Crenshaw Revitalization

JUNE16crenCrenshaw Boulevard has long been a bastion of L.A.’s car culture. But change is afoot – literally.

It’s been more than two years since the groundbreaking ceremonies for the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Line (which meets the Expo Line at Crenshaw and Expo), and construction of the rail line itself is about halfway completed.  But meanwhile, visible street improvements – all with the goal to make Crenshaw and nearby commercial streets more walkable and “multi-modal” (that is, supportive of bicycle, bus and pedestrian means of mobility, along with automobiles). 

Residents and visitors along Crenshaw Boulevard from the 10 Freeway south well past Leimert Park and Hyde park to Inglewood will soon be seeing major street tree plantings, repairs and improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks, new bus shelters and other street “furniture” like bike racks,  some eco-friendly bioswales, public art areas and Angel’s Walk stanchion celebrating African American and Japanese American cultural landmarks like the Angelus Funeral Home, Crenshaw Square and the Holiday Bowl.  At the northern point, drivers will be welcomed with a Gateway sign to be erected on the current unsightly concrete center median.

It’s all in an effort to create what city planners call a “complete street” – and to make it a pleasant and safe experience for residents walking to the new transit stations, as well as the existing Expo Line station at Crenshaw.

Many different initiatives are now coming home to roost. Remember the Mid-City Crenshaw Vision Plan of a decade ago? It morphed in 2009 as a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) project that was awarded $14.6 million in State Proposition 1C funds. CRA itself was subsequently disbanded, but the infrastructure grant remained, and those are the funds being utilized this year to plant trees, improve the sidewalks, install bus shelters and create the gateway, “wayfinding” and historic signage, not just on Crenshaw but also Adams and Jefferson boulevards.

Jefferson Boulevard from Cimarron Street to Cochran Avenue will receive about $1.9 in landscaping, sidewalk and transit improvements. Adams Boulevard from Victoria Avenue to Fairfax Boulevard is slated for $2 million in transit improvements.  The remaining grant monies will be spent on Crenshaw Boulevard itself.

Meanwhile, Metro – builders of the light rail system – will also be planting literally hundreds of trees, to replace (and more!) trees chopped down to make way for their construction, at the rate of two trees planted for every one tree lost. (This is in addition to the California Science Center’s agreement to replace the trees, at a 4-to-1 ratio, that were lost to the Space Shuttle’s move to Exposition Park.  The more recent travels of the “ET-94” fuel tank did not necessitate the removal of any more trees.)

According to Metro, “The size of the replacement trees will vary depending on the species. The trees will initially be raised in nurseries and some may be nine- to 10-feet tall when first planted along the Crenshaw/LAX Line alignment.”

According to one count, about 400 trees have been lost in these communities in the past few years. That’s a lot of replacement trees.

Metro also funded a partnership with Los Angeles’ Department of City Planning to draw up a new Crenshaw Boulevard Streetscape Plan, which initially called out the usual suspects of non-native street trees. But after public meetings with the community and local neighborhood councils, the Streetscape Plan was altered to focus on Catalina Ironwood, Coast Live Oak, California Sycamore and other natives trees. 

Unfortunately, the City’s Urban Forestry section reportedly objected to some of those trees, and it is now up in the air as to which trees in fact are being planted where.

Metro has also initiated the “Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project Joint Development Program” to develop “opportunity sites” – basically land that either Metro or other County agencies own adjacent to the new light rail line. Two of these sites are at Crenshaw and Rodeo Road, just feet from the Expo Line station and the new Crenshaw/LAX station. The proposed development guidelines go before the Metro Board of Directors on Thursday, June 23. The idea, in general, is to find developers who will build high-density, transit-oriented mixed use (housing plus retail and/or office) projects next to the train stations, so occupants can avoid using their automobiles. Or get rid of them all together.

Sorry, Crenshaw car enthusiasts.

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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