Westchester Playa Neighborhood Council Votes Against PDR Safety Projects

At last night's meeting, Playa/Westchester NC's David Voss arguing against LADOT's Playa Del Rey safety improvements. Photo by Marcia Hanscom
At last night's meeting, Playa/Westchester NC's David Voss arguing against LADOT's Playa Del Rey safety improvements. Photo by Marcia Hanscom

At a standing room only meeting last night, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa voted to approve a letter calling to “immediately reverse the lane reductions in Playa del Rey.” The letter was approved mostly as proposed, but opposition to the Pershing Drive road diet was removed.

Responding to traffic deaths and lawsuits, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) installed four road diet upgrades to PDR streets: Jefferson Boulevard, Culver Boulevard, Pershing Drive, and Vista Del Mar. After criticism, in July, lanes were added back on Culver. LADOT announced it will restore travel lanes on Vista Del Mar starting August 21st. Last week, a backlash group filed a lawsuit pressing to restore PDR streets to their original condition.

At last month’s meeting of the Westchester/Playa council, the board approved a motion to form a committee to study the recent road diets. This month, with two votes against and one abstaining, the board approved a rambling four-page anti-road-diet letter addressed to City Councilmember Mike Bonin. The letter charges that the road diets cause “increased commute times,” are “turning streets into parking lots,” and generating “cut-through traffic.” The letter makes the following assertions:

  • “[Road diets have] significantly increased and oppressive traffic congestion, travel time, and collisions at all times of day”
  • “Local business is suffocating… We share their [businesses’] dire concern that the perception of Playa del Rey as a destination for business and pleasure is being permanently and irreparably damaged with every passing day”
  • “We need more law enforcement to reduce the severity of this problem, not fewer traffic lanes.”
  • “The impact on commuters is very real as demonstrated by their expressed outrage on social media and in every outlet on which they can find a voice from radio to newspaper.”
  • “Instead of bike lanes” in Playa Del Rey, the city should “make the Ballona path safely accessible to Playa Vista residents. If designed correctly, it would provide a safer, and more relaxing bike ride to the beach. Many helpful suggestions from the community have been made to achieve this accessibility goal instead of bike lanes through the wetlands at a fraction of the societal and economic cost of increased commute times.”

Last night’s meeting was recapped by Katie Clarke, an advocate for safer Playa Del Rey streets, as follows:

Around 90 people spoke on the record, and I’m pleased to say that it was evenly divided. In fact, they had (by my rough count) about 6 speakers not from the direct area, so I would say our representation was even a little stronger. We also had about double the amount of letters submitted supporting our cause. At the end, the letter was approved for sending with the removal of Pershing.

That seems like a defeat, but please keep in mind that this was not a binding decision, but purely the neighborhood council’s recommendation to our councilman. We put the talking point “overwhelming opposition” to bed by showing up in force. I’m proud of the points we made and that we went about it in a classy way. We didn’t resort to booing, jeering, or creating a spectacle. Yes, I, the pregnant lady, got booed. Yes, they had a guy dress up in cycling gear and then rip off his shirt to reveal his orange tee. He also danced. True story.

I’m also excited that there were faces and names supporting our cause that I haven’t met and haven’t seen online.

Though Neighborhood Councils give the city important feedback on critical issues, the letter is essentially advisory, with no binding power to direct LADOT, Bonin, or the city to follow any of the council’s asks. LADOT and Councilmember Bonin have committed to continue to listen to feedback and to review data to evaluate the project’s success in achieving safety goals.

Road diet bike lanes recently being installed on Pershing Drive in Playa Del Rey. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Road diet bike lanes being installed on Pershing Drive in Playa Del Rey in June. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In other Playa Del Rey safety improvement commentary, the non-profit Los Angeles Walks published an article critical of the city’s retreat in conceding to motorist pressure to add back deadly car lanes on Vista Del Mar. From L.A. Walks:

Since their implementation, the three safe streets projects in the 11th District have each been the recipient of a furious and frequently vicious backlash. Public meetings regarding the roadway reconfigurations have not been civil or constructive, and have at times devolved into the open mocking of concerns for the safety of people walking and riding bicycles. Some of the loudest opponents of the Playa del Rey projects, from South Bay cities like Manhattan Beach, have been impervious to the argument that they have prioritized safety near their own homes, but regard their commuting time as more important than safety in other people’s neighborhoods.

In response, Bonin’s office has attempted to meet critics halfway. The Los Angeles Times said the agreement between Bonin’s office and Supervisor Janice Hahn had been called a “win-win” that would satisfy commuters and beachgoers, but the fact remains that a safe road redesign is being abandoned to cater to the loudest and angriest voices in the room.

The “win-win” solution on Vista del Mar is reminiscent of what Los Angeles has tried for decades — a solution in which the very presence of pedestrians is seen as a problem that needs solving. Instead of making walking safer, we try to address safety by removing the walkers. History has shown that not only is this approach disruptive to the community, it also will never be fully effective. People will still walk across Vista del Mar, whether they are going to Vista del Mar Park, or walking from their home to enjoy a day at the beach, or for whatever other possible reason. The lack of lighting, lack of crosswalks, and low-visibility conditions from fog will still make it dangerous to cross, or walk along, a de facto speedway, but reverting Vista del Mar to its previous configuration simply ignores the existence of these people so South Bay commuters can resume speeding through the neighborhood.

[…]

In the long term, we will be pushing the City to create a permanent pedestrian facility on the west side of Vista del Mar, and to make sure that extra roadway space will not merely be left to encourage unsafe driving speeds. We are also hopeful that the task force Councilmember Bonin has announced to examine the community-supported Safe Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative will provide an opportunity for more productive conversations to take place. We believe that it is of paramount importance that design elements intended to protect pedestrians be protected throughout this process.

Read the full article.

  • D Man

    Why do these pro-bike groups perpetuate lies to promote their agenda. The meeting was nowhere near evenly divided. Not even close. It was vast majority opposed to the road diets which was reflected in the near-unanimous vote to recommend reversing the lane reductions.

    And these are not safety measures. In Mar Vista and PdR accidents, including bike accidents in Mar Vista, significantly increased due to the poor road design that was implemented without any of the property studies.

  • sheplerwill

    I recognize that you have an agenda and that’s fair, but you are cherry-picking pieces of information without admiting the truth of what the lane restrictions have caused. As the letter states, traffic accidents are way, way up. Depending on your calculations, accidents are up between 200% and 400%. And not just during commutes, but all times of the day. And this is during light summer volume. The changes have made the roads less safe, pure and simple. The “Safety Project” has failed. We should not fall into Bonin’s trap of division; we should unite to find actual solutions for all users of the roads. There is no reason we can’t have safety. There’s also no reason to punish people who drive.

  • D Man

    And one other point about your use of the word “backlash.” The road diet in Mar Vista was based on lies and fraud. We were told it was “main street” Mar Vista and whatever we didn’t “like” they would get rid of. They did it without any of the required studies and outreach on the basis that it was a “pilot” project. And now that they implemented “Great Streets” and we don’t “like” it, Bonin pivoted to Vision Zero and the need for safety. He is facing backlash because he bowed down to bike and pedestrian advocacy groups outside of Mar Vista and lied to his own constituents in order to implement something that is (1) not safe and (2) opposed by the vast majority of the people who live int he community.

  • Joe Linton

    You and others are asserting that car crashes are up. If that’s the case, it’s probably not good – but it’s not the measure of Vision Zero success. There are scenarios where “accidents” increase, but the new configuration is still saving lives. It is possible that there may be a few more minor fender-benders while overall deaths and serious injuries are going down. (It could also be that drivers are going faster than they should, and haven’t adjusted to the new configuration. If drivers are still speeding dangerously there – as you’re asserting – then I suggest it would be good to slow them down more – to really make it safe.)

  • Mar Vista is a pilot project to see how Venice as a whole can be made to be bicycle friendly. One easy way to return the road to 3 lanes would be to end the practice, unique to Los Angeles, of allowing parking on an arterial.

  • Crashes that cause cosmetic damage to the ever-precious bumpers the automobile industry produces are not the same as crashes that kill or maim human beings. As my father used to say “They teach driving at the Y”.

  • The bike lanes on Culver, Jefferson and Pershing are a means to narrow the road and slow it down. Narrowing is the only means the LADOT or any other municipal traffic engineering agency in the State of California has to slow traffic thanks to the 85th Percentile Speed Trap Law that allows Motorists to set speed limits through the use of their accelerator pedals.

    Narrowing leaves asphalt that can be repurposed as parking if wide enough, but was repurposed as bicycle lanes because they were not, and LADOT wanted them to NOT be used for vehicle parking.

    It is of severe interest that Pershing, a stroad that is signed at 55 miles per hour just south of PDR due to this law, was removed from the letter.

    P.S. Vista Del Mar WAS NOT a bicycle project. It was the moving of parking spaces from the Surfridge side of the street to the Dockweiler side of the street so as to end the “attractive nuisance” of free parking on the far side of a 40 (!) miles per hour four-lane street.

  • sheplerwill

    Joe, thank you for a fair response. I get your point that the crashes are at lower speeds. But there are other ways to reduce speeds besides creating gridlock. I agree that no one should be bombing through Playa. I would support reducing the speed through town to 25 or even 20, as long as flow can be maintained. Another solution for reducing speeds is to make the lanes a little narrower. People automatically slow down if they are closer to other cars. Anyway, I pulled data out of the CHP database. Between 2003 and 2016, there were 50 accidents per year, including those which caused no injuries. In the past 10 weeks, there have been 26 accidents; that’s 135 per year – almost triple.

    Now, Vision Zero is about stopping deaths. There have been 12 fatalities through the altered playa roads since 2003. 7 of the 8 pedestrian deaths were drunk people, jaywalking across poorly or unlit streets in the middle of the night. Better crosswalks and better lighting, would have helped on Culver. Removing the parking on VDM as they’re about to do would have helped. Of the 4 remaining deaths, 2 involved alcohol which can’t be fixed by road changs. 2 were motorcycles, and 2 were cars (one was a car full of 18 year olds pulling out of a VDM parking spot into traffic). Once you look at the actual data, you start to see a different picture from the one being used to change the roads. I again appeal for unity and safe solutions for everyone.

  • D Man

    1. Ballona Creek Bike Path/Beach Bike Path or S. Marine Road. Those are the extremely safe dedicated bike paths that me and all of the other cyclists use. No one, even after the implementation of the bike lanes, uses Culver Blvd. to ride their bike.

    2. So let’s change the 85th percentile speed trap law. How about we also allow video speed enforcement like they do in Arizona. Park a van out there and anyone going faster than 35 gets a ticket. I support both of those changes. Not a change that results in cars going 0 mph and destroys the environment.

  • D Man

    Mar Vista was already bicycle friendly as there was a bike lane that was much safer as it was highly visible to cars and the road design was easily understood. Another way to return to 3 lanes would be to remove the dangerous buffer and row of cars that conceals the bike lane and has led to a significant increase in bike accidents. See, this is why you do a study before you implement something like this.

  • KC LA

    Hey D Man, that was the count per one of the board members.

  • Jeff

    //..add back deadly car lanes…//

    That’s not slanted at. all.

    The existence of a car lane does not make it “deadly.” Resorting to hyperbole doesn’t do the position any favors.

  • T Funky P

    This neighborhood council repeatedly suppresses community voices. It doesn’t want to include the voices of people with whom members disagree. They are supposed to represent the entire community but they don’t.

    The motion and letter should have had 3 parts. 1) the boards recommendation 2) a tally of the issues of brought up by the PRO side 3) a similar tally of the CON side. A one sided measure doesn’t do anyone any good. It pits neighbors against neighbors because it’s an all or nothing game. If the council board wants to think of themselves as leaders they need to rethink how they do business. Otherwise they are part of the problem and not the solution.

  • Ballona Creek bike path is dark and dangerous at night and has been notorious for muggings 24 hours a day.

    Change the speed trap law against Auto Club of Southern California and CHP lobbying? And camera speed enforcement in California? I wish you luck!

  • K Clarke

    Exactly. You can’t decry that different opinions weren’t represented initially, and then fail to represent them yourselves.

  • Wendy

    From one who attended the meeting, and as a long time resident, I cannot tell you how dismayed I am about the lack of fairness in this matter. I can honestly say that those who prevailed spent the most money, had the most focused anger, and used the loudest voices to get their points across. What was missing from this controversy was a considered discussion among members of a community. I can’t help but feel that much of what has happened in our community is about impotence to the current political climate. I am sad that our voices defending more than cars moving swiftly have been muffled. We are more than homes stuffed between highways. We are people who chose this community for its beauty and walk-and bike-abilty. We live near one of the last natural habitats in Southern California. I do have sympathy for our So Cal commuters; I was one for over 30 years. Traffic sucks. But patience is what is needed, and thoughtfulness, not hostility and rage.

  • Jody

    There are no lights on Culver Blvd through the wetlands.

  • There are automobiles passing by so that aid is available.

    Here is what happened to a bicycle user on the Ballona Creek path recently: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b798daabe5f724508cadee0d391a073745edbcf5903bebcd41cff7eb15ae6538.jpg

  • D Man

    There is a great video circulating of David Voss’ speech in support of the recommendation. It is over 5 minutes long and outlines all of the lies and deception by Mike Bonin and the proponents of the this project. His best point was that this was sold as a “pilot project” that was to be reviewed after 30/60/90 days, they cancelled the only LADOT meeting thus far and at best, even if they decide to undo it, based on Bonin and LADOTs plan it will take at least 1 year to complete their “studies” and remove it. His final recommendation was spot on: remove it and then take all the time you want to do your studies.

    Bonin will be recalled, PDR will be restored and Venice Blvd will be restored.

  • D Man

    The PDR and Mar Vista projects were both implemented based on lies and not having a discussion among the community. So you may be right, but the fact is that your same complaint applies to this being implemented in the first place. And your voice probably feels muffled because there are very few supporters of this even in your own community.

  • gilbertish

    The problem with the PDR “safety project” was that it was done in an underhanded manner. There was no outreach, there was no community involvement, there was no information campaign, there was no discussion or debate. Just sneaky, dishonest, backroom politics in which the transit mob and the bike coalition folks had a secret handshake with Bonin.

    Locals certainly support “safe streets” and would actively welcome improvements that slow traffic through Culver – lighting, crosswalks, traffic signals and speed bumps.

    But those are arrived at through consensus and transparency, not utter contempt for the majority public that has no choice but to drive.

    You poked the bear. Bonin will be recalled, and all the other councilmen will retreat. (Ironically, only Gil Cedillo implicitly understood the gravity of the issue.)

  • Joe Linton

    Go Transit Mob (whoever you are!)

  • Joe Linton

    It’s where Naomi Larsen and Michael Lockridge were killed – resulting in $9M lawsuits against the city. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-wrongful-death-settlement-20170419-story.html

  • KAM

    What occurred in Playa Del Rey (and Venice Boulevard) is merely the “tip of the iceberg” of the movement in Los Angeles to slow traffic and encourage bikers by changing traffic lanes to bike lanes in the name of “safety, zero pedestrian deaths, and less driven miles”. Such lane removals are destined for major westside thoroughfares, such as Lincoln, Sepulveda, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, Manchester, and others, as has already occurred in many smaller and shorter streets, speedily, without community discussion and approval, in the name of “giving it a trial run”. However, the cost of such a trial run is exhorbitant, and the reversal of such is even more exhorbitant in terms of dollars, time, and inconvenience to commuters.

    IT IS TIME FOR COMMUNITIES TO BECOME AWARE OF LOS ANGELES CITY GOVERNMENT (Garcetti and Bonin are thoroughly behind this) AND THEIR INTENTIONS TO PREVENT THE HAVOC THAT HAS OCCURRED IN PLAYA DEL REY AND VENICE BOULEVARD!! Prevention is easier than the cure!!

  • D Man

    They are not suppressing community voices, it’s just that there are significantly less voices in support of the project. We here what you are saying, you support this. The vast majority of people do not.

  • D Man

    And where exactly does it say they were killed because of a deadly car lane? They were killed because there was no crosswalk with a signal and inadequate street lighting. Your position is not supported by facts. And please stop with the whole 40 mph argument. If there is a crosswalk with a signal the car is going 0 mph while the pedestrians can safely cross the street.

  • Jon Patrick

    You make decent points but there are a few things to consider. First, google, “How are speed limits set in California.” You’ll learn that you can’t just change the speed limit. Second, lane widths are generally 10′ wherever possible. That’s about as narrow as they can go. You also say that road changes can’t prevent alcohol related deaths. I don’t agree. If you make the roadway narrower, there is less exposure for a pedestrian and cars naturally won’t drive as fast.

  • gilbertish

    What would you call the cadre of car-haters?

    Streetsbloggen?

  • sheplerwill

    Jon, thanks. All I meant about alcohol as a factor was that people will still drink and drive. Yeah, changing speed limits ain’t easy, but I would support it. I also dug into the details of injuries in Playa. The big takeaway for Culver is that for the very most part, cars hit other cars or fixed objects, and the injuries are not severe for the most part, even when speed is a factor. For all acidents through Playa, fatalities and severe injuries make up about 8% of accidents. The big problem on Pershing is the light at Manchester. That intersection accounts for at least half of all accidents and most are related to ‘right of way’ issues. The take-away on VDM is that the pay booth is the source of most accidents. Accidents on VDM are related to illegal uturns and right of way issues, and almost all at Imperial. Once parking is off that street and the booth is replaced by modern lot payment, VDM will be much safer.

  • sheplerwill

    that sucks. and it happens with some regularity, I understand. I don’t know the solutions, but we need to find one. Has the biking community had any strong suggestions? Lights probably aren’t enough. cameras, emergency call boxes? not that those are preventative.

  • sheplerwill

    And there were other pedestrians as well. 8 since 2003. BUT, Naomi and Michael and 5 more crossed unlit streets at night and not legally. They would not have been saved by a lane reduction. The only other pedestrian to diea was a 73 year old man struck in downtown playa at around 6pm. I am not sure, but I believe his age was a factor. At any rate, we need lights. That’s the first step.

  • Jeff

    Jaywalking across an unlit street, after midnight, with no crosswalks was the cause of both of those deaths. The lanes had nothing to do with it.

  • Jeff

    Okay, so if I were to concede that’s the case, wouldn’t this implementation be putting the cart before the horse?

  • Joe Linton

    “Transit Mob” is good enough for me!

  • Vooch

    the war in cars is real and coming to your town. Watch these videos for examples of the horrors the anti bike zealots wish to impose on you. They ruined the once charming city of Munich.

  • Actually, Naomi Larsen was crossing at the intersection of Vista Del Mar and Ipswich which is an intersection and thus a legal, albeit unmarked, crosswalk exists. She was not “jaywalking”; the motorists had a legal obligation to yield to her.

  • Prices start at $250K per traffic signal. Where’s that money going to come from?

  • How do you test out a new configuration otherwise?

  • Actually, there’s a decent amount of researching showing a decrease in safety with the increase in traffic lanes.

  • Anyway, I pulled data out of the CHP database. Between 2003 and 2016, there were 50 accidents per year, including those which caused no injuries. In the past 10 weeks, there have been 26 accidents; that’s 135 per year – almost triple.

    What database are you looking at? CHP’s databases aren’t exactly known to be that up-to-date with the present, so to claim that there is information on it showing 26 accidents over the last 10 weeks is highly suspect.

  • Bernard Finucane

    >The problem with the PDR “safety project” was that it was done in an underhanded manner.

    In other words, you can’t think of anything wrong with the results.

  • Bernard Finucane

    I don’t get it.

  • gilbertish

    I can’t think of anything right with the results.

    My comments were intended to illuminate for the transit mob, that ruling by fiat will always backfire.

    Conspiring in secret to deprive the majority of their necessary lane space will incur the Streisand effect, attracting far more attention to the matter than a graceful, consensus-based approach would have.

    Candidates will now be elected on the basis of opposition to your cause.

    Bonin could have implemented any number of measures to improve safety for pedestrians, but he chose to punish motorists instead. Its baffling; traffic is not a partisan issue.

  • sheplerwill

    Hi Marven, The data domes from Switrs:
    http://iswitrs.chp.ca.gov/Reports/jsp/RawData.jsp
    it’s the only database of accident data. We count on about 6 months of lag time for full entry. I use the data from 2003-2016 out of the database for Pre-diet.

    The post-diet crashes have been counted manually by concerned citizens. It is possible that we have missed some, but it’s at least 26. We have photos of almost all of them. BTW, there was another one last night on Pershing – a bike rider at about 1145 PM.

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