image Architecture & Planning

Shining a Light on the Argyle Underpass

By Sarah Besley

May 1, 2014

Nothing says welcome to the neighborhood like a freeway overpass, right?  Not a chance.  It may be one of the worst statements EVER to anyone who visits and certainly to anyone who lives in or around it – especially if their community has been severed in half.  An overpass literally says:  this community favors cars over people and I dare you to walk underneath me and emerge on the other side alive.  This is the message I’ve been getting for the past couple years as I commute from Los Feliz, along Franklin Avenue, down Argyle, to and from work each day.

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But I’ve started to think differently about this concrete monster.  Instead I’ve started noticing the unexpected number of pedestrians walking from the hills north of Franklin into downtown Hollywood with their yoga mats, shopping bags, or strollers in tow.  I’m struck by the fact that people seem to walk so confidently underneath what seems to me like a very scary place.  It makes me believe that the fear of walking underneath is somehow outweighed by the benefit of reaching a destination beyond – whether that’s home, a place of work, or the gym.

This epiphany has given me great hope for our little hamlet.  Our community is starting to think beyond the car and see downtown Hollywood not just as a severed finger, but rather part of the hand.  However I can’t help but feel that this underpass needs to dramatically change in order to welcome our neighbors and make them feel safe.

So I’ve been thinking about what a bright coat of paint; some lights; and light landscaping could do to improve this linkage.   I now find myself looking at every underpass throughout the city and imagining how they could be better.   My favorite, however, is the elegant underpass along Pico, designed by Katherine Spitz in Santa Monica.  Beautifully simple it bears some architectural lights and some bright green paint. I’ve never once seen any graffiti.

So I challenge you to think about this connection – not just as a physical one, but a bridge between two communities that find themselves sometimes at odds with each other, but could greatly benefit from what each offers.

I feel it’s time to start rolling out the red carpet to our neighbors in the hills, even if that means a new coat of paint on a lot of concrete.

Sarah MacPherson Besley serves as the Associate Executive Director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance (HPOA), the nonprofit that manages the Sunset & Vine Business Improvement District (BID) and the Hollywood Entertainment District BID.  Over the past fourteen years, she has implemented many capital improvement projects on and around Hollywood Boulevard and advocated for a variety of planning and public safety initiatives.  Besley holds a B.A. in Geography, with an emphasis in Urban and Regional Development from UCLA, and a Master’s in Urban Planning from the same institution.

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