Cedillo’s Folly: Council Adjourns in Memory of Veteran Killed Crossing North Fig.

On August 20, at the ironic request of Councilmember Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned in memory of 84 year-old Korean War Veteran, William Matelyan. Matelyan was crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 26 last month when he was struck and killed by a car. This area of North Figueroa was approved for a road diet in the 2010 City of Los Angeles Bike Plan. Road diets are proven safety measures that make streets safer for all.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 8.11.53 AM
A google map of the area for the proposed North Figueroa road diet. The white dot near the bottom left shows where North Figueroa intersects with Avenue 26.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared by city staff and released in January of 2013. The report showed a series of road diets and bike lanes throughout Los Angeles would have “no significant impact” on through-traffic time. The EIR traffic studies included the North Figueroa Project between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard.

After the extensive EIR work, the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) was on the verge of implementing the North Figueroa road diet, until it was delayed last year by newly-elected Councilmember Cedillo. Cedillo later indefinitely delayed the safety project, citing safety concerns. Cedillo’s supposed safety justification appears to be based on the unsubstantiated testimony of selected police and fire officers. Officers cited possible emergency response vehicle delays, though their statements are at odds with actual LADOT traffic studies.

Before Cedillo blocked the project, construction had appeared imminent. Based on similar projects throughout the city, it is clear that construction would have been completed by now without Cedillo’s interference.

The diet would have reduced the number of through-traffic lanes for much of North Figueroa, and would have added buffered bike lanes for 5.1 miles between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard. The city’s traffic studies showed this would lead to slightly reduced average traffic speeds, making the street safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. LADOT calculated that the peak delay along the road diet would be less than a minute of delay for motorists.

When asked to comment on the street’s safety on Facebook, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes answered that “Having researched the issue with our staff, that corner has not been slated with any type of prior planning. We are in the process of having LA DOT look at this dangerous intersection. ”

Whether Reyes is unaware of LADOT’s EIR, or forgetting the highly-publicized battle to improve North Figueroa safety, or whether the office is just stating that slowing down traffic to make streets safer for all road users isn’t a safety improvement is not known.

On Twitter, Cedillo remains defiant, stating that “…there are no comprehensive LADOT studies on Figueroa that exist. We are doing them now.”

Though the city already spent a great deal of time and money on its EIR, nearly entirely focused on car traffic, Cedillo is apparently doing another study. The new “comprehensive” studies are being conducted in-house by Cedillo Special Projects Deputy Sharon Lowe. Lowe was the facilitator of the meeting at Franklin Middle School on the road diet, famous for Cedillo’s nearly-hour-long soliloquy thanking his staff and friends.

Cedillo’s office is also quick to point out that Lowe also staffed the previous, pro-road diet, Councilmember for the district.

It is unclear whether Lowe’s comprehensive study will expand on LADOT’s extensive car traffic studies to include such factors as pedestrian and cyclist safety. The comprehensive study is being prepared by Cedillo’s political office staff, instead of by LADOT engineers. This seems to point to a continuation of Cedillo putting narrow pro-car politics above quantifiable safety measures.

While Cedillo is politicking, North Figueroa traffic violence fatalities and injuries pile up.

That the July crash that killed Matelyan was deemed “an accident” is further indictment of Cedillo’s filibustering of traffic safety improvements along Figueroa Street. While the cause of the crash, be it the car moving too quickly, reduced sight lines by parked cars, or something else, is unknown; the Cedillo-delayed North Figueroa road diet would likely have improved the dangerous condition.

The only description of the crash that killed Matelyan is available on Google Cache from LA1 News. Streetsblog has cut-and-pasted the description for when the cache expires:

Matelyan tragically died at 12:30pm on July 22, 2014, after complications resulting from being hit by an automobile earlier that morning. Matelyan had just gotten off the phone with local pastor Jesse Rosas prior to his accident. Rosas had agreed to pick Matelyan up later in the day in order to take him to a church service. A half-hour later, Matelyan was hit by a car while crossing the street. Rosas estimated during his podium time speech at the service that Matelyan had crossed Figueroa for his morning ritual of coffee at the Yum Yum Donuts near Avenue 26 when he was accidentally hit.

  • patrick

    To quote Lily Tomlin, “No mater how cynical I get, I just can’t keep up”

  • Louis Reyes

    Damien Newton, A balanced journalist article would have called the office directly to ask about the issue. Thanks.

  • Steven White

    Oh oh I wanna hear another excuse! Plenty of statements from the council office already that don’t provide any real logic.

  • If there is something factually incorrect with the story, I am happy to make a correction. However, as your public statements provided a thorough public record I didn’t feel the need to call you for more commentary.

  • El Sharto

    you idiots were talking safety the whole time when blocking safety improvements planned before your dumbasses even came to office. good job dummies. every crash every death on Fig is now on your call.

  • Ken Rudman

    I cycle the length of Figueroa from the LA River bike path to York Blvd at least twice a week on my commute. It is time to institute proper safeguards for pedestrians and cyclists alike.

  • HighNoon

    Mr. Reyes,

    You are seriously making the claim that fair reporting on this topic requires checking with the council office about how they feel about the issues in the article?

    Mores study is not needed to definitively show that this road diet would
    improve safety… whether the potential delay to vehicles is worth it
    in your political calculations is an entirely different issue.

    This is already well-known and you can try to message it anyway you want. CD1 claims to want safety but is not willing to do the things that actually help achieve it. What more is there to say that actually belongs in a news article?

    I’ll tell you what: that the councilman campaigned in support of the lanes and is not grasping at straws to avoid following through on a campaign promise. We can all speculate on the reasons why, but nothing said to date represents any logical or objective data or research driven reason as to why this improvement should not be implemented. If the trade-offs aren’t worth it you should say that, but don’t say this is being delayed in the name of safety or Great Streets because it is simply not true.

    Shame on you and your boss for handling this in a political and disastrous manner, then complaining when you are called on it. You can call people outsiders, parade city officials to spew lies, grandstand at public meetings, and whatever else to try and hope this goes away. It is NOTgoing away.

  • Joe Linton

    I will suggest that Streetsblog LA isn’t necessarily neutrally “balanced.” (Many news outlets claiming balance really are not.) We’re unabashedly in favor of public safety, and in favor of facilities that make streets safer for bicycling and walking. We’re willing to criticize councilmembers and others who get in the way of safety.

  • Don

    Councilman Cedillo has stepped in and actively BLOCKED proven safety measures for Figueroa. Councilman Cedillo now OWNS the deaths and destruction from here on out until he finally gets it. By the way its completely awesome to see that the Councilman’s staff is on here back pedaling.

  • Born and Raised LA

    Thank you for your bias Streetsblog!

  • Sam Taylor

    Perhaps it is time to create a graphic that can be posted in store windows along Figueroa. It would be like kills that pilots put on their planes during war and would show the Kills of Gil Cedillo for Bicyclists, Pedestrians and Motorists. This may be a bit of overkill, but All-Kill Gil needs a public shaming.

  • revebleu

    It would be nice if future victims’s families could sue Cedillo because he shares blame for their deaths. One wonders how he sleeps at night?

  • 69fasty

    “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
    Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
    The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
    Making the green one red.” -Macbeth

  • Sludge

    By the same token, a council office seeking balanced feedback would have let safety experts and seasoned cyclists who reside outside the district, and who may therefore be MORE aware of the contrasts between safe and unsafe streets, be heard directly at your public meetings.

  • James H.

    March 2017 cannot come fast enough. The last election was close but money and resources from outside the community ultimately tipped the scales in Cedillo’s favor. In particular, Lamar billboard space and extensive phone banking from a few labor unions. I am in the process of setting up a PAC to fund an honest, responsive, pro safe streets, pro livable communities candidate to challenge Councilmam Cedillo in 2017. I will post details soon.

  • Emily

    Why didn’t Cedillo run for office in Huntington Beach? He’d fit right in down there.

  • Cyclebrarian

    We need to keep the pressure on. Cedillo and his staff were visibly disturbed by the presence this evening of a group of safe street advocates at his office opening celebration. Ride over to this weekend’s Latin Jazz festival that his office is sponsoring at Sycamore Grove Park on N Fig and represent Fig4All. I propose bringing banners reading “I am William Matelyan”.

  • tony365

    How and why does he have the power to block something that has already been voted on? I am new hear and can’t see how he has veto power over a LADOT project

  • ubrayj02

    Individual council members don’t have any legal authority to stop parts of approved city plans, but there is an out for them in situations like this!

    The LADOT, in this case, is empowered to install these lanes without Cedillo’s support BUT they would then face a very hostile city councilman and likely a very hostile city council when they are going through budgeting season. The council could go so far as to start passing laws about how and what the LADOT can specifically do regarding street projects – sort of a meta-leval revenge veto that could be used, for example, to force the LADOT to remove the bike lanes by law.

    The portion of the bike plan that was sent through an expensive and time consuming EIR process was never legally enacted as a law (except for the portion involving MyFigueroa for another project by USC).

    That is what is up. This is 100% politics. Can we show Cedillo to be totally without reason, mercy, or rational thought behind his meta-veto of the Figueroa bike lanes? If we can, then there would be political cover for the LADOT to go ahead and do the lanes without having to worry about a full council revenge vote to wreck the LADOT.

    The other council offices would go along with a revenge vote because they don’t want departments to get uppity and start acting with impunity. After all, the reason this system is in place is that council offices often act as a check against the unmitigated stupidity of various city departments. The meta-veto has its uses. Unfortunately, when a councilman is as financially well-backed as Cedillo and only got elected by 5 to 10% of the district he can pretty much rule with impunity and can become a huge barrier to a better district.

  • ubrayj02

    The Yellow Cab Co-op gave him $56,000. Just him. Chevron funneled money to him through the LA Chamber’s PAC – about $20,000 to $30,000 just for him. He raised $2.1 million counting his Independent Expenditures and his campaign accounts.

    And what did he get? A lousy 10,000+ votes at ~ $200/vote?! We can do that for way, way, less because we have reality, data, energy, art, community, and the freaking truth of the situation in our streets on our side.

    Pick a good name for that PAC.

  • Harvey

    He is a good ole boy funded by outsider good ole boy interests. You ever see the guy and his staff in person? Even the young guys are good ole boys.

  • rj

    Personally, I’ve experienced more harassment and threats from drivers while cycling on N. Fig over the past year alone than in the 4 years previous to that. I wonder if Cedillo whipping the anti-bike crowd into a frenzy has anything to do with this. It’s worse than simple apathy and inaction — he’s inciting violence against non-motorists. In a just world he’d spend the rest of his term in jail.

  • TDA

    Reyes
    You’re from Whittier and newly on the job. What do you know about the community? I bet you have never walked around 26th and fig. I bet Cedillo still lives in downtown LA and is driven to the field office by a lackey. The community deserves better than some career politician always looking for the next job or raising money for the next campaign. The plan was done money was spent and you guys pull the plug. You should be ashamed to represent a politician who disserves the community.

  • Samantha

    Gil Cedillo probably had no intention of serving in local government. He had surely planned on spending a decade or two in D.C. being taken out on dates by lobbyists. When that didn’t pan out he needed a place to put himself in the spotlight and cut ribbons and found our little stretch of dangerous highway to make call home. The whole city of Los Angeles suffers because one sleazy career politician didn’t make it to D.C. and can’t do anything in the private sector.

  • Anandakos

    Has American labor become an intellectual as well as physical slave to big money?

    “We don’t care how many people die under car wheels as long as we get highway contracts!”

  • tony365

    Thank you for that, I was having a hard time with this one. I have a feeling he has his own image for what the street should look like and wants to take credit for what ever happens, therefore canceling out his predecessor, just a guess

  • Maud

    People like Cedillo are the reason why LA is always a step or 7 behind better cities and a reason why so many people left for SF, Portland etc. LA is aborted urbanism, is a seriously dense, crowded city ruled by dim-witted nimbyists who want it to be more like Orange County. I had considered moving to Highland park to set up shop as a bicycle builder would clearly not be welcome in Cedillo’s little idiocracy. I’ll be moving north soon.

  • MaxUtil

    Mr. Reyes,
    Respectfully, it appears that you and Councilman Cedillo have already responded publicly to this issue directly. While I wouldn’t have been surprised if the writer had contacted your office to see if you had any further comment on the issue, I think it’s a bit self-serving to imply poor journalistic ethics in an obvious op-ed piece that quotes your public response already.

    If you have something to add to the public about this issue or the design failings of N. Figueroa in general, I would assume you have a number of venues available to you to make public comment.

  • marcotico

    A friend suggested that community members go to every event he is at and challenge his every statement. “You lied about supporting bike lanes, how do we know you’re not lying about X.”

  • Guest

    Worth noting, however, is that the General Manager of LADOT reports to the Mayor, not the Council. Though old-school LA politics has not gone away, LADOT has a new-school, just-hired GM and if the Mayor says to move forward with the project, LADOT will do so.

  • Caltransylvania

    Cedillo lives in South Pasadena. His downtown apartment is a shill. Catch up to Richard Alarcon’s indictment,partially for the same crime. Gloria Molina has just announced her candidacy for CD14. She still owns her Mt. Washington home,but has “moved” to El Sereno.”Glorgilla” would be a disaster for NELA.

  • Then again, Louis it would help to have a balanced Councilman. Just think, this blog post would never had existed if he was.

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