Planning Day 2015: A Planner’s Guide to DTLA Complete Streets

Take a look at your calendar, and you probably will not find Planning Day as a listed holiday. Planning Day, held on October 15th this year, is an annual event observed exclusively by the Department of City Planning (DCP) where DCP staff lead and participate in multiple tours designed to explore different planning-related themes throughout Los Angeles . For this year’s Planning Day, a group of DCP staff biked the streets of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), Little Tokyo, and the Arts District to see first-hand how LADOT is helping transform Los Angeles into a vision of Complete Streets.

LADOT People St guru Elizabeth Gallardo rallies DCP staff for our tour.

To kickoff the tour, LADOT People St Project Manager, Elizabeth Gallardo lead DCP staff along a greatest hits of active transportation projects designed by LADOT to serve a broad cross section of road users, who find DTLA as a vibrant place to live and spend their leisure time. First stop was the Spring Street parklets where Nicholas Ziff Griffin, Director of Economic Development at the Downtown Center Business Improvement District described the importance of these amenities in creating a vital place where people want to linger and explore new businesses.

Bicycle Friendly Business Peddler’s Creamery offers sweet rewards for customers that churn ice cream using pedal power.

After perusing the parklets, the tour took a break for ice cream at Peddler’s Creamery where proprietor Edward Belden demonstrated how he takes his membership in the Bicycle Friendly Businesses Program to an all new level. Not only did he become a Community Partner by applying to have a Bicycle Corral and Repair Station installed in front of his business to aid his customers living on a light transportation footprint, but his shop’s ice cream is churned by pedal power!  Elizabeth pointed out the synergies between the City, a nonprofit housing developer, and business help provide access to supportive services through sustainable transportation infrastructure by bringing a Bicycle Corral and Repair Station to serve the New Genesis housing next door.

DCP staff ride to the beat of their own drum.

DCP staff were able to enjoy a network of bicycle lanes and buffered bicycle lanes that were installed soon after the adoption of the 2010 Bicycle Plan. We even got to experience getting around a road closed for a mass parade, where the group was still able to meander through by bike while auto traffic had to contend with congested diverted routes. DCP staff compared notes of the differences between riding a fully buffered green bicycle lane on Spring Street and streets that are still undergoing major changes, such as Broadway and 7th Street. We met up with urban design luminary and Principal of Melendrez, Melani Smith. Melani showcased the next complete streets phases coming to DTLA such as the My Figueroa Project and 7th Street re-design.

LADOT’s bikeshare brainiac Rubina Ghazarian talks about the future of bikeshare in DTLA.

A key reason we made this Planning Day tour a bike ride is to have participants experience firsthand the complete network of bicycle lanes that help connect people to their destinations in DTLA, which is the first community in the City to stake this claim. A complete network is also an important prerequisite for cities working to make bicycle travel more accessible through bike share programs. LADOT Project Coordinator, Rubina Ghazarian met up with the tour to unveil Metro’s shared bike prototype and discuss how bike share will serve as an integral component to the City’s transit system. We were able to envision how the DTLA bike share pilot will influence those living and working in the area as we embarked on the second leg of our tour into Little Tokyo and the Arts District. Once the bike share station are installed, for instance, workers in DTLA will be able to frequent a lunch destination in the Arts District by bike in what is now a prohibitive walking distance during the lunch hour.

It was also exciting to see private development playing it’s role in the City’s mobility transformation during our tour of AVA Little Tokyo. Built after the Bicycle Parking Ordinance, the 280 apartment building complex provides long-term secure bicycle parking to building tenants and also a fully outfitted bike repair room. Such amenities can make living car-light in Los Angeles doable as well as an attractive option.

DCP staff are happy to see so many people’s vehicles fit in one little room.

DCP staff left the tour with a sense of optimism, as we saw how a confluence of city-initiated efforts, private interest, and emerging changes in culture all work together to create a more thriving, well-connected city. During this year’s Planning Day, we got to experience the building blocks of a sustainable city as envisioned in the complete streets planning framework we, DCP staff, prepare and help implement daily. A big salute to the LADOT staff and DTLA leaders for making our journey possible through their dedicated work and for joining us along the way.

This post was brought to you by guest writer David Somers, Mobility Planner at the Department of City Planning.

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