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Car Ban Cuts Saturday Night Village Fever

July 24, 1986|PETER PAE | Times Staff Writer

Jerry Abeles rarely went to Westwood Village on weekend nights, although he lives only half a mile away.

"On a Friday or a Saturday night, you want to relax without the traffic and the cars blasting their radios," he said.

But since the ban on cars began June 27, Abeles, a UCLA graduate and first-year law student at USC, said he likes to walk in the village. "I find it a lot easier to get around." Most merchants said they have noticed a more relaxed atmosphere in the village with older customers and families patronizing their stores since the traffic ban. Eight streets in the area have been closed to cars on Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30 p.m. until 1 a.m.

The village is "drawing a better type of crowd," said Joe Kidwell, who owns a pedicab service with his wife.

Although the traffic ban is attracting more older visitors, teen-agers are staying away.

"My friends don't want to come here anymore because they can't drive around and park in the village," said Edward Moore, a teen-age pedicab driver. "It was better with all the traffic."

City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who proposed the ban, said last month that the idea was to curtail traffic jams created by young cruisers from the suburbs, and to make the village a more pleasant place for pedestrians.

Yaroslavsky, who met with about 40 Westwood Village merchants Tuesday, called the ban "a dramatic success" and "the best single improvement to Westwood Village since I've been a councilman."

The weekend traffic ban has been imposed on Broxton, Weyburn and Kinross avenues, and on Westwood Boulevard until schools open in September. Yaroslavsky said the ban may continue if it is judged successful.

Movie theater owners and some merchants are cautious about praising the traffic ban, citing a slight decline in ticket sales and in customers.

"Some merchants said there was less customer traffic in their stores," said Scott Regberg, executive director of the Westwood Village Merchants Assn., which represents 150 of the area's theaters and stores. But "Ahhs," a trendy gifts and cards store, reported a higher level of sales because of fewer thefts and an increase in older customers willing to spend more, he added.

Regberg also said movie theaters have been reporting lackluster ticket sales. He cautioned against correlating the traffic ban with ticket sales. "It may be down because of the movie itself," he said.

The transformation of the crowded, trendy teen-age hangout to a quiet town square has pleased merchants catering to older customers, as well as the police.

Pedicab Business Is Up

Pedicab First Class, a pedicab service in Westwood owned by the Kidwells, has had a 20% increase in business since the ban. The closure has "definitely been good to us," said Joe Kidwell, whose fleet of three-wheeled bicycle taxis is permitted on the barricaded streets.

Peter Sachs, manager of Alice's restaurant, said the restaurant has not been affected by the traffic ban, but he supports it. "It will allow those people kept away by the weekend congestion to come to the village," he said.

Although separate crime figures for Westwood Village on weekend nights are not available, a Police Department official said that "by all indications, crime is down."

Sgt. Curt Hussey, who patrols the village, said police have been receiving fewer calls since the traffic ban. "We never had a big crime problem anyway, but we are getting fewer calls and fewer disputes."

Wilshire Is Clearer

According to Hussey, the ban on cruisers also has alleviated traffic congestion on Wilshire Boulevard. "We haven't had any problem with Wilshire Boulevard being jammed up at all," he said, noting that the boulevard was often clogged with traffic on weekend nights.

Hussey speculated that traffic has been light around the village because most people have been parking their cars on the perimeter of the village and at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard.

According to Hussey, four shuttle buses have been transporting from 3,000 to 4,000 people from the Federal Building to the village on weekends. He said only 400 to 500 people had used the free parking lot in the past during the weekend.

To Abeles all this has been good for the village.

"I love the casual, community atmosphere of the village now," Abeles said.

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