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City Planners Listen to Stakeholders Regarding Potential for Bike Lanes Along Boyle and Soto

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

Multi-modal Boyle Heights: A family rides bikes, boys skateboard, and car commuters make their way home. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

As I pedaled my way up the hill towards Mariachi Plaza, I had to dodge a skateboarder coming straight at me at a rather significant clip.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a skateboarder in the middle of the road there.

The eastbound stretch of 1st between Boyle Ave. and Pecan St. is quite wide, and the skaters usually turn onto Pecan or hop back onto the sidewalk and out of traffic at the Pecan/1st intersection. The thrill of an unfettered downhill is brief, in other words, but apparently worth the risk of skating against traffic.

That’s who needs special lanes, I thought as I crossed Boyle and picked up the 1st St. bike lane. There are more skaters than bikers, and they need to be able to get around easily, too. 

I was thinking about the possibilities for community-specific road reconfigurations because I was on my way to a roundtable meeting to discuss the possible implementation of bike lanes on Soto St. and Boyle Ave., two of the 19 streets on the 2010 Bike Plan’s Second Year slate of projects. The roundtable, run largely by David Somers of City Planning and LADOT Bikeways Engineer Tim Fremaux, was the city’s first stab at connecting with a few Boyle Heights stakeholders and gathering specific feedback regarding mobility and other issues along those streets.

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan's lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th).

Screen shot of the 2010 Bike Plan’s lanes planned for Soto (from Huntington to 8th) and Boyle (from 5th to 8th). Click to enlarge.

I was looking forward to hearing other stakeholders’ thoughts on the lanes. Although I didn’t expect any of the participants to offer push-back, I knew they would be aware of the concerns that others in the community might raise when the city looked for support for the project from the wider public.

First among those concerns is the view that bike lanes can act as a gateway drug for gentrification.

When the city comes a-calling in a long-marginalized community and only offers the one thing that is at the bottom of that community’s lengthy list of needs, it’s not unusual for some to be suspicious of the city’s intentions.

The popular “bikes mean business” mantra doesn’t help allay fears, either, as it doesn’t necessarily hold up in lower-income communities. There, bicycles can signify of a lack of resources, and long-standing businesses catering to hyper-local needs are not the ones well-heeled cyclists are likely to favor (see the discussion of the gentri-flyer debacle for more on this).

Another key concern is that Boyle Heights is a largely (bus) transit- and pedestrian-heavy community and that it needs upgrades to its pedestrian and bus infrastructure much more than it needs bike lanes that facilitate connections to rail.

This is not to say there aren’t a lot of cyclists in the area — there are. There is a sizable number of commuters, as well as a growing contingent of youth that regularly ride for both transport and recreation.

But they aren’t as visible a presence as the pedestrians. And it is often economics and community mobility patterns (i.e. moms needing to run errands with a few kids in tow) that keep many reliant on walking, skateboarding, and/or transit, not the lack of bike infrastructure–meaning that the community may be unsure that it would reap any benefits from the presence of the lanes. Read more…

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SGC Awards Grants to Boost Smarter Urban Planning in CA Cities

California’s Strategic Growth Council recently awarded $40 million for sustainability plan projects like this transit-oriented development above L.A.’s Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Strategic Growth Council, a state committee made up of representatives from six California agencies, awarded over $40 million in planning grants last week for projects large and small that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

One of the grants went to the Los Angeles City Planning Department to help quantify the GHG emission reductions brought by infill housing development as a strategy to help meet the state’s climate targets set under A.B. 32. The $491,770 grant will allow planners to develop ways to measure the reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) from affordable housing and infill development near transit, and to quantify the trip reduction benefits of transportation demand management measures. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a VMT-based metric that can be used to satisfy California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.

Other grants were awarded to L.A. Metro and the L.A. County Department of Regional Planning, as well as numerous other cities and counties throughout the state.

The grants were divided into two streams: the Sustainable Communities Planning Grant and Incentives Program, which awarded $16 million to 33 projects, and the Urban Greening Grant Program, which awarded $24 million to 40 proposals. A list of this year’s planning grants appears after the jump.

The Sustainable Communities Planning Grants fund plans to build infill development and efficient transportation, local climate plans, and zoning plans for transit-oriented development and renewable energy, among others.

The Urban Greening Grant Program awarded funds to shovel-ready projects that create and develop parks and greenways, reduce runoff by creating bioswales and converting pavement to permeable surfaces, restore habitat, plant trees, and similar projects.

Read more…

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Empowering Communities to See Streets as Sites of Recreation: What does it Take?

Sin and redemption. Despite it's long-standing status as a stroll, Western Ave. has at least two churches on almost every block. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Sin and redemption. Despite it’s long-standing status as a stroll, Western Ave. has at least two churches on almost every block. A passerby teased the elderly gentleman at the corner who had just left the church by suggesting he was hanging out along Western for other-than-godly reasons. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

“We need to empower people to see their streets as sites of recreation.”

It’s somewhat of a city planner mantra.

And, it tends to drive me crazy.

Part of it has to do with my having been an academic in my previous life, where I spent years observing efforts to “empower” refugees, displaced persons, sex trafficking victims, genocide survivors, and the desperately poor to take charge of their circumstances. The focus on modifying individual behaviors precluded dialogue on the mix of structural and individual interventions that might have yielded more comprehensive solutions to what were, essentially, deeply-rooted structural problems. As a result, outcomes were often superficial and/or unsustainable at best and irreparably damaging to people’s livelihoods at worst.*

Yet “empower” soldiers on, both abroad and right here at home.

I hear it all the time.

I heard it most recently at the well-attended Community Planning Forum held at Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center on Western Ave. in South L.A. at the end of March.

It was all I could do to keep myself from dragging the poor person outside to show them the street was already very heavily used for recreation. Just the wrong kind.

There are a few sections of Western — including areas in close proximity to the park — known as “strolls.”

Day or night, rain or shine, you can find a girl on the street that can help meet your “needs” for a few dollars.

They sit at bus stops, stand on corners, walk up and down the block, dance by themselves on quiet side streets just out of the glare of the main drag, brazenly post up like sentries at the driveway entrance of the Mustang Motel — they are ubiquitous.

While a number of them are older and may be working independently and/or feeding drug habits (especially north of King Blvd., according to some residents), many are just teens, coerced into the trade by men claiming to be their boyfriends, rapists that abused them and turned them out, or their own history of sexual abuse and neglect. The hold their pimps have on them can be tremendous. It is not unusual for girls show up in juvenile detention centers with their pimps’ names tattooed onto their ribs and so thoroughly victimized that they fight anyone trying to help them get out of the trade. Some don’t believe they could ever be valued for anything other than their bodies, especially after being abused. Others believe their pimps love them and refuse to say anything that would incriminate them.

But, the pimps clearly do not love them.

Spend any time along Western and you’ll see them, stationed in parked cars at corners (and, occasionally, on mountain bikes), perfectly positioned so that they can see everything happening on the street. They are ready to menace their girls or anyone who takes too much of an other-than-recreational interest in their charge(s) at a moment’s notice.

The intense level of neglect a street — and, indeed, a community — must experience (this was the stomping ground of the Grim Sleeper, after all) for it to be able to function so openly as a market facilitates other forms of unhealthy activity, too. While long-time residents tell me that things are much better than they used to be, gang activity and substance abuse, particularly that of those living on (or making a living on) the street, are still major issues in the area.

Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Dumping is a common occurrence along Western Ave. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The combination of these factors can make locals paranoid about interacting with outsiders for fear of being seen as snitching.

And, it can certainly go a long way in keeping a family from feeling comfortable about taking a stroll through the neighborhood, waiting at bus stops, getting to know their neighbors along the Western corridor, or being outside too late in the evening. Read more…

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Editorial: Five Changes To Make A Better Los Angeles Mobility Plan

Adverse environmental and health impacts of Los Angeles transportation systems. From L.A. City's draft Mobility Plan.

Adverse environmental, health, and economic impacts of Los Angeles transportation systems. The city’s draft plan still has a way to go to address these big problems. Image from L.A. City’s draft Mobility Plan.

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and finalize your comment submissions for Los Angeles City’s draft Mobility Plan. To learn about the plan, read through plenty of SBLA coverage and review source documents at the project website. Perhaps also read Flying Pigeon’s scathing critique of the plan as a “morally bankrupt symbol of a crumbling society.”

Mobility Plan Comments are due next week: Tuesday May 13th, 2014.

Commenting is important, because I expect that L.A.’s car-centric mainstream will be asking to just keep widening roads and adding more parking spaces. To approve a plan that actually embraces L.A.’s livable future, the city needs to hear from lots of people who want to bike, walk and ride transit. Even if you just comment that you’re a cyclist and you want a plan that keeps you safe, please submit a comment! Submit your comments various ways, probably easiest via email to my.la [at] lacity.org.

Here are five changes I’d like to see made to the plan.

1 – Explicitly Prioritize Mobility Equity Investments In Low Income Areas

As emphasized by Multicultural Communities for Mobility’s Betty Avila, the new mobility plan needs some equity. Transportation investments need to improve mobility, health, and quality of life for Los Angeles’ under-served low-income communities of color.

Advocates fought for inclusion of equity in prioritization of bicycle facilities in the 2010 Bike Plan. On Chapter 4, page 97, the Bike Plan includes a “Bicycle Funding Priority Grading System” which prioritizes bicycle transportation investments in low income areas and also, though less fleshed-out, areas with greatest traffic fatalities and injuries. Though this prioritization system hasn’t been front and center in the mostly-opportunistic bike plan implementation, today it is Los Angeles City policy.

With the proposed Mobility Plan overlaying the approved bike plan, lots of bike-specific programs are being lost, including deletion of this policy to prioritize equity. The new draft Mobility Plan appears to attempt to create a seemingly neutral level playing field. All transportation modes, from walking to bicycling to transit to driving, are upheld together. All L.A. neighborhoods are weighted equally. In the past, this one-size-fits-all approach has led to plenty of car-centric investment privileging haves and degrading have-nots.

The draft Mobility Plan maps out investments in improving conditions for walking, riding transit, and bicycling. Though there are needs for safer and better streets in all L.A. neighborhoods, it makes more sense for the city to spend more of its scarce pedestrian safety dollars in pedestrian-oriented areas, such as Boyle Heights and MacArthur Park, and less in car-centric areas, such as Pacific Palisades.

The plan needs to explicitly prioritize transit, bicycle, and pedestrian investment in under-served areas. The plan needs to include some sort of equity lens, at a minimum like the Bicycle Funding Priority Grading System, preferably something even more effective.

L.A.'s City Planning Department thinks that adding more traffic to these streets will be a good idea. The "Vehicle Enhanced Network" mapped on page 29 of the Mobility Atlas component of L.A.'s proposed Transportation Plan.

L.A.’s City Planning Department thinks that adding more traffic to these streets will be a good idea. The “Vehicle Enhanced Network” mapped on page 29 of the Mobility Atlas component of L.A.’s proposed Transportation Plan.

2 – Delete the Vehicle Enhanced Network

On page 66 of the draft Mobility Plan, after a preamble that laments how poor little Los Angeles didn’t quite build enough freeways, there’s an assertion that a handful of Los Angeles streets actually do need even more cars. Really.

The draft plan calls these streets a “Vehicle Enhanced Network” or VEN. These streets would get features including: more turning restriction, more peak-hour parking restricted lanes, and reverse flow lanes.

VEN streets, mapped on page 29 of the plan’s Mobility Atlas, include Sunset Blvd, Gaffey Street, Victory Boulevard, La Cienega and even Alameda Street in downtown L.A.

The VEN, in one form or another, has been a staple of Los Angeles City transportation planning since roughly the 1920s. After a hundred years of death, injury, smog, greenhouse gas emissions, and erosion of the quality of life in our neighborhoods, do L.A.’s city planners still believe the lie that shoehorning a few more cars onto any of our streets will make anything better or healthier?

Los Angeles spent the last century enhancing its vehicle network, and even drivers aren’t so happy with the results. It’s time to set that failed idea aside.

Sadly, even if the Mobility Plan doesn’t call for continuing to upgrade L.A.’s car capacity, momentum from lots of other forces in play will continue L.A.’s century-long more-cars-everywhere project into the foreseeable future. Car-centric priorities remain embedded in plenty of funding, policy, and “technical” specifics at the city, county, region, state, and federal levels. They don’t need to be in this vision plan, too.

3 – Explicitly End Road Widening

On page 111, the draft Mobility Plan states:

[W]ider roads can result in adverse environmental, public health, and fiscal impacts. Wider roads are more expensive to maintain and enable driving at faster speeds in the short term, which leads to more pollution, noise, and higher risks to bicyclists and pedestrians in the long term.

Many cities, including Pasadena, have explicitly abandoned the expensive and deadly practice of continually reflexively widening roadways. The city of Los Angeles has ended widening downtown, but still continues the destructive practice throughout the rest of the city.  Read more…

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Oakland Proposes Parking-Protected Bike Lanes on Telegraph Avenue

Bikes and buses jockey for position along Telegraph Avenue in Temescal. Planners say protected bike lanes are “likely” options on most of Telegraph in Oakland — except for this stretch. Photo: David Jaeger / Jonah Chiarenza, www.community-design.com

The City of Oakland has released preliminary design options [PDF] for a redesign of Telegraph Avenue, which include parking-protected bike lanes, improvements to speed up AC Transit lines, and pedestrian safety upgrades. Planners will hold open house meetings to collect input on the design options starting next week.

“We’re very excited they’ve released a lot of different options,” said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay. “It’s a very robust set of choices and allows people to make an informed decision on the best ones.”

This is the first time Telegraph is being revisited for a redesign since it was taken out of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit route that begins construction this fall. The proposal to extend BRT on Telegraph to Berkeley was dropped after merchants fought to preserve car parking.

The Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets Implementation Plan looks at the stretch from 57th Street to 20th Street, a few blocks short of Telegraph’s end at Broadway in downtown Oakland, where the Latham Square pilot plaza was prematurely removed. Under some of the proposals, much of Telegraph could get parking-protected bike lanes (a.k.a. “cycle tracks”) by re-purposing traffic lanes and preserving parking lanes.

Oakland’s project website notes that “despite the lack of bike facilities, Telegraph Avenue is one of the most heavily traveled routes for cyclists, with over 1,200 daily cyclists.”

Bike East Bay is “super delighted to see proposed cycle tracks for a good segment of the street, and think there are some good options as well through the section with the freeway underpass,” said Campbell.

Read more…

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How Does LA City’s Mobility Plan Modify Its 3-Year-Old Bike Plan?

LA City Planning Dept graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn't become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

LA City Planning Department graphic showing how the bike plan does and doesn’t become the Mobility Plan. From the DCP handout: Where did the Bicycle Plan go?

Streetsblog readers are probably aware that the city of Los Angeles Department of City Planning (DCP) is currently updating the Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan. The Transportation Element has a great deal of influence over what L.A.’s streets look like, and which uses they prioritize.

The new Transportation Element, called Mobility Plan 2035,  has been released in draft form. For a plan overview, read SBLA’s Mobility Plan review, and also read SBLA’s series of Community Voices on the Mobility Plan: part one, two, and three. Read the plan documents and summaries at the DCP’s LA/2B website. DCP just concluded a series of community forums, but is still receiving public comment through May 13, 2014.

In the past, the Transportation Element included a somewhat independent bike section, called the Bicycle Master Plan. In 2011, after much controversy and struggle, the city adopted its latest bike plan, titled the 2010 Bike Plan. That plan is currently in effect, governing what streets are approved for bike lanes, as well as a host of other bicycle related policies.

At its community forum meetings, DCP distributed a handout entitled Where did the Bicycle Plan go? which states, in part:

The goals, objectives, policies and programs of the 2010 Bicycle Plan are incorporated into Mobility Plan 2035, which lays the policy foundation necessary for the City to plan, design and operate streets that accommodate all users including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. [...]

A few components of the 2010 Bicycle Plan have been modified during the Plan’s integration into Mobility Plan 2035. These modifications were made in order to reflect the latest input from the community, as well as to reflect further refinements of the bikeway system.

The details of the “few components [that] have been modified” are not entirely clear.

Bike Plan facilities have been carried over into the new Mobility Plan, but there’s no clear thorough accounting of what’s in and what’s not in. DCP lists a category called “Deferred Backbone” (the gray oval in their chart above) of 195 miles of streets that were approved in 2011, but, in DCP’s designation, just won’t happen before 2035, so they’re out.

The handout also states that the Neighborhood Network is “relatively unchanged.” Relatively unchanged never quite means a little more bikeway mileage. According to the stated totals, the Neighborhood Network appears to have lost 5 miles. The 2010 plan totals say there will be 825 miles of bikeways. The draft Mobility Plan shows a total of 820 miles: 50 miles in the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN) plus 770 miles in the remaining Neighborhood Network.

Which 5 miles are missing? Or was new mileage added, and more than five deleted? It’s hard to tell. It’s a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

Read more…

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Community Voices on LA Mobility Plan – CHC’s Carson and Lewis Ctr’s Huff

Streetsblog L.A. is continuing coverage of Los Angeles’ draft Mobility Plan 2035. The draft plan is out for comment; SBLA profiled it here. The public is encouraged to submit comments via email, or at a series of Planning Forums taking place through April 12th. The next forum is tomorrow, Saturday March 29th, 9 a.m. to noon, at Boyle Heights City Hall, 2130 E. First St., L.A. 90033.

communityvoices

Streetsblog has asked some local livability leaders to respond to a few simple questions telling us their opinions of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Earlier in the week, SBLA published responses from Betty Avila, Jeff Jacobberger, Carlos Hernandez , and Lois Arkin. Today’s respondents are Community Health Councils’ Malcolm Carson and UCLA Lewis Center’s Herbie Huff

One quick note on terminology: For this article, the following words are more-or-less interchangeable: Mobility-Transportation  and Element-Plan. The document calls itself the “Mobility Plan” though it’s also referred to as the “Mobility Element” or the “Transportation Element” of the General Plan.

D. Malcolm Carson

D. Malcolm Carson

D. Malcolm Carson is General Counsel and Policy Director for Environmental Health at Community Health Councils, a nonprofit health policy organization located in L.A.’s Crenshaw District. Malcolm and his team at CHC work to improve mobility, create more open space, improve air quality, and reduce exposure to toxics in low-income communities of color around Los Angeles. Carson is a former City of Los Angeles Transportation Commissioner and current Mayoral appointee to the South Area Planning Commission.

What’s your overall opinion of Mobility Plan 2035?

Carson: Mobility Plan 2035 is a great first step in encouraging and supporting non-motorized modes of transportation and transit through advancements in design, technology and investment. I do think that it could be improved with stronger and more specific policies and guidelines.
What do you like best in the plan?
The Plan has a strong emphasis on multi-modal safety, infrastructure and encouragement. The “Enhanced Network” framework recognizes the importance of transportation choices. There’s recognition of streets as “public space” for people, not just motor vehicles. The Complete Streets Manual introduces new street design guidelines that supersede outdated engineering policies. The Plan recognizes transportation’s impact on public health.
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Community Voices on LA Mobility Plan – LAEV’s Arkin, Bikesanas’ Hernandez

Streetsblog L.A. is continuing coverage of Los Angeles’ draft Mobility Plan 2035. The draft plan is out for comment; SBLA profiled it here. The public is encouraged to submit comments via email, or at a series of Planning Forums taking place through April 12th. The next forum is this Saturday March 29th, 9 a.m. to noon, at Boyle Heights City Hall, 2130 E. First St., L.A. 90033.

communityvoices

Streetsblog has asked some local livability leaders to respond to a few simple questions telling us their opinions of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Yesterday we published responses from Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Jeff Jacobberger and Multicultural Communities for Mobility chair Betty Avila. Today’s respondents are L.A. Eco-Village’s Lois Arkin and Bikesan@s Del Valle’s Carlos Hernandez

We’ll have even more community voices on the Mobility Plan later this week.

Los Angeles Eco-Village's Lois Arkin photo Somerset Waters

Los Angeles Eco-Village’s Lois Arkin photo Somerset Waters

Lois Arkin lives and works in the Los Angeles Eco-Village demonstration neighborhood, which she co-founded in 1993.  She is the Executive Director and founder of CRSP (Cooperative Resources and Services Project.) She is the co-author and editor of two books on urban sustainability and cooperatives, and represents the Western U.S. on the Council of the Ecovillage Network of the Americas.

What’s your overall opinion of Mobility Plan 2035?

Arkin: I am very pleased with much of the attention to pedestrian and bicycle strategies, with good quality-of-life language. It makes one appreciate that city planners are actually transitioning from 1950s thinking, seen especially in the LADOT.

What do you like best in the plan?

The ideas expressed regarding safety and happiness. Possibilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, kids, seniors, disabled.  The beginnings of language that suggests that there are too many cars and trucks and that a multi-modal approach is gaining acceptance.

What do you think is missing or needs work?  Read more…

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Community Voices on L.A.’s Mobility Plan: MCM’s Avila and BAC’s Jacobberger

Streetsblog L.A. is continuing coverage of Los Angeles’ draft Mobility Plan 2035. The draft plan is out for comment, SBLA profiled it here. The public is encouraged to submit comments via email, or at a series of Planning Forums taking place through April 12th. The next forum is this Saturday March 29th 9 a.m. to 12 noon at Boyle Heights City Hall, 2130 E. First St., L.A. 90033.

communityvoices

Streetsblog invited some local livability leaders to respond to a few simple questions telling us their opinions of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Today, our two respondents are Betty Avila and Jeff Jacobberger.

Avila is the chair of Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM.) Jacobberger is the chair of L.A.’s appointed Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC.) They’ve responded to the draft plan in their own words below.

We’ll have more community voices on the Mobility Plan later this week.

One quick note on terminology: For this article, the following words are more-or-less interchangeable: Mobility-Transportation  and Element-Plan. The document calls itself the “Mobility Plan” though it’s also referred to as the “Mobility Element” or the “Transportation Element” of the General Plan.

Betty Avila photo via Facebook

Betty Avila photo via Facebook

Betty Avila is Board Chair for Multicultural Communities for Mobility. She has been on the board since 2012 and her work has focused mainly on board development and organizational best practices.

What’s your overall opinion of Mobility Plan 2035?

Avila: Multicultural Communities for Mobility is still reviewing the document. We haven’t read all of it yet, but we have these preliminary thoughts: Where is the equity piece? There’s no clear statement on how each component will be prioritized for implementation throughout the city or what neighborhoods are most in need of improvement. This is particularly important because implementation is contingent on availability of funds from year to year. There was so much outreach and advocacy work done to have the 2010 L.A. Bike Plan include equity as a priority – now that the plan has been absorbed into the Mobility Plan 2035, the equity component should remain.

What do you like best in the plan?

The plan has a lot of potential in terms of how it can support low-income communities of color by transforming the use of space  - a healthy, vibrant community is one where people feel safe on their streets, feel empowered to activate the public spaces around them and feel comfortable using the most accessible and affordable mode of transportation available to them. It’s great that the plan includes an educational component with a goal of growing the number of people that participate in bike/ped safety and education workshops by 10 percent. This is, however, a modest number and one that can likely be higher by 2035 given the organizational capacity that exists in this city.

What do you think is missing or needs work?  Read more…

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Los Angeles Revisits Its Zoning Code via “re:code LA” Process

The city of Los Angeles Department of City Planning is hosting a series of seven community planning forums running now through April 12th. Tonight’s forum is at Metro HQ in Downtown L.A. from 5-8pm. The forums are for public feedback on three citywide planning processes: re:code L.A.Mobility Plan 2035, and Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles. Streetsblog is previewing the citywide initiatives; today it’s the city’s zoning code update. See earlier SBLA coverage of the Health Plan and Transportation Plan.

From re:code LA website - the original zoning code pamphlet from 1946, next to the 1978 and 2013 versions

From re:code LA website – the original zoning code pamphlet from 1946, next to the 1978 and 2013 versions

L.A.’s Department of City Planning (DCP) has been busy with three initiatives that have the potential to shape livability for many years to come. The three plans are for health, transportation, and, well, something that just doesn’t lend itself to a jargon-free soundbite: modernizing the zoning code.

Zoning code is the city’s set of rules that mostly determine what can be built, where it can be built, and how it’s used. It specifies various aspects of development from how tall a building can be, how much signage is allowed, what industries are allowed in what areas, and how much off-street parking is required.

Here is a sample from the current zoning code:

Off-Street Automobile Parking Requirements. A garage or an off-street automobile parking area shall be provided in connection with and at the time of the erection of each of the buildings or structures hereinafter specified, or at the time such buildings or structures are altered, enlarged, converted or increased in capacity by the addition of dwelling units, guest rooms, beds for institutions, floor area or seating capacity.  The parking space capacity required in said garage or parking area shall be determined by the amount of dwelling units, guest rooms, beds for institutions, floor area or seats so provided, and said garage or parking area shall be maintained thereafter in connection with such buildings or structures.

The new zoning code effort goes by its nickname re:code LA, billed as “A New Zoning Code for a 21st Century Los Angeles.” Of the three citywide initiatives, re:code arguably the least comprehensible to the general public and the least far along. The re:code project started in 2013 and is expected to be completed in 2017. 

From this early in the process, the final results aren’t entirely clear, but a lot of re-code work appears to be neutral; it’s mostly re-writing and re-organizing rules that are already in place. Generally, the re-write doesn’t change policy. If you work in an commercial area, re:code won’t change it into a residential area. Zoning has been established for every part of Los Angeles, and re:code generally won’t be changing what’s approved. It will add new options that can take effect later. The format will change, too. Instead of a paper pamphlet, it will be a whizbang contemporary user-friendly web-based document.

For example, if a neighborhood has too many liquor stores, the new code won’t change the number of liquor stores allowed, but may provide streamlined rules that could help limit future liquor stores. Generally, that streamlined rule wouldn’t go into effect when re:code is adopted in 2017, but would become available to be later added to local planning documents – community plans, specific plans, etc. So, don’t expect to see any re:code changes affecting your street any time soon.

Read more…