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Connecting Communities Through Art and Bikes: The Pacoima Mural Ride

Artist Manny Velazquez shares the story behind the Danny Trejo mural in Pacoima. Photo Erick Huerta

Artist Manny Velazquez shares the story behind the Danny Trejo mural in Pacoima. Photo Erick Huerta

Weaving together history and art with bicycles, the Pacoima Mural Ride guided participants on a people’s tour of some of the treasures found in the San Fernando Valley (SFV), this past Saturday. The ride introduced cyclists from every corner of Los Angeles to the community spaces, cafes, and murals that tell the history of the community, even as new chapters are added with each new mural that is painted.

Organized by the cyclist collective Bikesanas del Valle, the ride highlighted a mix of murals painted within the last few years, all emphasizing the different aspects and rich history of the community. Manny Velazquez was one of the artists who was part of the ride and shared some of the history of mural art in the SFV.

Velazquez, who has been active in the community since the 1970s, bridged the history with the present as he talked about some of the murals he has painted and the other murals we visited along Van Nuys Blvd, which has become known as Mural Mile. He explained that the majority of murals painted in the last few years have all been accomplished through fundraising or by the artist paying out-of-pocket.

The do-it-yourself spirit can been seen at almost every mural and even brought together an all-women collective called “HOODsisters,” adding the voices of some of the women that also live and contribute in this community.

A member of the HOODSisters collectives shares the inspiration behind the "Honoring Our Origins" mural

Member of the HOODSisters collective shares the inspiration behind the “Honoring Our Origins” mural. Photo: Erick Huerta

Artists in the Valley don’t have the same kind of support networks that other artists in Los Angeles do in terms of getting funding through grants. Despite the lack of institutional support, artists like Kristy Sandoval and Rah Azul have relied on community support to fundraise for painting supplies and helping paint the mural itself. Read more…


Metro July Meeting Re-Cap: Subway, SRTP, Active Transpo, and More

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads San Fernando Valley rail supporters rally this morning for Orange Line upgrades. Yesterday the Metro Board approved a motion that directs the agency to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian (at podium) leads a San Fernando Valley rail supporters press event this morning. Yesterday, Metro approved a motion to take a closer look at converting the Orange Line from BRT to light rail. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s July Board of Directors meeting took place yesterday. As usual, it was four-plus hours long, with plenty of implications for the future of livability and transportation for the region. SBLA re-caps the meeting below.

Mayor Garcetti Assumes Board Chair

Yesterday’s meeting was Mayor Eric Garcetti’s first as the new chair of Metro’s Board of Directors. Garcetti opened with some remarks outlining his priorities for his Metro chair tenure. After giving the obligatory nod to disliking L.A. traffic, Garcetti assured that his transportation priorities are regional, not ending at L.A. City borders. His greatest enthusiasm is for innovation, especially using technology to make our transportation systems smarter. He affirmed that Los Angeles’ transportation future will be multi-modal.

More on Garcetti’s Metro vision: The Source, Daily News

Contract Approved for Purple Line Subway Construction

The biggest and most contentious item on the agenda was approval of the $1.6 billion contract for 3.9 miles of Purple Line subway construction under Wilshire Boulevard from Western Avenue to La Cienega Boulevard. As recommended by Metro staff, the board awarded the contract to the “STS” contractor team of Skanska, Traylor and Shea. The STS bid was nearly $200 million more expensive than a competing bid by Dragados, leading some board members to question the selection process. Construction will likely begin this year, and the line is anticipated to open in 2023.

More on the Subway Contract: L.A. Times, The Source

Short Range Transportation Plan Approved

Metro approved its 10-year, $88 billion Short Range Transportation Plan more-or-less as initially proposed. Metro staff asserted that the SRTP is less a new plan and more a sort of progress report on the agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan. The perception is, though, that the SRTP is a sort of early casting call for projects to get in line for a possible 2016 transportation funding ballot measure. Speakers before the board urged more funding for active transportation, building the 710 Freeway tunnel, converting the Orange Line from BRT to rail, and extending the Gold Line eastward.

Read more…


Metro Raising Parking Rates for NoHo and Universal; Most Parking Still Free

Parking lot at Metro's Universal City Red Line Station. Most spaces are free to the driver, but several hundred monthly permit spaces will see a rate increase this July.

Parking lot at Metro’s Universal City Red Line Station. Most spaces remain free to the driver, but several hundred San Fernando Valley monthly permit spaces will see a rate increase this July. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

As of July 1st 2014, Metro will raise monthly permit parking rates for two of its most popular and most sold-out parking lots. Metro’s North Hollywood Red Line Station monthly parking permit will go from $39 to $59. Universal City Station monthly parking permits will go from $39 to $55.

SBLA has been critical of Metro’s ineffective and fiscally-irresponsible parking policies. These increases are a worthwhile small step in the right direction. The increases help Metro make parking available to people who need it, while lessening parking cost burdens on the vast majority of Metro’s riders whose trips do not begin with driving.

As of July 2014, Metro will increase monthly parking permit rates for two popular San Fernando Valley Red Line Stations. Screenshot

As of July 2014, Metro will increase monthly parking permit rates for two popular San Fernando Valley Red Line Stations. Screenshot this morning

The majority of parking at these Metro stations remains free.

At least free to drivers.

Well, free to those drivers who show up by 6:30am or so.  Read more…

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San Fernando Votes To Move Forward With Pacoima Wash Bikeway

Salvador Valentin, of Bikesan@s del Valle collective, and his son Isaac testify in support of the Pacoima Wash Bikeway. The San Fernando City Council approved moving forward with pursuing state funding for the project.

Salvador Valentin, of Bikesan@s del Valle collective, and his son Isaac testify in support of the Pacoima Wash Bikeway. The San Fernando City Council approved moving forward with pursuing state funding for the project.

Last night, the city of San Fernando moved a step closer to constructing a new bike path along the Pacoima Wash. The city council voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of seeking California state Active Transportation Program (ATP) funding. If everything goes smoothly, the Pacoima Wash Bikeway would open to the public in early 2017.

The bike path will extend the full 1.6-mile length of the Pacoima Wash within the City of San Fernando, from roughly San Fernando Road to Foothill Boulevard. It will also connect with the city’s existing rail-with-trail bike path that runs between San Fernando Road and the Metrolink railroad tracks. That bike path is currently being extended eastward, with construction underway within the city of Los Angeles.

The Pacoima Wash is a tributary of the Los Angeles River. It runs more-or-less north-south through the San Fernando Valley, through the city of San Fernando and neighborhoods within the city of Los Angeles including Sylmar, Pacoima, and Arleta, where it joins the Tujunga Wash. Like many southland creeks, the Pacoima Wash is encased in concrete and fenced off.

In 2000, the city of San Fernando adopted a plan for parks and bicycle and pedestrian paths along the Pacoima Wash. The city sought and obtained project funding from Metro’s 2007 Call for Projects. In 2008, the nonprofit Pacoima Beautiful obtained County Public Health PLACE grant funding to extend Pacoima greenway planning to San Fernando’s adjacent city of L.A. neighborhoods. Pacoima Beautiful spearheaded the planning process for the Pacoima Wash Vision Plan, which calls for a 2.6-mile bikeway connecting with the Angeles National Forest.

There are two new small Pacoima Wash parks already underway, both collaborations between cities and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA.) The city of San Fernando’s 8th Street Park is complete and ready for its grand opening, anticipated very soon. Nearby downstream, in the city of L.A.’s Pacoima neighborhood, El Dorado Park is funded and currently being designed.

Things appeared to be moving along well, albeit slowly, for Pacoima Wash revitalization. Then Metro pulled back its funding, requiring that San Fernando instead apply for state ATP funding. This triggered the need for a new vote at the San Fernando City Council, where elected officials and staff are almost all new since the 2007 Metro funding was obtained. Read more…


Vroom! Speed Limit Increases Head Back to City Council, But Do They Have To?

View 2 7 12 speed limits in a larger map

A trio of speed limit proposals head to the City Council Transportation Committee tomorrow.  The proposals total 5.4 miles of city streets that would see a limit increase. Half of those miles would see a dramatic increase from 35 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour. The areas due for an increase are:

A team of advocates including representatives from Los Angeles Walks, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Ridazz, an online general assembly of concerned cyclists, is planning to lobby the Committee to hold back the limit increases.  Councilmen have begrudgingly passed similar increases in the past in an effort to support LAPD traffic enforcement.

“In order for Los Angeles to truly become a bicycle friendly city, the city needs put a moratorium on speed limit increases and address managing speeds by evaluating how our roadways are engineered. Roadway design & engineering influence travel speeds and we need to implement solutions on our roadways that are going to create safer streets that encourage good driving behavior instead of rewarding speeding by constantly increasing the speed limit,” argues Alexis Lantz with the LACBC.
State law requires that speed limits be set to the 85th percentile of free flowing traffic in order for police to use radar to enforce the limits.  Efforts to overhaul the law have consistently run into roadblocks for speeding traffic advocates such as the AAA and California Highway Patrol.   However, a law passed last year allows cities to “round down” if they believe that increased limits would create a dangerous environment.  All of these proposals were authored in 2010, a full year before A.B. 529 was signed into law.

Read more…


Daily News: Valley Needs Smart Transit

An editorial in today’s Daily News calls for smart, strategic transit investments in the San Fernando Valley to insure that The Valley streets don’t resemble their clogged counterparts on the Westside.  Including their editorial two weeks ago wondering when the SFV is going to get CicLAvia, this marks the second time in October that the Valley’s paper of record is asking for more progressive transportation options.

The Westfield Promenade in Woodland Hills is one major development with limited transportation options. Photo: Wikimedia

The key to making a more crowded Valley work is to embrace mass transit — sooner and more intelligently than other parts of the region have done.

For years, lots of people who lived in the Valley drove to West Los Angeles for work or nightlife. Once there, we encountered some of the worst freeway and street traffic in Greater L.A. That side of town failed to do public transportation right, and they paid dearly.

The Daily News goes on to make the point that transit service needs to serve existing destinations as well as planned future destinations.

More people are coming to the Valley. We must accept it, and make smart choices about transportation and planning to avoid the mistakes of the Westside.

Congratulations to the Daily News. With two quick editorials, the paper has rocketed to the front of the list of sustainable transportation print publications.  Maybe there’s a secondary benefit to having Dakota Smith wandering the news room.


Metro Is Looking for Transit Options for Van Nuys Boulevard: Let’s Help Them Out

What's the best transit option for Van Nuys Boulevard

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Yesterday, the Daily News reported on a series of public meetings (including ones tonight and tomorrow) designed to solicit feedback on what rapid transit option makes the most sense for the densest and most congested portion of Van Nuys Boulevard.  $68.5 million has been set aside for this project from Measure R and Metro hopes it can be up and running by 2018.

But for now, we don’t even know what “it” is.  The Metro team has four very basic concepts for a 10.25-mile long project on Van Nuys Boulevard between the 210 Freeway and Ventura Boulevard: a “no-build” option of “street improvements,” a “Portland-style” Streetcar, an “Orange-Line” style rapid bus or “Expo Line” style light rail.  The project area is almost a mile wide, so they have room for completely separated transit ways, and maybe even enough for bike paths as well.

Any of the proposed alternatives, except the “no-build,” is going to require additional funding from somewhere.  The 14 mile original Orange Line cost $325 million and Phase 1 of the Expo Line is estimated to cost $930 million. Read more…


End Goal in Pacoima: A Wash That’s Beautiful

The Pacoima Wash Vision Plan doesn't choose between modes, but seeks to accommodate all of them. That's one reason that the rift between cyclists and horse riders that was so apparent during the Bike Plan process is not even on the map. All renderings via Mia Lehrer and Associates.

One of the lessons that the world’s great cities learned is how to use natural and man created landmarks to strengthen and create great places. This is one area where Los Angeles still lags, and nowhere is this clearer than in the case of the Pacoima Wash.

The Wash is a tributary of the Los Angeles River (actually a tributary of a tributary, but who’s counting) that runs through the San Fernando Valley from the Pacoima Dam southwest through Sylmar, the city of San Fernando and eventually Pacoima. Instead of being a vibrant open space designed to connect disparate communities and bring people together outdoors, the Wash is a physical barrier as real as a freeway or freight rail line. The land surrounding the Wash is kept behind fences, the trail running parallel is closed to the public and behind bars, instead of people, the Wash’s greenspace is a resting ground for weeds.

But a non-profit environmental justice organization known as Pacoima Beautiful wants to change all that. And with the help of the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s Policies for Livable and Active Communities and Environments (PLACE) Grant they will soon have an official plan to help do so. The first step in the process of turning the Wash from eye sore to community anchor is to create a vision for the area, a vision that is informed by representative of the community, and that’s what Pacoima Beautiful and its allies are trying to do.

“Pacoima Wash is a very important natural, open space to the community so we’re protecting it,” supplies Anita Cerna with the City of Los Angeles Department of Planning. “Now we’re also studying the Wash to see if there’s a way we can use it beyond being a place to collect water”

And help for the community can’t come soon enough. Pacoima is a desert when it comes to open space, even with the large Ritchie Valens Park located just off the 118 Highway. Pacoima has 54.3 acres of park space. According to the LA City General Plan, the ideal ratio of park space is 4 acres per 1,000 residents. Because Pacoima has over 100,000 people its ideal ratio,is close to 400 acres of park space. Read more…


The Real Lessons of Carmageddon – Angelenos Aren’t Idiots, We Have Too Many Highways

This banner appeared over the I-10 briefly on Saturday morning. L.A. without cars? It was kind of nice. Photo: Jonathan Weiss

There are two theories to transportation engineering and traffic.  One theory is that traffic is like a raging river.  If you block it in one place, it will flow someplace else.  If you add more space for it to flow, it will flow more smoothly.  This theory has dominated traffic and transportation plans for years.

This theory got kicked in the shins over the last weekend.

The other theory is that people make choices based on what they believe makes the most sense at the time.  Under that theory, if you spend a disproportionate amount of resources building and expanding highways, people will drive, even for short trips that could easily be completed on bike or foot.

If you believe the first theory, this weekend’s temporary closure of the I-405, “the most driven highway in the country,” should have been a disaster.  There should have been drivers everywhere stuck on surface streets and gridlock should have clogged up all the freeways as people used their high-tech Waze application to “Beat Carmageddon” by exercising their God-given right to drive wherever they want to.  If you believe the second, then everything should have been fine.

The sad thing is, most transportation planners, especially ones working in Greater Los Angeles, still seem to believe the first theory.  After all, while the city and surrounding area benefitted tremendously from the closure of the 405, the reason the project was closed was so that they could expand the freeway, creating another pipe to flush our car traffic through.

Sig at 3:47 P.M. on Saturday

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Oh, Wilbur…

All pictures by Glenn Bailey

Traveling Southbound on Wilbur

Have you ever tried to brake on pine needles?

If the newly-restriped .3 mile area of Wilbur Avenue was supposed to be a compromise between the LADOT, City Council Office, advocates of fast moving car traffic, bicyclists and residents, it appears the LADOT put the politics of the situation over the road diet ahead of responsible engineering.

Glenn Bailey, a mayoral appointee to the city’s bike advisory committee, snaps these three pictures of the restriped area, each of which presents its own problems.

The first picture is clearly the oddest.  Bailey snapped this picture of a “cars in the right hand lane must turn right,” which makes little sense as the “right hand lane” is supposed to be a bike lane.  If cyclists are proceeding south and motor vehicles are required to turn right from their lane across the path of cyclists, this is inherently dangerous and a potential liability for the City.

The second picture places the bike lane on the other side of the right-hand turn lane, which is inconsistent with the first photo.  To make matters worse, there is no signage designating the turn lane at the next intersection.

Last, we’ve already noted that the new bike lanes have been moved to the gutter, are covered in slippery pine needles, and that nobody is taking responsibility for keeping the lanes clean andsafe.  That situation remains unchanged.  To make matters worse, the “Mayall Merge” that Don Ward refers to in his videos is a high-speed merge.  When you combine high speed cars and bikes that lose control on the pine needles, what was once a “road diet” becomes a death trap waiting to happen.