MAR VISTA MARKS ROAD DIET ANNIVERSARY WITH SEVENTH BUSINESS CLOSURE.
VENICE BLVD. LANE REMOVALS CLAIM ANOTHER VICTIM.
One year ago, car lanes along a busy stretch of Venice Blvd. in Mar Vista were removed and replaced with bike lanes as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Vision Zero” and “Great Streets Initiative.” Now, rather than celebrating the anniversary, the community is facing yet another business closure and demanding an end to the so-called “road diet.”
Locals say they were told the project would improve safety, enhance the neighborhood and stimulate economic development. Instead, it’s snarling traffic, raising accident rates and destroying the village-like atmosphere that previously flourished along the boulevard between Beethoven and Inglewood.
The latest victim is The Tattoo Lounge, previously the oldest such business on the Westside, and the seventh business along this .8 mile stretch to close its doors since the lane reconfiguration last May. Co-owner John Saletra maintains, “Right away our walk-in business stopped. The beach traffic moved to Washington. Parking became a nightmare. I’d get text messages that Waze says it’s taking 45 minutes to go six blocks. People were absolutely frustrated by the time they got to my business," if they came at all.
Demetrios Mavromichalis, who helped revitalize the district when he opened the Venice Grind coffee shop in 2005, lays the blame squarely at the feet of City officials. “For 10 years my sales were strong and steady — increasing even when Starbucks opened. But from the day they took away the lanes, sales dropped 30%. And it’s the same for just about shop here.”
Mayor Garcetti recently shrugged off such concerns saying, “Businesses open and close… So far the evidence I’ve seen, I’m not [returning the lanes].” Mavromichalis counters, “It feels like the Mayor walks into my store every day, reaches into the cash register, takes money out and walks away. And he’s doing it to every business up and down the street. (For more testimonials, see http://info.restore-venice.com/YouTube.)
The road diet’s detractors also cite safety concerns. They point to recent CHP accident data showing accidents and injuries are up over historical averages. Additionally, cut-through traffic on nearby residential streets has risen, as 4500 cars per day have diverted from the boulevard. Watching from his former storefront Saletra noticed, “It’s almost non-stop accidents now because the street went from three lanes to two lanes, and anyone parallel parking blocks a lane. People get hit crossing the bike lane. I suppose most stuff goes unreported.” The most ironic failure of the project, he notes is that, “Even cyclists are using the sidewalk because they know the bike lanes aren’t safe.”
Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Mike Bonin have repeatedly told constituents that this is a Pilot Project and changes would me made if things weren't working. With similar projects set to roll out around the City, Saletra says "I feel like I need to warn people this is being planned for streets all over L.A. They keep selling this as a safety measure. As a boon to business. If they were really concerned about safety they’d go back to what it was."