I’m not sure who sits in the seat of power that determines the passage of traffic through a given intersection, but those czars of congestion are at it again, creating an all-way stop at the corner of Lexington Ave. and Seward St., mere blocks away from where I sit now, typing these very words you’re reading. It’s the type of city planning that could make or break a neighborhood. It couldn’t come at a more turbulent time for what I call the “Heart of Hollywood” – an area already steeped in social and economic flux.
There it is: Hollywood. Not exactly what many people living outside of Los Angeles think of when the hear the name. In fact, only one major studio (Paramount) is actually located within that boundary. In reality, Hollywood The Neighborhood is a somewhat run-down part of the city, though it is flanked by affluence to the north and south and hipsterism on the east and west. For better or worse (definitely for worse – what are you talking about?), gentrification is slowly entering this region, the best way to legally ghettoize a community of people. As more white people take up residence in the community (don’t worry – I’ve lived here since before it was cool), the bureaucrats in urban development finally take notice of possible hazards. Hence, our shiny new four-way stop.
I first noticed the new feature a week ago, while out for a walk. Lexington’s buddy to the north – Fountain Ave. – has long been the preferred method by which to move east or west through Hollywood. You need look no further than Bette Davis’s possibly apocryphal response to the question of what advice she might give to those looking to make it in the entertainment industry for evidence of this (“Take Fountain,” she allegedly said). “Take Lexington” is a dodgier bit of advice, as you open yourself up to more unprotected crossings. Or at least you used to. In the five years since I moved into my apartment, more and more two-way stops have turned into four way stops, including one just up the street at the corner of Lexington and Wilcox Ave, incidentally installed just as newer, fancier housing developments were built up the street. “Inconceivable!” raged the motorists (I imagine) who were so used to driving north or south along Wilcox without obstruction or delay. But as with all non-negotiables, the new intersection ultimately assimilated its way into the sector’s culture.
This new four-way stop is even more of a no-brainer. Trying to cross Seward, especially in an eastward direction was always a tricky proposition, just by the design of the corner. It’s hard to describe, but the intersection is laid out so that it is nigh-impossible to see northbound traffic from the western side of the street. As Lexington is my preferred route for returning home from the grocery store, undertaking that task was tantamount to risking my life (and my groceries) on a weekly basis. Installing the extra stop signs on Seward eliminates this threat, or at least it will once people get used to it. I don’t know, perhaps we’re babying ourselves by making the streets safer – do we lose something as a culture by eliminating the possibility of being t-boned every time we go out to buy tortellini? Maybe we do. But despite my love for the films in which they star, I am hardly a member of the gang lead by Dominic Toretto in the Fast and Furious franchise. I am not out to test my mettle or my engine when I cross Seward – I am simply out to test my stomach’s capacity for tortellini. So with that in mind, The New Four-Way Stop at the Corner of Lexington and Seward receives what it already possesses: four (out of five) stop signs:
I may not like what these stop signs mean for the neighborhood (or my rent), but I greatly appreciate what it means for my safety.