 49, 53 mixed-use 23, 29, 41, 48, 49, 54 Mixed Use Ordinance 13, 15, 41, 49, 53 mural art 63

N

nodes 13, 19, 21, 54

O

open space 13, 17, 23, 37, 39, 45, 53, 54, 59 outdoor classrooms 51

P

paths 19, 20, 21, 31, 66 pedestrian mall 9, 14, 17, 21, 23, 29, 36, 37, 41, 42 pedestrians 13, 19, 20, 21, 29, 39, 42, 47, 54, 55, 59 pocket park 5, 59, 61 power 5, 46, 47 public art 51, 54 public space 13, 31, 32, 36, 39, 41, 42, 47, 49, 52, 53

R

revegetation 51 roofless 29, 31, 43

S

strategic master plan 13, 53 Syd Cronenthal Park 17, 21, 31, 41, 42, 43

TOD 41, 49, 50, 54, 66 transit-oriented development 11, 13, 53, 59 urban development 1, 7, 39, 41, 47, 49, 51 urban village 13, 49, 53, 54, 59 user groups 29, 49, 53

W

Washington Blvd 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 48, 49, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 62, 63, 65 wayfinding 13, 21, 41, 54, 55

Z

zoning 7, 14


[Vectorized representation of Google Earth satellite image]

69


about the report This report should be read as a visual narrative, knit together by critical analyses of the interplay between built form and users, space, and the environment. Throughout the Greater Arts District, there are multiple points characterized by different degrees of inaccessibility. The tension between the interplays of built environment with users and space and the fractured access that characterizes the district results in specific guidelines for further research. Four key recommendations for improvements are made. Finally, recommendations for specific interventions into public spaces are envisioned.

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Fractured access: The built environment, urban development, and uneven use  
Fractured access: The built environment, urban development, and uneven use  
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