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Coalition Grows in Opposition to Proposed No-Growth Ballot Initiative

The Meridian Apartments would replace a commercial building and surface parking less than a block from the Vermont/Beverly Red Line station. The proposed ballot initiative would put an end to similar projects.

The Meridian Apartments will soon replace a commercial building and surface parking less than a block from the Vermont/Beverly Red Line station with 100 affordable homes. The proposed ballot initiative would put an end to similar projects.

Communities United for Jobs and Housing, a growing coalition of affordable housing developers, community leaders, climate activists, transit advocates, and elected officials, has formed to oppose efforts by no-growth activists to pass a November ballot measure that would severely curtail, among other things, the city’s ability to address Los Angeles’ worsening housing shortage.

Nearly 40 people and organizations have begun to coalesce around stopping this initiative, spearheaded by AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein, which seeks to  freeze in place the auto-centric and sprawling growth model of yesteryear

(BREAKING: Father Gregory Boyle, director of the nonprofit Homeboy Industries, was quoted as a high-profile endorsement of the initiative in a recent L.A. Times story. He has rescinded his support of Weinstein’s initiative, according to the L.A. Times).

“If this initiative passes, construction of affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles would grind to a halt,” said Robin Hughes, president & chief executive officer for the affordable housing provider, Abode Communities.

“This measure strips away essential and established processes and procedures for the approval of vital affordable housing developments, and would significantly contribute to the ongoing affordable housing deficit here in Los Angeles,” she said.

In addition to seeking a two-year moratorium on all development, one of the main goals of the proposed initiative is to eliminate the practice of city officials granting individual projects general plan amendments, usually for additional height and density or parking reductions. But without that practice, Hughes said about half of Abode’s projects, which provide homes for households making 60 percent or less of L.A. County’s area median income, would never get built.

To get a better idea of what that means, in 2015, L.A. County’s area median income for a household of four people was $64,800, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. In order to qualify to live in one of Abode’s projects, a household of four people would have to make less than $38,880 a year.

Providing housing for working people to be able to live near to the jobs where they work is vital, said Hughes, and preventing affordable housing from being built in jobs-rich areas would only result in increased commute time for workers and more time away from their families, not to mention more congestion on the streets.

What’s more is that the measure would also continue to squeeze the middle-class by severely restricting the amount of housing that could get built in L.A. in general, Hugh said.

“The way in which the measure is written now and its constraints… would have a significant impact on residential construction overall,” she said. Read more…

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Doubling Down on an Unsustainable Future: Looking at L.A.’s “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative”

The NIMBY

The NIMBY “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative” would exacerbate L.A.’s housing shortage. Image via AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Los Angeles voters may once again have to go to the ballot box this November to determine the future of the city’s urban form.

No-growth activists led by AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein are preparing to put an initiative on the ballot this election cycle to severely restrict most future growth throughout the city. The so-called “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative,” which comes at a time when the region is experiencing a historic housing shortage, would short-circuit Los Angeles’ (albeit imperfect) effort to reshape itself along a growing network of high-quality transit corridors, bike lanes, and walkable streets.

In short, the proposed initiative, which would need the signatures of about 60,000 registered Los Angeles voters to qualify to be on the ballot, asks voters to double down on a static vision of Los Angeles as a sprawling, auto-centric mega-cluster of suburbs.

As the initiative moves forward, Streetsblog L.A. hopes to explore how the proposal would impact the city’s ability to address the major livability issues facing us today, including the regional housing shortage, income segregation, and an urban form that favors cars over other modes of transportation.

A plan to ban planning

The initiative, which specifically aims to end, among other things, the practice of amending the city’s general plan to allow specific projects to be built, does have a grain of truth in its rhetoric, said Mott Smith, principal at Civic Enterprise Development and Council of Infill Builders board member.

“The grain of truth is that we don’t follow our plans,” Smith said. “But we have this outdated style of planning. We’ve built this really complex system of workarounds.”

It is those “workarounds” that allow projects to be taller and denser than the general plan otherwise allows.

“This initiative actually bans planning. What it says is that you can never adopt a plan that substantially changes the density or height of a neighborhood,” he said.

But L.A. is changing. A growing rail transit network and an increasing demand for walkable, bikeable streets mean that the urban form has to change, if we hope to break free of the car-centric model of planning that has reigned in previous decades.

It would also certainly make it impossible for Mayor Eric Garcetti to reach his goal of alleviating rising rents caused by a major housing shortage in Los Angeles by allowing for the addition of 100,000 new homes by 2021.

“What this initiative would do is ban any future plans that allow for neighborhoods to evolve. This would lock the entire city amber as it is today,” Smith said.

That flies in the face of “AB 32, SB 375, every piece of state policy that says we need to densify our urban cores, create more walkability,” he said.  Read more…

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Mobility Plan Modest Amendments Sail Through L.A. Planning Commission

LA's Mobility Plan 2035 Image via DCP [PDF]

L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035 weathered another hearing today but still faces legal challenges

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved a series of “modest” amendments to the city’s multi-modal Mobility Plan 2035. Commissioners uniformly praised the plan, calling it “forward-thinking” and “multi-faceted”, before approving it by a 7-0 vote.

Mobility Plan 2035 is the transportation element of the City of Los Angeles’ General Plan. Mobility Plan 2035, while not going quite far enough for some livability advocates, plans network improvements for driving, transit, bicycling and walking. It also adopts Vision Zero as citywide policy.

The Mobility Plan was first approved by the same commission last May. It was then amended slightly during the subsequent City Council approval processes. Under a legal challenge, the council rescinded the amendments and re-approved the plan last month.

Mobility Plan amendments [PDF] approved today were “provisions related to equity, Council oversight, public safety, community input, and flexibility in implementation, as well as technical corrections and language cleanups related to nomenclature and map corrections.” There are additional hostile amendments proposed where Councilmembers are pushing to remove planned bike facilities, but those will not be heard until at least January.

Public testimony today in support of the plan included T.R.U.S.T South L.A., Los Angeles Walks, AARP, FAST, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition., and others.

Anti-Mobility Plan public testimony included only Fix the City and the Reason Foundation. Fix the City board member Laura Lake announced that, yesterday, her organization filed a second lawsuit against the plan. According to Fix the City’s website, the new lawsuit alleges that City Council missed an August deadline to pass an amended plan back to the Planning Commission, so the plan is therefore deemed to be denied. Fix the City asserts that the council violated the law in its recent “improper” rescind/re-approval process.

If Fix the City’s legal challenge is determined to be correct, today’s re-approval by the commission hopefully lays the initial step in the groundwork for a challenge-proof approval process. The next steps in that process would be mayoral approval, council committee approval, then full council approval.

 

 

 

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City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak. Read more…

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Mobility Plan Re-Approval Passes Joint Council Committee Meeting

John London talks about the importance of a bike lane to the safety of the community. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

John London speaking at a pro-Mobility Plan ride and rally last week. Photo by Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles’ progressive Mobility Plan 2035 was re-affirmed yesterday at a joint meeting of the City Council Transportation and Planning Committees.

In August, the plan was approved on a 12-2 vote of the L.A. City Council. Under the scrutiny of a lawsuit challenge, the city is in the process of removing some allegedly improper amendments and re-approving the plan. The plan’s critics have opined against the “luxury” of “lane-stealing” bus and bike riders. Supporters have rallied to keep the plan intact and to see planned bike lanes implemented on Central Avenue.

The committees heard nearly sixty public speakers commenting on Mobility Plan 2035, with sentiment split roughly 50-50 for and against.

Plan opponents, many mobilized by Fix the City – the group suing to undo the plan, criticized the plan for various reasons, including for “forc[ing] people to bike,” and for not prioritizing safety (which it very seriously does via its Vision Zero policy.) Opponents made dubious assertions that “bikes belong in the parks and are not a way of transportation in L.A.,” that “people over 65 cannot ride bikes,” and that bike lanes “are driving everybody crazy” and will “kill people.” One critic urged the council to overturn the plan on the basis of “overwhelming opposition” in the comments section of the L.A. Times website. A block of plan opponents, representing organizations in Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s First District, uniformly urged against plan approval on the basis that outreach had been insufficient.

Plan proponents testifying in favor included T.R.U.S.T. South L.A., Pacoima Beautiful, L.A. County Business Federation, L.A. Walks, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, FAST, AARP, and others. Supporters emphasized the plan’s commitment to a “balanced network” with numerous mobility choices, plus improved safety, health, and equity.

Some councilmembers spoke against aspects of the plan, including Paul Koretz who dubbed it “for some areas an ‘immobility’ plan.” Committee chairs Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin held off calls for delays. When the votes were taken, the rescind and re-approve motion was approved.

The vote broke down by committee as follows:  Read more…

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L.A. City Council Plans Re-Vote on Mobility Plan 2035

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

Under a procedural motion filed today, the Los Angeles City Council plans to rescind and reaffirm Mobility Plan 2035.

Earlier today, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Jose Huizar, Felipe Fuentes, and Joe Buscaino put forth the procedural motion 15-0719-s11 [PDF] to rescind and re-approve L.A.’s Mobility Plan 2035. The motion comes in response to a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that plan amendments violated City Council procedures.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, a proponent of Mobility Plan 2035 who chairs the council’s Transportation Commitee, explained today’s motion as follows:

When the City Council adopted the Mobility Plan in August, we made it clear that we wanted to give people convenient and safe options other than single-passenger cars so we could reduce traffic in our neighborhoods and protect the environment. That commitment remains firm today, and the action we proposed is a simple procedural step that was recommended by the City Attorney out of an abundance of caution. Nothing has changed in our commitment to multi-modal transportation in Los Angeles, and we will adopt the exact same Mobility Plan that was approved by the Planning Commission and championed by mobility advocates as soon as possible.

Readers will recall that during the committee and council approval processes, councilmembers proposed multiple amendments to the plan that had already been approved by the Planning Commission. Many proposed amendments were deemed to require additional deliberation and were held for future meetings.

Three fairly straightforward friendly amendments were added to the plan during the approval process. Amendments adopted by council included Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s push for equity and Councilmember David Ryu’s push for community input. An additional amendment explicitly made the City Council a part of plan implementation. Arguably, each of these amendments drew attention to things already implicitly in the plan.

Soon after the Mobility plan was approved, the non-profit Fix the City challenged it in court. The lawsuit asserts that the City Council was not permitted to amend the plan during the approval processes. Today, in order to respond to the legal challenge and to re-affirm the vision outlined in the plan, city councilmembers started the process for removing the disallowed amendments.

Initial notice of the re-do sparked some questioning on Twitter, but livability advocates are affirming that the process is necessary. L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler told SBLA, “When implemented, Mobility Plan 2035 will give everyone better options for getting around Los Angeles whether biking, walking, using transit, or driving. Making this procedural correction reaffirms the City Council’s commitment to providing safe and dignified transportation for all residents, whether or not they have access to a car.”

Theoretically, with no amendments to debate, the rescind and re-vote process should be straightforward. More likely, it will be an opportunity for plan opponents and proponents to communicate their views to a City Council that already approved the plan on a 12-2 vote.

From today’s Bonin/Huizar/Fuentes/Buscaino motion [PDF]:

As part of Council deliberations, Council approved three amendments to the plan. On September 9, 2015, a lawsuit was filed challenging the Mobility Plan, and, among other things, specifically contending that the Council’s approval of the amendments did not comply with the procedures prescribed in Los Angeles City Charter Code Section 555. In order to cure the alleged procedural defect, Council would first need to rescind the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended.

It is equally important for the Council to reaffirm its commitment to the Mobility Plan 2035 and to continue to build multi-modal transportation options for Angelenos.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Council take the following actions:

1. Rescind the August 11, 2015 resolution adopting the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended by the City Council; and

2. Adopt a resolution adopting the draft Mobility Plan 2035 as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor on May 28, 2015, and June 5, 2015, respectively

Also today, a notice [PDF] was emailed informing interested parties that the rescind-adopt motion will be heard at a special joint meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management and Transportation Committees to be held on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 2:30 p.m.

(Article modified 6 p.m. October 30 to include statement from Councilmember Bonin.)

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Streetsblog Talks Mobility Plan On KCRW’s Which Way L.A.? Tonight At 7pm

Tune in to Which Way L.A.? tonight for a discussion of L.A. newly approved Mobility Plan.

Tune in to Which Way L.A.? tonight for a discussion of L.A.’s newly approved Mobility Plan.

From 7 to 8 p.m. tonight, tune in to KCRW radio 89.9 FM to hear Streetsblog L.A. Editor Joe Linton weighing in on the recent L.A. City Council approval of Mobility Plan 2035.

Mobility Plan 2035 envisions a multimodal transportation future, with enhanced facilities for walking, bicycling, driving, and riding transit. It sets an important Vision Zero policy target to eliminate all traffic fatalities in the city by 2035. The plan has numerous shortcomings, including continued road-widening, substandard crosswalks, and little in the way of actual assured implementation. Nonetheless, it has generated a backlash among car-focused Angelenos, who claim they are planning to go to court to undo its approval.

Click here to listen to the program.

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L.A. City Council Approves New Mobility Plan, Including Vision Zero

City Council Planning Committee Chair Jose Huizar speaking in favor of Mobility Plan approval today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

City Council Planning Committee Chair Jose Huizar speaking in favor of Mobility Plan approval today. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

After a lengthy and contentious debate, the full Los Angeles City Council approved the city’s new Mobility Plan, the Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan. Mobility Plan 2035 replaces the city’s former transportation plan in effect since 1999. The final vote was 12 in favor, with only Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo opposing.

The approved plan places a high priority on traffic safety, including making Vision Zero official citywide policy. L.A. is now committed to “decrease transportation-related fatality rate to zero by 2035.”

Public testimony was limited to 20 minutes, and was heavily in favor of plan approval.

A number of councilmembers offered amending motions that would have removed specific bikeway components from the plan:

  • Councilmember Koretz continued to press til the last moment to remove Westwood Boulevard from the bikeway network. Ultimately, he forced a vote, which lost with only three councilmembers in support.
  • Councilmember Gil Cedillo continued to press for pretty much all future Council District 1 bikeways to be removed from the plan, as his staff had proposed in committee last week. When Cedillo questioned Department of City Planning staff about these modifications, they responded that a change of that magnitude was likely to trigger additional environmental studies.
  • Councilmember Curren Price proposed removing Central Avenue from the bikeway network
  • Councilmember David Ryu proposed removing 4th Street from the bikeway network.

Other than the Koretz motion, which was voted down, the rest of the proposed amendments will be heard later, in a joint meeting of the Planning and Transportation committees anticipated in September.

Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin showed strong livability leadership in ensuring committee and council approval, and staving off piecemeal amendments. Ultimately, Huizar and Bonin were able to shepherd plan approval with only two council amendments. In committee, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson added that the plan would include equity in implementation. Today, Councilmember Ryu added that plan implementation would consider public safety and community input in implementation. Read more…

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Planning and Transportation Committees Approve Mobility Plan 2035

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

The city of Los Angeles’ proposed Mobility Plan 2035 was approved by two key council committees yesterday. Image via DCP [PDF]

The city of Los Angeles’ progressive new Mobility Plan was approved by two City Council committees yesterday. The joint meeting of the Los Angeles City Council committees for Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) both approved the plan intact, postponing decisions on sabotage attempts by City Councilmbers Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo.

Streetsblog readers may be familiar with earlier coverage including from when Mobility Plan 2035 passed the city’s Planning Commission in May. If current trends continue, the relatively-multi-modal plan may look archaic by 2035, but it is nonetheless a big step in the right direction today. The Mobility Plan includes Vision Zero, a program to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2035. In addition, the plan creates a series of network streets prioritizing various modes including walking, driving, transit and bicycling. Once adopted, the new plan would replace the one currently in effect: the 1999 Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan.

The two committees are chaired by arguably the best livability leaders on the City Council. Jose Huizar chairs PLUM, and Mike Bonin chairs Transportation. In his introductory remarks, Councilmember Bonin decried that L.A. has been “too long autocentric” and that this plan helps the city to catch up with multi-modal transportation already increasingly embraced by the public. Staff leadership from the Department of City Planning (DCP) and Department of Transportation (LADOT) then presented the plan as a “balanced approach,” a “policy shift,” and a “recognition that we can’t build our way out of traffic congestion.”

Staff’s presentation was followed by more than fifty public comments. Similar to the Planning Commission hearing, the vast majority of speakers were in favor of adopting the plan as is, while a sizable minority, primarily focused on opposing Westwood Boulevard bike lanes, spoke against. Opponents stated that Westwood bike lanes would be “a disaster” and that the plan would not serve the “85 percent who must drive cars.”

Bonin and Huizar were adept in staving off two councilmembers pushing to undermine the plan’s bikeways. Councilmember Koretz, claiming to be pro-bike based on his late-1990s support of West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard bike lanes, repeatedly asserted that Westwood Boulevard should be removed from the plan’s bikeway network, and that Westwood Boulevard really needs 16.5 foot wide lanes. Councilmember Cedillo was even more aggressively opposed to bikeway improvements, sending staff to request that the committees remove nearly all of the plan’s designated future bike facilities in his council district: a dozen streets listed here. Reacting to Koretz’s prolonged insistence on eliminating his Westwood facility, Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Felipe Fuentes responded that they’d like to see the opposite – more facilities implemented sooner in their districts.

Ultimately the full plan was passed unanimously by both committees, with both the Koretz and Cedillo motions postponed to be heard later in committees. The approval included a handful of minor amendments, including one from Councilmember Harris-Dawson that equity be a key factor in facility implementation.

The full Mobility Plan is expected to be heard at the full City Council some time next week.

More coverage of yesterday’s plan approval at KPCC.

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MobilityMondayLA: Let City Council Know You Support Multi-Modal Future

Today is Mobility Monday. Contact your L.A. City Councilmember to urge approval of the city Mobility Plan

Today is Mobility Monday. Contact your L.A. City Councilmember to urge approval of the city Mobility Plan

The City of Los Angeles is in the process of updating the transportation portion of the city’s General Plan. The new citywide transportation plan is called Mobility Plan 2035. The Mobility Plan was recently approved by the City Planning Commission. It is expected to go to a joint meeting of the City Council’s Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management committees next week, on Tuesday June 23.

Though it could go further, there’s a lot for livability advocates to like in the latest version of the Plan. More than the 1999 plan in effect today, Mobility Plan 2035 outlines a multi-modal future for Los Angeles, including complete streets, less road widening, and a Vision Zero commitment to make streets dramatically safer for everyone.

The latest version of the Mobility Plan has a great deal of support from a fairly diverse spectrum of interests – from active transportation allies to the business community. At the Planning Commission hearing, supporters included the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), Lyft, the Sierra Club, T.R.U.S.T. South L.A., Community Health Councils, the L.A. County Department of Public Health, and many others. But, because the Mobility Plan shows a future that some Angelenos stuck in their cars aren’t used to, it’s starting to get just a bit of backlash, for example, this topsy-turvy CityWatch commentary.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and others, have called today “Mobility Monday L.A.” They urge people who bike, walk, use transit, drive, live, and/or breathe in the city of Los Angeles to contact City Council representatives and urge support for the plan. For lots more details, see the Bike Coalition alert page. Councilmember information and sample wording are after the jump. Read more…