Judge Slams, Stalls Pico-Olympic Plan

Maybe it's not such a "done-deal" after all.

Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss, the two elected proponents of speeding up traffic on Pico and Olympic Boulevards at the expense of local businesses and non-motorized travel, were dealt a setback yesterday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled that the city needs to study the impacts of the project before moving forward.  To read the ruling, click here.

The Pico-Olympic project has caused heated debate since Villaraigosa announced it last fall. Controversy over the project wasn't just spurred by businesses being scared by a loss of parking at rush hours, but also by a "press conference over policy" approach to lawmaking. Residents were furious that they didn't hear about the plan until watching it on the news or reading it in the newspaper after a press conference. As more details on the plan were released, such as the traffic counts were completed on a Jewish Holiday, the community grew more incensed and pleaded with their Councilmembers to kill the project.

Attempts by the City Council to discuss the proposal were effectively tabled when Villaraigosa declared that the plan was moving forward and he didn't need the council's approval. In a perceived slap to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, the most recent revision included the entirety of the roads in Rosendahl's district while cutting out the part of the plan in Councilmember Herb Wesson's district.

Villaraigosa declared that the plan would go into effect the first weekend in March. It was then delayed until the end of March after local business groups filed suit. Most recently, the plan was set to go into motion "later this week."

City Watch reports that the lack of a public process wasn't lost on the judge.

"The undisputed evidence is that City Council Transportation Committee meetings on the proposed activity were abruptly suspended and the City's Department of Transportation was instructed to implement "phase one" of the plan by the Mayor."

"In this instance," Judge Torribio went on, "where the city has not prepared any environmental document."

So what's next for the Pico-Olympic Plan? The Times reports that the Mayor's Office is still debating whether or not to appeal the decision, but in the meantime will begin an environmental review that could take 6 months to a year to complete.

A third option to get the plan moving again would be if the City Council declared that the project had no significant impact. After the Mayor's snub last winter, it's hard to see that taking place. Maybe steam rolling all concerns in a typical "design and defend" campaign wasn't the best idea after all.