Responding to Westwood Village merchants' fears that measures taken eliminate weekend cruisers have also discouraged shoppers, the city will soften a 2-year-old ban on traffic and will provide more time on parking meters.
The merchants and Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky today will announce their plan to lure visitors who have been driven away by reports of weekend traffic and parking problems. Earlier this month, the city pushed back the time of the street closures from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The streets are open during the rest of the week.
The barricades affect all streets in the center of the village until 1 a.m. but streets on the periphery are kept open so motorists have access to parking structures.
Yaroslavsky began the street closures to eliminate cruising and traffic gridlocks on busy weekend nights. Most visitors and many merchants welcomed the measure, but some merchants complained their business suffered as a result. The barricades are put up and taken down by city traffic officials.
Change in Time
According to a recent survey, 71% of village merchants favored the barricades but wanted the closure time pushed back to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., said Scott Regberg, president of the merchants association.
The change will give restaurant patrons and other customers an additional hour to park near the businesses, Regberg said. The problems are not as bad as people think, and the new measures will make the area more accessible, he said.
"Consumers have had a misconception that parking in Westwood is impossibly difficult, and our feeling is that, to the contrary, there is abundant parking in Westwood," Regberg said. "But we need fine-tuning to make it more accessible. The goal is to make the village feel more user-friendly."
The change is part of a Westwood Village Merchants Assn. publicity effort to improve the area's image and to attract visitors.
Called "Discover Westwood," the effort will include ads in local publications that will promote the area's accessibility, Regberg said.
Extending Meter Time
Michelle Krotinger, Yaroslavsky's press deputy, said the program includes extending parking meter times from 30 and 60 minutes to 90 minutes and 2 hours. Also, most parking meters will operate from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., instead of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., she said.
"In the morning it will be easier to come for breakfast," Krotinger said. "And we need it an hour later because of the weekday commuting patterns."
The parking meters throughout the village will be changed in two stages, beginning next month. Meters along Broxton Avenue will be changed first, she said.
Tom Conner, principal transportation engineer for the city Department of Transportation, said the street barricades have eliminated much of the cruising and traffic that deterred many visitors in the past.
"I think they have been very successful in improving the safety of the area," Conner said. "I like to think of Westwood as being a large mall. You go to a shopping mall, and you park your car and you walk around. . . . That's not a lot different than . . . the way (it) should be."
Conner said motorists who visit the village on weekend evenings are encouraged to park in the Federal Building parking lot at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue and take a shuttle to the village. The ride is 25 cents each way, he said.