MyFigueroa! Plan for LA’s First Protected Bike Lanes Clears Environmental Review

The future Figeuroa Street?

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning released the Final Environmental Impact Report for the South Figueroa Streetscape Project (MyFigueroa!). The $20 million MyFigueroa! Project will bring Los Angeles its first protected bike lanes and a transit-only lane while removing some street parking and mixed-use travel lanes.

“As the first such protected bicycle facility in the City, the Figueroa Streetscape Project is a great opportunity to realize a truly multi-modal vision for our City streets, and will serve to attract a broader range of Angelenos into the emerging bicycle network,” writes David Somers with City Planning.

MyFigueroa! is a plan to create Los Angeles’ first Complete Street or Living Street. The project area includes four miles of streets that stretch from downtown L.A.  to South Los Angeles: Figueroa Street from 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles to 41st Street, just south of Exposition Park; 11th Street from Figueroa Street east to Broadway in the South Park neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles; and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Figueroa Street west to Vermont Avenue, on the south edge of Exposition Park. 

Different parts of the project will see different road improvements. For more details, visit the MyFigueroa! website.

Community groups, traffic safety organizations, and residents have voiced overwhelming support for the plan both through written public comment and at community forums. However, the plan has proven controversial with businesses along the corridor, including car dealerships, and the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA).

As you might expect, the businesses are concerned that by balancing the needs of all road users, it will be less convenient for car drivers to get to their businesses. By design, many of the people doing business at a car dealership will be driving to it. So why South Figueroa? Somers explains that the importance of the corridor as a connector between Downtown Los Angeles and South Los Angeles makes it the perfect location.

“The location is appropriate as a first of its type, in that the project connects USC and Downtown, two areas with great potential to support low-cost beneficial travel options, as well as greater local economic activity,” he continues.

Original MyFigueroa! project plans included even bolder changes to the streetscape, including increased space for pedestrians and outdoor seating areas for businesses. However, after initial public comment in 2010 and 2011, these plans were dropped for the current plans.

As we’ve seen with other attempts to mollify critics of progressive transportation, compromise doesn’t satisfy them. Despite the compromise changes, the Shammas Group, which owns automobile retailers along the corridor threatens to not go forward with a $20 million expansion project if the project goes forward. The Shammas Group’s comments can be read on pages 40-42 of this document.

While the release of the Final Environmental Impact Report is a good sign that the project is moving forward, it faces one opponent larger than AAA and car dealerships: time. The project is funded through funds from State Proposition 1C, and funding is default if the project has not completed construction by the end of December, 2014. LADOT and the project team are confident it remains on track to completion, but any significant delay could prove fatal.

Both former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Council Member Jan Perry, who represent the corridor, were vocally supportive of the project. Their successors, Eric Garcetti and Curren Price, have not formally weighed in either in support or opposition.