Council Considers (Again) Removing Traffic Calming in Westwood

5_5_09_holmby_westwood.jpgTraffic calming prevents left turns at corner of Hilgard and Lindbrook

Nearly a month ago, we discussed the efforts of local Councilman Jack Weiss and the LADOT to remove three temporary traffic calming measures that were placed on streets surrounding the Palazzo development to mitigate traffic on the streets surrounding the large, mixed-use development.  Before the traffic calming can be removed, it requires the blessings of the City Council.  When the Transportation Committee heard Weiss' motion to remove the signs and cones protecting LeConte, Weyburn, and Lindbrook avenues, the hearing wasn't going well for Weiss and his allies.  Thus the motion was pulled  so Weiss could try and negotiate an agreement between the communities.

Tomorrow, the motion is back on the agenda.  Despite some efforts to get the communities to sit down and talk about their disagreements, no meeting has actually been scheduled.  (Update: A meeting between the two sides and Weiss' office did take place last night.  The hastily scheduled meeting was put together after the City Council had scheduled tomorrow's hearing)

For those new to this issue, here's the crux of the problem.  As part of the agreement between the Palazzo Development in Westwood and the Holmby-Westwood Community, traffic calming measures were placed at the intersection between Weyburn Avenue and Le Conte, Weyburn and Lindbrook Streets to prevent cut-through traffic.  For the traffic calming to permanently remain, it would need the support of two-thirds of the effected community in an LADOT mail survey.

The "effected community" as described in the agreement voiced approval for the traffic calming measures by a margin of 72%-28%.  However, the LADOT's standard for measuring community support for traffic calming has a much larger area than what is described in the developer's agreement.  So, the LADOT surveyed a "compromise" stretch of the population which approved of the plan by only a 60%-40% margin.

Of course, by not sticking to either their standard or the protection plan approved in the development agreement, they're basically begging to be sued no matter how this turns out.  But that's another issue.

So what were the impacts of the traffic calming measures?  As expected, on the impacted streets traffic dropped dramatically.  Instead of a large increase, Le Conte, Weyburn and Lindbrook saw large decreases in traffic.  Since they were initially expecting increases, the Homby-Westwood came up with the odd looking estimate of a 124% decrease in traffic.

As you would expect, some of that diverted traffic found its way on to another local street, in this case Manning Street.  Manning was included in the area which supported the traffic calming by a 72% to 28% margin.

So, if not increased traffic, why are other Westwood residents protesting the traffic calming to the point of strong-arming their embattled City Councilman and enlisting the help of LADOTto make their point?

Based on what I heard at last month's meetings, the main reason is they want to be able to drive on Le Conte, Weyburn and Lindbrook and don't like the traffic calming present.  One resident testified that "it shouldn't take fifteen minutes to drive a quarter of a mile," and of course I agree!  It should take five minutes to walk a quarter of a mile. 

Others complained that there wasn't traffic calming on their streets too, but what I don't understand is why not lobby to protect your street instead of lobbying to "un-protect" someone else's?  When the LADOT representative joked that they would have to put traffic calming on every cross street to make everyone happy I clapped.  Apparently, she was joking.

However, the LADOT did make clear that once the traffic calming was removed, they would sit down with the effected communities and try to create a "Plan B" to secure the area.  Councilman Alarcon seemed somewhat incredulous at this statement, wondering why LADOT doesn't wait until after you have a new plan to take out the current measures.  What if they decide to put some, or all, of the measures back?  Wouldn't the city just be paying three times for one set of measures?

Unfortunately, this issue has become intensely personal between Holmby-Westwood and other parts of the area.  Accusations of trying to rig the LADOT's survey, of not caring for the safety of the other sides children and that the other side is outright lieing to protect their position were heard at last month's hearing. Even more shockingly, someone emailed me to question my talents as a writer.

Tomorrow's meeting is scheduled for 8:30 in the morning.  We'll see if the early hour tempers people's tempers and how Weiss and the LADOT plan to proceed.