Vroom! Three New Speed Limit Increases Come to City Council

3_22_10_hollywood.jpgPhoto: -db-/Flickr

The move to speed up Los Angeles’ streets continues unabated.  Less than a week after hundreds of people gathered at the L.A. StreetSummit to discuss how to tame traffic and make Los Angeles’ streets more livable, the City Council Transportation Committee is expected to hear, debate, and pass three speed limit increases in the San Fernando Valley at 2:00 p.M. this Wednesday in City Hall.  In a way, its kind of a sobering crash back to reality.  After a week of being reminded of what could be, activists are back to where we are…fighting speed limit increases that represent the exact opposite kind of thinking to what we talked about all weekend.

So what streets are up for a change? 

First up is Arleta
Avenue, in the Arleta community.  In the stretch
between Devonshire Street and Roscoe Boulevard, a cool
three and a quarter miles, the speed limit will be increased from
thirty-five to forty miles per hour so that radar enforcement of the
limit can be maintained. LADOT documented their efforts to
contact the local Neighborhood Council without getting much in return. 
It would have been nice if they had made the effort with other groups
that operate in that area, but this is where we are.  The Arleta Community is represented by Paul Krekorian in City Hall, who in the past has insisted that the neighborhood be involved in this process.  Whether the Neighborhood Council being asleep at the switch changes his view remains to be seen.   You can read all about the Arleta Avenue increase, here.

Next are two streets in Sun Valley, which is in the sixth Councilmanic District represented by Tony Cardenas.  The first is the world
famous "Hollywood Way" between Burbank city limits and Glen Oaks
Boulevard; which would also see an increase from thirty five to forty
miles per hour.  The local LAPD first signed off on the increase in
March of 2007, three years ago.  There’s some irony with this
particular increase, because just last week, Burbank implemented a road
diet on some of its local streets…which is the exact opposite of
increasing the speed limits as Los Angeles plans to do right up to Burbank’s doorstep.  You can read more about this proposal, here.

Last up is another increase from thirty five to forty miles per hour on Sheldon Street between Glen Oaks Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard.  This time, residents expressed concern that the area included a school zone, but LADOT assured them that the zone could and would remain at twenty-five miles per hour and signs would warn drivers as they approached.  How having drivers drop their speed limit fifteen miles per hour in a short period of time is safer than the way the street is now is beyond me, but that has never been taken into account in the state law.  You can read more about this proposal, here.

At least this time nobody can say they were caught off-guard by the increases.  After the strong push back against increases by the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council last year; this time it appears that LADOT did contact the local neighborhood council’s BEFORE coming to the City Council.  It doesn’t appear to have changed the results, but at least the City didn’t skip a step in its outreach process.  Unlike the Arleta Neighborhood Council, the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council did hear about the increases at a meeting and expressed their concerns.  Whether they’re willing to take the fight all the way to City Hall, as the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council and others before them have, remains to be seen.

For anyone reading about increases for the first time, the state has a law requiring that local speed limits be set at the eighty-fifth percentile of drivers or the local police cannot enforce speed limit increases.  In other words, the faster drivers go, the higher the limit goes.  Considering that it’s a rule of thumb that most drivers consider five to ten miles per hour over the limit "not speeding" the limits could well go up forever.  Efforts to modify this law were beaten back by traffic engineers, the California Highway Patrol and AAA.  It’s an insidious system, because in addition to encouraging drivers to speed, after all they can always just raise the limit in a couple of years, it also turns local police departments into cheerleaders for increasing speed limits because they don’t want to lose their ability to use radar for traffic enforcement.