In an odd quirk of L.A. City Council rules, a Committee can “meet” with just the chair present and move legislation along to the full Council for a vote. Thus, with the majority of the City Council downstairs debating how to frame the outsourcing of political will to raise parking rates in a way that didn’t make them look like a rubber stamp, Transportation Committee Chair Rosendahl served as a one man committee. Rosendahl’s office explained to me that if the Full Council Meeting was still happening, that the Chairman would not ask all the witnesses who trekked Downtown to come back later and would hold the hearing himself.
Thus, Bill Rosendahl was able to move legislation that was written by Bill Rosendahl without other Council Members weighing in. However, when a Chair moves legislation without a vote, it doesn’t meet the hearing requirement, so advocates will have another chance to testify win the hearts and minds of the Council. Assuming the Council recommends removing the Westside from the BRT plan, the Metro Board would still need to approve their staff exploring the option in environmental studies before it could go anywhere. Metro staff assured the room that they would bring the city’s official position to the attention of the Metro Board.
Rosendahl spent most of the Bus Only debate arguing that because of the Yaroslavsky Exemption removing the Condo Canyon area from the project, it no longer made sense to have the Bus Only lanes in Brentwood. While it’s true that it might look odd on a map to see Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and now Westwood exempted with Brentwood still getting bus only lanes, its also true that the 1.8 miles of Bus Only lanes that remain in the plans for the Westside do have value.
Taking center stage in yesterday’s hearing were Jay Handal of the Westside Neighborhood Council and Ray Klein of the Brentwood Community Council.
Klein stated not once, but several times, that LADOT Senior Traffic Engineer Kang Hu told the Metro Board that a segmented Bus Only Lane project would not work. That argument was so persuasive that Rosendahl himself repeated it in his own statements on why a Bus Only exemption for Brentwood was necessary.
There’s only one problem. Klein is either incapable of understanding plain English or was just lying about what he heard. And since Hu was sitting a couple of feet away from him, he set the record straight when asked to respond to testimony towards the end of the meeting.
That’s not what I said. If the one mile exemption is a reality, we want as much bus lane as possible. One mile exemption creates an undesirable condition, that’s why we were opposed (to the Yaroslavsky Exemption at the Metro Board.)
It will work…The bus benefit will still be there.
Let’s be clear what that means, Rosendahl is substituting the judgment of Klein, who has no background in transportation planning and has repeatedly mis-stated facts about the project, over the Metro and LADOT studies and testimony. At least the Condo Canyon NIMBY’s had the decency to hire a transportation planner to tell them what they want to hear. Klein is just making things up.
It’s important to understand because despite all the complaining about Santa Monica and Beverly Hills; the fact remains that the traffic studies show that 1.8 miles of bus only lanes in Brentwood will move more people quickly through the area than the current rush hour car lane. In other words, the decisions of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills not to participate in the program has no bearing on whether or not this project works in Brentwood and whether it benefits the City of Los Angeles and its residents.
Meanwhile Jay Handal, representing a Neighborhood Council that is apparently fine with the gridlocked state of the roads, says that his NC would be happy to embrace a bus only project as long as Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and the rest of the Westside did too. In other words, the Westside Neighborhood Council members are reactionary followers, not leaders.
That’s all fine and good, but when examining whether or not to believe Handal’s claim that he would embrace a perfect project and nothing else, we should note that the Westside Neighborhood Council has also opposed Phase II of the Expo Line and the Pico-Olympic plan to speed up traffic. In other words, the Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t willing to try anything new, regardless of whether it’s a car or transit project.
The testimony of those two leaders was more than enough to win the day, despite the coalition of bus riders, cyclists, environmentalists, and residents who spoke in favor of keeping the Bus Only Lanes project in Brentwood. The Bus Riders Union, National Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and UCLA Bicycle Coalition were all represented by members and staff who testified to the benefits that bus only lanes bring to the entire city: cleaner air, reduced asthma and increased mobility and transportation options.
As soon as the Full Council schedules a hearing on the proposal, Streetsblog will let you know.