To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016


By Sahra Sulaiman, November 25, 2015

 Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

 Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers.

 Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak.

Councilmember Mitch Englander said he agreed with Bonin, but had concerns about the ability of stakeholders to add their input when it came time to implement the plan in their communities. He asked that the council vote twice on the motion — once to approve the rescind/re-adopt resolution and a second time to send any amendments, including two added at the last minute by Councilmember David Ryu, to committee to ensure that they were heard (and, “out of an abundance of caution,” met the legal procedural requirements).

Councilmember Paul Koretz, ever stalwart in his opposition, stood to announce, “I’m opposed to any actions until we’ve actually removed the Westwood Blvd. bike lane from this plan.”

Noting that because today’s vote would mean that any amendments to the plan would be heard only after its approval, he repeated his stance, saying, “I’ll vote no on this and anything else until Westwood Blvd. has been removed.”

As no public comment was heard, Koretz’ brief comments were as adversarial as the discussion on the motion got.

When council president Herb Wesson called for votes on the rescind/re-adopt motion and the motion to send all amendments to committee, both passed rather resoundingly. Koretz, Englander, and Ryu opposed the rescind/re-adopt motion (Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Paul Krekorian were not present; Ryu’s vote first registered as “yes” and then was changed verbally).

First vote to rescind/re-adopt the Mobility Plan.

The vote to rescind/re-adopt the Mobility Plan passed with 9 votes in favor, and only Koretz, Englander, and Ryu (verbally) voting in opposition.

The vote to send the amendments to the Plan to committee for further review and discussion passed with only one opposing vote.

The motion to send the amendments to committee for review and discussion passed with

The motion to send the amendments to committee for review and discussion passed with only Koretz voting in opposition.

The fact that the Plan had moved forward so easily and so unceremoniously seemed to take community members hoping to speak in its favor a bit by surprise. Only when Wesson moved on to the next item was there finally a smattering of applause.

Outside the chambers, the group of supporters gathered to discuss the vote.

They were happy, said Malcolm Harris, Director of Programs & Organizing at TRUST South L.A., that the City Council had come out in support of the Mobility Plan. But they were still interested in ensuring that the South L.A. community was engaged on the Plan and that its final iteration was more representative of the vision of a diverse group of stakeholders.

Most of the outreach regarding the Plan had taken place online (under the name “LA/2B”) and used language and concepts that were not always accessible or relevant to residents of marginalized communities. Moreover, the level of education in basic planning one might have needed to have in order to either understand the impact of the various options presented in the online surveys or to be able to suggest (and justify) alternatives would have excluded many from being able to participate outright, regardless of their ability to connect to the LA2B website. As a result, the visions of communities like South L.A. were not well-represented in the final product.

And, as Victor Aquino (also with TRUST) said, the community’s mobility needs did not stand in isolation from other concerns. While door-knocking in South Central to gather support for the Central Avenue bike lane and engage residents on mobility more generally, he explained, he and other volunteers were finding that residents spoke of mobility as being inextricably intertwined with issues like health, economic development, and safety. Shifts in one area — say, a rise in rents — could have a significant impact on everything else (e.g. impacting their transit or food budgets, forcing people to move to more distant, more crowded, or substandard housing, etc.)

They were looking forward, Aquino and other members of TRUST said, to further engaging area business owners and residents of all ages, particularly the youth, to dialogue on what a representative plan should encompass.

As if to prove that point, the youngest volunteer in attendance, Sherry Alvarado, read out the statement she had planned to give during public comment. Her brother had been hit by a car, she said, holding up a grisly photo of his battered leg, “because the road wasn’t fit for a bike.”

Safer streets for all users can’t come soon enough.

This Week In Livable Streets


By Joe Linton, November 30, 2015

Plenty of great happenings as the calendar slips into December. Attend a conference for rail passengers, a Metro board meeting, holiday rides, and more. Plus watch Streetfilms in Santa Monica this Friday!
  • Tuesday 12/1 – The city of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. at 6501 Fountain Avenue in Hollywood. To be discussed are planned future segments of the L.A. River and Expo bike paths, Mobility Plan 2035, and more. See agenda [PDF] for details.
  • Tuesday 12/1 – Tomorrow is the last day to vote to name Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX line tunnel boring machine. Details at Metro.
  • Wednesday 12/2 – Santa Monica officials want your input on the latest veteran housing plans for the 387-acre West L.A. Veterans Administration campus overhaul. Attend a public input meeting from 7 to 8 p.m. at the City Auditorium at 1855 Main St in Santa Monica. View the plan at the project website. More meeting details are at Santa Monica Next.
  • Thursday 12/3 – Metro’s Board of Directors meets at 9 a.m. at the Metro Board Room behind L.A. Union Station. Agenda items include Regional Connection subway construction cost overruns, bike-share fares, and more. Full meeting details at Metro.
  • Thursday 12/3 – Pacoima Beautiful and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative invite you to a Pacoima Street Values Open House taking place along Van Nuys Boulevard from 6 to 8 p.m. at Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall at 13520 Van Nuys Blvd. Refreshments, child care, and translation will be provided. Additional details on flier [PDF] or call Max Podemski at (818) 899-2454.
  • Friday 12/4 – SBLA sister site Santa Monica Next hosts a night of Streetfilms starting at 7 p.m. at Vidiots at 302 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. Details at Facebook event.
  • Friday 12/4 – The documentary film Bikes vs. Cars opens at the Laemmle Theaters in North Hollywood.
  • Saturday 12/5 – The LACBC’s Culver City Bicycle Coalition hosts a free holiday ride. Gather at 9:30 a.m. at Veteran’s Park at 4117 Overland Avenue in Culver City. Leisurely six-mile ride rolls out at 10 a.m. If you can, bring an unwrapped toy to donate. Details at Facebook event.
  • Saturday 12/5 – From 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Rail Passenger Association of California and Nevada along with National Association of Railroad Passengers Region 12 are presenting a joint annual meeting, the Steel Wheels Conference entitled “2016: A Year of Possibilities.” The conference takes place in the Metro Board Room behind L.A. Union Station. Speakers include:
    – Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke, former County Supervisor and Metro board member
    – Jay Fountain and Eric Smith, Amtrak route managers
    – Dave Golonski, chair of LOSSAN
    – Darrell Clarke, head of Friends4Expo
    Registration costs $35. Sign up in advance via Eventbrite.
  • Saturday 12/5 – Decorate your bike in advance of Sunday’s NELA Holiday Parade. A decorating party takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. at 5608 Monte Vista Street in Highland Park. Bring decorating supplies and creativity! Details at Facebook event.
  • Sunday 12/6 – Figueroa for All encourages all to ride bikes in the NELA Holiday Parade. Gather at 10 a.m. at 5608 Monte Vista Street in Highland Park. Details at Facebook event. Decorate your bikes during Saturday’s bike decorating party; see above Saturday event.

Gabe Klein’s Advice for Los Angeles


By Joe Linton, November 30, 2015

Gabe Klein is one of the United States’ top livability leaders. From the private sector, he became a maverick city transportation department head for Washington D.C., then Chicago. In leading those DOTs, he championed innovative multi-modal approaches that activate streets. He embraces bicycling, walking, and new technologies. This year, he has a new book out titled Start Up City: Inspiring Public & Private Entrepeneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun.

Streetsblog L.A. caught up with Gabe Klein just over a week ago, after his inspirational closing keynote talk at the California Transit Association’s annual conference in Pasadena.

Gabe Klein speaking at the California Transit Association conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Gabe Klein speaking at the California Transit Association conference. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

SBLA: Let’s start with car-share. You led Zipcar expansion in Washington D.C. What’s your advice for L.A. regarding car-share?

Klein: Whether it’s taxis, that are limited here, car-sharing – it’s going to be challenging as long as everybody needs to own a car. When you look at where companies like Zipcar do well, they do well in places that are pretty transit-oriented or car-lite. In D.C., 38 percent of people own a car – a little more than a third. So car-share not only encourages more people to give up cars, but it serves the existing population.

I think in L.A., you need more of this type of development [gestures to pedestrian paseo], more urban village type development. We can actually place Zipcars on premise. Being realistic, I think I would focus on people getting rid of a second car or a third car. In the early days of Zipcar, we saw that: people would go down to one car, and if they knew they had a backstop of Zipcars on premise [then some would give up that car].

The interesting thing about Lyft and Uber is they’re providing that same security blanket that people need to give up a car.

So I think you need to embrace all the alternative options, whether there’s a driver or not a driver. Whether it’s Car2Go, Zipcar, bike-share – once people feel comfortable cutting that tether, they may give up their first car as well.

Of course, you need great public transportation, and L.A. unfortunately got rid of it all, in the 50s, like many cities. You have buses, but buses are not always as intuitive as rail transit. I think there’s also probably a stigma around here around who rides the bus and who drives. And the car has become a status symbol.

There are lots of challenges. Geographically, and I’m not an expert on L.A., but this is a massive place, so I think you have to focus on places that are already dense that are also creative and open-minded to start to implement creative solutions: protected bike lanes, bike-share stations, more car-sharing vehicles, zoning – with maybe parking maximums instead of minimums. Go where it’s easy to do, where you can prove concept – and after that you can take it to other places in L.A.

You need context-sensitive solutions. What we’re seeing in D.C. now – after 20 years of working on these issues – is that the creative solutions, started in the densest parts of D.C. and started in Arlington County where they’ve reinvented themselves, are now spreading to Tysons Corner. Tysons Corner is worse than most parts of L.A. in terms of car culture. They’re reinventing themselves as an urban village with Metro stops. If Tysons Corner can do it, anybody can do it.

You’ve got to start somewhere, so you start and you show people what the quality of life can be, then you use that example, that pilot project if you will, to then do it in other places. At that point you have other people saying: I want this here. I want that protected bike lane. I want my kids to be able to walk to school. I want more public safety, more retail activation.

L.A. is about to kick-off a thousand bike bike-share system in our downtown. What’s your advice on bike-share?

I think you have to have a certain density of service, so if you place a station two miles away from the next station, it’s going to be hard to make it work.

We’ve got politicians asking for those outlier stations already.

Use that to your advantage. We would tell people “look – we’ll get there. You need to help us fill in in-between then we’ll get there.” So we’ll get more money that way. Because it doesn’t work to have a station out in the middle of nowhere. It just doesn’t function. This is a nodal system; it’s got to be compact.

Once you explain that to people and you say no – we’re not going to do that – but if we had more money we could fill in this neighborhood and this neighborhood and then we’ll be there. You have to set some ground rules and understand how these systems work.

We have bike-share in the suburbs now, all over Chicago and D.C. We maybe have a gap, then we’ll have a transit stop and we’ll have bike-share extending from that transit stop, so it becomes an extension of your metro system, your bus rapid transit.

How should L.A. be planning for autonomous cars? As you mentioned in your talk, should we rip out 85% of our parking?

Over time, yes, I certainly hope so.

I think you guys are doing a great job: [LADOT General Manager] Seleta Reynolds, [LADOT Transportation Technology Strategy Fellow] Ashley Hand. You have people that actually are thinking more about this than most cities around the country. So I am very hopeful about L.A. because of the quality of the people that you have leading, because they have appointed somebody like Ashley to be a technology fellow that’s really examining this issue.

There are so many cities out there that aren’t even aware of it. They literally do not know that it’s coming. They do not know that Teslas currently are autonomous. They do not know that we’re not talking about 2030. We’re seeing these on our streets.

You mentioned you have an 18-month-old daughter. How has your daughter changed your perception of transportation in cities?

Oh man, it’s profound. I’ve always thought about why do I want to do this work. I’ve done it for other people’s children, for other people’s parents. I’ve done it for my neighbors, and for me.
But now that I have a daughter I feel so personally invested in the outcome. I feel almost like I’m on a mission to get the public and private sector to work together to make sure we get the outcomes in cities that we can have, because I want her to be able to live it.

Having kids for me has been a revelation. I don’t know why I waited so long to do it. You care so much about them and when they’re young they are so defenseless. I’ve always said we do this work because we want the most vulnerable citizens to be safe; if we design for the most vulnerable citizens, then we will have safe streets for all of us.

But, man, when you see a little kid – who doesn’t even understand the difference a sidewalk and a street yet – start wandering towards the street, and you think: one false move and they will be dead. We have four-thousand pound vehicles zipping at high speeds around our cities, where our kids play. You realize it’s got to change.

Here’s the question we typically end with. If you had a magic wand that would grant one wish – that would change cities in one way – what would it be?

I would like to go back to the 1950s and not get rid of the streetcars. If I could do that, the culture, the world that we live in would be completely different, if we’d reinvested in our streetcar system and ground transit – and not gotten rid of it – and not driven freeways through our cities.

Maybe that’s two wishes, but I feel like it’s part of the same problem. So, if we didn’t kill the streetcars and didn’t do the whole urban renewal, then I think we would be a very different society – in lots of ways.

For more of Gabe Klein’s perspectives, especially regarding autonomous vehicles, see also this recent L.A. Times interview.

It’s no longer true that ‘nobody walks in LA’


By Steve Scauzillo, November 28, 2015

Living in Pasadena for the past 15 months now, I do a lot more walking.

I’m enjoying walking instead of driving to a restaurant in Old Pasadena. I can ride my bicycle to join friends for a drink at a nearby tavern. Actually, my favorite walking time is Sunday morning — less crowds. When I walk to Vroman’s Bookstore or the movie theaters on Colorado Boulevard it makes me feel more alive when I get there. It’s like I’ve made an effort so it matters less if the movie stinks.

A slew of new studies link walking and taking mass transit with improved heart health. People are less likely to develop high blood pressure if they live in a walkable neighborhood, said one study from Ontario, Canada this month. A study from Japan found citizens riding trains or buses to work are less apt to be overweight or develop diabetes. The American Heart Association meeting this month in Florida said the key is walking, city walking or suburban walk-your-dog walking, it is all good.

Well, not all is good. There is one problem. You can get run over.

Not a day goes by when as a pedestrian, I nearly become a statistic. That is not an exaggeration.
In 2013, 4,735 people were killed walking in the U.S. and that usually involved their unfortunate meet-up with a vehicle made of steel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also says there are 66,000 reported pedestrian injuries every year, or one injured every eight minutes. That’s far too many.

On a lunch break, I was crossing Lake Avenue at Green Street on a green light. The hand flashed go and the countdown began when a car turning left crossed a few yards in front of me. I was just a few feet behind a taller man with gray-blonde hair, about my age, who cursed out the driver and tossed him the bird.

“I know how you feel but unfortunately, it happens every day,” I said as we safely reached the curb.
He mistook my accounting for reluctance, or worse, benign acceptance. Not wanting to leave that impression, I am writing this column. But also because my wife thinks I’m overreacting every time I remind her that being in a crosswalk doesn’t make you any safer.

Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, says progress is forthcoming, even though “a lot of people are walking and biking and the streets are not that accommodating.”

He says planners must make the streets communicate the fact that vehicles are not the only things on the road. Signs. Bike lanes painted on the blacktop. Billboards and bus wraps that tell Angelenos: “I’m walking here!”

But here’s my point: There is a flaw in the traffic control system. The light is green. The driver turns left and whack! Yet, both driver and pedestrian are obeying the signs. Both are ostensibly “correct.”
How about a green light that flashes a message “watch for pedestrians”? Or lighting up the intersection crosswalk when a pedestrian is present?

For the driver turning left, a dedicated arrow is one solution. But it’s not practical to put green arrows that protect pedestrians at every intersection in Los Angeles County. That’s why the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is figuring out where to place more dedicated green arrows, Bruins said.

Eventually, everyone will get the message. Already, with more bicyclers on the streets of the county, “we haven’t seen a huge number of people getting hurt,” Bruins said. But until more concrete solutions are rolled out, there may be strength in numbers.

“The one thing we’ve learned is that the more people do walk and bike, the safer it gets,” Bruins said.