Devotees of the stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook will be pleased to know that plans are under way to make the area more pedestrian friendly, with construction slated to begin in May, city officials said.
The mountain of stairs that looms 715 feet high and its looping one-mile hike are a well-known attraction in Culver City, but frequent attendees said drawbacks include a lack of parking and crosswalks near the entrance to the Overlook.
"Parking can be annoying, especially if you come during rush hour," said Sarah Emerson, who climbs the stairs at least once a week. "I always wonder if I am going to get a ticket for jaywalking."
Said Jess Bravo, who comes to the stairs three times a week: "I think a crosswalk would be a good idea; cars are speeding down that curve and you don't see them."
The Overlook also recently became the center of media attention after a near the entrance. Officials say the late-night timing of the ride makes it unrelated to safety questions spurring the pedestrian improvements project, however.
The plan for the area, which includes a new parking lot, sidewalks on both sides of the street, and crosswalks with walk signals and flashing lights, has a price tag of $755,000. It will be paid for with a grant of $570,000 from the Baldwin Hills Conservancy and matching funds from the city, said Hong Wang, the city engineer for the project. The target date of completion is December 2012.
These are the planned changes:
- A new parking lot at the bottom of the hill, with room for 25-30 spaces.
- Sidewalks on both sides of the street for pedestrians to use when exiting cars.
- A crosswalk with walk signals and a flashing light.
- A new median.
- Bolded-out curb corners to shorten the distance between the two sides.
- Advanced stop bars to alert cars to an oncoming crosswalk.
- Greenscaping with an emphasis on low-impact, drought-friendly plants.
- Bicycle lanes.
The Baldwin Hills Conservancy has invested in the Scenic Overlook Project since its inception, and access improvements have been a key part of the long-term plans for the area, said executive officer David McNeill.
The grant to Culver City, funded through Proposition 84, is the most recent move in that direction.
The popularity of the site continues to increase, McNeill said, thereby increasing the need to “step up and move the access issue forward.” That includes better access to recreation areas in the coastal zone and Ballona Creek.
For the pedestrian improvements project, the conservancy is also working to ensure that the landscaping is as low-impact and permeable as possible, with the pavement designed to capture runoff and plants with little need of watering.
Until construction is complete, McNeill encourages park-goers to buy annual parking passes for the top of the hill, where daily parking costs $6. Each annual pass costs $80, and 15 trips in the course of the year would pay it off, McNeill said.
Space for about 100 cars can be found on the street at the bottom of the hill. The spots are most commonly used by visitors and factored into the plans for pedestrian improvements.
These spots may eventually turn into metered parking, McNeill said.