It’s hard to think of Westwood as a pedestrian’s paradise.
With cracked sidewalks, narrow streets and few places to sit down outside storefronts, the neighborhood is more of a passerby hub than a sit-down destination.
That trend could be changing, however. The Westwood Village Improvement Association’s board of directors will hear a proposal Thursday to apply for the People St program, a citywide initiative that converts chosen streets into pedestrian-only open spaces. That’s right: no cars, no trucks.
There’s a dire need for a central community space in the Village. WVIA would be remiss not to approve this recommendation to improve the neighborhood.
The proposed pedestrian-only space would be on Broxton Avenue, a slow-moving, one-way street. The plan involves creating a plaza along the length of the Broxton Avenue’s public parking garage, which would not block access to the parking lots on either side of the road.
In short, the proposed space is ideal. Andrew Thomas, the association’s executive director, said the plaza may contain seating and tables and might be used for programming and events. A permanent space for pedestrians would be beneficial to students and workers in the Village, creating a space where they can meet, eat or hang out. It would also make Broxton Avenue a generally more inviting place, thereby increasing foot traffic from visitors outside the neighborhood to Westwood and supporting the numerous businesses along the corridor.
The pedestrian-only space is also a tried-and-true concept. We need only look at the weekly farmers market, which closes the street to car access on Thursdays. The market draws large crowds and is a notable business opportunity for numerous vendors. During the farmers market, cars are still able to get into and out of the lots on Broxton Avenue without problems.
Creating the proposed plaza would effectively solidify the weekly transition Broxton Avenue already goes through. Moreover, it would support Los Angeles’ Vision Zero initiative to reduce traffic-related deaths by removing cars on a street many people already jaywalk across.
This isn’t to say there aren’t concerns about the plaza. The first is that the plaza would encourage cars to navigate through the alley behind Broxton Avenue’s public parking garage, a passageway that is not meant for regular traffic. However, this should not discourage the association from applying for People St, as the city will conduct its own studies to determine whether this is a concern.
It’s also fair to worry about the accumulation of traffic. After all, the plaza would close down a segment of the street. But the planned plaza is designed to be adaptable to future changes. Rather than being a permanent structure, the proposed space will merely be delineated with a repainted street and planters to act as barriers.
The association has a lot to gain by applying for the plaza. Westwood has long lacked a sense of community amid its revolving door of businesses. Patrons and visitors have typically passed by businesses or searched outside the neighborhood to meet their consumer needs.
The Broxton plaza, however, would finally not just give community members a place to sit, but also a reason to stay in the Village.