Is Joe Buscaino the Next Bill Rosendahl?

In 2007, when I first met Bill Rosendahl, he seemed a likable enough politician. He favored raising the gas tax and fought a stealth traffic capacity expansion project in his district. He seemed a solid progressive vote on transportation issues. Then, following a horrific crash in his district where an E.R. doctor intentionally maimed two cyclists with his car, Rosendal morphed into the most bicycle-friendly member of the Los Angeles City Council.

Joe Buscaino represents the 15th District including the communities of Harbor City, Harbor Gateway, Watts and Wilmington. While Rosendahl had a pivotal moment that made him look at bicycle and pedestrian issues differently, Buscaino has undergone a slower transformation over the past three years, 18 months. As Chair of the City Council’s Public Works Committee, Buscaino’s oversight sometime falls on street design, but it’s the initiatives he’s taken that are making him a strong Livable Streets Advocate, even if he doesn’t realize it.

Buscaino and San Fernando Valley City Council Member Mitch Englander first introduced legislation to create a tax and bond program to fix Los Angeles’ decaying road infrastructure. While the proposal didn’t move all the way to the ballot box, their proposal did create headlines. By the end of the shortened process, one they’re continuing in an attempt to get it on the ballot in a future election, both Buscaino and Englander verbally embraced Livable Streets planks such as sidewalk and road repair in future tax and bond proposals for street repair.

Buscaino and Englander also teamed up to push the LAPD to provide a comprehensive report on the City’s Hit and Run epidemic. Streetsblog will have a full report on today’s hearing on the report from Don “Roadblock” Ward on Monday, but the early returns were that Buscaino showed both an in-depth knowledge of the issue and skepticism of LAPD’s somewhat rosier view of the epidemic.

The work on the road bond has led to more complete views on bicycle and pedestrian issues. Buscaino made a video (embedded above) driving near newly installed and highly controversial bike lanes in San Pedro to make the case that the hysteria over the new lanes by the car-driving public were overblown. The video was panned by bike lane opponents, but Buscaino made the case that even in the worst case scenarios presented by motorists, the lanes didn’t cause traffic congestion for twenty-three and a half hours every day.

On pedestrian issues, the Los Angeles News Paper Group reported earlier today that Buscaino is now pushing to end the “development fee” for property owners that wish to construct sidewalks in front of their home or business. This might sound like an odd thing to celebrate, but I actually have family that found the bureaucracy of installing a sidewalk in front of their own house so difficult to manage that they ultimately gave up on the venture.

Is Streetsblog now saying that Joe Buscaino is perfect? No. His support of the SCIG freight transfer yard is analogous to Rosendahl’s opposition to the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes. But with so many of the most progressive Council Members from the 2012-2013 Council having left office, it’s important to recognize who we can support and partner with going forward.

By all appearances, Joe Buscaino is someone we can work with.