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The city of West Hollywood has reportedly approved a plan to give businesses more outdoor space by turning Robertson Blvd. into a pedestrian-only walkway on weekends. The closure would take place between Santa Monica and El Tovar Place near Melrose.
City Councilmembers John Erickson and John D’Amico co-sponsored the motion, and D’Amico reportedly cited ongoing street safety concerns on the roadway, which in pre-pandemic times is a high-traffic area for both drivers and pedestrians taking in the night life. The Abbey, a popular bar and restaurant on Robertson near Santa Monica, brings many revelers to the neighborhood, creating heavy congestion from personal vehicles and ride-share drivers.
D’Amico proposed the plan to shut down traffic from Saturday at 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday, turning the quarter-mile stretch of road into a weekend pedestrian walkway. During the week, including on Friday nights, Robertson would remain open to vehicle traffic.The closure has been described to be akin to what takes place during the LA Pride Festival, meaning the road would be blocked off by K-rails, daytime markets could be set up, and area businesses could expand outdoor seating. Also, people would have more room to maintain social distancing.
However, some neighbors worry that the plan could drive more traffic on residential streets and draw large crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the closure might be good for businesses, some worry it could draw even bigger crowds and divert traffic into their neighborhoods, which might make emergency access difficult.
“We know that our businesses and our visitors and our residents are responsible, and they want to do the right thing. They want to make sure that people don’t get infected and keep social distancing, and so we feel confident that an area like this that is planned well and used by businesses will really accomplish what the county was unable to do for the past year, which is sort of chart a course through this pandemic that allows businesses to succeed and stay open,” D’Amico clarified.
“The public safety risks on a Saturday night at 11 p.m. when 2,000 people are on the street and 150 cars and people want to get into parking spots… all that disappears,” he explained.
Back in 2012, D’Amico reportedly sponsored a similar proposal to make Robertson into a pedestrian-only zone on Saturday nights. However, it was shot down due to concerns about access to parking lots in that block and fears a pedestrian zone might bring even more people to the already crowded area near The Abbey.
The program is also welcomed by local law enforcement. Captain Ed Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff Station said pedestrians and other road users face “inherent dangers” on that section of Robertson Blvd. According to Ramirez, from the start of 2018 through Feb. 2021, for the stretch of street included in the pilot experienced:
If the pilot project is approved, part of Robertson Blvd. would close for weekends beginning Apr. 1. The plan would be reassessed in three months to determine whether to make the closure permanent, which is an idea some residents support.
This is not the first push by the city of West Hollywood to transform how people use their streets. WeHo recently overturned their e-scooter ban, which had previously gone without any micromobility devices within its borders since early 2019. In a memo to the City Council from this past summer, City Hall noted that the use of scooters and electric bikes “reduces greenhouse gas emissions that otherwise results from vehicle travel, helping the city achieve our Climate Action Plan Goals.”