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Healthy Kids Zone: Schools at the Center of Healthy Communities

Bike Month is here and rides and panels are in abundance. Though the anchor of the month is Bike to Work Day, let’s make some room for the youth and talk a bit about why so many kids don’t ride their bikes to school anymore.

A myriad of environmental factors can affect a student’s experience in the classroom even before the school day begins. For example, many Los Angeles neighborhoods are unsafe for walking and biking and saturated with unhealthy food choices contributing to elevated rates of preventable diet and exercise related diseases like obesity and diabetes. A lack of amenities, such as parks and open space, and a disconnect from the health care system further reinforce these problems.

To address these issues, Community Health Councils (CHC) has been developing a Healthy Kids Zone (HKZ) pilot project to position schools as centers of healthy communities. The HKZ project is a pioneer effort in Los Angeles and nationwide with an unprecedented scope that bolsters grassroots efforts to improve school community health and safety with citywide policy.

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

Healthy Kids Zone graphic

K-12 schools have always been considered centers of learning and socialization in our neighborhoods. Our children experience many “firsts” at school, like friendships, fist fights, and fractions. Schools host sports events and musical and theatrical performances, polling places and community meetings. They are natural neighborhood hubs, where the community’s youth come together. An HKZ builds on the natural role of schools in communities by applying higher standards of development and enforcement guidelines to designated areas in the communities surrounding high-need schools.

HKZs are designed to improve well-being for young people and the surrounding community as a whole through the improvement of five key health improvement categories:

  • nutrition,
  • physical activity,
  • environmental health,
  • safety, and
  • health services.

CHC has identified these categories as having direct impact on the health of students and school communities before and after school hours. The project has been developed in conjunction with a multi-sectoral advisory committee team representing organizations with expertise in the health improvement categories. This past spring the HKZ concept and pilot implementation project were included in the City’s first ever general plan health element, Plan for a Healthy LA, providing high-level citywide policy support for the project.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Bridge: What Glendale-Hyperion’s Missing Sidewalk Means

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Above is a graphic created by Don Ward to show just how crappy the Bureau of Engineering’s Glendale-Hyperion Bridge plan is. The unsafe design was recently approved by L.A.’s Board of Public Works, and will soon come before City Council. Streetsblog USA profiled the board’s approval as a sign that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s commitment to great streets may be illusory.

According to Ward:

I made this chart to explain the route of an actual petition signer in Atwater who walked from her house (approximate location A) to her church at B. She was interested in safer access to the south sidewalk and did not want to have to walk an additional half mile or so to get to her destination. The shortest possible route under Option 1 would include walking up a steeper incline to the top of Waverly to get across Hyperion on the Silver Lake side.

This also illustrates how disingenuous it is for the city to claim that the new bike-ped bridge creates better mobility by connecting to Silver Lake. The bike-ped bridge is great to get to the L.A. River bike path, but the south Glendale bridge serves the same purpose.

The key decision-maker at this point could be incoming Los Angeles City Councilmember  David Ryu, who won yesterday’s run-off election. Ryu will replace Tom LaBonge on the City Council. Read more…

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Coalition Calls For 10 Percent of Future L.A. Sales Tax To Go To Walk-Bike

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling - why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

Other California county transportation sales tax measures set aside funding for walking and bicycling – why not Los Angeles? Image via white paper [PDF]

There is a new twist in the path to a 2016 Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure, tentatively being called “Measure R2.”

Investing in Place, a new policy-based organization that has examined transportation sales taxes throughout the state, just held its own conference with a coalition of more than thirty community based partner organizations. The purpose of the gathering was to push a policy that  “at least ten percent of the next Los Angeles County transportation sales tax measure be dedicated for walking, bicycling, and safe routes to school investments.”

In addition, the coalition is asking that twenty percent of the “local return” be set aside for active transportation. The sales tax “local return” goes to individual cities on a per capita basis to pay for transportation expenditures. Though a number of cities, notably the City of Los Angeles, have used some local return monies for walk and bike projects and programs, most cities throughout L.A. County have not.

Readers may be familiar with the proposed Measure R2, but if not, see these recent SBLA articles about what it tentatively looks like and what decisions are being made now. Though a very small amount of 2008’s successful transportation sales tax Measure R funding has gone to bike and pedestrian projects, there was no dedicated active transportation funding in either Measure R in 2008 nor the defeated transportation sales tax Measure J in 2012.

The coalition (a listing of groups is shown after the jump) was shepherded under the auspices of the Los Angeles County Active Transportation Collaborative, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Investing in Place.

They researched other transportation ballot measures in California, finding many examples of successful set-asides for active transportation, prominently last year’s Measure BB in Alameda County, with twelve percent of overall funding dedicated to walking and bicycling. Read the coalition research in this January 2015 white paper: Best Practices for Funding Active Transportation with County Transportation Sales Taxes [PDF].

More about the coalition and its demands here.

While we won’t know the final ballot language for a 2016 measure until next year, Metro was promising tht it would have a draft proposal this summer. However, Investing in Place is also reporting that the Measure R2 schedule is being delayed about two months: the final expenditure plan was due in July, now it looks like September.  Read more…

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A Tale of Two Future Bridges: New Bike/Ped Crossing on L.A. River, Fewer Sidewalks on Glendale-Hyperion

A person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross the bridge. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

Under the two plans announced today, a person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

It was sort of a surreal moment. Even as Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stood at the podium discussing the benefits of a planned new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the L.A. River, the Bureau of Public Works released its recommendation (PDF) that the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge would actually have fewer feet devoted to safe sidewalks than the current bridge.

LaBonge and O’Farrell at this morning’s press event. Both pics by Damien Newton

What was supposed to be a light press conference announcing the opening of a permanent bridge project using existing support structures from an old Red Car bridge across the L.A. River turned somewhat sour for many of the community and traffic safety advocates in attendance when the Bureau announced their plans for the bridge on their website. News traveled quickly among the crowd, and the reporters present suddenly found themselves with dozens of sources for a meatier story than a made-for-bike-week announcement of new infrastructure.

In the fall of 2013, news broke that when the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Atwater Village and Silver Lake would be retrofitted to make them earthquake-proof, local advocates immediately noticed problems with the new design on the street portion of the bridge. Despite appearing on the city’s bicycle plan, the road redesign called for widening the existing car lanes, installing “crash barriers” in the middle of the bridge, removing a sidewalk, and adding no bike lanes.

After an explosion of public comment and a community forum which turned into a Livable Streets rally, O’Farrell, announced a citizen’s advisory committee would be formed. The Mayor’s office submitted a request for an extension to the grant. The old timeline would have precluded any major changes to the proposed road design.

Earlier today, the Bureau of Engineering released its analysis of four different designs for the new bridge, concluding that to make space for a pair of bike lanes on the new bridge, the best option was to take out one of the two sidewalks.

At the podium this morning, O’Farrell painted as rosy a picture as possible, discussing the importance of river crossings for all mode users and some of the improvements the new Hyperion Bridge will have over the existing one, including marked crosswalks and bicycle lanes. He even struck a populist tone, declaring his support for “protected bicycle lanes” on Hyperion and across the city.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the safety advocates in the audience. A press release from L.A. Walks noted that any bicyclist or pedestrian on Glendale Boulevard wanting to cross the river on the “Red Car Bridge” would need to travel twelve minutes out of their way–and are thus far more likely to use the limited sidewalk or just walk on the shoulder even without a sidewalk.

“The City of Los Angeles promotes the fact that we have moved past our auto-centric history and want to be ‘A Safe City,’ as it states in the Mayor’s Great Streets for Los Angeles Strategic Plan,” says Deborah Murphy. “We cannot achieve this goal if we can’t provide the most basic of provisions for pedestrians–a simple sidewalk on both sides of the bridge.” Read more…

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At the Crossroads: In Order to Create a More Walkable L.A., Start with the Basics.

(Max Podemski is the Planning Director of Pacoima Beauftiful…but you already knew that, right? – DN)

In recent years, the media has been filled with stories about Los Angeles transformation into a more livable and walkable city. This has been spurred by recent developments such as CicLAvia, the expanding transit and bike network, and revitalized older neighborhoods.

To see Max's full presentation, click ##https://www.scribd.com/doc/264258343/Crosswalk-Comparison-LA-V-SF##here. ##(PDF)

To see Max’s full presentation, click here. (PDF)

In many ways, this is not so much the emergence of a “new city” but rather Los Angeles returning to its roots.  Los Angeles did not develop around the automobile but around a massive intra-urban rail network the legacy of which still influences development. The city also has a rich history of walkable, commercial business districts along major boulevards as described in Richard Longstreth’s book “City Center to Regional Mall.

The “good bones” are evident in neighborhoods across Los Angeles.

Many Los Angeles neighborhoods  are laid out on a grid, have a mix of relatively dense housing types, and thoroughfares lined with vintage commercial storefronts. These qualities combined with the city’s Mediterranean climate should make it one of the finest places to walk in the country. So why in so many respects is Los Angeles such a terrible place to be a pedestrian?

The simple answer is that we have engineered our streets to be highways.

Over the decades, they have been widened to the point that the sidewalks are so anemic in some places that telephone poles and other utilities block them. What has made it easy for a person to drive on Sepulveda or Sunset as an alternate to the 405 or 101 has resulted in streets that are incredibly dangerous to pedestrians.

In no area is our streets lack of regard for pedestrians more apparent than in one of the most fundamental features of a walkable street: crosswalks. Read more…

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Applause for Bonin-Huizar L.A. Council Motion to Rein in LAPD Ped Stings

Brigham Yen/DTLA Rising

2013 LAPD pedestrian stings. Photos via Brigham Yen/DTLA Rising

Last Friday, May 1, Los Angeles City Council livability leaders introduced a motion [PDF] to get the city family to examine the effectiveness of LAPD’s ongoing pedestrian sting operations. We would like to think that SBLA’s recent article critiquing these stings paid off, but probably the excellent recent Los Angeles Times articles by Steve Lopez and Catherine Saillant got just a tad more exposure.

Motion 15-0546 was moved by Councilmember Mike Bonin, and seconded by Councilmember Jose Huizar. Huizar was pretty busy pressing for downtown livability last Friday, introducing five “DTLA Forward” proposals “to increase, promote and protect pedestrian access, improve traffic flow and improve neighborhood connectivity in Downtown Los Angeles.” Note that the LAPD crosswalk sting operations do extend beyond downtown into MacArthur Park and Koreatown.

SBLA does not often cover the fairly simple process of introducing motions, as there is a lot of follow-through needed before the City Council actually passes one… but we are pretty happy to have some activity on these wrongheaded stings that we have been writing critically about since 2008.

Bonin had this to say in describing the situation:

It defies common sense to ticket someone who is entering a crosswalk as the countdown begins when they still have time to cross the street safely without disrupting traffic. We need to be and we will be a Vision Zero city, and pedestrian safety is paramount. But if we are going to be doing ‘crosswalk stings,’ I want to be sure we are focusing on busting drivers who don’t yield to people in the crosswalk.

Excessive and expensive tickets disincentivize walking in Los Angeles. We want people to be safe, but we do not want ‘Do Not Walk’ to be the message we send Angelenos.

The motion critiques the outdated state law that serves as the basis for stings:  Read more…

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Fix the Law That Criminalizes L.A.’s Pedestrians

Don't assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

Don’t assume that you actually have 19 seconds to cross this intersection. Pedestrian countdown signal via Systemic Failure

In his insightful article “Struggling student a victim of high fines and misdemeanors,” Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez clearly lays out the human cost of so-called “jaywalking” tickets. SBLA includes “jaywalking” in quotes because the term was invented by the auto lobby last century to re-frame how people think about street safety.

The column profiles Eduardo Lopez, a 22-year-old striving to get from work to community college class. Running to make a rail to bus connection in downtown L.A., Lopez received a $197 ticket. From the article:

It’s the equivalent of an added tax for the crime of being poor.

Eduardo had to take time out of another busy day to go to court and ask if he could pay off his debt by doing community work. No, he was told. He has until April 27 to pay up, unless he tries to fight it, with no guarantees except that he’d eat up more of his valuable time.

The LAPD’s crosswalk sting operations, which the Times calls “a fish-in-a-barrel opportunity for cops”, are not just downtown, but include MacArthur Park and Koreatown. LAPD targets pedestrians at various high-foot-traffic Metro subway portals, including 7th and Flower, Wilshire and Alvarado, Wilshire and Vermont. Targeting pedestrians at these Metro locations targets the low-income communities of color who predominantly use L.A.’s transit system. Jaywalking tickets, like truancy tickets and fare evasion tickets, are one part of a system that criminalizes the poor, especially youth of color.

There are a lot of things that need fixing in this system, but it turns out that pedestrian countdown signals are part of the problem. At least in the way they interact with outdated state laws. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Some L.A. City Sidewalk Repairs On the Way

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Sidewalk repair markings in front of Shatto Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles has a $27 million set aside for sidewalk repair during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. This is only the proverbial drop-in-the-bucket for L.A.’s estimated $1.5 billion in overall unmet sidewalk repair needs. Based on liability and property concerns, the city is only spending its $27 million repairing tree-root-damaged sidewalks along city facilities, such as parks and libraries.

Last month, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian strongly criticized city bureaucracy for delays in spending even the relatively meager sidewalk repair monies budgeted.

Walking around my Koreatown neighborhood a few days ago, I spotted white markings on the slightly damaged sidewalks in front of Shatto Park. It looks like the city forces are at least getting some sidewalk repair work under way. I inquired to the city’s Public Works Bureau to find out where and when sidewalk repair is happening, and will do a follow-up article when I hear back from them.

Readers: is anyone else seeing these sidewalk repair markings in front of city facilities in your neighborhoods? Where? Are there other tree-root-damaged sidewalks (in front of city facilities) that the city should be repairing? Let us know in the comments below.

Update April 2: The list of city facility sidewalk repairs underway is in this March 2015 Bureau of Engineering Report [PDF]. It’s part of the sidewalk repair city council file 14-0163-S4

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Investing in Place – Streetsblog Interviews Jessica Meaney

Jessica Meaney, image via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney, photo via Investing in Place

Jessica Meaney probably needs no introduction for many Streetsblog L.A. readers. She was awarded a 2013 Streetsie for her advocacy work. She’s a former boardmember of SBLA’s parent non-profit, an occasional SBLA author, and a steadfast voice for people who walk and bike in Southern California. She backs up her statements with a near-encyclopedic knowledge of convincing statistics that quantify exactly how many people walk, and just how little our municipalities invest in their facilities. Until recently she worked for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, where she was one of the leaders behind the L.A. County Active Transportation Collaborative. She recently started an exciting new endeavor, called Investing in Place, which she explains below. 

Tell SBLA readers about your new endeavor Investing In Place – what is it?

It’s a new new non-profit effort to support a constituency for equitable planning and support and relationships with agencies and efforts that invest in the built environment in Los Angeles County.

As Investing in Place maps out its 2015 work plan, the focus will largely be on transportation finance and policy work at the County level [through] Metro. Over the past several years working with Metro, again and again decisions have come back to, “Is it in the long range transportation plan?” Updating the LRTP (last one done in 2009) is an amazing opportunity to help shape the update of the region’s transportation priorities and processes for funding programs and projects. With close to 70% of Los Angeles County’s transportation funds being generated through our local county sales taxes working with Metro is critical for many outcomes people are hungry to see in our built environment.

And I also hope to support a Transportation Finance Strategic Plan at the city of Los Angeles. [The city] represents 40% of of the County, and without a comprehensive and easy-to-access transportation finance plan for L.A. City, it’s been hard to understand priorities and opportunities. It’s crazy to me that…we can say the sidewalks in the city of Los Angeles have, at minimum, a $1 billion price tag to address [issues] but no intentional policies, plans, staffing, or finance goals in place to do this. If the city of Los Angeles was able to articulate transportation funding needs and goals, this would enhance the regional decision making processes – especially regarding sales taxes.

And one great opportunity I welcome help [in] getting the word out on is Investing in Place is partnering with LA n Sync (a project of the Annenberg Foundation) and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to provide grant writing assistance to jurisdictions applying for the Active Transportation Program cycle 2 this spring. If people are interested in being considered for this opportunity, they need to apply by March 18th. We’ve posted the details and online application for this here.

How can interested folks get involved in Investing In Place?

Reach out to me at jessica@investinginplace.org or sign up for our email list, read our blog, or find us on social media (Twitter and Facebook). It’s looking like the April Metro Board meetings will be important opportunities to review the agency’s draft idea for what would be in the potential 2016 Ballot measure. As of now, there is no expenditure plan for this tax from Metro.

Investing in Place has an open partner meeting this week on March 5th (filled to capacity!), and then we’re working on more meetings in May, June, and September to help provide information on how to engage in these opportunities.

One of the key ways Investing in Place is working to get at a regional reach is by our Advisor team. The advisory team is [comprised of] over 10 members from leaders from organizations all over Los Angeles County, and some doing State and National work. They provide Investing in Place [with] strategic advice on organizational growth, strategy, and collaboration. It’s my version of the dream team. I’d encourage people to reach out to me or any members of our Advisor teamRead more…

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L.A. vs. S.F.: How Does Transportation Really Compare?

Recent San Francisco survey results show less than half of trips are made by private car. Image via SBSF.

Recent San Francisco survey results shows that driving has made up a minority of trips for at least three years. Image via SBSF.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled, “San Francisco residents relying less on private automobiles.” It is summarized at today’s Metro transportation headlines. The Times highlighted recent good news, reported in early February at Streetsblog SF, that 52 percent of San Francisco trips are taken by means other than a private car: walk, bike, transit, taxi, etc. The data are from a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) survey examining all trips, not just commuting. The time frame is from 2012 through 2014.

First, let’s celebrate! This is great news. In California’s second-largest city one of California’s largest cities, sustainable healthy transportation holds a majority.

The Times briefly mentions similarities between S.F. and L.A. in terms of transit investment, but mostly frames the good news by drawing sharp distinctions between L.A. and S.F. The Times article states:

  • “In stark contrast to car-dependent Los Angeles, studies show that most trips in the burgeoning tech metropolis [S.F.] are now made by modes of transportation other than the private automobile.”
  • “At 47 square miles, San Francisco is relatively small and densely populated. There are more than 17,000 residents per square mile — twice that of Los Angeles [City].”
  • “Los Angeles has an entrenched car culture and the city alone is spread out over nearly 10 times the area of San Francisco. Its population density of 8,100 people per square mile is less than half that of the Bay Area city.”
  • “Countywide, the [L.A. County] land area is an enormous 4,752 square miles, and the density drops to about 2,100 people per square mile.”

Just how stark is this contrast between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

The way I see it, the Times isn’t really comparing apples to apples. Read more…