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.

  • Anonymous

    Funny, I was just reading a couple of days ago about how the a-holes of Cheviot Hills have gotten the city to block left turns into their precious neighborhood from the intersection of Motor Avenue (hah!) and National Boulevard. Seems Cheviot Hills people don’t much care for the public no matter how they’re riding — cars, bikes, trains, and peds KEEP OUT. That locked footbridge is an outrage.

  • Anonymous

    NIMBYism is NIMBYism, whether it’s directed at cars or bikes, and deserves to be called out as such.

  • Anonymous

    There are two things I would love to see most happen with the path and the conversation about the path: first and foremost that the path is installed and that cyclists are allowed full access, second that the the anti-NIMBY hate speech be shelved in favor of a civil and constructive discussion.

  • Anonymous

    As Paul Krugman once said, civility is the last refuge of scoundrels. I’m not sure exactly what we are supposed to have a discussion about. This group of residents (and to be fair, we shouldn’t throw everyone who lives in Cheviot Hills into the same bin) has made it very clear through their actions over the last several years that it is not interested in seeing the Expo Line or the bike path built. They have repeatedly used dishonest and specious arguments. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I don’t think it’s hate speech to call people out for making dishonest arguments.

  • Anonymous

    It’s true, a handful of residents who are more than likely upset at the prospect of change, have tried throwing every techincallity at the wall in order that something should stick. It didn’t. They lost. Still, I take exception and become most wary of characterizations of a neighborhood opposition when in actuality it’s merely a handful of neighbors. It’s worth mentioning that Cheviot Hills also boasts a fundementally important and worthwhile bike path along Motor Avenue. They are a part of the biking infrastructure of the city. As for this particular path, as I said, it should and really must be built. What is the conversation to have? For starters, how do we make it a safe path? This segment will be isolated and running along side a trench. If for any reason an cyclist is accosted or injured along this segment it’s a relatively long way from witnesses and help. Especially in the late night hours. This isn’t to suggest the path be closed then but rather to indicate one of my underlying concerns about how it should be built.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    I can see why they want a “sound wall” from 10370 Northvale to 10420 Northvale, so that they don’t have to build their own private fence keeping people out of their back yard, which they had always assumed would be private. But once the path reaches Northvale, shouldn’t it be directly open to the street for that whole distance, with the only sound wall being between the bikes and the train?

    This document only addresses the former part, not the latter.

  • Anonymous

    Once the path hits the street, it’s on the street. Current plans call for a dedicated path up, along the trench. It will be on the street from about Dunleer to Overland. Once it crosses Overland it becomes a dedicated path once again. That said, there are no plans for any kind of soundwall along the Northvale side of the tracks –for either bike or the train. The only soundwall being constructed along the trench are for the residents on the other side of the tracks.

  • Brian

    I’m hoping I’m wrong here, but isn’t most of the Motor Ave. stretch in Cheviot Hills not a bike path? I think there are bike lanes on the stretch past the park, and then bike lanes in Palms, but the entire stretch through the residential part of Cheviot Hills is missing bike infrastructure. This is from memory, so there’s a good chance I might be wrong.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/l3cselt

  • CARL MILLER

    Where do I write to complain/inquire about the gate. It does sound like a private encroachment on a public resource.

  • Jonathan Weiss

    Kenny – the sound wall is more about freeway noise than privacy: Plantiff Elena Samuels (who husband is also the group’s lawyer) complained about freeway noise in a January 5,1986 LA Times article: “Some homeowners complain that the sound causes increased stress and is not good for their children. ‘We didn’t expect this sound at all when we moved here,’ said Elana Samuels, a 12-year resident of the neighborhood. Samuels said that when she and her husband, Zachary, moved into the home with their family, the freeway was hardly noticeable. But now, she says. ‘The noise is really
    incredible. . . . We have two twin sons, who are about to turn 7, and they play outside, live outside. We are worried about what this noise can do to them.’ Many residents are also unhappy that a sound wall was built along the Santa Monica Freeway right up to the edge of their neighborhood at Motor Avenue, where it ends.” http://tinyurl.com/kc52vke

  • Kenny Easwaran

    If it’s actually about the sound, then it should be between the bike path and the freeway, and there should just be a fence between the bike path and the houses. Cyclists don’t want all the sound of the freeway either, especially not if it’s being reflected back at them by a sound wall on the other side! And hiding the path behind a sound wall will make the path an easy target for muggers, where cyclists won’t have any opportunity to retreat or be seen.

  • wncseat2

    Just for clarification the Westside Neighborhood Council heard from the LA Bike Coalition and Jay Greenstein regarding the study of a floating bike lane for Westwood and took no position because the Council Office said it is off the table at this time.

    I was present at this meeting and while we all are entitled to our own opinions, I disagree with the statement in this article, “A writer for Rancho Park Online who described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.”

    We listened to many LA bike coalition folks who made the effort to come to our meeting and we listened to Jay Greenstein say the Councilman may review this option at a later time. We took no position and we kept all doors open….not sure where you get unreceptive from that.

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