During the first week of December, 1986, the powers that be in Beverly Hills closed Rexford Drive in the block south of Big Santa Monica Boulevard.
This closure is not a trivial matter. Rexford is one of two streets leading to and from Coldwater Canyon, and it is one of the few north-south streets in the city with traffic signals at every major crossing. Significant traffic has been diverted to other streets.
Regarding need: There was an announcement, but not much of an explanation, at least to the public. The closing is obviously connected to the complex of buildings being built as an extension of the Beverly Hills civic center. The announcement said that the block would be closed off for two years, which would seem to indicate that the closing is caused not by the new buildings themselves but by the process of construction.
So far, pavement in the closed-off block has not been touched, and the closed-off area seems to be used only as a parking lot for police and construction vehicles. If the area is only going to be a parking lot for two years, alternatives might have been chosen. As a temporary expedient, there are public parking lots in the adjacent block to the west that might have been turned over to the police, or the lawn of the City Hall, already cut into for VIP parking, might have been temporarily paved during construction.
Regarding timing: Closing an important street adjacent to the business section of the city was an act of arrogance against the citizens and merchants of the city. The traffic during the weeks before Christmas is a colossal mess, and to close off an important street requires a clear and compelling reason. During a multi-year project, with at least two years to go, surely something useful could have been accomplished during the three weeks before Christmas without closing Rexford.
Regarding effects: While there is a new right-turn lane into Crescent for cars going west on Little Santa Monica, at 5 p.m. cars back up from Crescent for two blocks into Burton Way. Morning traffic going in the opposite direction (south on Crescent turning east on Little Santa Monica) must often wait through two signal cycles to turn left, and cars overflowing the left-turn lane partly block the intersection to southbound through traffic.
Crescent was dumped on from two directions. While Rexford was being closed, the lights on Canon were changed to allow for pedestrian diagonal crossing, thereby doubling the transit time for north-south traffic on Canon and diverting another load of cars onto Crescent.
The Canon traffic is important since this street is the most direct way to and from Benedict Canyon. Thus, overloaded Crescent must serve as the way to get through the city for traffic to and from both Benedict and Coldwater Canyons, to and from the Wilshire corridor and points east on the Santa Monica Freeway.
Regarding compensatory steps: If one charitably grants the need to close Rexford, what might have been done to improve traffic flow (besides messing up Canon)? Here are some suggestions:
Close the east and north sides of the intersection of Crescent and Little Santa Monica to pedestrians.
Add a third period for left turns to the signal cycle for Crescent at Little Santa Monica.
Block left turns for northbound traffic on Crescent at Big Santa Monica.
Cut through the old railroad right of way between Big and Little Santa Monica at Foothill or Alpine. (This should be permanent.)
Install a traffic signal at Crescent and Clifton Way, and synchronize the signals for southbound traffic in the mornings and northbound traffic in the evenings.
Cancel the unnecessary pedestrian signal cycles on Canon.
Synchronize the traffic signals on Beverly Drive and Canon from 8 to 9:30 a.m. southbound and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. northbound, and prohibit parking during those hours.
Change the signal cycle at Rexford and Big Santa Monica to reflect the fact that the street carries no through traffic.
Enforce the laws against jaywalking, double parking, entering intersections already blocked with traffic, and running red lights (especially on left turns).
Those of us who live and work in Beverly Hills get short shrift from the city in matters related to traffic. I know personally that letters on the subject are not answered. I used to think that the city gave attention only to merchants, but after the December closure of Rexford, I now think that the city officials care only for themselves or for their new facilities being constructed at great cost and inconvenience to the citizens.
LOUIS B. MARIENTHAL