Woodland Hills Community Opposes Speed Limit Raises

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Last night, as a last step before getting three speed limit increases approved for the San Fernando Valley, the LADOT and LAPD presented the increases to the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council’s Public Safety Committee.  The meeting only occurred because members of the committee attended a City Council hearing on the increases and the Council ordered the LADOT to conduct this meeting as a condition of getting a full vote from the Council on the proposed increases.

However, the committee voted to oppose the increases, and the full Neighborhood Council will vote on the committee’s recommendation at a meeting this Thursday.  While there were three speed limit increases being promoted by the LADOT in the Woodland Hills area, the most contentious one was the increase proposed for Mulholland Drive between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Calabasas Road.  The LADOT is planning a five mile per hour increase from 35 and 40 miles per hour to 40 and 45 miles per hour along different parts of the Drive.

This presents a new problem for the City Council.  Since they ordered this outreach before voting on the increases, now that the community is formerly opposed to the process are they going to increase the speed limits anyway?  If so, what was the point of the outreach?  To prime the ink for the rubber stamp?

The presentation kicked off with a twenty minute presentation about all the things that the LADOT does for the citizens of Los Angeles by Assistant General Manager John Fisher.  Fisher  barely mentioned the proposed increases, preferring to leave that to Alan Willis the principal transportation engineer for the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.  Fisher didn’t mention his comment at the Transportation Committee hearing that LADOT would push the increases even without a state law that "required" the increases based on a survey of how people drove in order for the LAPD to use radar enforcement.

Willis opened his segment of the presentation by quoting from a AAA pamphlet about the good behavior and piousness of most drivers.  Willis then explained how that the LADOT did everything it could to keep the speed limit as low as possible.  In the section where the speed limit was being raised to 45 miles per hour, the survey showed that the limit, which is set at the eighty fifth percentile of drivers, should be set at forty five miles per hour because the forty fifth percentile was driving at 43 miles per hour.  Because of a loophole in the law that allows DOT’s to reduce the speed limit by five miles per hour if there were good reasons.  Thus, the LADOT is recommending that one stretch of the road be at 40 miles per hour, up from 35.

A similar breakdown was never given for the section seeing an increase from 40 to 45 miles per hour, although there was some vague discussion of how the DOT can’t always reduce the surveyed limit just because they want to leading some in the room to guess that the survey from that area showed a speed limit of 45 was appropriate and since that’s what LADOT wanted for the area, they didn’t bother to research whether they could justify keeping the speed at 40 miles per hour.

By taking questions from the audience early instead of going through the survey process, attendees were left with little idea of how the surveys were actually done.  We know the limits were set at the eighty fifth percentile, but how many cars were surveyed?  20?  100?  1000?  If the speed limit for the area that will be increased to 40 miles per hour could have been held at 35 miles per hour if the survey had come in one mile per hour slower, why not do a second survey in the face of such intense opposition from the community?  None of these questions were asked, so LADOT didn’t feel it necesary to provide answers.

One attendee argued that Mulholland Drive is listed as local street, zoned for 25 miles per hour in the Mulholland Specific plan given to them by planning and asked if the LADOT had talked to planning before proposing the change.  The LADOT replied that because it is listed as a "major highway" in documents that were submitted to the federal government at an unknown time that they can’t justify a 25 mile per hour speed limit.

There was also a presentation by Deputy Chief Michael Moore who is in charge of LAPD operations in The Valley about the need for radar enforcement to keep the streets safe.  While there was some debate over whether the ability to use radar was worth raising limits, little of the anger and frustration in the room was directed at Moore, most of it was reserved for a DOT that seems determined to raise speed limits for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

Photo: Wikipedia

  • The LADOT is using it professional discretion to up the speed limits, end of story. They justify it in all sorts of bizarre ways, and are willing to lie to see that it is done – but that is the beginning and the end of it.

    The only functional way to deal with the LADOT on issues like this is to automatically assume that they have not feasible way to change, and try to be as direct and forceful with your opposition.

    The Council really whiffed with this one – the LADOT has the legal right to ignore the California MUTCD’s speed limit measurement requirements if the road that is being monitored has a lot of residential uses, or if high speed limits will (vaguely) compromise pedestrian or bicyclist safety.

    The Council (and the Mayor) ought to take a leadership position and demand that the LADOT use their professional discretion in favor slower speed limits. I know they are all afraid of “Councilman X voted to case congestion” blowback – but sack up! Voting directly against the interests of your citizens is how L.A. got to be how it is today (esp. in the Valley).

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