It’s been about three weeks since a judge ruled that the Target Husk of Hollywood can finally resume construction after four years of slowly rotting at the corner of Sunset and Western. While locals look forward to easy access to coffee pods and bulk toilet paper, the commuters who stream through that intersection have a different reason to jump for joy—access to the sidewalk.
Since construction was halted four years ago because neighborhood groups opposed the building’s height, the walkway on the south side of Sunset and Western has been blocked off, greatly inconveniencing pedestrians and bus commuters. Taking the 207 on Western so you can pick up some nails at the nearby Home Depot? You’ll have to cross the street a few extra times—and walk on the unshaded north side of Sunset—to reach the store.
The obstructed sidewalk situation is not rare; construction projects dot this metropolis with little deference paid to pedestrians. Look at the staggering amount of construction near the Culver City Expo Line station; anyone trying to access Venice Boulevard by foot from Washington and National boulevards will have to walk way out of their way or try dodging cars in the street.
Travel to New York and most projects have covered walkways built around construction projects. While the practice of carving out space for pedestrians is more common in DTLA than in other parts of Los Angeles, it’s rarely standard operating procedure. Even downtown has struggled to maintain sidewalk access; Councilman Jose Huizar pushed through a motion in 2015 requiring developers to provide walkways or, at least, barriers from cars. Though well-intentioned, the motion included plenty of caveats. For instance, the policy only applies to construction projects that require environmental review and it’s “enforced through regular monitoring reports and by complaints with the city Department of Building and Safety,” the Downtown News reported at the time.
A developer also told the newspaper that the city’s Department of Transportation is resistant to taking lanes away from cars to make room for pedestrians.
We asked Elena Stern, senior public information director at the city’s Department of Public Works, if the determination process has changed much since then. “A number of city entities issue permits for property construction/repairs that impact our city sidewalks,” Stern says. “If more than one agency is involved, there is a collaborative assessment and determination about the existing safety conditions and whether or when a sidewalk should reopen for safe pedestrian passage.”
A Target spokesperson told the Times she didn’t know when the project would be completed. In the meantime, pedestrians will continue to brave the north side of the street.
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