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New Chamber of Commerce Excited About Great Streets on Venice Blvd.

Bonin bus stop

Mike Bonin hops on the Venice Rapid for his morning commute. This uncharacteristically damp morning isn’t the best background, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before Venice can truly be considered a Great Street. Photo: Damien Newton

Mike Bonin is not someone who is known for thinking small.

“There’s a universe of opportunities,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin, of the proposed “Great Street” on Venice Boulevard. “But it’s important that this not be ‘Mike’s project,’ or the ‘Mayor’s project,’ or the ‘DOT’s Project,’ but the people’s project.”

Bonin was speaking excitedly about the “Great Streets” designation granted to Venice Boulevard between Inglewood Boulevard on the east and Beethoven Street on the west. Great Streets is an initiative to take a section of street in each of the fifteen City Council Districts and turn them into great places to walk, bike, sit outside, or just be…just exist.

While Bonin prefers the phrase “universe of opportunities” to describe everything that can be done, Mayor Eric Garcetti uses the term “urban-acupuncture” to illustrate the idea that these streets will be slimmed down to car traffic and opened up for other uses. Think of streets with trees for shade, modern crosswalks, clean and wide sidewalks, even just appropriately placed park benches and trash cans.

“A small burst of energy can transform a community,” Garcetti is fond of saying.

“One small change, especially if the community is behind it, can get things rolling,” Bonin echoes.

So what will Venice Boulevard look like after it has been changed to a Great Street? And when will Venice, or any of the other 14 Great Streets, actually start to see improvements?

There is not a good answer to the second question. Nobody seems to know when street improvements are going to come.

As for the first one…

“I have some ideas, but it’s really up to the community,” Bonin promises.

During the 2013 election, Bonin offered a vision of a Venice Boulevard teeming with small businesses and a walkable community during our candidates’ forum. But when pressed in our Great Streets interview, he kept going back to the idea that this was the community’s decision.

Not his.

Not Garcetti’s.

The community’s. Read more…

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Leimert Park People St. Plaza Set for Soft Opening at December CicLAvia

Detail of People St. Plaza plan and the Sankhofa symbol -- one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design

The People St. Plaza plan for 43rd Pl in Leimert Park and the Sankofa symbol — one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. The Metro station for the Crenshaw Line will be just a few hundred feet away. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design (click to enlarge)

On my way to a meeting of the Leimert Park Village stakeholders at the Vision Theater a few weeks ago, I poked my head into the art space known as the KAOS Network looking for founder and artist Ben Caldwell.

I found him huddled around a table with Sherri Franklin, the founder of Urban Design Center, and Alison Kendall, Principal Architect at Kendall Planning + Design (both of whom worked on the project pro-bono), finalizing the designs for Leimert Park’s People St. plaza project to be implemented at 43rd Pl. between Leimert Park Bl. and Degnan.

As Kendall and Franklin discussed the color scheme and the type and placement of street furniture and foliage around the perimeter, Caldwell scrolled through images of symbols that they hoped to use to fill in the polka dots that would grace the plaza. It was coming down to the wire, Kendall said, as she flipped through the pages of the plan. They needed to get their design specifications in to LADOT for approval so that the plaza would be ready in time for a soft opening at CicLAvia on December 7.

Watching them go back and forth over which elements would fit within LADOT’s standard kit offerings provided a hint of the effort it had taken to pull the proposal together.

Stakeholders had first needed to find a “community partner” (in this case, the Institute for Maximum Human Potential) who could provide insurance for the plaza, aid with the design, and take responsibility for the financing, maintenance, and programming around the project. Then they needed to gather signatures and letters of support, pull together a budget and list of potential plaza-centric activities, and design the space in a way that felt organic to the community but fit within the standard options that LADOT was offering (see more about the development of the project and the Thought Leadership Team here).

While they had embraced the idea of putting together a People St. project, they had been adamant that they wanted it to reflect the character and culture of the community. It also had to fit into their “20/20 Vision” — the longer-term strategy for the future named, in part, for the year the Leimert Park station of the Crenshaw Line is expected to open. Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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LADOT’s Bold New Strategic Vision: Eliminate L.A. Traffic Deaths By 2025

Cover of LADOT's bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Cover of LADOT’s bold new strategic plan. View full document here.

Today, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released its new strategic plan, entitled Great Streets for Los Angeles.

First, we’ll editorialize enthusiastically: this plan is excellent.

And very much needed in Los Angeles.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds characterizes it as a “plan [that] requires us to do our jobs in a fundamentally different way.”

There have long been holistic thinkers at LADOT, but they’ve been in the minority, squeezing in opportunistic improvements in the midst of a departmental culture that prioritized car convenience. In the past half-dozen years, under the leadership of previous General Manager Jaime de la Vega and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LADOT has warmed up to a broader mission that balances the needs of all road users.

But today’s plan is a quantum leap forward.

Front and center in the new plan is Vision Zero.

For the uninitiated, Vision Zero is a transportation planning, law enforcement, and planning project started in Sweden in 1997. The goal is simple: eradicate traffic fatalities. Any traffic fatality is one too many. Every decision involving transportation, from how wide a road should be to how to target traffic enforcement efforts, must meet the goal of making the streets safer for all road users.

From LADOT's plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

From LADOT’s plan: eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025

LADOT is thinking big — the departmental plan is to “eliminate traffic fatalities in Los Angeles by 2025.”

Under Vision Zero, L.A. joins San Francisco, New York City, and many other great cities around the world in the push to eliminate traffic fatalities. By embracing Vision Zero as its first and most prominent goal, LADOT is finally saying “enough is enough.” Safety will now be the first priority in transportation decisions going forward.

“There’s a reason it’s the first thing you see when you get into the meat of the plan,” says Reynolds of Vision Zero. “Changing the way we talk about [safety in transportation], and changing the way we think about it, and changing the way that we approach our everyday work to refocus around this — that’s the thing that really is most inspiring and exciting to me.”

“To see LADOT commit to ending traffic deaths in our lifetime is a dream come true,” writes Deborah Murphy, the founder and president of Los Angeles Walks. “L.A. Walks is determined that the Vision Zero campaign will engage more city departments, including LAPD, public works, city planning and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to ensure the successful implementation of the campaign and assure the improved safety of our streets.”

While it is great to see LADOT take a lead on Vision Zero, it is doubly encouraging to see the department heeding Murphy’s advice — the plan identifies city agencies as partners. Reynolds further states that “external partners are also implicit in our success.” That means you, Streetsblog readers.

There’s plenty more in the plan that Streetsblog readers will love. Read more…

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Thanks For a Great Reception for LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds Last Night!

Happy Birthday Seleta Reynolds (left)! Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Candles on Big Man Bakes cupcakes to wish a warm happy birthday to Seleta Reynolds (right.) Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night’s capacity crowd reception honored the city of Los Angeles Transportation Department’s new General Manager Seleta Reynolds. Not only is Reynolds a champion for safety and for great places, but she even committed to scheduling this reception though it coincided with her birthday.

A big thanks to all the folks responsible for making last night’s reception a big success:

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Meet Seleta Reynolds, the Safe Streets Advocate Running LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the "Dressed Rehearsal" on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

Seleta Reynolds speaks at the ribbon cutting for the “Dress Rehearsal” on Broadway. Photo: LADOT

(If you want to skip the article and the editing and just listen to our half-hour conversation, click here. – DN)

If you spend some time with the newly minted General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, you would think she was an LADOT lifer not a recent transplant from the San Francisco MTA.

She can speak eloquently of the “great heart” that Los Angeles’ people have, belying the image projected by Hollywood.

Dressed in a suit and bike helmet, she points out road hazards on her bike commute to work, weaves around every pothole, manhole, and cracked street with the knowledge of a regular.

She can even recite DOT history going back years, thanks in part to her avid interest in reading Streetsblog.

It’s not until you visit her office that you remember Seleta Reynolds has been on the job at LADOT for roughly a month. The walls are nearly barren. A map of her first project at Fehr and Peers, the Morro Street Bicycle Boulevard in San Luis Obispo, had arrived the day before our interview.

But you don’t need blank walls to tell you that Reynolds is a true breath of fresh air to a department that, in the past, has primarily prioritized a perceived need to drive quickly. Reynolds talked about community and community building in response to questions about the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, equity in transportation funding, relationships with the City Council, and building a bicycle share system that will work in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region.

And it’s these new ideas, and a new commitment to an LADOT that is people-focused, that has advocates, and our political leadership, so excited. When announcing her nomination to head LADOT, Mayor Eric Garcetti referred to her as the “ideal field marshal in our war against traffic.” City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike Bonin was just as illustrative in an email response for this story, “Seleta is a rock star – a game-changer – who will lead the charge to get Los Angeles moving again.”

I could write a full story on each of the eight topics we covered last Tuesday, but instead I’ve broken up the audio into more manageable three- or four-minute segments with a short summary. This can all be found after the jump. Read more…

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Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Read more…

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LADOT Seeking Input on Plan to Offer Discount to TAP Users

Are reduced fares on the way for users of LADOT’s TAP on DASH bus service?

The LADOT recently held public hearings seeking comments on proposed new Electronic Payment Incentive Fares along with sharing new Disparate Impact and Disproportionate Burden Fare Policies that it says “are supportive of the incentive fares, and also establish criteria for how fares would be raised in the future”.

New TAP Cards

New TAP Cards

Here is a summary of the main proposals per the announcement on the LADOT website:

The implementation of the Los Angeles Region’s TAP smart card system has enabled LADOT to offer new pricing options to riders that were not available with LADOT’s existing passes and tickets. LADOT’s demonstration of mobile ticketing, through the use of smart phones, will also support these proposed fare options. That mobile ticketing demonstration, called LA Mobile, will take place in Fall 2014.

LADOT is proposing to reduce its DASH single-ride fare from 50 cents to 35 cents if a rider uses a TAP card to pay the fare. The 30% discount is intended to lure riders to using the TAP card that provides multiple benefits including the ability to protect the card balance from loss or theft. Read more…

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Panel Review: “The New Streets of L.A.”

We might want to remember that Levi Strauss & Company is a clothing company which follows fashion trends while indeed playing a role in the creation of trends.  The above Levi’s Commercial in which an internal-combustion-powered vehicle is apparently allowed onto the trading floor of a major stock or commodities exchange in New York City actually propelled Steve Miller’s song “The Joker” to the number one spot on the UK charts in September of 1990, some 16 years after it was released in 1973. Powerful stuff that sturdy fabric from the city of Nimes in France.

Photo: Maria Sipin

Photo: Maria Sipin

It is however is no joke that Levi’s has opened a “pop-up” “commuter workshop” in Downtown Los Angeles, rather than a more traditional location for such Brigadoon-like ventures such as Melrose. Even choosing Downtown, one would expect to see this pop-up around the established shopping crossroads of 7th and Figueroa, not just east of Broadway but by golly east of Spring on 5th! To think that 15 years ago many thought Tom Gilmore was nuts for planning hotels in “Skid Row.”

The workshop is really more of a corporate-sponsored Bicycle Kitchen with places to repair the iron steed of course, but also space to socialize or even get your torn jeans repaired by helpful seamstresses (well, they were all female last night!). Of course, you can also test ride a Tokyobike or peruse the Levi’s Commuter clothing line which is aimed at bicycle users.

Last night anyone who RSVP’d in advance (and was over 21) was able to attend a well-produced presentation arranged and moderated by Aaron Paley of CicLAvia on the future of our public spaces entitled, “The New Streets of L.A.”  The event was packed to capacity, despite the unfortunate, and IMHO unnecessary (did beer really need to be served?) age restriction.

Photo: Maria Sipin

From left to right: Jennifer Klausner, Avit Shavit, Tafarai Bayne, Seleta Reynolds, Aaron Paley, Deborah Murphey Photo: Maria Sipin

Presenting were: Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: New Road Diet Bike Lanes on Figueroa Street!

Newly striped bike lanes on Figueroa Street at Anaheim Street. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Eyes on the Street: Newly striped bike lanes on Figueroa Street at Anaheim Street. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

There are brand new bike lanes on Figueroa Street. Despite all the ruckus, LADOT went ahead and removed one travel lane, making room for new bike lanes…  Read more…