Area Streetsblog Writer Struggles Mightily with Planner-ese with LA/2B Staff and Planning Students from UCLA
I am not a planner.
This will not come as a surprise to those of you who are familiar with my writing.
I am not ashamed of that or the fact that it means I have a lot of catch-up to do with regard to figuring out how to decipher what the city’s intentions for South L.A. are.
But it does mean I often find myself feeling very stupid when confronted with seemingly simple questions.
Framed too narrowly or in a way that differs from the way I experience or process the world, queries as basic as, “What are the unique transit needs of a particular group?” can leave me stuttering and struggling to weave together what I understand to be very complex and conditional threads into a simplified conceptual package, as it did while I was speaking at the Women, Transit, and Los Angeles: Claiming a Safer Multi-modal Community event held at UCLA last night.
Even though I had had a few days to think about it, and spend a lot of time dedicated to writing about why current planning approaches are not always a good fit for the needs of South L.A., I found myself tripping up when it came to figuring out what kind of answers the organizers (graduate students in planning) were looking for.
In the end, I walked away feeling like I hadn’t said much of value or been able to communicate the things I had wanted to in a way that felt true to my experience or the needs of the communities I cover.
Which kinda sucked.
But it happens a lot. And not just to me.
I’ve got a number of planning meetings and hearings under my belt now and, the truth is, they generally tend to be wholly unsatisfactory experiences for many of the community members who, like me, have ideas about things they desperately want to see happen in their communities but have no clue as to how to relate their ideas to the maps, charts, feedback expectations, and frames of reference of the Planning Department.
LA/2B, a project of the Los Angeles Departments of City Planning and Transportation, is the effort to revise the Mobility Element of the General Plan for the city. The goal is to create a vision for a new way of moving vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians around the city that allows for streets to be as much about community, health, safety, and access as about mobility.
A year and a half into the update process, the LA/2B team is now looking to solicit feedback from the public regarding the kinds of questions they would like to see addressed in the EIR. The EIR will analyze the environmental (traffic, air quality, noise, etc.) impacts of the updates to the Mobility Element, identify ways to lessen impacts, and clarify environmental issues and choices. It also serves as a resource for the planners, who use it when making decisions about whether or not to approve, deny or amend projects to mitigate any negative impacts.
Gathering feedback about the corridors and districts selected to be part of the Vehicle-Enhanced Networks (VENs), Bicycle-Enhanced Networks (BENs), Transit-Enhanced Networks (TENs) and Pedestrian-Enhanced Districts (PEDs) (see docs/maps here) is the last participatory stage before the presentation of the Draft EIR and Draft Plan, scheduled for this fall.
Although the process seems logical, looking at the maps of the districts and networks posted up around the room at Monday’s sparsely attended scoping meeting, it was hard to know what feedback to offer that would fall within the category of environmental impacts.
I looked at the maps and thought, “I got nothin.’” Read more…