March 30, 2018: LOS ANGELES DOWNTOWN NEWS - Eyesore Barricades Outside Reagan Building Are Removed

April 02, 2018

Link to original story and photos HERE:

By Sean P. Thomas

For more than eight years, a portion of sidewalk and a plaza behind the Ronald Reagan Building on Main Street were blocked from public use by a row of orange and white barricades.

This week, many of those barriers were suddenly removed, providing community access to the spot just south of Third Street. A line of 16 barricades remains up, halting access to a stretch of sidewalk with an extended crack.

It marks a swift change for one of Downtown’s most persistent and perplexing eyesores. It drew a sigh of relief from Will Wright, who over the course of several years has reached out to public officials to try to get something done.

“Finally it seems that the facilities managers of the Ronald Reagan Building are making steps forward to repair this corner of Downtown Los Angeles,” Wright, who is the government and public affairs director of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said in an email.

The barricades were erected in 2009 to protect pedestrians from a 20-foot stretch of cracked sidewalk caused by a buckling tree root. The crack, generally about half an inch to an inch wide, is toward the edge of the property, between two Reagan building pillars. It remains unclear why the entire plaza was blocked off.

In 2015, a reporter with Los Angeles Downtown News was told that the repairs would likely be completed by the following year. However, no progress occurred and the barricades remained, providing a visual orange and white blight against the backdrop of the Reagan Building’s tan façade.   

Downtown News began reaching out to various city and state officials on March 23 to inquire about the state of the plaza and the schedule of repairs. On Wednesday, a spokesman for Sen. Holly Mitchell, whose 30th District includes the Reagan Building, sent an email saying that crews would begin removing barricades that afternoon to open the sidewalk to pedestrian traffic. Indeed, by the next morning many of the barriers were gone.

The state of repairs for the cracked portion of the sidewalk remains in limbo. Mitchell, who assumed office in 2013, indicated in an email that the upgrades were scheduled in conjunction with a much larger collection of improvements to state properties.

“The barricades are in place to protect pedestrians and the state from liability if someone were to fall as a result of the cracks in the concrete,” Mitchell said in the email Wednesday. “Because the state has over $1.5 billion in deferred maintenance needs, we have been focusing on repairing the most urgent issues first. However, we will remove some of the barricades this week, and focus on finishing the sidewalk repair.”

A repair timeline or cost estimate to fix the crack was not provided, but according to Mitchell’s office, the repairs were held up in order to be combined with a larger project that includes security upgrades to the building. That project is scheduled to take place within the next two years, according to Mitchell, but the California Department of General Services, which manages state real estate assets, is looking at ways to accelerate the property repairs outside of the larger project.

“They are looking at how to avoid letting the perfect (a single, comprehensive project that addresses all the issues but takes longer to plan and complete) get in the way of the good (fixing the problems that can be addressed quickly using available resources,” Mitchell said via email.

Although there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel that the crack will be fixed and the sidewalk restored, City Councilman José Huizar, whose 14th District includes Downtown, took issue with the pace of repairs. In 2015, Huizar stated that he was working with stakeholders to address the blocked-off sidewalk, and was assured by state officials that the repairs would be imminent. Last week he called the lag in fixes “unacceptable.”

“My office has worked very hard with our Downtown stakeholders to create complete streets’ policies that prioritize, among other things, increased pedestrian access and activity,” Huizar said in an email. “Nothing says do not walk here more than barriers that have been in place for years.”

Prior to the news that the barrier would be removed, Wright called the lack of response to the sidewalk barriers “emblematic of something deeper and more dysfunctional.” He questioned if the sidewalks would take close to 10 years to fix if the building was located in, say, Beverly Hills.

sean@downtownnews.com