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Make It Mar Vista: Pop Up Bike Lanes and Parklets at Westside Business Festival


This Saturday, the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce is hosting “Make It Mar Vista” along Venice Boulevard starting at Centinela Avenue and heading west. The event is the area’s newish small business showcase, highlighting one of the Westside’s more walkable corridors with small shops and locally-owned restaurants.

But this year’s event is also another outreach event for the Mayor’s Great Streets Program on the Westside. Streetsblog has already covered how Councilmember Mike Bonin and Westside community and business leaders have led a multi-faceted public process for Great Streets planning that is unrivaled throughout the city, and Make It Mar Vista is another example of planning beyond the public meeting.

Bonin’s office, the Mayor’s office, the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce, and the Mar Vista Community Council have all worked together to create a progressive Great Streets plan, which will include a protected bike lane, improved crossings and sidewalks, and possibly even a parklet. Make It Mar Vista will have pop-up versions of the protected bike lane and parklet so residents, businesses, and visitors will get an idea of what the Great Street will look like once the redesign begins.

“Make It Mar Vista is exactly the type of programming we need on the Venice Boulevard Great Street,” said Bonin. “By encouraging people to spend time at our local businesses and experience the street in a new way, Make it Mar Vista helps foster the sense of community that furthers long-term investment in neighborhoods.”

According to event programmers, creating a community feel along the corridor is a shared-goal of Make It Mar Vista and the Great Streets Program.

“What we love best about Small Business Saturday is how it supports the local community,” writes Sara Auerswald, the founding president of the business district.

“These businesses are owned by our friends and neighbors, after all. And this year we’ve made it into a festival on the Great Street with art projects, live entertainment and, of course, the bike lane pop-up.”

Make It Mar Vista is working with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition to highlight the importance of the event. Bicyclists will kick off Make it Mar Vista by riding on the stretch of Venice Blvd designated as one of the Mayor’s 15 Great Streets. This family-friendly bike ride is a flat, 2-mile round trip along Venice Blvd and will be led by LACBC ride marshals and cyclists with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Cyclists, meet at 10 a.m. at the southeast corner of Venice & Inglewood, roll at 10:30 a.m. More on the full program for the event can be found after the jump or at the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce website.

Read more…


Why LADOT Won’t Have Its Portion of the Expo Bikeway Done Anytime Soon

LADOT is responsible for bike lanes and other road markings for this area connecting the Expo Bike Paths in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Recently, the city announced it has no timeline on when this bikeway will be completed.

LADOT is responsible for bike lanes and other road markings for this area connecting the Expo Bike Paths in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Recently, the city announced it has no timeline on when this bikeway will be completed. Image: LADOT

I am City Councilmember Paul Koretz’ appointee to the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC).

Former councilmember Jack Weiss (no relation) appointed me in 2006; Paul Koretz kept me on. The BAC charter says, “The purpose of the BAC is to act in an advisory capacity to the Mayor, City Council Members, and the various agencies of the government of the City of Los Angeles in the encouragement and facilitation of the use of the bicycle as regular means of transportation and recreation.”

In 2008, City Council required “Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and the Department of Recreation & Parks (DRP) to jointly staff the BAC, with City Planning staff.” I’ve never seen a DRP representative at our meetings, and LADOT stopped keeping our minutes years ago. So much for that. Every city department is underfunded and understaffed (okay, maybe not LADWP). What I’m reporting here – it would seem – results from the staffing and budget problems.

Since I’m also understaffed (just me here), I’ve chosen to skip one of our bi-monthly BAC subcommittee meetings (where I could listen to staff reports about projects stalled or delayed or cancelled for lack of staff/funding). Instead, I will share my impressions of what my Palms/Cheviot Hills area has gotten from an LADOT Bikeways division relying too heavily on part-timers, short-timers, and interns.

By the way, I personally like most of the city employees. But when things go wrong, they circle the wagons. Many are dedicated civil servants, yet all of them are also working to keep their jobs and their relationships with others in government. That said, I see no point in naming (many) names.

Expo Bike Path

The city of L.A. had Metro funding for the Expo bike path. The path will belong to the respective cities it traverses: Santa Monica, L.A., and Culver City. The responsible politicians promised the bike path would be planned and built contemporaneously with the train. I was not so sure. As a 20-plus year pro-train veteran of the light rail train wars, I warned LADOT of my neighbors’ scorched earth approach to stopping the train and everything associated with it. For instance, “Neighbors for Smart Rail” sued all the way to the California Supreme Court to stop the Expo Line, challenging its environmental clearance. (They were probably technically right. But that’s another story.)

Fortunately, despite the legal challenges, the Expo Construction Authority moved forward with train construction, creating facts on the ground the Court was less likely to undo. But Expo’s approach to the bicycle/pedestrian path was different. The Construction Authority was created to build a train, not a bike path. Sure, they could do both, but, trains!

Unfortunately, when LADOT’s environmental clearance was challenged in court by my litigious neighbors, the bike path was unhitched from the train project. The city had to hire an outside contractor to redo the environmental documents and, by that time, Expo had contracted with Skanka-Rados to build the train alone. That resulted in a more costly, inferior, and indefinitely unfinished bike path. Read more…

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With CicLAvia in the Rearview Mirror, Mar Vista Plans for a Pop-Up Great Street

To see the timeline in higher res, click ##

To see the timeline in higher res, click here.

Despite Great Streets being a signature transportation project of Mayor Eric Garcetti, throughout the city the vision, outreach, and implementation are driven by the enthusiasm of the local City Council offices. Staff in the Mayor’s Office is working closely with each of the fifteen Councilmembers to create a Great Streets program that is locally-driven and Council-approved.

At least that’s the idea.

While local support and local leadership is crucial to any movement that seeks to create major changes, sometimes the Council offices have proven more of a roadblock to change than a partner in creating great streets.

On one hand, Councilmember Mitch Englander, one of the more conservative Councilmembers, has been a surprise, not only for backing the largest protected bike lane in Los Angeles, but for programming that activates Reseda Boulevard as a destination. On the other hand, you have Paul Koretz, considered by many to be a champion environmentalist, and Curren Price, who belatedly got on board with the MyFigueroa! street transformation, working behind the scenes to remove bike facilities from plans for Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue, respectively.

Nowhere were expectations higher for Great Streets than in the Westside’s CD11 where Councilmember Mike Bonin was the first Councilmember to be elected with a platform for Livable Streets reform. And that’s important, as the Great Streets team in the Mayor’s Office consists of two staffers and a handful of interns and fellows. That’s not per district, that’s for the entire city.

Bonin and a band of neighborhood and business advocates have used the Great Streets Plan for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista (roughly between the 405 and Lincoln Boulevard) as a sort of Livable Streets master class to educate people about what a street can be if it is reimagined as something new. The presentation of the image boards showing the various Great Street options at both the “usual suspect” locations (Farmers’ Markets, the Mar Vista Community Council, and Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce) and high schools, libraries, coffee shops, and markets allowed a wider range of stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed changes.

The experience in West L.A. with Great Streets is pretty much the opposite of that along Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. There, most residents, business owners, and community advocates only saw plans for a dramatically altered Central Avenue when Sahra Sulaiman showed them printouts while researching a story for Streetsblog. The difference an engaged and enthusiastic Council Office can have is dramatic.

After all of that outreach, Bonin’s office announced last week that a pilot program will be on the ground in the “winter/spring of 2016.” Some of the most popular proposed changes include more mid-block pedestrian crossings, opportunities for public gathering spaces (parklets, plazas, even sidewalk seating), improved bikeways, and more and better street furniture and trash bins.

“Those are some dramatic, exciting improvements, and we’ll need to use some of the space usually reserved for automobile traffic to get it done,” Bonin’s office wrote in an email to participants that was also posted on his website. Read more…


Dangerous Intersection of Venice and Robertson Gets a Flashing Yellow Signal

Last November, David Lindley was walking across the street at the five point intersection of Venice and South Robertson Boulevard when he was struck and killed. Lindley, an autistic teen who attended nearby Hamilton High School, was mourned by friends and family who vowed to see the intersection fixed.

Three months later, with the construction and reconfigurations complete, a video by longtime Expo Line supporter/watcher Gökhan Esirgen showed that cars turning on to Robertson Boulevard were routinely turning left into the pedestrian path well after receiving a red light. Esirgen noted this wasn’t an unusual occurrence, but a decision to place expediency over the safety of pedestrians that was made with nearly every crossing.

Over six months after Lindley’s tragic death, LADOT recently unveiled its answer to the safety issues created by what one Hamilton High School student described as a “busy, confusing and dangerous” intersection, a flashing yellow arrow warning drivers to be aware of pedestrians. This is the first time the City of Los Angeles has used this traffic control device, but they are common in other parts of the country. Motorists have shown greater likelihood to yield during a flashing yellow arrow than a red one.

A good start, to be sure. Now if only the city would prioritize ticketing cars that turn against the light over pedestrians who are crossing the street safely and efficiently.


Bike Lanes, Partially Green and Partially Buffered, Appear on Westwood North of Le Conte

juan le conte 3

Photo: Juan Matute

Westwood and Le Conte is sort of a magical intersection for me.

In 2008, the city’s first Sharrows appeared just north of Le Conte on Westwood Blvd. In 2010, Westwood and Le Conte teamed up again as the home of “30 seconds of Awesome,” in its scramble crosswalk. Those were both big stories for early Streetsblog L.A.

So I was really excited when Streetsblog L.A. Steering Committee member Juan Matute posted pictures showing that those Sharrows, which were actually the first ones in Los Angeles, were replaced by bike lanes into and out of the UCLA campus. The lanes are occasionally buffered and occasionally green. Sometimes there are Sharrows.

But…wait a second? I thought that a bike lane on Westwood was a controversial topic for the local Councilmember?

The design and upkeep of LeConte and Westwood near and through the campus are the responsibility of UCLA. (More pictures of the lane can be found after the jump.)

But while UCLA is doing all that it can to assure safe commutes for all road users coming to and from campus, the dedication to safe streets ends when the city takes control of the streets again. The Daily Bruin reports that City Councilmember Paul Koretz is doubling down on his opposition to safe streets. Having previously killed even a study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to the Expo Line, Koretz has now removed the possibility of bike lanes in Westwood Village.

So, hats off to UCLA for doing the right thing for its commuters. It’s just too bad that that commitment ends where the City of Los Angeles takes over.

The City will take input on the Mobility Plan 2035, including the Westwood Blvd. bike lane, at a meeting of the City Planning Commission tomorrow, Thursday, May 28th, at 8:30 AM at the Van Nuys City Hall (14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys 91401).

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: DIY Maintenance On Lincoln Blvd Under Culver Bridge

Editor’s note: The Department of Do-It-Yourself works in strange and mysterious ways. Today we run a guest post by cyclist Eric Weinstein who may or may not have been part of Dept. of DIY’s westside cycling division’s Lincoln Boulevard sand removal effort last week.

Lincoln Boulevard below the

Lincoln Boulevard underneath the Culver Boulevard Bridge. Photo by Eric Weinstein

You’ll probably never notice.

Last Friday night a very small crew of people made one of Lincoln Boulevard’s many choke points safer for bikes.

There are a lot of these really bad spots around. Lincoln is not really a pleasant place to ride a bike in general, but sometimes it is the only plausible route, because of the geography. There are few roads up the bluff into Westchester. Lincoln is the north-south road connection between Venice and LAX, so you kinda have to cycle here. It’s a couple of miles west to the beach bike path. It’s equally a couple miles east to the Sepulveda Boulevard bike lanes (from Westchester to Jefferson.) A couple miles out of the way on a bike is a long way to go around.

Just north of the entrances to the Ballona Creek Bike Path, there’s a narrow place under the bridge for Culver Boulevard [Google street view]. It’s narrow, and just hidden by a bend in the road, but quite passable to the daring or practiced. Unfortunately, the sand under the bridge has washed down into the shoulder in recent rains, blocking it to cyclists. You can’t ride on sand. So, for a cyclist, it’s another place you have to take the lane for a few feet to get under the bridge, sometimes merging into fast traffic. It’s always difficult when the cars are moving so much faster than bikes. At times, it’s a bit dangerous.

So, with some shovels, and a couple orange cones, the crew moved the sand off the shoulder.

Took a while to get it all off the road and make a smooth ridable surface. This makes a much, much safer passage for bikes. And, for good measure, overhanging brush was trimmed out of the bike lane further south.

Cyclists, the passage is again clear.  Read more…


Krekorian and Garcetti Tout Metro’s New 405 Freeway Express Bus Service

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Starting this Sunday, Metro is introducing its new Valley-Westside Express bus line that takes advantage of the recently-widened 405 Freeway’s new high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The new line runs from Pacoima to Westwood, with stops at the Van Nuys Metrolink Station and the Metro Orange Line’s Van Nuys and Sepulveda stations. The full map of the new service is after the jump below.

Metro Board members celebrated the new service at a press event this morning at the Metro Orange Line Sepulveda station.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian proclaimed that the new service will make it “easier, faster, and more convenient” to travel between Los Angeles communities. Krekorian also pledged that this is “just one step of many for the Valley” and that he is committed to making the Metro Orange Line run faster and adding to its capacity, and “increas[ing] rail in the San Fernando Valley.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recalled riding the RTD bus to West L.A. when he was growing up in the Valley. Garcetti touted the time savings on the new line, which is anticipated to save 20 minutes compared to current Metro bus service.  Read more…


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…


Two New Bike Corrals Installed on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Takeaway on Abbot Kinney.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney.

Fabled Abbot Kinney Boulevard, on Los Angeles’ Westside, is the first street in the city to have two bike corrals installed. Councilmember Mike Bonin alerted Streetsblog to their installation this morning and I was able to bike over and catch one of the installations as it was being finished and another corral in action.


The new street front for Local 1205.

These are the third and fourth corrals in the entire city. Bike corrals are dedicated bicycle parking areas created with the removal of one or two parking spaces. As shown above, a city can create safe and attractive parking for twelve bicycles in the space that used to park one car.

If you’re interested in seeing some bike corrals added to your neighborhood, the People St program at LADOT is accepting applications through April 30, with a second project submission period coming up in October. While People St will be working with community-based organizations for future corrals, parklets and plazas, these two corrals were already in the project pipeline.

The first corral is in front of Gjelina Take Away (1427 Abbot Kinney). When I arrived the corral was partly in-use with a handful of bicycles already tethered in the twelve bike parking spaces. Of course, the three bicycles are an improvement over the one car that would have fit into the same space last night. As I shot the pictures, a happy cyclist was handed a sandwich in a bag, hopped on his bike and was on his way.

Bike corrals: good for bikes, good for business. Read more…


A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  “This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…