By RYOKO NAKAMURA
Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
The Bureau of Street Services gave a presentation on the Little Tokyo Third Streetscape Improvements Project at the Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee’s monthly meeting held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center on June 20.
This $1 million grant project was started as a part of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s operation. However, after CRA was eliminated in February due to state budget cuts, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Street Services took over the construction. The CRA staff will remain to monitor the project.
According to Patricia Araiza and Scott Shimatsu from the Bureau of Street Services, the project includes improving sidewalks on Third Street between Alameda and San Pedro and upgrading three intersections, at Alameda, Central, and San Pedro.
Because the project borders two different districts, the Arts District and the Central Industrial District, the curb improvements will be implemented only on the north side of the street.
The main construction involves enhancing the curbs on the north side of Third Street at the three intersections to calm traffic and to reduce street-crossing distances for pedestrians. Development would also include new signs at crossings, featuring the neighborhood’s signature decorative fan, such as those currently seen at Second Street and San Pedro. Small landscaping improvements along the sidewalks and streetlights at bus stations are planned as well.
Depending on the community’s requests, the installation of benches or exercise equipment could be an option.
At the PCPC meeting, approximately 60 community members gathered, including about 30 senior residents from Little Tokyo Towers located on Third Street. The residents voiced their demand: the desperate need for a crosswalk at Omar and Third streets, near the main entrance of the apartment complex.
May Matsumoto, a four-year resident of Little Tokyo Towers who is in her 90s, said, “We have to walk all the way to San Pedro with a cane or walker, cross Third Street, and then walk all the way back to where the doctors, a bank, and a beauty shop are. It’s very hard. Seniors need the crosswalk.”
Araiza said that LADOT, BSS, and CRA are fully aware of the need. However, “to justify building a crosswalk in the middle of a block, the city has to have a sufficient evidence of pedestrian numbers,” she explained.
The residents of Little Tokyo Towers submitted 300 signatures to support the creation of this crosswalk to LADOT three years ago, but the study conducted by LADOT was inconclusive and didn’t find enough demand.
Araiza emphasized that LADOT, BSS, and CRA plan to conduct another pedestrian count to see if there are currently enough pedestrians to implement the crosswalk. She also suggested that the community members submit letters or signatures to LADOT to support the claim that enough people would use the crosswalk.
PCPC is planning to invite representatives from LADOT to their July meeting for further discussion.