Council Votes for More Study for Wilshire Bus Only Project

(Note: I’ve been trading emails with Ray Klein, who I parody in the second part of this story. He claims my claims that he’s misquoting Hu are false and he has a transcript. My claim is based on Hu’s argument at the end of the Transportation Committee hearing that he was being taken out of context. We’ll get to the bottom of this next week. – DN)

Note 2: The clarification is now available, here.

A 11-2 vote for studying a BOL that is Westside Free.

After a two-hour debate, the Los Angeles City Council voted to accept a much-amended motion asking Metro to complete more studies of the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes Proposal before making recommendations to the Metro Board later this spring.

Following the Yaroslavsky Exemption of the Condo Canyon area from the Wilshire BOL proposal last year, Council Member Bill Rosendahl began pushing the idea that the entire Westside be removed from the proposal.  In January, he single-handidly moved a motion out of committee that the entire area be studied and that the city affirms its support for the 5.4 mile project that would exist east of La Cienega Boulevard.  That motion was heard, amended, and passed today.

The key change to Rosendahl’s original motion was removing the first provision affirming support for the 5.4 mile stretch.  Council Member Huizar suggested removing that sentence as it implied the Council wasn’t in favor of the complete route, which most members were.  It seems the intent of that language wasn’t to say the Council wasn’t opposed to the complete BOL project, as both Rosendahl and his staff argued repeatedly that the Council wasn’t taking a position, but was just asking Metro for more studies.

Other amendments included one from Tom LaBonge, who opposed Rosendahl’s motion until the Huizar Amendment, asking that San Vicente, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Venice Boulevard also be studied for “transit corridor” improvements.  Another motion came from Paul Krekorian, who was backing Rosendahl from the start, asking for more outreach to Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Condo Canyon and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to get them on board for a complete expansion of the project.

Because the proposal to the FTA never included Beverly Hills or Santa Monica, the study of the full project will not be completed until after the final route for this phase of the project is completed.  Speaking for Metro, Brad McAllister explained that Metro is already talking to Beverly Hills, but that the discussion is not in time to include them at this time.  Discussions with Santa Monica are not seriously underway.

The motion passed 11-2 with Council Members Richard Alarcon and Tony Cardenas voting in opposition.

From the start of the debate, even a casual observer could tell this was going to be a contentious one.  After one public speaker, Joel Epstein, Rosendahl rose and animatedly defended his record on transportation options.  Perhaps feeling the sting from today’s piece on Bus Only Lanes in the Los Angeles Times, he complained there was a lot of misinformation about his resolution and that all he wanted was a study of other options.

Advocates were having none of it.  Joining Brentwood resident Epstein were representatives of the Bus Riders Union, Green L.A., CALPIRG, and the NRDC in opposition to Rosendahl’s motion.  The feeling in the room was that this motion was a first step in removing the Westside from the BOL project.  Indeed, most of the debate was focused on whether the general public’s benefit of having a clean, sustainable and fast transit option on the Westside outweighed those of the car driving public; not whether or not having a study of the BOL without Brentwood was a good idea.

One of the more interesting testimonies came from Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic’s Hilary Norton, who argued that the project isn’t just good for bus riders, but for car drivers along the corridor.  Noting that the poor road condition makes much of what would be the BOL un-traversable anyway, she reminded the room that any part of the proposal that is excluded won’t be repaved and will continue to deteriorate.  While McAllister and LADOT’s Kang Hu repeatedly state that the project is about moving people, not just “cars” or “buses,” Norton reminded us that the project benefits anyone trying to drive the corridor.

...and then Kang Hu said dragons will come out of the sky and eat anyone caught in traffic if we just put a BOL in Brentwood.

Speaking in favor of the Rosendahl motion were residents of Brentwood and the Condo Canyon area of Westwood.  Carrying an armful of petitions, Brentwood Community Council Member Ray Klein continued to misquote LADOT Senior Traffic Engineer Kang Hu, even though he has been publicly corrected for claiming Hu has said that a segmented BOL project doesn’t have value.  Does it reduce the value of the 300 petitions when they’re carried by someone who continually mis-represents easily verifiable facts, such as what someone says?

Once the Council began its debate, it was clear that Rosendahl’s motion would  have difficulty passing without an amendment.  The first to speak was reliable Rosendahl-ally, Tom LaBonge who noted that while Beverly Hills isn’t part of the project, their peak hour parking restrictions on Wilshire create a “de-facto” Bus Only Lane.  LaBonge also encouraged the LADOT and Metro to more forcefully make the case that the project is a good one gesturing emphatically and encouraging the staffers to “Fight for it!”

Next up was Council Member Ed Reyes who peppered Hu and McAlister with technical questions, but also seemed to lean against supporting the Rosendahl motion as originally proposed.  Reyes described the supporters of the Rosendahl motion as “saying “no” this doesn’t help us, we don’t care if it helps everyone else.”

Following Reyes was Council Member Richard Alarcon, who sits on the City’s Transportation Committee but missed the hearing on this motion earlier this month.  Alarcon blasted Rosendahl and the motion noting the public support the City Council gave the 8.7 mile route just four years earlier.  “In 2007 we voted for 8.7 miles, now we’re going to turn around and say “no, just kidding.”  He also suggested, in jest, a motion that the City Council never complain about not getting its share of federal dollars ever again, after turning away a portion of the BOL projects.

More opposition came from Council Member Tony Cardenas who pushed Hu and McAllister on whether the 1.8 miles of BOL’s in Brentwood had value on their own and whether the Condo Canyon segment had value on it’s own.  After both gave an unequivocal yes, Cardenas praised Hu for sticking to his guns in the face of the Council.

After Council Member Jose Huizar’s amendment to remove any language implying the city’s support for the 5.4 mile BOL, the debate calmed down and eventually the motion passed with minimal opposition.  Speaking at the end of the debate, Rosendahl again defended his record, stated that the project won’t work in just the Brentwood Area, and blasted Beverly Hills and Santa Monica for not being on board.

The final study and staff recommendations, on a 5.4 mile “east of La Cienega route,” and of the same route with a 1.8 mile lane also in Brentwood will be heard by the Metro Board in April.