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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Political Contortions Forcing Unsafe Compromise Design

Los Angeles' latest "Option 1A" propsal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks. Detail - click for full page.

Los Angeles’ latest “Option 1A” proposal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks but not include the planned bike lanes. Detail – click for full page.

Last night, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge met to discuss the city’s latest proposal.

L.A.’s historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge opened in 1927. It connects the Los Angeles communities of Silver Lake and Atwater Village. About ten years ago, city plans to renovate the bridge got underway. In 2013, the city proposed a dangerously high-speed highway-scale bridge design. Communities objected to the proposal. The city went back to the drawing board, and formed an Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing various possible configurations, and coming up with a better plan for the new bridge.

In August, the committee voted to move forward with Option 3 which includes bike lanes and sidewalks, and a road diet. Four existing car lanes would be reduced down to three lanes.  L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area on one side of the bridge, rejected the committee’s selection in favor of one that preserved four traffic lanes.

Given the width of the bridge, there is not quite enough room for two sidewalks, two bike lanes, and four car lanes. LaBonge’s insistence on preserving four car lanes meant that either bike lanes or a sidewalk would be eliminated.

The project stewed internally for a few months.

At last night’s meeting, attended by LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and City Engineer Gary Moore, LADOT presented a new design – called Option 1A. The new option is an attempt to preserve both sidewalks while meeting LaBonge’s insistence on four car lanes. This eliminates the bike lanes. Preserving both sidewalks (via either Option 1A or Option 3) is important. As it would be prohibitively costly to go back and add sidewalks at a later date. Lanes, whether for bicycles or cars, can be reconfigured relatively inexpensively.

The city’s Option 1A cross section labels the bridge sidewalks as “shared use path[s].” Advisory Committee members Deborah Murphy (L.A. Walks), Don Ward (Los Feliz Neighborhood Council), and Eric Bruins (L.A. County Bicycle Coalition) all commented that these are just sidewalks, not designed for shared use. For most of the bridge, Option 1A shows an 8-foot sidewalk. Under Waverly Drive, the sidewalk narrows to 5.5 feet. The bridge is sloped, which means most cyclists will travel at fairly high speeds downhill. With limited width, limited sight lines, and significant speed differences between people walking and bicycling, Bruins characterized Option 1A as a “recipe for disaster.” Read more…

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Orange Line BRT Speed Improvements Caught In Inter-Agency Delays

Metro Orange Line Stop in North Hollywood.  Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisyarzab/##Chris Yarzab##

Metro Orange Line passengers are waiting for improvements on the way. Photo:Chris Yarzab

I was hoping to write a couple of happy stories this week about the Metro Orange Line. The San Fernando Valley’s highly-regarded workhorse Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) opened in 2005. Lately, a new pedestrian tunnel and faster bus speeds seemed imminent. These facilities would save time for the Orange Line’s 30,000 daily riders.

Earlier this week, I reported that the tunnel, which I like, but L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne does not, is under construction. The construction site is not so friendly for pedestrians. Also, per Metro’s clarification, the heavily-used surface crosswalk across Lankershim Boulevard is being moved to a less convenient location. The crosswalk was at the south side of Chandler Boulevard North; in the future (and during construction, now) it will be on the north side of Chandler North. This means pedestrians will need to cross Lankershim and Chandler North, instead of just Lankershim. Perhaps, in front of the Metro station, pedestrian prioritization is called for. Perhaps include crosswalks at all the legs of the intersection? Maybe a pedestrian scramble? But that’s another story.

Today, I am disappointed to report that the bus speed improvements that appeared to be imminent seem instead to have fallen into a limbo of inter-agency delay between Metro and the Los Angeles City Transportation Department (LADOT).

The Orange Line BRT runs on its own busway: basically a bus-only street built on former railroad right-of-way. The busway runs generally east-west and, at signalized intersections, crosses numerous north-south streets. In its first few months of operation, the Orange Line ran faster than it does today. There were a handful of car-bus collisions on the route, reportedly due to drivers failing to obey traffic signals. The excuse that has been repeated is that the drivers were not used to seeing any traffic on that long-abandoned right-of-way.

After these collisions, Orange Line bus speeds were reduced. Today Orange Line buses slow to 10 mph when crossing intersections.

Now that, at least, local drivers are more aware of the presence of Orange Line buses, there is movement afoot to improve the Orange Line by bringing its buses back up to speed. 

As both the Los Angeles City Councilmember representing neighborhoods along the Orange Line and a Metro Boardmember, Paul Krekorian is uniquely situated to champion Metro Orange Line improvements. With Council colleague Bob Blumenfeld, Krekorian authored council motion 14-1352 [PDF], which instructs LADOT to work with Metro to figure out how to improve Orange Line service, including increasing speeds.

The Krekorian motion was heard at the October 22 meeting of the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee. During the Orange Line motion discussion (audio - at 0:40.), the following exchange took place:

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian: Well, maybe we can make this very easy then. Is it the city’s position that Metro can unilaterally change the speeds at intersection crossing points on the Orange Line without approval of the city?

Bill Shao, Senior Transportation Engineer, LADOT: Yes, it is.

Krekorian: Great. Less need to collaborate then, I guess. [laughter]

Shao: We – the city – we have to understand what the new speeds at crossings are so that we can align our signals to their needs.

Krekorian: Which actually becomes a bigger issue but that’s an issue that can happen after these changes take place.

Shao: That’s correct.

Krekorian: Great.

For many years, LADOT resisted increasing speeds on the Metro Orange Line BRT, as it would mean that some people in cars will sometimes experience minor delays in crossing the Orange Line. Shao’s October testimony was the first clear message that LADOT is fully on board, and now the ball is in Metro’s court to improve Orange Line speeds. My hunch is that this change can be attributed to Seleta Reynolds’ leadership.

At the October committee meeting, Metro Interim Executive Officer Jon Hillmer said that Metro was planning to increase Orange Line bus intersection speeds from 10 mph to 25 mph, which Metro expects will save cross-Valley commuters 4-8 minutes per trip. The next day, I reported that Metro Orange Line speed improvements appeared to be coming soon.

Last week, I inquired of LADOT and Metro regarding the timeline for these Orange Line speed improvements. Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero responded that he would check but that they “may be the bailiwick of LADOT.”

Read more…

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L.A. Council Approves Call for Projects List with Cedillo Snub Intact

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Rendering of the planned buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Yesterdays’ Council vote signals a further step away from a North Figueroa that would be safer for all. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved the list of projects [PDF] that the city plans to submit for Metro Call for Projects funding. Overall, the Call list includes a lot of great projects that reflect that many L.A. City elected officials and the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) are truly pursuing greater livability and safety.

Unfortunately, the list also includes the ”North Figueroa Great Streets Corridor,” City Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s proposal to add diagonal parking to North Figueroa Street instead of bike lanes.

At yesterday’s meeting, more than half a dozen speakers urged the Council not to pursue Cedillo’s North Figueroa proposal. Speakers included a North Figueroa business owner, local residents, and livability advocates. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Alek Bartrosouf testified that, “It is important to ensure that as we build Great Streets across the City of Los Angeles that these streets are designed for the safety of all who travel them, and that the planning process is open and inclusive of all voices.”

The LACBC further clarified concerns in their comment letter [PDF] which urged Council President Herb Wesson to re-scope the North Figueroa project to align with the inclusive vision in the city’s bike and mobility plans.

Cedillo’s response to the public was telling. He characterized speakers as having “one percent dictate for 99 percent.” He portrayed complete streets supporters as bullies, proclaiming, “We will not be bullied.” Ultimately, Cedillo defended his North Figueroa project in Orwellian livability rhetoric, stating it includes a “multi-modal approach” and puts “safety first and foremost.”

The City Council, which generally defers to the councilmember who represents the district where a project is located, approved the Call for Projects list unanimously.

Yesterday’s vote gives LADOT staff the go-ahead to seek funding for Cedillo’s project. The project will compete with other applications for Metro funding. If project funding is approved by Metro in mid-2015, funding would be programmed beginning in FY 2019-2020. The project scope could be modified during design and environmental review processes.

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Cedillo Insults Bikes as L.A. Gears Up for Metro 2015 Call for Projects

Via the Metro Call for Projects process, yesterday Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo revealed his plans for diagonal parking on North Figueroa Street. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Via the Metro Call for Projects process, yesterday Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo revealed his plans for diagonal parking on North Figueroa Street. Cedillo is pictured above at an October 2014 press event.  Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metro Call for Projects (the Call) competitively grants transportation funding to L.A. County cities to build various transportation projects. Metro’s next Call for Projects will take place in 2015, with cities applying in late January, and awardees announced by mid-2015. The Call takes place every other year.

In the recent past, Metro’s Call was the biggest source of funding for L.A. County bicycle and pedestrian projects, though the Call categories go far beyond just active transportation. Due to changes in federal transportation funding, a lot of the walk and bike monies have been shifted into the statewide Active Transportation Program. Nonetheless, the Call continues to shape the way local transportation capital is spent, and still includes some bike and pedestrian funding. This will be the first Call since the Metro Board of Directors adopted the agency’s Complete Streets Policy, which asserts that the agency will prioritize projects that support a breadth of modes.

Metro’s 2015 Call will include the following funding categories:

  • Regional Surface Transportation Improvements (RSTI; mostly road-widening)
  • Goods Movement Improvements
  • Signal Synchronization and Bus Speed Improvements
  • Transportation Demand Management
  • Transit Capital
  • Bicycle Improvements
  • Pedestrian Improvements

When the Call approaches, the city of L.A. embarks on an internal ranking process. Various city departments– primarily Transportation (LADOT), but also Public Works bureaus, and sometimes the port, airports, and others–submit projects internally. The Mayor and City Council have a hand in making sure departments include projects that they support and prioritize. The city then scores and ranks the projects internally, selecting a final list of recommended projects.

That entire selection process remains behind closed doors until the final city project list is brought to the City Council for approval. The first step in this approval took place yesterday, when LADOT presented its recommendations to the City Council Transportation Committee. LADOT recommendations include an explanatory cover letter [PDF] and a project list spreadsheet [PDF].

There are millions of stories in these LADOT documents, not all of which will fit in today’s article. For now, SBLA will just highlight some of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Read more…

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Breaking: Southwest Cities Vote to Replace Pam O’Connor with Inglewood’s James Butts on Metro Board

Earlier this morning, the “Southwest Corridor” cities voted for a new official to represent them on the Metro Board of Directors, replacing Santa Monica Councilwoman Pam O’Connor with Inglewood Mayor James Butts. The vote needs to be ratified by the City Selection Committee when it meets in January.

Mayor Butts at the groundbreaking for the Crenshaw Line. Image: Metro

Mayor Butts at the groundbreaking for the Crenshaw Line. Image: Metro

Assuming he is approved by the full City Selection Committee in January, Butts will serve a four-year term that ends in January 2019. There is no term limit to serving on the Metro Board nor as Mayor of Inglewood, so Butts could be a major player for a long-time on transportation issues.

Anyone interested in reading more about the process of selecting Metro Board Members that are neither County Supervisors nor appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles should read this 2012 article during the attempt to remove Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian.

Butts doesn’t have quite the record that O’Connor does as a leader on transportation, but Inglewood has become a larger player in recent years. The future Crenshaw Line has two stops in Inglewood and the city earned a grant from Metro to host a CicLAvia-style open street event in the next couple of years.

O’Connor, who served as Metro Board Chair in 2007 and founded the agency’s sustainability committee, survived a close municipal election in Santa Monica last month. She will continue to serve as Chair of the Expo Construction Authority as the representative from the City of Santa Monica. Butts’ tenure as Chief of Police in Santa Monica (1991-2006) overlaps with O’Connor’s tenure on the City Council.

Before the meeting, rumors circulated at potential challengers to O’Connor which included former Beverly Hills City Councilman John Mirisch and Torrance Mayor Pat Furey. Mirisch, an opponent of the Westside Subway Extension, seconded Butts’ nomination.

The Los Angeles County City Selection Committee Southwest Corridor Sector consists of nineteen cities. Each city has a weighted vote depending on population. A list of the member cities and their total votes is below. A vote count from today’s meeting will be uploaded once it is available.

  • Torrance, 15 votes
  • Inglewood, 12 votes
  • Carson, 10 votes
  • Santa Monica, 9
  • Hawthorne, 9 votes
  • Redondo Beach, 7 votes
  • Gardena, 6 votes
  • Beverly Hills, 4 votes
  • Rancho Palos Verdes, 4 votes
  • Culver City, 4 votes
  • West Hollywood, 4 votes,
  • Manhattan Beach, 4 votes
  • Lawndale, 3 votes
  • Lomita, 2 votes
  • El Segundo, 2 votes
  • Rolling Hills Estates, 1 vote
  • Palos Verdes Estates, 1 vote
  • Rolling Hills, 1 vote
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Editorial: Four Ways To Encourage Transit-Friendly Affordable Housing

Metro should pursue joint development beyond the five rail lines under construction, including sites like this bus parking on Wilshire Boulvard just east of the Vermont/Wilshire station. Image via Google maps

Metro should pursue joint development beyond the five rail lines under construction, including sites like this bus parking on Wilshire Boulvard just east of the Vermont/Wilshire station. Image via Google maps

I’ve been thinking about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent motion to help Metro partner on joint development of affordable housing near stations. Also, Garcetti-ally L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell expressed support for reducing parking requirements in new affordable housing developments along transit corridors, to “help lower construction costs and therefore rents.”

A new report this week, joins previous reports with similar findings: Los Angeles is one of least affordable places to live in the U.S., second only to Honolulu.

So, I figure it is time to offer some of my sage advice.

I don’t know that Garcetti, O’Farrell, Metro, or city departments need my advice, but I’ll go ahead and offer four suggestions on how Southern California can foster transit-oriented affordable housing. None of these are easy. They would involve different governmental agencies operating on different timelines. But perhaps a number of these measures could combine over time to overcome some of our systemic biases for sprawl and against infill transit-oriented development (TOD) and make a dent in L.A.’s affordable housing shortage.

1. Additional Metro Joint Development Sites

Garcetti’s motion [PDF] to the Metro Board of Directors encourages housing at Metro owned-sites on the five new rail lines under construction. These are good places for affordable housing, but there are a lot more joint development sites among Metro’s holdings. It is possible that some projects that I am not aware of could already be underway at some of these sites. Here are three categories of additional Metro site that come to my mind:

  • Existing stations: Just in my Koreatown neighborhood, I’d like to see joint development of affordable housing on top of the Vermont/Beverly and Vermont/Santa Monica Blvd/LACC Red Line stations. These aren’t big vacant lots (like some of Metro’s Boyle Heights vacant lots, currently in early development stages) so housing would likely be directly over the station portal, similar to Hollywood/Western Red Line Station.
  • Existing transit parking lots: I think that there are fairly low-hanging fruit opportunities for development at the stations that are at the end-of-line until further extensions open: Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station and Culver City Expo Line Station. I know Metro tried and failed to jointly develop the San Fernando Valley Red Line parking lots, in part due to excessive replacement parking requirements. It’s going to take some creative architect/developer to balance some needs for parking at these sites (in the short run.) They’re not going to go from 100 percent parking to 100 percent housing overnight, but they should remain under consideration for future joint development, ideally, mixed-use affordable housing with retail.
  • Existing Metro bus parking areas: It bugs me that, on prime mid-city real estate on Wilshire Boulevard at Shatto Place, immediately east of the busy Vermont/Wilshire Red Line station TOD, Metro has a large bus layover surface parking lot that appears 95 percent empty 95 percent of the time. It looks as though Metro employees park cars there, too. Yes, Metro needs bus parking in this area and I expect that bus parking inside a building isn’t easy; it’s going to need high ceilings, large turning radii, etc., but it is not rocket science. The Wilshire surface lot could be jointly developed as affordable housing on top of Metro bus parking, hopefully with walkable, maybe retail, frontage on Wilshire. There’s another similar bus parking site at 6th Street and Oxford, just around the corner from the Wilshire/Western Purple Line station.

2. Separate “Un-Bundle” Parking from Housing

Right now, when someone rents or buys housing in Southern California, the price automatically includes a couple of parking spaces. Whether you use them or not. For homebuyers, this can mean $20,000-$30,000+ per parking space. This parking is “bundled” with the cost of the housing. Cities can un-bundle the parking, with individuals and families renting/purchasing only as many parking spaces as they actually use. Un-bundling is L.A. City policy in some areas, mainly the recently-approved Cornfield-Arroyo Seco “CASP” plan area north of downtown L.A. Un-bundled parking is a staple in adaptive re-use projects downtown, too. If you live in a building that doesn’t have parking, and you need parking, then you rent parking space nearby.

Read more…

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Kinkisharyo Agreement Reached, Metro Rail Cars To Be Built in Palmdale

Kinkisharyo rail car. Photo from Don Knabe blog

Kinkisharyo rail car. Photo from Don’s Blog

In October, the L.A. Times declared Kinkisharyo’s Palmdale Metro light rail car manufacturing plant “all but dead.” KPCC reported that County Supervisor Mike Antonovich spoke at a rally condemning labor’s legal challenges as “nonsense.” County Supervisor Don Knabe opined that “regulatory red tape” had cost L.A. County jobs.

Apparently, the reports of the death of local rail car manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated.

At a recent Metro meeting, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had hinted that he was looking into this matter.

Today, the mayor announced that an agreement had been reached to allow manufacturing to proceed in Palmdale. Parties to the agreement include Kinkisharyo, Metro, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and organized labor, including International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union Number Eleven (IBEW 11). As the Metro light rail system expands, its rail cars will be assembled by workers in Palmdale.

The announcement follows a pattern of Garcetti assuming the mantle of a regional leader. The mayor has repeatedly stated that his responsibilities don’t end at L.A. City borders. Whether it is supporting Gold Line extensions east of Los Angeles, or sticking up for architecture in Orange County, Garcetti has made a point of supporting the region.

Portions of Mayor Garcetti’s announcement are after the jump; the full statement is available on Mayor Garcetti’s website.

Read more…

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Garcetti Motion Encourages Affordable Housing At Metro Stations

California's Strategic Growth Council has awarded the city of Los Angeles a half-million dollar grant for a study that will make it easier to build infill housing in Transit Priority Areas, similar to this transit-oriented development above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

A Metro motion passed today should help the agency play a significant role in joint development of affordable housing at Metro stations, similar to this housing at the Wilshire-Vermont subway station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier today, the Metro board of directors passed a motion [PDF] encouraging Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) and affordable housing.

The motion may give some indication of where the board’s newest chair, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, hopes to take the agency. Garcetti has been a vocal proponent of siting affordable housing along transit lines. Garcetti authored the motion and shepherded its passage in the face of concerns expressed by other Metro boardmembers.

The motion helps Metro to play a greater role in fostering affordable housing at its rail stations and along its transit corridors. There are six components to the motion; the agency will: (full text in this PDF)

  1. Inventory current and potential future joint development sites along Metro’s Gold, Expo, Crenshaw/LAX, Regional Connector, and Purple Lines.
  2. Partner with local cities and L.A. County to work together to invest in transit corridor sites, potentially leveraging municipal housing funding.
  3. Set a goal that a minimum 30 percent of Metro’s jointly-developed housing will be affordable housing.
  4. Allow property value discounts to incentivize affordability.
  5. Collaborate on the creation of a Countywide Transit Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) loan fund.
  6. Establish a TAP purchase program for residents of joint development housing.

The motion directs Metro CEO Art Leahy to report to the board in February 2015 with a preliminary assessment of the above. From its preamble, the motion readies Metro to support the region in taking advantage of new State of California programs that will grant cap-and-trade funds to promote Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC.)

The motion was approved at last week’s executive committee meeting, so it could have sailed through this morning without debate. Boardmember Diane DuBois removed the item from the meeting’s consent calendar. Though DuBois ultimately voted in favor of the motion, she offered a long list of concerns, including: Metro shouldn’t “dictate” affordable housing goals, Metro doesn’t have authority over land use, affordability targets will discourage development, existing TAP outlets are sufficient, and affordable joint development is “diverting transit dollars.”

Overall, Dubois’ comments encouraged Metro to tightly focus on its mission to provide transit, hence joint development would merely “generate value” that the agency can use to fund transit.

The motion was then defended by its co-authors, Garcetti, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Garcetti-appointees Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker and Mike Bonin. Garcetti cited a recent report showed that L.A. City has the least affordable rental housing market in the nation.

Councilmember Bonin stressed that Metro does have significant influence over development, and that it was a “moral imperative” to play a role in addressing the great need for affordable housing. Overall, Garcetti and these co-authors affirmed that Metro’s mission does extend beyond the strict boundaries of its stations, and that the agency plays a big role in the quality of life in transit-adjacent communities.  Read more…

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Garcetti, City Leaders, Promise Hundreds of Repaired Streets Every Year

Eric Garcetti discusses street reconstruction flanked by Joe Buscaino and Mike Bonin. Photo: Damien Newton

Eric Garcetti discusses street reconstruction flanked by Joe Buscaino and Mike Bonin. Photo: Damien Newton

Flanked by elected and appointed city officials, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a handful of initiatives and reforms that would increase city revenue for road repaving by nearly $50 million a year at the “under reconstruction” corner of National and Barrington Boulevards in West Los Angeles.

“All told, we are going to pay another 200 miles of road, every year, on top of the 200 miles of road in this year’s budget,” Garcetti stated. “That’s 400 miles extra more of road paved every single year.”

Garcetti outlined plans that would allow the city to recapture and save funds in a variety of ways.

First, Garcetti pledged that the city will refurbish and upgrade its asphalt plant in South L.A. The improved plant will operate more efficiently, be able to recycle used and broken asphalt and even be better for the environment.

Later today, Counclmember Joe Buscaino will introduce legislation that will require all private parking garages to accept credit cards. 10% of revenue from private parking is supposed to be returned to the city. While he didn’t say that he thinks that parking garage operators are lying, he did point out that there is more of a paper trail when someone swipes a card rather than when they hand over cash.

That paper trail could lead to another $20 to $25 million for the city, which Garcetti pledged would go right back into increasing the city’s road reconstruction program.

The last area that the city could improve, is the formula it uses to charge private companies when they rip up the street: usually cable or telephone companies. The city created a formula in 1996 to estimate the reimbursement a private company should pay the city. Over the years, the formula hasn’t been tweaked, and Garcetti seems anxious to make sure that L.A.’s taxpayers aren’t being charged to fix a street that was intentionally destroyed by a private interest.

The total increase in revenue could be “around $10 million.”

Here’s the entire press conference w/Garcetti, Buscaino, Galerpin and Bonin Read more…

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More Housing, Less Sprawl: Tackling Los Angeles’ Affordable Housing Crisis through Smart Growth

It is no secret that Southern California is currently facing one of the worst housing crises it has faced in more than half a century.

Eric Garcetti is a long-time believer in density built around transit. Photo:##http://endinggridlock.org/blog/congratulations-to-las-next-mayor-eric-garcetti##Angelenos Against Gridlock##

Eric Garcetti is a long-time believer in density built around transit. Photo:Angelenos Against Gridlock

That’s the point Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti drove home Wednesday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s annual Mayoral Housing, Transportation, and Jobs summit.

While it isn’t a revelation to most that it’s getting harder and harder to be poor or even middle class and afford to live in Los Angeles County – especially in westside cities like Santa Monica – it was refreshing to hear Garcetti address the root cause of this crisis: a lack of new housing being built.

But even more refreshing was to hear Garcetti, who currently chairs Metro’s Board of Directors, talk about making sure new housing – especially units affordable to low and middle-income residents – gets built next to the region’s expanding transit system.

At the summit, Garcetti announced his plan to increase L.A.’s housing stock by 100,000 new units by 2021. At the same time, he announced his intention to bring a motion before the Metro board to “analyze affordable housing preservation and construction around our transit system, from using MTA-owned land and targeting transit-pass programs.”

Does that mean we may see some of those sprawling surface parking lots redeveloped into places where middle- and low-income residents – many of whom rely on public transit for their daily commute – can live?

Studies have shown that lower-income residents will leave their cars at home 50 percent more often than wealthier residents if they live within a quarter mile of reliable public transit.

Placing affordable housing near transit is a major tool in combating these issues, which is one reason why State Senator Darryl Steinberg fought for a generous portion of the California’s cap-and-trade money to be used to subsidize transit-oriented development.

The reality is, Garcetti said, that without growth, especially near transit, the region’s problems will only get worse. While the housing crisis may be evocative of the post-war era, regional leaders seem to realize that sprawl – the answer to our mid-century housing crisis – is not the answer today. (In case you didn’t already realize it, sprawl is really bad for people, the environment, and the economy.) Read more…