Eagle Rock’s Beautiful Boulevard proposal stirs controversy

Photo on the left of an existing stretch of Colorado Blvd. and a redesigned graphic on the right of a revived Color

An illustration of an existing stretch of Colorado Boulevard compared to a redesigned version. Image courtesy of the Beautiful Boulevard coalition.

Stephanie Presz, Community News Reporter

The Beautiful Boulevard proposal, as lovely as it may sound, is causing a rift among some Eagle Rock residents and business owners.

A neighborhood group composed of volunteers from the area created the plan to preserve the small town character of the community in light of Metro’s Bus Rapid Transit project, spanning 18 miles from North Hollywood to Pasadena — and going right through Eagle Rock.  

According to Michael Sweeney, an architect who volunteered his professional skills to the development of the proposal, the goal of the Eagle Rock volunteers was to refine the design and conceptual approach of Metro’s project. They analyzed what Metro had proposed, then modified it in a way that would preserve the feel of the town while also prioritizing safety along the boulevard.

The plan focuses on the stretch of Colorado Boulevard that runs from Glendale to the 134 Freeway entrance in eastern Eagle Rock. The proposal — which is supported by the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council along with hundreds of residents and small businesses — would create a more walkable Colorado Boulevard by adding raised crosswalks at residential side streets while providing physical barriers for bike lanes in several areas.

The east segment of the BRT includes several stops in Eagle Rock before continuing to Pasadena. Diagram courtesy of LA Metro.

Supporters say it is a way to maintain the charm of Eagle Rock while allowing Metro to move forward with its proposed bus routes, a project that would reduce traffic and pollution in the area.

“Maintaining and improving the planted medians, plus adding even more, is one huge benefit to the cosmetic aspect of the boulevard as well as to the environmental health of the area,” said neighborhood resident Michael Blanchard.

The proposal aims to add native plants and trees to the medians to create a more pleasant atmosphere for pedestrians and shoppers. However, some critics are skeptical as to how this will affect local businesses along the boulevard.

“The trees that are illustrated in the photos may be great for shade, but they also block signage so people from the road will not be able to see what shops are where from the street level,” said resident and business owner Cherryl Weaver.

The proposal is centered around dividing the boulevard into three zones, each with a different plan to maintain medians, sidewalks, and bike lanes on the street. In some instances, this includes reallocating one car lane in each direction as a dedicated bus lane.

The North Hollywood to Pasadena bus rapid transit project goes through downtown Eagle Rock via Colorado Boulevard. Diagram courtesy of LA Metro.

“Squeezing that much traffic into one lane will create gridlock and frustrate neighbors who use the road to drop kids off at school, as well as those that go shopping along Colorado Boulevard,” added Weaver.

Slowing traffic down on Colorado is a key component of the proposal. Colorado Boulevard has historically been used as a convenient way to bypass gridlock on the 134, creating safety concerns.

“My children both cross Colorado Boulevard when they go to school,” Blanchard said. “This plan will increase the number of crosswalks and reduce the number of car lanes, both of which I believe will enhance the safety of residents along the boulevard.”

David Greene, a former Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council president, agrees: “In the long-term, it’s a huge win, since it will remake Colorado into the beautiful neighborhood-serving main street it was intended to be versus the ersatz freeway it is today.”

While Metro almost certainly plans to move forward with its rapid transit project through Eagle Rock in some shape or form, there are residents who would like to see money invested in the community in other ways.

“Please don’t try to sell a walkable boulevard to us,” said resident Suzanne Spear.  “We’ve already given way to unused bicycle lanes. Take care of the homeless; That would beautify the neighborhood.”

Longtime resident Daren Blankenship shares a similar sentiment. “We need to figure out how to build this community and clean it up with the money this will cost the taxpayers,” he said.

The proposal has gained steam recently with several notable people joining its long list of supporters. Supervisor Hilda Solis, who is on the Metro Board of Directors, has put her weight behind the plan. Jackie Goldberg from Board District 5 has also publicly announced her support.

For now, Beautiful Boulevard proponents are asking Eagle Rock residents to sign the petition to have the Metro Board of Directors consider their idea. 

Metro’s proposed project is funded by Measure M and Senate Bill 1, making it highly likely that the plan will be completed by 2024. Whether it will include the Beautiful Boulevard proposal is still up in the air.

Updated March 31 with additional information from the Beautiful Boulevards coalition and a clarification: Hundreds of residents support its proposal, not dozens.

This story was cross-published on TheEastsiderLA.com. Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]