Los Angeles is full of wide boulevards whose potential to be great urban corridors, like Parisian boulevards, has been well noted. However, overcoming funding challenges, along with entrenched interests like motorists and auto-oriented development, might make it seem daunting. So how about a starter project on La Cienega Ave.
La Cienega Blvd? No, La Cienega Ave. Just south of the 10, after it crosses Venice, La Cienega Blvd swings east before resuming its southward course towards the oil fields. Where the boulevard swings east, the avenue runs straight, south to Washington. A look at ZIMAS gives some insight.
Judging from the odd layout of property lines on La Cienega Blvd between Washington and Fairfax, and the strange property lines heading due west from the curve in Adams, here’s a guess at what happened. The original layout of La Cienega went straight south from Venice to Washington. Meanwhile, Adams went straight west from Fairfax to Washington, and then curved northwest to the intersection of Venice and La Cienega.
Later, when it was decided to create La Cienega Blvd as we know it today, a new road was laid out from Washington to Fairfax, across the pre-existing property lines. Rather than accepting a skewed five-way intersection between La Cienega, Washington, and Adams, the latter was realigned to curve northwest and intersect Washington east of the new La Cienega, which took over the route of Adams from the old La Cienega to Washington. This would have been done to create a better north-south arterial roadway; Fairfax north of the 10 has a narrower right-of-way (ROW) than La Cienega, and this change would eliminate the dead-end on La Cienega.
Got that? All speculation based on the property lines, but next time you’re out there, note that LADWP’s power lines follow the initial route for Adams suggested here. The important thing is that this change left La Cienega Ave dangling in urban design limbo, a 100’ ROW that became a minor street.
Most of that space has been given over to angle parking. While it doesn’t look like much space, this is actually about the same ROW width as the famous La Rambla in Barcelona. Redistribute the street space, and you could build a mini-rambla on La Cienega Ave.
I won’t even try to design or render that green space – that’s what landscape architects are for! Leaving the street in their hands, what about adjoining land use?
La Cienega Ave is currently zoned C2, which allows many commercial uses and also R4 residential density (the denser end of the dingbat spectrum). However, this zone is limited to a total FAR of 1.5, which won’t cut it. It should be upzoned to something like RAS4, which allows mixed use with FAR 3.0, or better yet, a hypothetical RAS5 zone with FAR 6.0, allowing denser residential development. ZIMAS uses orange for multi-family residential zones, but don’t let that fool you: the residential streets here are almost all RD2 and RD1.5, which allows only 2-3 units per lot. The side streets feeding La Cienega Ave, Hargis and Melvil, should be upzoned to R4 or RAS4. Parking requirements, as always, would probably need to be relaxed.
Ultimately, the hope would be to create a mixed-use district centered on the rambla, something like Americana at Brand but without the inevitable overplanning and uniformity of design that come with a single owner.
The upzoning might be able to help pay for the improvements to La Cienega Ave, which should be a minor burden if distributed out. As for transit, this area is less than a mile from both Culver City and Jefferson/La Cienega on the Expo Line, and well served by bus routes 33/733 on Venice and 105/705 on La Cienega.