Planning Commission Approves L.A. City Mobility Plan, Includes Vision Zero

The latest cover of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Image via DCP [PDF]

The latest cover of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Image via DCP [PDF]

At its meeting this morning in Van Nuys, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously approved Mobility Plan 2035. The Mobility Plan is the official transportation policy component of the city’s General Plan. Before taking effect, the new Mobility Plan will need the approval of the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) and Transportation committees and, then, the full City Council.

Department of City Planning (DCP) staff emphasized that the city “cannot widen our way out of congestion” and that this multi-modal plan will provide choices, by making a “conscious shift toward complete streets.”

The commission heard just over thirty people provide public testimony on the plan; the vast majority of speakers spoke in favor of the plan’s livability components. Speakers urging plan approval included representatives of L.A. Walks, Fixing Angelenos Stuck in Traffic (FAST), Pacoima Beautiful, T.R.U.S.T. South L.A., the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, the L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee, Community Health Councils, Climate Resolve, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Business interests in favor of the plan included the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) and Lyft.

Livability proponents tended to emphasize the health and safety benefits of the plan, especially Vision Zero. The Vision Zero component of the plan would specifically “decrease transportation-related fatality rates to zero by 2035.”

One lightning rod issue that drew critical testimony was the inclusion of a half-mile of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard between Wellworth Avenue and Le Conte Avenue, immediately south of UCLA. The Transportation Deputy for Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz attended today’s hearing, testifying specifically for removing Westwood Blvd from the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN) in the plan. About a dozen speakers expressed support for the Westwood Blvd bike lanes, with one speaker in opposition. Commission president David Ambroz asked DCP staff their opinion regarding the Westwood bikeway; senior city planner Claire Bowin recommended that the Westwood lanes remain in the Mobility Plan, but that they not necessarily be implemented right away. Ultimately the disputed half-mile remained in the approved plan, although Councilmember Koretz may push to remove it when the plan is heard before the City Council. 

A few livability advocates, testifying in favor, said that they would have liked to see the plan be better and stronger, and go further. Though the plan greatly scales back the city’s wasteful and destructive practice of road widening, it stops short of taking the more fundamental step of simply ending all city road widening. The plan replaces and, to a small extent, scales back bikeway mileage approved in the city’s 2010 Bike Plan.

Most commissioners expressed nothing but commendation for the Mobility Plan, but one unlikely source expressed a fair amount of criticism before ultimately voting to approve. Former state lawmaker and long-time Los Angeles transportation leader Richard Katz expressed concerns over potential emergency vehicle response time delays and a lack of planned one-way street couplets. Katz questioned the plan’s inclusion of on-street bicycle facilities, stating, “I’m a supporter of expanding the bike network, but … we will never be Boulder or Davis.” DCP staff Bowin and Ken Bernstein both vigorously defended the Mobility Plan as not only having no adverse impact on already car-congestion-impacted response times, but as a positive affirmation of Los Angeles’ shifting multi-modal present and a future rich in transportation choices.