Buscaino, Englander’s Road Bond Proposal Is Back, But Will It Go Forward?

Fixing potholes and repaving streets is only half the job if they are still laid out as this section of San Pedro Boulevard is. Photo:DowntownGal/Wiki Commons

Last night, Council Member Joe Buscaino chaired a special meeting of the Public Works Committee of the Los Angeles City Council. The hearing focused on a road bond proposal that could repair hundreds of miles of L.A.’s streets but spread the cost over decades.

The hearing marked the continuation of a discussion started in January that was put on hold about how the city can fix its decaying streets. During the January debate, Livable Streets advocates forcefully made the case that any plan to fix the physical structure of L.A.’s streets must include a plan to modernize the streets by fixing the sidewalks, adding modern “zebra” crosswalks and add bike infrastructure where appropriate.

A list of the upcoming meetings can be found at the bottom of this article.

“American cities that are growing are the ones that embrace livability,” testified Eric Bruins, the Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  At the end of the meeting, Bruins, the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership’s Jessica Meaney and Mike Affeldt all testified in favor of a Livability Plank in any bond proposal.

As it currently exists, the bond proposal would tax L.A. City homeowners a additional an average of $28 for the next twenty years to allow for the repair of 8,700 miles of city streets in the next decade. Buscaino and Englander pushed the measure for next month’s Mayoral ballot, but following an outcry by Neighborhood Council advocates about the process and timing of the measure the authors pulled it from consideration. They promised a better outreach plan before bringing the measure back.

Last night was the first step in the new outreach plan. The two-hour meeting featured many of the same players that were presented when the measure was brought up in January making much of the same presentation. Buscaino grilled both representatives of the Department of Public Works (DPW) and UCLA Professors who wrote a report providing the intelectual foundation for the bond measure. Of course, much of the heavy questioning was for show. Buscaino doubtless knew the answers to the questions, but public hearings are often somewhat about the show.

Following the presentation was public comment. Preceding the three Livable Streets advocates were Jay Handal of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council and Jack Humpherville of the Mid-Wilshire Neighborhood Council. The duo made the case that Neighborhood Councils are not opposed to fixing streets as has been widely reported, they just don’t believe the city can ask residents and homeowners for a new bond measure until they have put their own fiscal house in order…especially when language for a bond proposal is presented in January for a May ballot.

In short, they’re not opposed to fixing streets, just paying for them to be fixed…at least until the city has control of its debt and pension obligations.

But while the Councils were looking at the past sins of the city, Livable Streets advocates are looking towards the future. With a “complete streets” mandate in a bond measure, the city could  put aside funding to create streets for all road users in a way it’s never done before.

Hearings are also scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on the following dates and locations:

– April 8 in the Harbor area at the Port of Los Angeles Administration Building at 425 S. Palos Verdes St.;

– April 16 at Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan St.; and

– April 23 at the West Los Angeles Municipal Building, 1645 Corinth Ave.

Locations have not yet been set for hearings in South Los Angeles on April 25, and on the Eastside on April 30.