The more I think about the LADOT’s new plan for the Olympic-West Pico-East project the more I think they may have gotten things backward. Starting last night, the LADOT began a series of public meetings to provide the public input on "scoping" for the environmental studies, i.e. gave the public a chance to weigh in on what alternatives they would like to see to alleviate automobile congestion on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.
Meanwhile, while the public is discussing what alternatives they would like to see studied, the LADOT is promoting a plan they’ve already written which would take away peak hour parking and re-time the traffic signals to increase vehicle flow between Fairfax and Sepulveda. In other words, we’re being asked to provide alternatives for the LADOT to study that would compete with the alternative they’ve already developed.
The format for last night’s public outreach meeting for the new Olympic-West Pico-East transportation plan was different than the other meetings for the project I’d been to. Instead of a public presentation and open microphone for comments, attendees were invited to walk around the room to discuss the projects with a series of consultants and LADOT staff. Different stations were set up to discuss the different concerns people might have with the project.
The new format did little to reduce public complaints and anger about a plan that would ultimately increae traffic in their neighborhood. One resident basically commandeered the "parking" station where an image of the project area was projected onto the wall; and used it to make his own case against the project. Residents also gathered around the a table set up for people to provide written comments to the point where it was sometime "standing room" only.
While many of the complaints were still directed over the impact parking would have on business, builder Avi Schonwald complained that businesses along the corridor were cancling renovation and expansion plans because removing rush hour parking would endanger their ability to stay open. Another resident complained that the traffic plan would convert local businesses to "part-time."
Joining the crowd was 5th District City Council candidate Paul Koretz, who had unusually sharp criticism of the project itself, "I thought from Day 1 that removing parking without plans for an adequate alternative was a disaster…it make so little sense; I can’t believe it’s still being considered."
This is interesting because if Koretz is elected, then both of the City Councilmen whose districts would be effected by the plan would be in opposition to it. Bill Rosendahl is already on record opposing it.
Amongst the parking mania, there were some people that were concerned that the LADOT’s current plan, while a long way from the original one-way street proposal, still placed too high an emphasis on cars and not a high enough emphasis on the community. There were some interested in bringing bus-only lanes to the boulevards and others concerned that the increased traffic would make it more difficult for pedestrians to use the street.
Last, there was a group concerned that the project ends at Fairfax Avenue, a street that is only two lanes in either direction. When faced with overwhelming traffic on Fairfax, the street is already congested at rush hour, will commuters cut through local streets to avoid the bottleneck that will be created when the boulevards become four lanes again?
Surprisingly, LADOT project manager Ken Hustings had an answer to the question of "why stop at Fairfax" that wasn’t "politics." Apparently Councilman Wesson, who’s district begins at Fairfax in that part of the city, had already planned streetscape improvements for the median and the new lanes would destroy the striping. This is the first time since the project was altered to cut out Wesson’s district that I’ve heard an explanation for this change other than "politics."
There’s two more chances for residents to voice their concerns or suggest alternatives at public hearings tonight and next week. If you want to mail comments send them by April 20th to:
Mr. Ken Hustings, P.E.
Senior Transportation Engineer
100 South Main Street, 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The LADOT will be back with it’s environmental review sometime in the fall or early winter of this year.