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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Echo Park residents worry about the traffic Blackbirds development will bring

Traffic engineer meets with residents. Photo courtesy Charlotte Lipman.

Echo Park residents met with a city traffic engineer last week to discuss their concerns about how the proposed 18-home Blackbirds development  will worsen parking and traffic congestion. The hillside development, designed by noted architect Barbara Bestor,  at southeast corner of Baxter and Vestal Avenue will bring in 36 additional cars, not counting to vehicles from visitors, say residents. Adding 36 cars to the streets of Echo Park may not seem like much but neighbors say it won’t take much to increase congestion and reduce safety in a part of Echo Park with narrow streets barely wide enough for two cars to pass.

Charlotte Lipmam, who is part of a group that wants to reduce the number of new homes, summarized the concerns of residents in an email:

The addition of at least 36 cars on the hills of Vestal, Preston and Baxter will most certainly have a huge impact on the safety of these streets, the flow of traffic, access for emergency vehicles and furthermore will likely cause increase in traffic at the intersection of Baxter and Echo Park where there are two schools: Elysian Heights Elementary School and the Montessori school. So the ripple effect of such a development is likely to be very considerable.

Lipman was among the group that met with L.A. Department of Transportation engineer Tomas Carranza on the streets adjacent to the development site. Also in attendance was Casey Lynch, an Echo Park resident whose firm is seeking to build the homes. Lynch, in an email after the meeting, said his firm is designing a project “that is sensitive to the neighborhood in both scale and design” and would not significantly worsen neighborhood traffic:

An independent assessment of the project indicates that it will be a nominal trip generator and is significantly below the threshold required for further review by LADOT. We do, however, recognize the concern about the existing street conditions and are working closely with the CD13 office and LADOT to fund additional traffic safety improvements above what is required by the city.

A public hearing on the project has been scheduled for  February 28. Details on the Echo Park Neighbors website.

57 comments

  1. not too long ago it was all the panic about how the new 7-11 on alvarado was going to create a major traffic problem. in reality you hardly notice it’s there now that it’s open. and, it certainly doesn’t hold up traffic. won’t these homes have parking?

  2. The Eastsider recently had an article about the old MWD headquarters being turned into NINETY apartments. No discussion of parking there? I can’t wait until Barlow hospital gets its way and develops its complex with hundreds of apartments in the middle of Elysian Park.

    • If you care about the Barlow project sign up at SaveElysianPark.org!

    • actually there was some concern. but, there is parking for those units. and, although it’s been closed for almost 20 years, there used to be a lot more than 90 people working in that building and somehow they managed to find parking. i am thrilled about the development of the old MWD headquarters. the barlow hospital project is on such a completely different scale than either of these smaller developments. the barlow project would bring a Grove or Americana size development to an area that most visitors would access using residential roads, and use green space that LA has too little of already. the homes or apartments would just be residents coming and going from home.

  3. I am about as pro-development as they come in these parts… However, if you live in the neighborhood, you understand that Preston, lemoyne and related ancillary streets are 1 car at a time streets. There is already a parking shortage in the area in question, along with a 50% chance of having to back down the street to allow another car through. It’s a major inconvenience.

    I really want this development to happen though, I just want it to have excessive extra parking on site …Along with access to said parking from Baxter, Preston, And vestal to split the traffic among 3 routes.

    I can’t wait to see all the new residents’ faces when they drive Baxter for the first time… Lol’!

  4. So sick of what this neighborhood is becoming , behemoth developments, big houses on small lots , and everyone worried about parking !

    • Yes, everyone is worried about parking. But in the typical hypocrisy, they also applaud and cheer on the money that lines their pockets from the real estate values rising accordingly. To hell with values and a good neighborhood when real estate you own can skyrocket in value.

      This is not the Echo Park of old. This is the Echo Park of money, money, money grubbing and gouging, and I’ve got mine to hell with you. Real nice place to raise your kids up, instill great values in them.

      • Many recent Echo Park homeowners rent unoccupied bedrooms/space in order to afford their monthly mortgage. So the “money, money, money” comment is misleading.

        • No, they make money off of that, like any landlord! AND their house values also skyrockets.

          Echo Park is all about speculating housing buyers. Everyone figure the price will be skyrocketing, so buy now at any cost.

          • I own and live in MY home. I do not rent bedrooms or closet space to help PAY the mortgage. That is not a landlord, it’s making sure I can PAY my mortgage BEFORE I purchased my home. Besides Henry, the economy WILL tank this year.

          • henry – it’s ridiculous to act like anyone who qualifies as a “landlord” is automatically evil and greedy. sure there are greedy developers who have zero sensitivity to the neighborhood, but there are also really good people who have worked their whole lives to be able to afford a house, or a duplex, and they continue to work hard to pay down their mortgage so they will have some income to live on when they retire.

    • I agree with Henry I call it the G.G.’s Gougers Galore ! I have reasonable rentals and keep the prices to where people can actually afford ! WHy ? you ask ? Because my family have owned numerous proprerties for 45 years and longer in the neighborhood , and while the properties are paid off , and i can certainly charge a mint, i dont ! That is the Echo Park i know and grew up in .

      • TROY

        ENOUGH of the CAPS lock ALREADY , IT is getting OLD!

      • I applaud you, Soupy. Yes, there was a time when your attitude was more prevalent in the neighborhood (although there have always been speculating landlords and even slumlords in the area). There was a basic sense of what was fair, regardless of what you could squeeze out. There was a sense that you were getting enough, that you didn’t need to move to a mansion in Bel Air.

        Now, its all about gouging at every turn. Its all about real estate speculation and riding the money train to riches, and to hell with values. Oh, there certainly are still some people around, even an occasional newcomer or two, who are not so avaricious. But overall, the place is now overrun with avarice, that is its main feature, that is its reason for existing. Such a shame.

  5. What is developer Lynch’s definition of “sensitive”, and will he reside at the project? I especially love the “would not significantly worsen neighborhood traffic” comment.

  6. Any update on how many of those horrific, ugly condos on EP Ave have sold? I’m guessing none or very little.

    What makes developers think people who live in this area want massive, new developments? The EP Ave condos block the view of the hills and do not fit into the vintage turn-of-the-century architecture of the neighborhood. People move to Echo Park and Silver Lake to get away from the massive multi-family apartment buildings and flashy condos that litter the Westside and Hollywood. We like the old buildings, the trees and the terrain. These developments are effectively RUINING Echo Park.

    It’s depressing, and I wish our elected officials would do something to stop the continual construction of ugly, prefab buildings that local residents can’t even afford. In a few years, Echo Park will have transformed into West Hollywood. For shame.

    • Your elected official in Echo Park is Eric Garcetti. He is completely 150% sold out to all the developers. He will say anything you want to hear to your face, while behind the scenes he will do whatever is needed to make sure the developer can do as much overdevelop as he can imagine. And he will lie to you about how the laws and rules prevented him from doing anything more for you — as his office did in the case of this development.

      That that is exactly why that specific development got in there and so overbuilt. Yes, for shame!

    • Yo dude… it’s kinda of ridiculous to compare that behemoth hideus DR Horton development to blackbird… Those condos are just ugly.. this will be a pretty rad little community of homes. We’re just worried because these streets in the area are SOOO narrow and already FULL of cars.

    • They are selling quite well. over 50% sold. They’ve actually raised some prices.
      Some ‘new’ is good and also inevitable, no neighborhood ever stands still. I agree some developments like the barlow project are an overreach and a bad idea, but small and medium developments help bring new residents, which can support more local businesses, and so on. I mean the Horton condos were a vacant lot full of trash for years. Better to have something there.

  7. Oh, c’mon already!!!!!

    There’s also going to be an 18 unit craptastic thing at the corner of Glendale and Clifford, and there’s the thing at Allesandro and Riverside, and eventually there will be even more at Clifford and Glendale on the 2 empty lots on the west side of Glendale. ALL TOGETHER, these multi units are going to add a lot of congestion to the area. The area is getting more and more and more and more congested. If you look at it holistically, rather than at each individual “development”, we are adding a lot of cars and people to the area. When does it stop? How far does the “There’s not enough housing, we better keep building more!” line go? Is there NEVER a point where we just stop buidling? Also, how the heck are these getting through the grading department? I went through 18 months of hell trying to build a 6 foot retaining wall, and the city just seems to put this things on fast track. (That is a rhetorical observation.)

    • if the population of LA growing or receding?

    • I’ve seen this parking debacle firsthand in Atwater. When apt. dwellers took over a street. Their solution – limit parking to 2 hrs. 8am – 6pm. Freed up some daytime spaces, but inevitably parking for home owners and visitors is problematic when you’re on the lookout for parking enforcement. The side streets are filled with cars, no limited parking there, and weekends just suck.
      Good luck EP

  8. Let’s hear from “Planning Lady”.

  9. Maybe people who love in this area can reduce the number of cars they expect to park on public streets righ putside their homes. Or maybe they can just bike everywhere, right?

    • Live, I meant.

    • If you ride a bicycle, you might become a target for Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop who is the subject of the current manhunt. In his manifesto, he expresses similar irritation with bicyclists as many other people state, writing:

      “Cyclist, I have no problem sharing the road with you. But, at least go the fucking speed limit posted or get off the road!!! That is a feasible request. Livestrong you fraudulent assholes.”

  10. We can probably start the countdown to the next such development at Echo Park and Avalon. The nursery and vintage shop sadly were not allowed to renew their leases, and last I heard no specific plans for the property had been revealed.

    • That’s a different issue, EP ave is a much larger street than preston/vestal/baxter are. People here love to comment without reading article… which makes pretty clear what the NEARBY residents are actually concerned about.

      • -HSL
        Looks like you love to comment without reading the comment. I wasn’t doing a side-by-side comparison of the two properties or commenting on the issue of parking. What I was referring to was more developments, of the type referred to in this post, being crammed into our neighborhood. Maybe the Eastsider could appoint you as comment editor so that all future comments will fall in line with your wishes. By the way, I’m a NEARBY resident.

  11. Evolve or die — as true for cities as it is for all organisms.

    • jeez – lol – what does that even mean? organisms don’t have minds, humans do. nothing wrong with using those minds in search of just, sensible, compromise solutions.

  12. If the rendering above, what has been “designed” by architect Barbara Bestor, any indication of what’s coming I say …..”Ewwww, is that the bestor you an do?” Pure ugliness. Back to the drawing board!

  13. I like it and I live on the flight path. I agree with Urban Mac. Cities are defined by change. Architecture is LA’s richest art form. This is the good stuff. Put up more stop signs. Take the bus. Walk to school and stop at the market on the way home. Skateboard in the parking lot. This is the city!

  14. Housing is one of the lowest traffic generating uses, period. Yes there will be 18 new units, but in comparison to the number of units already in the area I do not buy the traffic argument. I am a city planner (not for City of LA though) and all we ever hear about is the traffic and parking nightmare that (insert project here) will cause. After its built or opened up we don’t get any complaints. I live at the top of EP avenue, I know it sucks backing up to let cars pass, but you will not notice a change rom these 18 units. Or whatever they end up building at the nursery. Deal with it and stop complaining.

    • Isn’t it possible that you don’t get any complaints after “its (sic) built or opened up” because people think it would be pointless? If a community’s views aren’t taken into account before a project goes up, what would be the point of going to planners afterwards? It doesn’t mean people are unconcerned about significant increases in traffic and parking difficulties.

      • The parking does need to be addressed. But you seriously think this will bring ‘significant increases in traffic?’ You really need to think about that statement.

        • My reply was to your point that as a planner for a city other than Los Angeles, all you hear about are traffic and parking issues. I never commented directly on the Vestal/Baxter project; rather I was responding to your assertion that people care about traffic and parking before a project is built but seem not to be concerned about these issues once a given project is actually built.

          Personally I think the current zoning in Echo Park needs a major re-evaluation. I’m not suggesting that any one project is necessarily responsible for big traffic and parking problems but collectively a series of projects can ruin an area. Parking and traffic here in recent years have changed significantly and not for the better. I’d say you’d really need to think about that.

          • Another EParker since '66

            Yes NJS — A re-evaluation of zoning is the real issue. The one size fits all regs don’t jive with individual neighborhoods, streets & traffic. But by the time they ever have a 2nd look at zoning, the EP hillsides will be gone!

  15. The Old Echo Park is Dead! They should re-name the place…….

  16. Yeah, they should rename it Whiney Park, you’ll be well loved!
    They should rename New York too…. that place just keeps CHANGING!
    Hell, they should rename the whole country, call it The Unites States of Fat and Armed! God, remember the good ole days when we used to saw the ice out of the lake for our saw dust fridges……

    • New York does a better job of preserving and maintaining it’s unique, historic architecture than LA.

      LA loves to tear everything down. Echo Park and the surrounding areas used to be the exception to that rule. Now, EP is morphing into West Hollywood.

  17. I think that there is a subtler problem lurking within all of the concern about traffic and density. I suspect that the Blackbirds development won’t significantly impact traffic, the reason being that the most serious traffic is caused by commuting *through* neighborhoods. Assuming people generally don’t come and go from their house much more than once during a weekday, it might add 100 car trips daily to the adjacent streets. That isn’t insignificant. However, as the neighborhoods adjacent to Echo Park grow—and Glendale and Downtown are both growing quite a bit—the cumulative effect of traffic through the neighborhood of all those new jobs and residents could dwarf it.

    Effective, large-scale public transit is the only thing that will seriously reduce traffic city-wide. Yet LA is actually stuck at a level of density that makes public transit problematic—and therefore , paradoxically, dependent on cars. If it were a little bit denser, the economics of light rail and subways would encourage their development and use. The zoning density of one neighborhood therefore has to be weighed against the development of effective transportation with all of the adjoining neighborhoods to which people commute.

    Trying to act as though each neighborhood is an island can be folly. Beverly Hills has been steadfastly resisting a subway for decades now, and it’s traffic problem has gotten overwhelming—even without significant growth in its own density. That’s largely due to the expansion of adjoining West Side neighborhoods. Developments like Blackbird don’t set the density of traffic in the neighborhood: the neighborhood’s neighborhood does.

    For the record, I live in Echo Park, I own here, and I take the bus to work downtown every day.

  18. The site where this new development is being built is, and has been, largely abandoned and neglected for years. The new development is classy, well-designed, and an asset to the neighborhood. The developer lives in and is invested in Echo Park, he is a SMALL developer with good taste. Echo Park is changing, but this project is a reflection of the kind of craft and care that can be a part of its future. The change can’t be stopped, so when it’s thoughtful and deliberate its actually worth applauding.

    • Incredible job of researching the facts, HSL. Thanks again for your personal opinions on architecture, classy good taste and how open space in our neighborhood can best be used. Change is inevitable, but we don’t always have to like it. Well, that is unless you really, really want us to.

    • The developer speaks…

      The only difference between this project and others in EP is you know who you are selling too.. otherwise it’s still just another overstuffed development.

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