A public hearing on the environmental impact of building a 350-room hotel in downtown Glendale brought little comment this week despite warnings that the hotel will contribute to the worst traffic congestion in Glendale's history.
After more than two years of study, traffic consultants have concluded that no matter what the city does to widen roadways, change signals and re-stripe lanes to speed flow, severe congestion is inevitable at three key intersections near the proposed hotel.
Yet studies also conclude that traffic in the downtown area will be so bad that building a new hotel will make it only marginally worse.
As a result, the Glendale Redevelopment Agency on Aug. 30 is expected to certify as adequate an environmental impact report prepared by Michael Brandman Associates of Los Angeles. Public comment on the report must be filed by Sunday.
Agency approval will allow Red Lion Inns to proceed with plans to build a 16-story hotel and convention center on a redevelopment site on the south side of Glenoaks Boulevard between Central Avenue and Brand Boulevard.
The project proposed by the Vancouver-based hotel chain would span the Verdugo Wash flood control channel, which would be covered with concrete and landscaped to provide a park and main entrance to the hotel, said Susan Shick, deputy redevelopment director.
It is the first such proposal in Glendale to cover and use a channel owned by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.
Plans to span the channel and funnel traffic onto Glenoaks were developed this year after traffic studies found that the site originally proposed for the hotel--on the east side of Central just north of the freeway--is already severely congested and is sure to get worse.
Shifting the main access to the hotel to Glenoaks will mitigate circulation problems on Central and Brand and afford hotel visitors "an unencumbered view of the hills to the north," Shick said.
Most of the weekday congestion downtown occurs between 5 and 7 p.m., when hundreds of workers pour out of high-rise office buildings in the city's so-called financial district, at the northern end of Brand Boulevard and Central Avenue near the Ventura Freeway, according to a study completed last month by Barton-Aschman Associates of Pasadena. More office buildings are under construction or proposed.
The traffic study, incorporated into the environmental impact report on the hotel project, predicts that traffic congestion at three key locations in the downtown area will reach gridlock within three years.
The intersections already congested are Central Avenue and Brand Boulevard at their entrances to with the westbound Ventura Freeway, and Brand at the eastbound freeway entrance. They will get even worse, studies conclude.
Of these, traffic on Central to the westbound Ventura Freeway will soon be rated as the worst possible, defined as a "total breakdown with stop-and-go operation."
Drivers trying to enter the eastbound Ventura from Brand will have to get used to "severe congestion with some longstanding lines," the study says. And traffic to the west from Brand will have to wait through several cycles of lights before it reaches the freeway approach, it says.
The ultimate solution to the downtown traffic mess, according to consultants, may be to force drivers to take alternate routes and to encourage car-pooling and other ride-sharing programs.
Nevertheless, reports conclude that traffic generated by a downtown hotel and convention center will be minuscule compared to the overall problem.
Shifting the hotel site to north of the original proposal apparently has lessened the controversy. The site originally selected would have forced the popular Conrad's restaurant to find a new location.
Under the new proposal, Conrad's would be allowed to remain, at least for a few years, Shick said. Eventually, the city hopes another office development will be built on the Central Avenue site, she said.
The latest proposal calls for closing all or a portion of Arden Avenue between Brand and Central north of Allstate Plaza.
The only concerns voiced at Tuesday's public hearing were by an oil company official, who asked that the city consider the impact on a nearby gas station of closing Arden, and by an Allstate spokesman who wondered about the proposal's potential effect on access to the Allstate Plaza.