By 2019, Metro is expected to open the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line, providing a new north-south transit link through the communities of Westchester, Inglewood and Baldwin Hills. In advance of the nearly $2 billion project's completion, the City of Los Angeles is considering two plans that would promote pedestrian-friendly development along a segment of Century Boulevard, one of the main commercial arteries that cross paths with the light rail line.
The first project, dubbed the "Westchester-Playa del Rey Community Plan Implementation Overlay, Century/Aviation District Subarea," would cover properties along 1.5 miles of the Century corridor between Sepulveda Boulevard in the west and La Cienega Boulevard in the east. The proposed plan does not call for any changes to allowable uses, densities or building heights within the subject area, but instead looks to regulate urban design and visual character.
Per the Planning Department, potential regulations include:
- Encouraging active ground floor and visitor-serving uses that lead to an enhanced pedestrian environment;
- Improving the visual character and design of new commercial development by imposing various requirements that will ensure consistency in: setback and yard requirements; street wall; mid-block passageway requirements; ground floor frontage; entrances; window transparency; and, entrance placement;
- Requiring that buildings be oriented to the street to improve pedestrian circulation and to minimize vehicular and pedestrian conflicts;
- Breaking up building massing
- Encouraging the provision of publicly accessible open space in new developments; and,
- Including design-specific requirements for parking structures to ensure pedestrian safety and improved design.
According to the draft ordinance, any proposed development or building addition of more than 5,000 square feet on Century Boulevard where the subject property has an existing surface parking lot or landscaped area beyond maximum setback requirements is considered an "infill development." Projects designated as "infill developments" are required to have street-facing active uses and - if located on the north side of Century - provide a pedestrian amenity area.
New developments along Century and Aviation Boulevards are required to dedicate a minimum of 75 percent of their ground-floor frontage to active uses, and a minimum of 50 percent active uses on all other streets. Likewise, building facades would also be required to rise to a minimum of 40 feet in height across at least 75 percent of the street frontage along Century and Aviation, and to a minimum height of 25 feet on other streets.
Pedestrian entrances to new developments are required to be located along public street frontages. Main entrances off of a parking lot are expressly forbidden, based on the language of the draft ordinance.
Although parking is to be built at levels currently required by the municipal code, any parking spaces eliminated due to a property's change of use to active use or to publicly-accessible open space would not need to be replaced. The draft ordinance also calls for no surface parking lots fronting public streets, and any new garage to feature active uses at its ground floor. Above-grade structures would need to be screened from view, or otherwise incorporated into the architecture of its attached building.
The proposed ordinance calls for mid-block passageways through project sites, similar to those implemented at other large development sites throughout the city. This would pertain to 1) properties on a block longer than 500 feet with more than 300 feet of continuous linear street frontage or 2) properties on a block longer than 500 feet without corner frontages with at least 200 feet of continuous linear street frontage. Any mid-block passageway would be-be a minimum 20 feet in width and would be covered with habitable floor area if the interior height is at least 30 feet from ground level, or be at least 50 percent open to the sky.
Pedestrian bridges across the public right away would be disallowed, however.
The community plan implementation overlay is joined by a sister policy document: the proposed Century Boulevard streetscape plan. Whereas the overlay is intended to regulate the design of new construction, the streetscape plan would govern the public realm.
The city envisions improved crosswalks, rebuilt sidewalks, multi-use paths and drought-friendly landscaping along the 1.5-mile corridor. Other elements of the plan include bus shelters, planters, benches, bike racks and other forms of street furniture.
Landscaped medians and new pedestrian lighting would be used to further enhance the environment for hotel guests and employees along Century Boulevard, as well as create a more pleasant connection to the Metro rail station.
An open house for both projects is scheduled for December 7. Implementation is subject to multiple levels of approval by the City of Los Angeles.
Both plans dovetail with an ongoing effort by the City of Inglewood to craft new land use regulations surrounding the Westchester/Veterans Station, as well as the ongoing landside access modernization plan by LAX, which proposes a new automated people mover connecting the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the central terminal area.