Showdown Becomes Slowdown: North Figueroa Street Project Drags On

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

In the latest installment in the fight for bike lanes on North Figueroa, North East Los Angeles communities found themselves at yet another community meeting organized by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo at Franklin High School in Highland Park. These community meetings have been literally dragging on and it looks like they will continue to drag on for the foreseeable future until Cedillo finally decides on a course of action.

Yesterdays meeting only seemed to serve one purpose in this on going debate for bike lanes, to piss off everyone.

Trying to avoid a repeat of the shouting matches that took place last meeting in May, no public comment was allowed. Ground rules prohibited clapping (except clapping for Cedillo, his staff, and all the other folks Cedillo acknowledged,) and any kind of noise making from anyone or thing. Cedillo Deputy Sharon Lowe had to break this down for everyone, at length, longwindedly, repetitively, over and over, point by point, patronizingly, both verbatim and with commentary, and stressed the disruptions wouldn’t be tolerated.

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye Photo by Erick Huerta

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye. Photo by Erick Huerta

If anyone got outta hand, they would be asked to leave after receiving a single warning. The increased presence of the Los Angeles Police Department, which at one point during the meeting had to take the mic to remind everyone to simmer down, only added to tensions. Perhaps the councilman felt he needed the added LAPD presence because he was expecting everyone to get mad from his filibustering-style speech?

Rather than skipping the pleasantries, Cedillo spent the better part of an hour thanking and introducing his entire staff, random people in the audience who are his friends, and many more people and organizations not present. It was worse than a rapper-giving shout outs to all the homies after winning an award.

The majority of folks in attendance were reppin’ their colors, green for support of lanes and red/pink for anti-bike lanes. Streetsblog counted roughly 180 people in attendance: roughly 70 wearing prominent green, roughly 30 wearing prominent red/pink, and roughly 30 city staff.

With no meaningful information being presented or exchanged more than 70 minutes into the meeting, attendees (from both sides of the debate) were losing interest and began trickling out. They missed out on later stalling. 

Additionally, the meeting also featured a brief presentation from Mayor Garcetti’s transportation staffer Nat Gale. Gale announced that Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative includes North Figueroa Street between Avenues 50 and 60, where the proposed bike lanes were to be installed. 

In addition to Cedillo’s and Lowe’s delays, the meeting suffered from audiovisual technical delays. When Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff took the stage and actually presented content, it consisted primarily of reviewing the same information presented in the last meeting, the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan, different definitions of bikes lanes, and statistics on North Figueroa.

It took 90 minutes, of the two hour meeting, for LADOT to finally present the three new possible configurations that community members would be voting on. Of the options given and explained, community members were given choices:

  1. Keep the street as is with no changes
  2. Install buffered bike lanes as originally approved/designed, removing one southbound travel lane
  3. Install only bike sharrows
  4. Install a one-way uphill bike lane, only sharrows downhill, and no travel lane removal

After the different options were presented and reviewed by LADOT Active Transportation Division representative Tim Fremaux. He and LADOT’s Michelle Mowery started answering questions from forms given out to attendees to fill out for the question and answer session of the meeting. Clearly struggling to differentiate between questions and comments pertinent to the meeting, nothing constructive was gained from this process. If the question didn’t pertain to the North Figueroa presentation, it was ignored while other questions were just being reiterated from what was already presented earlier in the power point. The full LADOT presentation can be found here.

The final point in the agenda was for those in attendance to fill out the preferred option survey form and to submit it before leaving the meeting. The form asked to check a box from the options that were presented and gave space for additional comments that will be summarized and shared through the councilman’s newsletter. Next steps will be announced, which will include a final decision on the project and implementation, which could start as early as next July.

Councilmember Cedillo ended the “conversation” by urging everyone to “drive home safely.”

#fig4all supporters decked in green to show their support for the bike lanes

#fig4all supporters dressed in green to show their support for making North Figueroa Street safer for everyone. Photo by Erick Huerta