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The Mayoral Candidates Tackle Broadway

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, February 18, 2005, at 07:05PM

The LA Conservancy has on their website a special election edition newsletter (PDF). Inside are interviews with the mayoral candidates focused on historic preservation. One of the questions deals with Downtown, specifically the Broadway theaters. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I wanted to address a few of the candidates points here.

Both Villaraigosa and Hahn mention the Gaslamp district in San Diego as a point of comparison for Broadway. I have to confess I haven't hung out much in San Diego, so I really can't speak to that.

It's Hertzberg who makes the first comment I found particularly interesting:

We've got something like 9,000 housing units coming -- you need about 22,000 to get to critical mass and then you'll have real livability. Then, it truly becomes self-sustaining. I want to take some of the downtown streets and reduce them to one lane and widen the sidewalk.

Perhaps somebody should have told the Downtown News to just go to Hertzberg for that number on critical mass; they have a harder time finding a consensus on a figure. But putting that aside, I'm going to say it right now that I love the idea of making some Downtown streets one-lane each way (or just in general narrowing them). I think that would be great for Broadway. Expanding the sidewalks opens up so much potential for sidewalk cafe type uses, and would just in general make those weekend Broadway shopping crowds a lot easier to manage.

Next up are Hahn's comments, which include:

I'm interested in seeing what we can do to bring more live entertainment to those venues, to preserve those theaters. A lot of cities would just kill to get one of those, and we have a dozen.

Well, here's the problem: movie palaces don't have the staging for a whole lot of live entertainment. Exceptions on Broadway are the Orpheum and the Palace, other than that you're going to see a good number of tiny thrust stages with nothing behind them. That's the challenge for Broadway renovation: these things were built to show movies, so you're going to have to be pretty creative to use them for anything else.

Also from Hahn:

One of the keys to me is that we need to build more parking downtown. We need to build more off-street parking. That's what will bring people there. That's what will keep them there.

See, I'm not going to disagree outright. Downtown needs more strategic parking resources. But I'm far less quick to say we need more parking and you're going to have a real hard time getting me to say that parking is what's going to bring or keep people here. Downtown Los Angeles is the transit capital of the region. We need to do a better job of providing transit accessible Downtown destinations. If it's LA Live and convention traffic that's going to bring all sorts of people to Downtown, the question isn't building parking over here. Far more important is building a cohesive shuttle service that runs late into the night to transport people between the Broadway district and South Park / LA Live / Staples / the Convention Center. This is a job I think night-time DASH service, if operated with reasonably short headways, could handle really well. People like the DASH buses. They'll ride them. Just get them where they need to go and don't make them bring their cars.

Like I said, read the whole piece. I just thought those were a few points worth responding to.

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