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Third Los Angeles Project

Janette Sadik-Khan '82 conversation with Christopher Hawthorne

“When you change the street, you change the world”: That was former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan ‘82’s message at back-to-back ThirdLA presentations March 16-17 as she discussed her new book, Streetfight, with Christopher Hawthorne at the Hammer Museum and the offices of Gensler, the global architecture, design and planning firm. At Gensler, Sadik-Khan and Hawthorne were joined by panelists  Tamika Butler, executive director L.A. County Bike Coalition,  Seleta Reynolds, Head of LADOT, and Roger Sherman, Gensler's senior project director of planning and urban design.

Drawing on her six years as commissioner and her current work as an international consultant, Sadik-Khan reiterated her call to recapture streets for pedestrians, citing the gains in safety, economic growth, more efficient rapid transit and sheer liveability that result. “Streets are what make a city great and not so great,” she said.

While acknowledging that density is destiny, Sadik-Khan said that there is still much that can be done to recapture streets in sprawling Los Angeles. “It’s really important to have a vision and a plan for where you’re going. Mayor [Garcetti] has laid out a good plan – that’s a critical first step. Moving quickly to show what’s possible is also critical,” she said.

In addition to establishing some quick wins – “You can accomplish a lot with a little bit of vision and a lot of paint” – it’s vitally important to take an analytical approach and document more than just traffic flows, she said. “When we put in protected bike lanes, we found retail sales soared 50%. Data moved us from looking at streets on an anecdotal basis to looking at streets on an analytical basis. We went far beyond measuring cars and were able to show that better streets mean better business.”