Right here in Beverly Hills we have an abandoned right-of-way from the Pacific Electric car era. The Westgate branch came right through Beverly Hills, stopping at our old post office, before heading west to Sawtelle. Much of the right-of-way still stands under-utilized (as planners say) but still zoned exclusively for transportation ( the T-zone). As reported here some months ago, some developers want to see a change in zone to allow for commercial development. That policy issue is hardly decided, but the proposal is lingering in the halls of City Hall so expect it to come back ’round.
What if we applied a bit of imagination to our own abandoned right-of-way, that strip (above) that runs along the south side of Santa Monica boulevard? Instead of zoning more over-sized commercial buildings that would front right on the boulevard, why not make it a linear park parallel to Beverly Gardens, complete with a and bike/ped path and maybe native plants – just like the High Line? Why not think of this corridor as an opportunity to serve the public good, rather than merely private gain?
Better Bike is working on some visualizations for the Santa Monica Boulevard right-of-way corridor and the Burton Way corridor too. We should see these places for what they are: invitations to relate people, transportation, and environment into a whole rather than bids for yet another office building or proto-freeway.
For inspiration we can look east. The NY Times has always been a big booster of the High Line, that transformative rails-to-park project that ignited real estate fever on Manhattan’s far-west side. This week the Times published ‘After the High Line, Old Tracks Get Another Look,’ which itself was a follow up to last summer’s After High Line’s Success, Other Cities Look Up.
The High Line sparked not a few design imaginings about what to do with NYC’s relict railroad right-of-way. And look what they did. Perhaps the High Line’s alchemy – old railroad to high-profile urban park – suggests a way ahead for Beverly Hills too, and our own Red Car line just waiting to be re-imagined.
[Update: Join Better Bike for a ride along the old right-of-way. Sunday August 14th 2pm. We’ll meet at Peets 258 S. Beverly.]