Will the Next Expo Battle Be About Access to the Bike Path in Cheviot Hills?

Executed Settlement Agreement – Samuels v. FHWA

With all of the legal challenges to the Expo Line Phase II finally resolved, those interested in the multi-modal Expo Rail and Bike Path can focus their full attention on the path. Council Member Mike Bonin’s office is promising good news on the controversial crossing at Exposition and Centinella in the next week. However some bicycle advocates are now worrying about a new issue involving access to the future bike trail in, you guessed it, Cheviot Hills.

Some background.

In 2010, a group of seven homeowners living on Northvale Blvd. in Cheviot Hills sued the LADOT and a host of federal oversight boards for the city’s environmental review of the Expo Bike Path. LADOT re-completed the “Categorical Exclusion” but the homeowners were unhappy with the result and filed suit again. The two parties came to a settlement out-of-court in November of last year.

Recently, that settlement has become public. Most of the agreement between LADOT and the “Northvale 7″ are pretty standard. The bike path will now have a sound wall in the area through most of Cheviot Hills. The Westside Neighborhood Council and Council District 5, currently represented by Paul Koretz, will be provided with a presentation and a chance to weigh in on whether or not there should be an entrance to the bike path at Northvale and Dunleer Drive and whether or not the access should be 24 hours.

It’s this last clause that has some cyclists worried. The Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t exactly known for it’s support for transportation options. While two members of the Council sit on the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, another appeared on radio railing against any bike lane plan for Westwood Boulevard. A writer for Rancho Park Online described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.

Unmentioned in the agreement is the aforementioned Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee. When asked, the Expo Staff that controls the agenda of the committee commented that it wouldn’t be within the Committee’s scope to comment on the “ingress-egress” issues in this area because this is the part of the bikeway is being designed by LADOT and not the Expo Construction Authority.

Another reason for concern is that the Cheviot Hills has a 20-year history of blocking access to public rights-of-way.  In the same area as a potential bike path gate, there is a gate across the Dunleer Footbridge, connecting Cheviot Hills to the Palms Park (at Overland and National).

The Dunleer/Northvale Footbridge, locked at 11:15 in the morning. Photo: Jon Weiss

The footbridge gate was installed by the Dunleer Northvale Neighborhood Watch  in the early-1990s, and it was later taken over by the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association, whose 2005 newletter says the gate was locked from 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  More recently it is appears to be opened at night, but I’ve received pictures of it being locked during the day in September 2012– apparently through an oversight the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association private security.  Although apparently no one can produce documents showing permission to install or lock the gate, the Cheviot HOA replaced it with a stronger one last month.

Streetsblog reached out to LADOT and Council District 5 for comment. LADOT clarified an error I made reading the settlement in an earlier draft of this article. But as for comments neither side offered anything else except silence.

At this point, it’s too early to say whether or not the Homeowner’s Association, the Northvale 7 or the Westside Neighborhood Council is trying to restrict access to the bikeway through a locked gate or through city policy. However, bicycle advocates are worried that with all issues on Expo rail settled, there’s a new storm brewing in Cheviot Hills.