Central Ave and Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes Preserved in Mobility Plan

TRUST South L.A.'s Samuel Bankhead giving public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday's Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Safe streets advocate and TRUST South L.A. boardmember AsSami AlBasir El gave public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At its meeting yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously re-affirmed keeping bikeway designations for Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

Unfortunately these facilities are likely to remain in the plan, but not move closer to on-the-ground improvements due to anti-safety positions staked out by City Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz. Price and Koretz had introduced motions, 15-0719-S9 and 15-0719-S3 respectively, requesting Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard be removed from the city’s approved Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN).

The City Planning Commission turned down the anti-bike amendments while voting unanimously in favor of a handful of amendments to the city’s approved and contested Mobility Plan 2035. The commission affirmed plan changes to formally acknowledge equity and community outreach, as well as a number of largely technical amendments.

The City Planning Department (DCP) 108-page staff report [PDF] affirmed the need to keep bikeway designations for Central and Westwood:

In response to motions from Council Districts 5 and 9, the second Addendum to the Mobility Plan EIR considered the removal of Westwood Boulevard (from Le Conte Ave to Wellworth Ave) and Central Ave (from Washington Boulevard to 95th Street) from the Bicycle Enhanced Network. While the councilpersons expressed their interest in having these segments removed, staff recommends that these segments be retained in the BEN. Both Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave serve as important north-south corridors for persons who bicycle and it would be premature at this time to foreclose the opportunity of improving these corridors for bicycling in the future. Language has been included in the Mobility Plan […] which reinforces the conceptual nature of these network assignments and further articulates the opportunities that exist in the future to consider alternative corridors. This level of flexibility is intended to provide opportunity to study such corridors as Westwood and Central along with potential parallel alternatives at whatever point in the future the corridors are prioritized for implementation. (emphasis added)

Planning staff opened the hearing affirming DCP’s position that the bike lanes were important to keep in the plan. A representative of the Fire Department (LAFD) spoke in support of the plan, stating that LAFD would further study “any kind of impacts” to emergency response times.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the commission, lamenting Westwood Blvd’s inclusion in the Mayor’s Great Streets initiative, calling protected bike lanes “pretty dangerous” and disparaging thousands of cyclists that use Westwood every day by suggesting, “only the most aggressive people take it.” Councilmember Price sent staff to testify against Central Avenue bike lanes; they asserted that even protected bike lanes there would not be “low stress.” Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s staff also testified in support of Price and Koretz, and against bike lanes. 

Public testimony was heavily in favor of keeping the bikeways in the Mobility Plan, with 27 speakers in favor of bike lanes, and five in opposition.

Westwood bikeway opponents cited “already badly compromised traffic,” loss of turn pockets and parking, and the presence of a large number of buses on Westwood Blvd as reasons not to include a bike lane there. Proponents countered that there are plans for Westwood that can squeeze in bike lanes without removing any existing lanes or parking. Proponents also cited safety concerns, current cyclist usage, and Westwood as a key connection to UCLA, including from the Expo Line planned to open this May.

Damien Goodmon gave the only public testimony against Central Avenue bike lanes, citing “inadequate parking capacity.” Correction: Damien Goodmon spoke against bike lanes planned for Crenshaw Boulevard, not Central Avenue. Numerous Central Avenue bike lane proponents spoke of the need to prioritize safety there. Many of the pro-bikeway speakers were affiliated with TRUST South L.A. which staged a No Más Deaths! protest against Councilmember Price’s anti-bike policies earlier this week.

A couple of commissioners had attended UCLA and remarked supportively regarding better bike access to the campus; commission President David Ambroz stated, “Westwood Boulevard is a great place for a bike lane.” Broadly the commissioners affirmed DCP staff work to foster of multi-modal transportation and complete streets.

The modifications now go to the L.A. City Council, likely initially before the council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) and Transportation Committees.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Here’s a link to the audio recording of the Planning Committee meeting agenda about the Mobility Plan

    http://planning.lacity.org/StaffRpt/Audios/CPC/2016/2-11-2016/Track5.mp3

  • ubrayj02

    I don’t blame these councilmembers for stopping these bike projects.

    I blame the DOT and the mayor. The DOT has the legal authority to install these lanes. None of these guys has a plurality of votes on the council to pass a single thing in council to stop the DOT from doing just that.

    Garcetti and his DOT head should be playing hard ball – but maybe he’s got less than nothing on them in council.

    This is a trial of Garcetti’s strength as a leader and to my eye, he’s guilty of being weak and ineffective.

    People will die, as they have been, on these corridors – of completely preventable deaths. All to preserve some bizarre “relationship” between actors in city hall.

    Anyone talks to you about “working within the system” and “respecting the process” remember this: we are dying in the streets because the mayor and 3 councilmembers don’t want to “be upset” with each other.

  • LAifer

    Thanks for this report. It’s so frustrating that DOT won’t move on plans to implement road reconfigurations b/c of opposition by councilmembers.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Here’s a link to a video of a meeting at USC about the Mobility Plan. Its over an hour long, but towards the beginning of it City of Santa Monica Rick Cole makes some very insightful comments. One of the statements that he made is that there are 17 directors of planning in the city of LA, the designated director of planning, also the mayor and the 15 city council members.

  • Don’t people always say the Councilmembers vote together because they want to be left to decide things when it comes to their own districts? That’s a hard system to change unless you elected everyone at large, which probably wouldn’t be great in a city as big as LA.

    The mayor can veto things, but a Council that votes unanimously can override those vetos.

    I think the only way forward is people who live in those Council districts being registered to vote and pressuring their reps. In the case of Westwood people like students who are more likely to be sympathetic to bike lanes may not even be registered to vote in that neighborhood. Thus the older, more conservative folks who live in the area have disproportionate influence. Politicians are primarily motivated by political survival and will bend to the stronger wind.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Here’s a shorter edited version that contains the highlights:

  • ubrayj02

    Antonio Villaraigosa was able to slam a bunch of bike projects into various corners of the city because he had clout on the council. His fundraising extended to help ensure a near-plurality of votes on the council. When his reputation on the environment and other things was in the dumpster he found pay dirt with bike and pedestrian projects and turned his considerable power towards that end.

    Garcetti does not wield that power, clearly, and you can see the results. We will lose neighbors and friends because the DOT and the mayor are afraid of cramming a project down the gullets of 3 council members whose votes they need (or think they need).

    Our lives are worth less than the relationship between Garcetti and three councilmembers.

    I have no respect for this system.

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