At a regular West Hollywood City Council meeting on Monday, February 5, 2024, council members will receive an update on the revised design, updated budget range projections, potential funding opportunities, and provide direction regarding further development of a new environmentally inspired community gathering space known as the San Vicente Streetscapes Plaza on San Vicente Boulevard, north of Melrose Avenue, and south of Santa Monica Boulevard.
During a meeting on February 7, 2022, the West Hollywood City Council discussed a preliminary concept for enhancing San Vicente Boulevard, focusing on a proposed shade structure, lighting, and community-oriented streetscape improvements. These enhancements aim to facilitate the potential closure of San Vicente Boulevard, between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, for public-oriented programming. The City Council instructed staff to collaborate with an urban design and landscape architecture consultant team to develop a design for a transformable urban plaza. This plaza aims to support existing city programs and events while addressing various public safety, accessibility, equity, green infrastructure, sustainability, and open space goals outlined in the city’s General Plan and Climate Action & Adaptation Plan.
San Vicente Boulevard has historically served as a crucial civic gathering space, evolving from its origins as a Sherman Railyard connector road in the 1920s to hosting civic pride events and other gatherings. As West Hollywood nears full urban development, repurposing existing conditions becomes crucial in ensuring inclusive, secure, and healthy public gathering spaces. With the city’s population expected to grow, along with redevelopment efforts, there’s a heightened focus on enhancing safety and creating green public spaces to combat urban heat.
The proposed project, titled “Sky Sanctuaries- San Vicente Streetscape Plaza: A Shared Street Concept,” is a response to the City Council’s desire for a protected gathering space at this location. Developed in collaboration with the landscape architectural firm !melk, the project aims to create an eco-responsive public gathering space spanning one-third of an acre. This space will address community issues such as public safety, health, wellness, and environmental sustainability.
The design concept revolves around a pedestrian-centric approach, inspired by the Dutch “woonerfs” or living streets movement. It envisions San Vicente Boulevard as a “shared” people-friendly street and open space, accommodating daily transit alongside civic celebrations and events. The proposed design includes features such as raised “street shelves” to calm traffic and enhance accessibility, moveable planters for crash safety barriers during events, overhead shade structures to combat urban heat, and permeable paving patterns for stormwater management.
Additionally, the project aims to promote restorative ecologies and sustainability through elevated landscapes designed to support native wildlife habitats and rainwater capture. It also includes educational elements such as nature watching installations for children and public information kiosks to highlight the importance of wildlife propagation and ecological resilience.
Originally, a $1.5 million to $2 million estimate was projected for a simple fabric shade structure. After a community engagement process and consultations with water agencies, the consultant team has updated the project scope and their cost opinions. The most recent cost estimate ranges from $13.5 million to $18 million as currently proposed. The range and variations depend on the extent of final project scope ambitions, technical findings related to hydrology, geology, soils, and underground drainage systems, potential research and investigatory needs, the potential for institutional, non-profit, or private partnerships, and projected costs related to project labor agreements. Depending on the success rate with currently available grant opportunities, it is projected that anywhere from 45% to 80% of the total project expenses could be offset through a combination of grants and/or county, state, or federal funding.
Overall, the proposed San Vicente Streetscape Plaza seeks to create a flexible gathering space that supports various community activities while addressing cultural, mobility, and urban revitalization goals. It represents a forward-thinking approach to urban design that prioritizes inclusivity, sustainability, and community engagement.