By Edwin Folven, 6/28/2012
Signals Will be Placed on Sunset Boulevard Near Guitar Center and Sam Ash Music
Crossing Sunset Boulevard at Martel Avenue or Vista Street in Hollywood can be a daunting task because there is no crosswalk, signal or signage to assist pedestrians.
“People just hold their breath and cross,” said Michael Holley, general manager for Sam Ash Music, which has three stores in the 7300 and 7400 blocks of Sunset Boulevard. “I see people pushing strollers and it scares me to death. We had one employee get hit by a car a long time ago. I don’t think anybody has gotten killed, but I had a friend who got hit and killed when I was a kid, so it is something that has always concerned me.”
The unsafe conditions were also a concern to Adam Choit, a Martel Avenue resident and aspiring filmmaker who in 2011 made a short video titled “Where’s My Crosswalk?” documenting the difficulties people face in crossing Sunset Boulevard at the location. In March, Choit posted the video on the Internet, and it soon went viral with more than 2,500 views, catching the attention of Deborah Murphy, chair of the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Murphy, who works closely with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), arranged a meeting with transportation planners, who conducted a traffic study in May and determined that traffic calming measures were needed. A signal and crosswalk has now been approved for the intersection.
“Adam was a catalyst for this,” Murphy said. “There are all of these people who want to cross, and they found that there is enough of a demand to warrant a crosswalk at the intersection.”
Martel Avenue and Vista Street are offset by approximately 40 feet at the intersection with Sunset Boulevard. Signals and crosswalks will be installed at the south side of Sunset at Martel, and the north side of Sunset at Vista. The signals will be synchronized so that people can cross at either street at the same time. Eastbound traffic will be stopped at Vista, and westbound traffic will be stopped at Martel.
Choit said he has lived near the intersections for several years, and experienced first-hand how difficult it was to cross Sunset Boulevard. He said he contacted the LADOT a few years ago about the problem, but nothing ever occurred.
“I got a lot of runaround, so I decided to go out there and show them how unsafe it was,” Choit said. “Basically it is tough to get across the street without having to wait or dodge traffic. Everyone just seems to run across the boulevard and hope they make it. It’s inconvenient and unsafe.”
Holley said Sam Ash Music has stores on both sides of Sunset Boulevard offering different types of musical instruments, and customers routinely go back and forth between the different shops. There is also a Guitar Center located on the north side of the street, and the nearby Aroma Café and Bakery, which also draw a large number of customers. Dan Garcia, an assistant manager at the Guitar Center, said a new crosswalk and signal will make a big difference.
“That is the perfect place for a signal. I’ve seen multiple accidents there, but thankfully nobody’s been hit,” Garcia said. “Everyone seems to cross there and it is dangerous. It will be beneficial for our store, and other people in the area.”
Revital Blum, a manager at the Aroma café and Bakery, agreed that a signal and crosswalk will make the area safer.
“Sometimes I walk to work, and I do find it difficult to get across,” Blum added. “It’s usually the rush hours when it’s the worst. I do think a crosswalk is a good idea.”
LADOT spokesman Bruce Gillman said transportation engineers had conducted a general study of the area a few years ago when Choit said he first contacted the department, but said the analysis concluded that there wasn’t a need for traffic calming measures because there was an existing stoplight at Sunset Boulevard and Gardner Street, approximately two blocks east of the location where the new signal and crosswalk will be installed.
“We determined it just wasn’t merited because there was a light so close,” Gillman said. “Under a reexamination, a decision was made by the department to install a signal.”
Gillman said the LADOT is currently in the process of completing the design phase for the signal, and has to work with other departments such as the Bureau of Street lighting to coordinate the installation. He said if all goes as planned, the signal and crosswalk will be installed within six months to a year.
Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, said he supports the new crosswalk, but warned that pedestrians also share the responsibility for their safety when crossing.
“It would be a great capital improvement for the neighborhood,” LaBonge said. “The cheapest security is still plain vigilance. Crosswalk or not, you always have to connect with the driver’s eyes if you want to cross safely.”