Friday morning's Grand Opening of the new Trader Joe's in Hollywood was a joyous occasion for many but for the cycling community it was a vivid demonstration of how invisible cyclists are in the customer mix. There were no bike racks to be found in spite of the fact that the Trader Joe's is located at the southeast corner of LA's largest Transit Oriented Development, a project that purportedly caters to cyclists and pedestrians by combining density with convenience. (unless you're the kind of cyclist who actually uses a bike and then "never mind!")
This was also Bike Week, adding insult to energy, and cyclists had just experienced ten days of very effective, fair trade, shade grown, dolphin safe, handmade bullshit from Trader Joe's and a completely insulting and meandering journey with regards to responsibility.
Trader Joe's had argued vehemently and consistently that it was merely the Tenant and that the Landlord was responsible for bike parking, that the Tenant was limited in its ability to improve the property and that it was out of their control. Christie Hughes finally conceded and agreed to install bike racks at the Trader Joe's, just like the bike racks at other Trader Joe's. I cautioned her against repeating the mistakes of the past and urged her to hire a professional, after all, everything else is done by profesionals, why not bike racks?
Legacy Partners, the Landlord, argued that it was not responsible for installing bike racks and that Trader Joe's was responsible for all improvements but that bike racks could not be installed outside the Trader Joe's entrance and under the sign because "We're limited by the DDA with the Metro and the CRA." The Development Agreement purportedly addressed things like bike racks and "limited" the authority of the Landlord and the Tenant but Ed Kirk, VP of Legacy Partners, agreed to investigate before simply forbidding bike racks on the outside of the building.
The Metro, owner of the land under the W Hollywood compound and the authority holding the 99 year lease, was blamed for the DDA that might serve as an obstacle to the installation of Bike Racks but the proverbial hot potato left the hands of Greg Angelo, Metro's Director of Real Estate, as soon as he heard that the Metro was being offered up as opposed to bike parking.
The California Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was also offered as an obstacle because of the Development Agreement but Kip Rudd of the CRA was at the Trader Joe's ribbon cutting and he chuckled when asked about any DDA prohibition against bike parking. "Who told you that? The CRA is a proponent of bike parking and has three streetscape improvement projects for Hollywood that include bike parking."
That left the City of Los Angeles as the bike parking obstacle. At every turn, from Christie Hughes to Trader Joe's Director of Construction Rich Adachi, I heard about the City of Los Angeles and the mythological need to get a permit in order to install bike racks. Granted, Trader Joe's is on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, but my proposed location for the exterior bike parking is under the Trader Joe's sign on their property, not on the sidewalk. In fact, the City of LA has a municipal code that requires bike parking, it just lacks the political will to implement or enforce its own code.
As for Political Will, City Council President Eric Garcetti arrived on Friday morning to cut the ribbon and to present the Trader Joe's management with a resolution welcoming them to the neighborhood. When I spoke to Garcetti and pointed out that the largest TOD in Los Angeles had failed to include bike parking in its program, in spite of its purpurted commitment to active transportation. (I thought the "new urbanist" lingo might resonate!) He continued to smile and nod and I got more specific, pointing out that the City of LA was a development partner with the folks responsible for the largest TOD in LA and yet their were no bike racks. How can there be a standard for TOD developments funded with public money that does not specify a minimum for bike racks?
The W Hollywood is LA's largest TOD and its development partners include the Metro, the CRA, the City of Los Angeles, and the funding comes from sources that include the Federal Government and the State of California. This project is encumbered by rules and restrictions and regulations thick enough to choke an invasion of developers and heavy enough to sink a fleet of developers and yet Gatehouse Capital and Legacy Partners prevailed. They are to be commended for their perseverance in what was a decade long bureaucratic journey to the proverbial ribbon cutting.
At the same time, they fell short, way short. Their tenants followed suit.
Along the way, cyclists discovered that when push comes to shove, Bike Week is a token gesture that comes with no real conviction or support. Be clear on this, from the Feds to the State of California to the Metro to the CRA to the City of Los Angeles, facilities for cyclists are so low on the list of priorities that they fail to register. Cyclists will count when cyclists demand to be counted.
It ain't over!