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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…