Trying to bring the development to transit

Mark Herwick, Supervising Regional Planner for Los Angeles County, talks to the Urban Land Institute-Los Angeles panel looking to improve the Blue Line's Slauson station.

In recent years, urban planners have been making a big push to locate new residential buildings as close to transit as possible. It’s certainly started to happen in Los Angeles County, with apartments and condos sprouting near rail lines in Hollywood, North Hollywood, Koreatown, Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles, to name a few. In other cases, plenty of people live near rail stations, but the stations could be much more accessible and pedestrian-friendly.

Toward that end, the Urban Land Institute-Los Angeles recently held a one-day workshop with architects, developers and planners to re-envision the Blue Line’s Slauson station. The team brainstormed plans and will take a month to refine them, with the County of Los Angeles moving the proposals forward. This workshop was recently covered in The Architect’s Newspaper.

An excerpt:

Panel recommendations focused on getting people to the station and adding retail. This included a security kiosk, improved lighting, and more visible crosswalks and sidewalks. But a key proposal may rankle those who support TODs purely to get people out of cars: The ULI TAP urges more parking… particularly, a new parking structure connecting to the boarding platform. “Adding parking is not ‘good’ from a typical green perspective, but it will increase ridership,” said Jonathan Watts, Slauson TAP chair and principal with Cuningham Group Architecture.

The ULI is holding similar workshops for other locales around the county. One was recently held for the proposed Station Square Transit Village in Monrovia and another will focus on the Green Line’s Vermont station. All of the plans will be showcased at the ULI’s TOD Marketplace conference in June at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

It will be interesting to watch how much development actually occurs near transit in coming years. TODs have their share of critics — many of whom say that people who live in such developments don’t take mass transit as much as they should, the inference being that the transit is an excuse to allow for more development. I don’t buy it. Cities grow and need to redevelop and where else should development go? Out in the boonies?

That said, here’s my unsolicited advice for city planners, architects and developers. A lot of what has been built near mass transit in L.A. County has been market-rate housing that trends toward the luxury side. In my view, it would be great to see a much better mix.