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#DamienTalksSGV 4 – Mural History and Bicycle Education in El Monte

Welcome to episode 4 of #DamienTalksSGV, an episode that focuses primarily on two projects in El Monte. We didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes these things happen.

Damien Talks SGV logoFirst, #DamienTalks with David Diaz Avelar about Historia de los Monteros, a collaborative effort between a handful of groups to explore the lost history of El Monte’s mural culture. Day One, East of East, and the South El Monte Arts Posse have programmed six events featuring discussions, bike rides, and lectures all focused on this topic. The next event is March 5; find event details at the Historia’s webpage or the event poster.

If David’s name (or voice) sound familiar, that is because he is the same person we interviewed in the last #DamienTalksSGV for another project: advocacy for the Las Tunas complete streets project in Temple City for Bike SGV.

Speaking of BikeSGV, our second guest is Jose Jimenez, who runs Bike SGV’s bicycle education center in El Monte. Jose discusses the brief history of the center, upcoming programs and invites everyone to come visit to learn how to ride, fix or improve their bicycle. The education center schedule can be found at the Bike SGV website.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Ride4Love Rides Again: More than 200 Cyclists Roll for Unity, Love in Watts

Watts is LOVE. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Watts is LOVE.
Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“This is such a great turnout!” was something I must have heard come out of my own mouth somewhere between 20 and 30 times during the East Side Riders’ Ride4Love last weekend.

And it was.

I mean, they always get a good turnout.

Last year, just under 200 cyclists showed up for the event.

But I still clearly remember the days when it was a struggle to get folks to come to Watts — the days before people believed there could be such a thing as a South L.A. bike community and the days before the clubs around South L.A. and the larger Southland were so well-connected and supportive of each other.

So, I would not be lying if I said that seeing more than 200 riders of all origins, stripes, and ages rolling in harmony through the streets of a community I love so much made my heart feel like it might burst.

Decoration on the bike of a ride participant. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Decoration on the handlebars of a ride participant. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A bursting heart, however terribly cheesy it may sound, was actually quite apt for the day.

The Ride4Love is the East Side Riders’ (ESRBC) signature event, timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day and intended to highlight both the beauty of and the challenges remaining in the Watts community.

Giving back to the community has always featured heavily in the event, either through more direct action, like feeding the homeless, or by setting an example of positivity for the community by showing that the African-American and Latino communities are stronger when they ride together as one.

Determination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Determination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Recognizing that they were a largely local group, the community was thrilled to see them. Read more…

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Central Ave and Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes Preserved in Mobility Plan

TRUST South L.A.'s Samuel Bankhead giving public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday's Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Safe streets advocate and TRUST South L.A. boardmember AsSami AlBasir El gave public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At its meeting yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously re-affirmed keeping bikeway designations for Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

Unfortunately these facilities are likely to remain in the plan, but not move closer to on-the-ground improvements due to anti-safety positions staked out by City Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz. Price and Koretz had introduced motions, 15-0719-S9 and 15-0719-S3 respectively, requesting Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard be removed from the city’s approved Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN).

The City Planning Commission turned down the anti-bike amendments while voting unanimously in favor of a handful of amendments to the city’s approved and contested Mobility Plan 2035. The commission affirmed plan changes to formally acknowledge equity and community outreach, as well as a number of largely technical amendments.

The City Planning Department (DCP) 108-page staff report [PDF] affirmed the need to keep bikeway designations for Central and Westwood:

In response to motions from Council Districts 5 and 9, the second Addendum to the Mobility Plan EIR considered the removal of Westwood Boulevard (from Le Conte Ave to Wellworth Ave) and Central Ave (from Washington Boulevard to 95th Street) from the Bicycle Enhanced Network. While the councilpersons expressed their interest in having these segments removed, staff recommends that these segments be retained in the BEN. Both Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave serve as important north-south corridors for persons who bicycle and it would be premature at this time to foreclose the opportunity of improving these corridors for bicycling in the future. Language has been included in the Mobility Plan […] which reinforces the conceptual nature of these network assignments and further articulates the opportunities that exist in the future to consider alternative corridors. This level of flexibility is intended to provide opportunity to study such corridors as Westwood and Central along with potential parallel alternatives at whatever point in the future the corridors are prioritized for implementation. (emphasis added)

Planning staff opened the hearing affirming DCP’s position that the bike lanes were important to keep in the plan. A representative of the Fire Department (LAFD) spoke in support of the plan, stating that LAFD would further study “any kind of impacts” to emergency response times.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the commission, lamenting Westwood Blvd’s inclusion in the Mayor’s Great Streets initiative, calling protected bike lanes “pretty dangerous” and disparaging thousands of cyclists that use Westwood every day by suggesting, “only the most aggressive people take it.” Councilmember Price sent staff to testify against Central Avenue bike lanes; they asserted that even protected bike lanes there would not be “low stress.” Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s staff also testified in support of Price and Koretz, and against bike lanes.  Read more…

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VerdeXchange Day One Highlights: Phil Washington, Earl Blumenauer

Day one of this year’s VerdeXchange conference is over. By the time you read this, the second and final day is already underway; Tuesday will feature discussions on the Los Angeles River, sustainable buildings, the sharing economy, new mobility models for cities, and much more! The full program schedule is here. Streetsblog L.A. is a media sponsor; follow @StreetsblogLA on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Below are a couple of highlights from the first day.

VerdeXchange's 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

VerdeXchange’s 21st Century Transit panel (left to right) Jeff Morales, CA High-Speed Rail Authority, Deborah Flint, L.A. World Airports, Phil Washington, Metro, and Renata Simril LA84 Foundation. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro’s CEO Phil Washington spoke alongside the CEOs of L.A. World Airports, Deborah Flint, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Jeff Morales. All these leaders spoke the need to build seamless, complementary, balanced transportation systems. Washington decried the “three-decade infrastructure vacation” throughout the United States where the nation has neglected to build and maintain the transportation infrastructure needed for future generations. The Metro CEO emphasized that local jurisdictions and private industry have played their roles, but that the federal government has been weak in dragging its heels to pass its re-authorization bills.

Washington made two important announcements:

  • The second phase of the Metro Expo Line will open in May. A mid-2016 estimate has been expected since Metro took control of the substantially completed rail line ten days ago, but no opening date has been publicized.
  • USDOT approved phase three of Metro’s Westside Purple Line Subway for expedited treatment. This should speed up the federal processes to all for an accelerated schedule, potentially extending the subway to UCLA in time for a possible 2024 Olympics.

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Congressmember Earl Blumenauer

Streetsblog caught up with Oregon Congressmember Earl Blumenauer. Blumenauer is a leader on livability issues, especially bicycling. At VerdeXchange, he was speaking on a sustainable agriculture panel. Below is a very brief interview.  Read more…

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#DamienTalks SGV2: Albert Ho on IWillRide and Wes Reutimann on the Puente Hills Landfill Park

puente

A view from the future Puente Hills Landfill Park.

This week, #DamienTalks with Albert Ho of the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority. Albert has been a booster of the project dating back to the mid aughts, helping to found the IWillRide campaign as an interested college student, managing the website early in his career and then working for the Construction Authority.

Albert talks about his experiences advocating for the project, touches on some of the highlights of the line extension, scheduled to open on March 5. Towards the end, we reminisce about our days of yore, sitting in the back of Metro Board meetings together, trying to come up with the wittiest tweet about the meeting.

Next, #DamienTalks with Wes Reutimann, the executive director of Bike SGV. Reutimann discusses the upcoming scoping meeting for the Puente Hills Landfill Park. The park promises to be one of the largest tracts of open space on the Southland. There will be an environmental scoping meeting this Wednesday, January 27 (for more information on the hearing and the park click here.)

Bike SGV is hoping that there we be a safe network of bicycle lanes leading to the park and a network of bike facilities within the park to create the largest bike park in California. If you can’t make the scoping meeting, click here to read and sign Bike SGV’s petition.

If, like me, you are unfamiliar with what a bike park is, here are examples in Marin County and Fresno County.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA.

Thanks for listening. You can download the episode at the #DamienTalks homepage on Libsyn.

#DamienTalks is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of Downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit foothilltransit.org. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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Would You Vote for a Measure R2.1 with No Dedicated Walk/Bike Funding?

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Will Metro’s new sales tax serve people who walk? Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Metro has five rail lines under construction today, with new Gold and Expo Lines set to open this year. Metro’s recent rail infrastructure expansion was fueled by countywide sales taxes. On top of existing Prop A and Prop C sales taxes, in 2008 voters approved the roughly $40 billion Measure R.

Forty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California rail.

Twenty percent of Measure R goes to expanding Southern California freeways.

What percent of Measure R is dedicated to walking and bicycling?

None.

There should probably be a small asterisk on that “none” because a small percentage of Measure R funding has made its way to walk and bike projects. There is a fifteen percent “local return” that goes to cities to fund transportation projects, and some cities, notably Los Angeles, spent a modest percentage of their local return on walk and bike projects. Most local return throughout the county goes to car infrastructure.

Metro is gearing up for Measure R2.1. The new sales tax initiative is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot. Early estimates showed Measure R2.1 raising $120 billion over the next 40 years. Recent estimates anticipate about $100 billion. Metro is still nailing down what will actually be in Measure R2.1, through a complicated trying-to-sound-neutral process of weighing regional project requests, which will ultimately be shaped by politics and polling. To get to the two-thirds majority necessary to pass a new sales tax, Metro needs to strike a number of delicate balances. Projects need to span various regions and appeal based on voters’ current travel modes as well as their future aspirations.

Though Metro has not dedicated sales tax initiative funding to walking and bicycling, other transportation funding measures throughout California have. These include measures in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Marin, Alameda, and San Francisco counties. Measure BB in Oakland’s Alameda County, with twelve percent reserved to walking and bicycling.

In 2015, walk and bike advocates estimated L.A. County’s unmet need for walking and bicycling infrastructure at roughly $20 billion. In a Metro staff report released this week, the agency basically concurred with advocates’ estimates. Metro estimated the countywide annual walk and bike funding needs to be between $550 million and $1.5 billion. Multiplying those estimates times 20 years results in $11 to $30 billion total; this range matches advocates earlier $20 billion estimates.

PrimaryTravelMode

19 percent of county commuters primarily walk or bike. Will Metro’s new sales tax support and expand these active transportation modes? Chart via LADOT Vision Zero

A coalition of active transportation advocates is pushing for ten percent of Measure R2.1 to be dedicated to walk and bike projects.

Move L.A.’s latest straw man proposal dedicates five percent for walk and bike, with more first/last mile funding that could support walk/bike facilities.

Metro has not weighed in yet.

But you can weigh in right now – via comments below.
What would make you support or reject a November 2016 transportation sales tax measure? Would you vote against it if there is less than ten percent set aside for walking and bicycling? Can Measure R2.1 spark the complementary expansion of biking and walking the way that 2008’s Measure R did for rail and freeway expansion?
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New Griffith Park Traffic Plan Promising But Flawed

Concerned stakeholders during last night's public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Concerned stakeholders during last night’s public comment on the proposed Griffith Park shuttle plan. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks has released a new “Griffith Park Action Plan” [PDF] designed to deal with car congestion primarily from Hollywood Sign visitors. Last night, DRP and City Councilmember David Ryu hosted a community meeting to receive public feedback on the proposal. Nearly 200 people attended the forum, where DRP and Ryu received over an hour of public testimony critical of many aspects of the proposal.

Griffith Park’s car traffic woes have been exacerbated by former Councilmember Tom LaBonge catering to rich Beachwood Canyon homeowners pressure to reroute Hollywood Sign tourist traffic. Last year DRP attempted to resolve traffic problems by temporarily adding free parking on formerly car-free park roads; the trial was soundly criticized by park stakeholders.

DRP went back to the drawing board and came up with a new park traffic plan. The plan [PDF] was recently released in the form of Mitigated Negative Declaration documentation asserting DRP’s right to proceed with plan implementation. The plan was profiled at the Los Feliz Ledger, CiclaValley, and KPCC.

What is in the Griffith Park Action Plan

DCP proposes a free “park wide shuttle” that would mostly take visitors from the Greek Theater parking lot to an official Hollywood Sign vista point about a third of a mile above the Griffith Observatory.

GriffithParkShuttleProposal

Proposed “park wide shuttle” routes in Griffith Park. Image via Los Feliz Ledger

Shuttle operations would be paid for through parking revenue. DCP would add parking meters to East and West Observatory Road. Existing free parallel parking on the two-way Observatory Road would be converted to diagonal paid parking on a one-way loop.

The Good

Overall, DRP is looking in the right direction. The problem is too much car traffic; in the words of Ryu, Griffith Park is “being loved to death.” Griffith Park Superintendent Joe Salaices emphasized that “reducing the amount of cars is the number one goal,” later reiterating “I’d love to see no cars in the park.” Tackling a “too many cars” problem means giving visitors better options to arrive by other means.

The DRP proposal to add parking meters sends the right message. Paid parking helps to disincentivize visitors arriving by car. Revenue from the 150 metered parking spaces, according to Salaices, is estimated to be $500,000 annually. All the revenue would be dedicated to Griffith Park purposes, including operating the shuttle and paying park staff.

Public comment on paid parking was mixed. Cyclist Don Ward testified that “charging for parking is long overdue” while another speaker opposed paid parking asserting the importance of parks being reliant on General Fund revenue.

The Bad

Overall, despite good intentions, DCP fell into a tired bureaucratic pattern of publish and defend. Though their plan was described as an initial phase, DCP staff largely defended decisions they had already been made in advance of public input.

The proposed shuttle shuttle service is unlikely to be sufficient to make a dent in Griffith Park traffic. According to Salaices, 390,000 visitors came to observatory-area viewing during the 2015 spring break. To deal with these visitors, DCP is proposing four or five 21-passenger shuttles. One public speaker opined that the “shuttle plan doesn’t add up” by addressing only “one percent of the problem.”  Read more…

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Open House Showcases Expo Bike Path Gap Closure Options

Last night's Expo Bikeway meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Last night’s Expo Bikeway meeting. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

An overflow crowd of more than one hundred people showed up to last night’s Expo Bike Path meeting at the Palms-Rancho Park Branch Library. A representative from Councilmember Paul Koretz welcomed the boisterous crowd before turning the open house over to L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

The crowd appeared to be about half from L.A.’s bicycling community about half from the adjacent Cheviot Hills neighborhood. Many Cheviot Hills neighbors have actively opposed to both the Metro Expo rail line and the Expo bike path.

Mowery stressed that “no decisions have been made” about how to close the 0.7-mile “Northvale gap” in the Expo bikeway. She stated that the meeting would be just an open house, and requested that all concerns be submitted in writing. As Mowery directed attendees to speak with city staff at an array of poster stations, disparaging comments were uttered by attendees: “this is ridiculous” and “we’re like sitting ducks”  – apparently by neighbors opposed to the bikeway.

In mid-2016, when the completed portions of the Expo bike path open, LADOT plans an “interim detour” sharrowed bike route on Northvale Road from Overland Avenue to Motor Avenue. This route avoids nearby heavily-trafficked streets, but is not great for bicycling as it is rather hilly close to Motor Avenue.

The final gap closure bikeway will run in a relatively flat alignment, just north of the Metro Expo Line tracks. There were three design options presented, described after the jump below. Read more…

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Closing the Exposition Bikeway Northvale Gap, Meeting Next Week

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.

The Expo Line bike path will soon extend east and west of this 0.7-mile “Northvale Gap.”

When Metro’s 6.6-mile Expo Line opens in mid-2016, the parallel Expo bikeway will open too.

Except where it won’t.

Two stretches of Expo bike path under construction are nearing completion. Unfortunately there is a 0.7-mile gap between them. Next week the city of L.A. will host a meeting to receive input on plans to close the gap, which parallels Northvale Road. Meeting details after the jump.

Here are the two sections of Expo Line bikeway nearing completion:

  1. Venice Boulevard to Motor Avenue: This 1.2-mile stretch includes two components. On the east end, located just south of the 10 Freeway, there will be a 0.7-mile bike path extending from Venice Boulevard (across the street from Culver City Station) to Palms Boulevard/National Boulevard (across from Palms Station). West of Palms Station, the bikeway is on the streets for a half mile. This includes National Boulevard (with a very short stretch of bike lanes) and Motor Avenue.
  2. Overland Avenue to Colorado Avenue: This 3.5-mile stretch is all off-street bike path, extending from Cheviot Hills to downtown Santa Monica. Like the Orange Line and other bike paths, there are a handful of places where cyclists cross perpendicular streets, but both bikes and trains run in the old rail right-of-way. The eastern terminus of the path is at Overland Avenue, near the Westwood Station. The western terminus is at 17th Street Station in Santa Monica, where cyclists can connect with the city of Santa Monica’s bike networks, including bike lanes on 17th Street, Broadway, and Arizona Avenue, and the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

Between those two segments – about 0.7 miles from Motor Avenue to Overland Avenue – is the Northvale Gap.  Read more…

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Your Friday Video of Zen: DTLA Street Futures (Featuring CicLAvia)

What will the future streets of Los Angeles look like? And what sorts of innovations, interventions, infrastructure, interconnections, and events will help us get there? And can we get there in a way that is sustainable, grounded in community experiences, and does not displace residents of communities that have experienced historical disinvestment?

Digital artist, filmmaker, and Ph.D. candidate at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Karl Baumann raises many of these questions using lovely drone footage of CicLAvia: Heart of L.A. and the voices of a handful of younger planners and advocates who ponder a future where “experience [is] driven by two wheels rather than four” and “design [is] driven by real issues of sustainability, livability, and affordability.”

“With the passing of LA’s Mobility Plan 2035,” Baumann believes, “we’re seeing the bright glimpses of a new paradigm shift for the city. The future of LA will be about local placemaking, pedestrian culture, and sustainability. The emphasis on private cars speeding from one neighborhood to another will become a thing of the past. It’ll become a fading dream of an old utopian impulse, laid out by GM’s ‘Futurama’ exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair.”

Any paradigm shift, he acknowledges, always comes with a backlash. And L.A.’s experience has been no different. Behind Fix the City’s lawsuit and bizarre characterization of bike- and transit-dependent folks as seeking to “steal” lanes from beleaguered drivers and the concerns of more moderate opponents who fear transit will never be able to meet their needs is a common desire to defend and only lightly amend the known evil, Baumann says, rather than “rally around a not-yet-built imagined infrastructure.”

Events like CicLAvia, Baumann argues, give us a common point of reference from which to begin to rethink how our city should be designed. Experiencing safe, car-free streets firsthand, he says, can help skeptics imagine a more bike-centric future. Rubbing shoulders with the diverse mix of Angelenos seen at CicLAvia can also help to dispel the myth that cycling is the purview of well-to-do hipsters. And seeing the extent to which cyclists at open streets events outnumber those commuting on a daily basis might make it easier for skeptics to understand the role protective bike infrastructure can play in emboldening those who are currently too afraid to cycle L.A.’s mean streets.

The video focuses on Downtown, Baumann says, because it has become a vital test lab and potential crystal ball for the redesigning of the city. And also because, he adds, the development there also hints at the “dark side of our bright future.” Read more…