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Posts from the "Antonio Villaraigosa" Category

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It Never Would Have Taken This Long…If Villaraigosa Were Still in Charge

The Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane just south of 4th and Spring. Not Green. Sort-of Buffered. Barely a bike lane. Photo: Damien Newton

By the time I hit Spring Street, I was in a bad mood.

My plan for the afternoon was to ride Metro and my bike up to Colorado Blvd. to take pictures of the new buffered bike lanes before heading downtown to ride the repainted Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane and then visit the heroes of L.A. Walks at Fountain and 7th.

But the day had gone awry. An hour fixing a Santa Monica Next story which contained some misinformation about Sunday’s plane crash and a broken down Expo train had stolen the time needed to get up to Northeast Los Angeles. So I rolled my bicycle out of the Civic Center Subway Station and was ready to pedal down Spring Street to 7th in a bad mood. City officials had told me the lane would be repainted over the weekend “before CicLAvia” so I was looking forward to the new lane.

But the lane isn’t painted. In fact, the water blasting that took place on the night of September 15th and a year and a half of routine wear and tear have left it a shambles of a bike lane, and we’re not just talking about green paint anymore. The buffer is obliterated in areas. The bicycle markings were blasted away with the green paint. Even the left line is missing for large stretches of the lane.

As you would expect, riding down it isn’t a great experience anymore. Just before the Parklet at L.A. Cafe, a driver swerved in front of me. When I yelled, “Hey, I’m in a bike lane!” he looked confused. He apologized at the next light. “I didn’t see it. I didn’t know.”

It was the opposite experience of riding on the Expo Line the day the Culver City Station opened. On that day, the people I talked to and overheard seemed out of casting for a Metro commercial, talking in awe about the great project and about how L.A. is catching up to New York on transit access. Yesterday was confused drivers and angry cyclists.

When I snapped the above picture just South of 4th Street, another cyclists stopped and asked if I was with “one of the bike groups who is mad about this.” Not wanting to get into too long a conversation on the street, I just said that I was.

“It never would have taken this long to fix this lane if Villariagosa were still in charge,” he muttered and pedaled off. Read more…

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Metro Puts $2 Million Behind Villaraigosa Plan to Bring “CicLAvia” Everywhere

Riding off into the sunset.

We knew Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa liked CicLAvia. Upon returning from Copenhagen in 2009, he vowed that Los Angeles would have its own “open street festival.”

Twenty-one months later, after a visit from Janette Sadik-Khan and a broken elbow, Los Angeles held CicLAvia. Since then, the city has held six more, and over a million people have taken to the streets. Villaraigosa worked with the City Council and Metro Board of Directors to set aside a million dollars to staff CicLAvia (the non-profit) and see that 2013 held a record three events.

As one of his last acts as Mayor of Los Angeles, he wants to spread the love.

The closest thing a Los Angeles County city not named “Los Angeles” has ever come to CicLAvia is the 2008 “car-free Rose Bowl” event in Pasadena. A motion passed during today’s long and contentious Metro Board of Directors meeting will change that. The motion directs staff to set aside another $2 million for Metro to host a competitive process to award “open streets” grants to other cities to spread the CicLAvia love.

“Expanding CicLAvia at a County level is very exciting,” writes Borja Leon, Deputy Mayor for Transportation for the City of Los Angeles. “Mayor Villaraigosa hopes CicLAvia can continue to grow on LA streets and make pedestrian and cycling a way of life for more Angelenos” Read more…

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City Throws a Party. Press Throws a Fit. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

To see the full schedule for Celebrate L.A., click on the image.

This Friday, the City of Los Angeles is throwing itself a party in Grand Park from 5 pm to 10 pm. There will be music by local acts, student groups and celebrity musicians. Chefs, some of whom are on television, will give healthy cooking demonstrations. There will be food trucks. There will be free nachos.  President Bill Clinton will speak. Wanda Sykes will tell jokes. Ryan Seacrest will do whatever it is Ryan Seacrest does.

To see the full schedule for Celebrate L.A., click on the image. 

It’s the kind of event some people will remember their whole lives.

The hefty price tag, well over a quarter of a million dollars, for the event is being picked up by local businesses and foundations, except for $75,000 for police and other city services. There is no cost to attend. All of the entertainers, from Sykes to Placido Domingo to the Plaza de la Raza Youth Mariachi, are donating their time.

Naturally, this relatively low-cost public event caused a massive media freakout with the Daily News, L.A. Weekly and other conservative news outlets proclaiming that the “Mayor was throwing himself a party on our dime” or something to that effect. In fact, the Mayor’s office pooled money from several of the city’s cultural events budgets to make one large event, one that thousands of people could, and will, enjoy.

“The city has done a really great job in leveraging minimal city funds to create a great event,” claims Aaron Paley, the President and co-founder of Community Arts Resources (CARS). ”It’s a great event, that’s free, that’s going to bring people together o celebrate the city. It’s a really great L.A. event, and we really don’t have enough of them.”

CARS is in charge of the logistics for the event, and is known locally for its role planning large public events such as CicLAvia and last weekend’s Santa Monica Festival.

And while the press is focused on the politics of the event, breathlessly wondering whether or not Eric Garcetti will attend, they’re missing the point. It’s not just cool that the City is throwing a party in Grand Park, it’s actually good policy, too.

“It’s really important,” said David Sloane, professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy. “I believe that civic events, social events, that break down silos and bring together residents of a city play an enormous role in creating relationships and making people realize the kinds of relationships they have in the city.”

Or put more simply, holding events that celebrate what makes a place significant and original is just something that great cities do. Read more…

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Yes Virginia, there will be a Leimert Park station on the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Line

It’s time to declare victory in the battle for a Leimert Park Metro station.

In an exceptionally fast-moving turn of events — by government standards, anyway — the Metro Board has voted today to fully fund what had been considered optional Crenshaw/LAX Line stations at Leimert Park and Hindry Ave.

The move comes just one day after the L.A. City Council voted to spend a total of $55 million in future Measure R fund for the two stations.

While the final battle rushed to a swift conclusion, the fight for a Leimert Park station has gone on since at least 2010, when Metro staffers originally rejected the idea of an underground station as too expensive, while offering too little benefit at an estimated $131 million.

That was followed by a second request for a Leimert Park stop from County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, which received a conditional approval — it would be built only if the entire 8.5 mile project, including the station, could be built out within the original $1.7 billion budget.

Yet that decision ignored the importance of Leimert Park, not just to the local community, but to the city at large. The area is the historic cultural heart of the city’s African American community, one of the largest black middle class communities in the U.S. And an area so vibrant that Wikipedia quotes filmmaker John Singleton as calling it “the black Greenwich Village.”

Not to mention one that could, and should, be a draw for day trippers and tourists from Southern California and around the world. But only if they have what they consider a safe, convenient way to get there.

Before this week, that didn’t look likely. Read more…

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Villaraigosa Celebrates Bike Plan Progress, Rallies for More

Two years ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a host of city officials stood at the podium announcing a new day for cyclists in Los Angeles. Today, he was back in the same place, at the same time, to announce that the city is making progress.

City Council Members look on as Villaraigosa announces the signing of the Bike Plan on March 2, 2010.

“CicLAvia’s success and the breakneck pace of bikeway construction demonstrate that L.A. has removed its training wheels,” said Mayor Villaraigosa. “The synergy of public support and infrastructure investment has put L.A. at the front of the transit pack.”

To date, LADOT has installed 123 miles of new bikeways, at a rate of 61 miles every 12 months. This is nearly 8 times the rate of the previous 40 years. In fiscal year 2011-2012 L.A. installed 76 miles of bike facilities. Two thirds of the way through fiscal year 2012-2013 they’ve already added another 39 miles. This pace of installation includes 97 miles of bike lanes, 4 miles of bike paths, 21 miles of sharrows, and 1 mile of bicycle-friendly streets.

“I am ecstatic that the City is continuing on a path to complete 40 miles of bike lanes per year,” said Councilman Bill Rosendahl. “We are seeing first hand how The Bike Plan is dramatically improving the City’s multi-modal system of transportation, as well as having a positive impact on our air and climate.”

There are now a total of 431 miles of bikeways citywide, up from just over 300 when the Mayor last held a bocycle themed press event at City Hall.

“Lack of infrastructure is the biggest barrier to more people choosing to ride. When the City installs bike lanes, ridership goes up 100 to 200 percent within the next year,” said Jen Klausner, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Read more…

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With All Eyes on L.A., Villaraigosa Signs New Bike Parking Ordinance

Moments ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a new bicycle parking ordinance into law which requires more bicycle parking at new developments and even allows a small swap of car parking for bike parking in certain approved development plans. The ordinance was on the verge of being signed last year before a series of small technical changes were added and the legislation had to go back through the City Council Committee structure.

Villaraigosa at the bike plan signing, March 2011. Photo:LACBC Blog

“The city is undergoing a transportation renaissance and we are changing the way Los Angeles moves,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, before signing the bill. “We have made unprecedented investments in the city’s bike infrastructure, with more bikeways and bike parking spaces than any time in the city’s history. The bicycle parking ordinance is another step in making it easier for Angelenos to navigate the city on two wheels.”

The ordinance  goes into effect on March 13, 2013.

Under the new law, up to 30% of auto parking can swapped for bicycle parking within a commercial nonresidential  project and 15% of auto parking can be swapped within a residential project that is near a major bus or transit station.  This could be particularly crucial for the transit oriented developments that pop up as a result of the new train lines that are coming online as a result of Measure R.

The ordinance also provides a mechanism to add more bike corrals to city streets.   These on-street public bicycle parking spaces offer an opportunity to provide ample bicycle parking without taking up pedestrian space on sidewalks. Bike corrals have been proven to increase bicycle usage in areas where they are installed, as they encourage residents to travel by bicycle around their neighborhoods to do their shopping and errands.   Read more…

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National Press: Streetsblog Provides Your Antonio Villaraigosa Cheat Sheet

As national press sharpens their focus on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s cheat sheet, there’s been way too much discussion of Charlie Sheen and other assorted scandals. What’s too often missing is a discussion of the Mayor’s own transportation record. To try and help our friends in the legacy media, L.A. Streetblog proudly presents the two-part, “Mayor Villaraigosa Transportation Cheat Sheet.” Today we’ll look at policy and project accomplishments. Tomorrow we’ll look at some narratives including a look at the story on whether a broken elbow changed the city’s bike policies, tomorrow.

Lahood speaks as Villaraigosa, Metro CEO Art Leahy and Metrolink CEO John Fenton look on at a 2012 press conference on high speed rail. Photo: LA Streetsblog/Flickr

We should note that despite our good relationship with the mayor and his press office, we have no inside information. A request for a formal statement on the USDOT rumors was met with a “The best I can do for you for now is to send you to the White House for those inquiries.”

But the rumors persist, and to that end, we present…

The Mayor’s Overall Transportation Record:

First, read this The Subway Mayor published by the L.A. Weekly from 2005. Shortly after taking office, the second-largest print publication in Los Angeles took a look at the Mayor’s transportation platform. While the news paper didn’t exactly scoff, it cast the odds of accomplishing his transit vision as pretty long.

Next, read this three part interview: Building a New Transportation System, The Subway Mayor Triumphant, and Streetcast: Audio from the Interviews.

There’s many negative things that will be said about Villaraigosa if he is nominated to be secretary of transportation, but there is no denying he has an excellent record on transportation. Any reporter reading this who would like to discuss the Mayor’s track record “on the record” should email damien@streetsblog.org In short: Read more…

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Battle Over Crenshaw Line Gets National Nod from New York Times

At the press conference announcing the half billion dollar loan for the Crenshaw Line, Antonio Villaraigosa was surrounded with a multi-ethnic team of elected officials and union members. In today's piece in the New York Times, the battle over the Crenshaw line route and stations sets him against the interests of black South Los Angeles.

It was a rainy day on October 20, 2010, much like today. Days before her most recent re-election, Senator Barbara Boxer was in town, with USDOT officials in tow, to announce a $543 million no interest loan to expediate construction of the Crenshaw Line. At this point, it was all but official that the Crenshaw Line would be a light rail line. A parade of public officials that included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Congress Woman Jane Harman and Boxer herself all took to the podium to praise each other and the Crenshaw Line.

Standing by one entrance to the park was Damien Goodmon, wearing a coat with a “Crenshaw Subway” sticker on, talking to whatever official had an ear to bend about his concerns. He shared a laugh with me that the location of the press conference was ironic, because the park we were standing in, the one that had been cleaned for the first time “in years” by city staff the night before, was not one that was going to get its own stop. We were standing in Leimert Park.

In May of 2011, the Metro Board of Directors made the route of the Crenshaw Line official. A light rail was selected, not a busway. But the hundreds of South L.A. residents in the audience left disappointed. The proposed station at the corner of Vernon and Crenshaw, the one that would serve Leimert Park, was listed as “optional.” Also, the rail light rail line would run at-grade down a portion of Crenshaw’s business district.

Today, the battle over the routing of the Crenshaw Line is as hot as ever. Today’s New York Times takes a look at the ongoing battle between black political leaders and the Crenshaw Community against Metro and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Ian Lovett’s article places the struggle over Crenshaw into a larger historical context of the struggles of South Los Angeles against transportation development that divides the community going back generations. After lamenting that Crenshaw was supposed to be different, Lovett talks to business owners who fear the line will be a step back, not forward.

“I appreciated that the article put our battle for the future of Crenshaw in a historical context,” writes Goodmon. “There is an unfortunate history of transportation projects devastating communities, particularly local black communities. It is what led to the federal environmental justice laws and the protected status of minority and low-income communities. Just within our coalition there are people who were displaced by freeway construction, and had their communities cut in half with the Blue and Expo lines. MTA has always had a choice to either return a little bit more of our tax dollars to make these projects the true asset and catalyst they can be for our community and region, or continue that ugly history. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen the latter.”

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition has had an eventful month. In addition to their apparently successful efforts to defeat the Measure J transit tax extension, they’ve also filed their opening brief in a lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration and Metro at a time that is both crucial for the campaign and possibly for Villaraigosa personally.

“I like our trajectory as we head into possibly the most formative 6 months our our effort thus far,” concludes Goodmon. Read more…

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Self-Grading…Mayor’s Office Gives Itself Mostly High Marks on Transportation

Last month, the Mayor’s Office released a report ranking itself on how it achieved, or didn’t achieve, its stated transportation goals over the last seven and a half years. Rather than traditional grades, the report gave the offices green (for “completed”), yellow (for “in the works”) or red (for “didn’t/won’t happen) on a variety of transportation issues.

Download the full report by clicking on the image.

As speculation on whether the “Subway Mayor” is going to move on to Washington, D.C. to be the next Secretary of Transportation intensifies, this report could be a resume of sorts for the Mayor. If the rumored appointment does happen, a report released to the yawn of the local press corps could become fodder for national debate. While the report does have many more green dots than yellow or red, after all what politician releases a report that shows staff underperforming, there is enough red and yellow to give the report an honest look. And after all, transportation is one of the areas where Villaraigosa and his team excel.

To nobody’s surprise, the Mayor’s Office gives itself high marks on transit expansion, noting the passage of Measure R in 2008 and the less-exciting but perhaps just-as-important Proposition B in 2006. Both the County and State transportation taxes have allowed Metro to make major investments in transit expansion projects.

In addition to the tax passages, the report lists a handful of projects completed in recent years: The Gold Line Eastside Extension, the first Phase of the Expo Line, the Orange Line Chatsworth Extension, and even the opening of the original Orange Line. During his campaigns, Villaraigosa ran on doubling the rapid transit and rail system. As the chart below shows, Los Angeles County is well on the way to reaching that goal thanks in large part to Villaraigosa’s leadership.

Read more…

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Villaraigosa to Department Heads: It’s Time to Work Together on T.O.D. Planning

Mayor Villaraigosa Executive Order on Transit Oriented Development Cabinet

Too to many people, urban planning in Los Angeles is a joke. Even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will play up Los Angeles’ uneven history with planning in private interviews or public speeches when he knows he’s addressing an audience that gets it. But the Mayor always claimed that the city was getting better, that he and his department heads “get it” when it comes to the need for urban density, urban design and transit oriented development. And apparently there is no time like the present to get serious.

In early 2012, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tasked city department heads with developing and implementing a strategy for transit oriented development. As the year went on, he half-joked to Streetsblog and at RailVolution that the city was finally starting to plan for development around rail and bus hubs before the they were built instead of afterwards. Even the crown jewel of Metro’s T.O.D. program, the W Hotel and Development in Hollywood appears more Transit Adjacent than Transit Oriented.

But while Villaraigosa laughed, his ad-hoc committee produced a serious report outlining the steps the city needs to take to create a unified T.O.D. Plan and implement it. The plan looked at L.A. as a series of major transit corridors and concluded something obvious: that the city needs to coordinate its department heads and visionaries to create an implement plans for these areas before any true urban planning can happen. Last week, Villaraigosa took the long-awaited first step to make that happen.

In an Executive Directive last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on the City’s General Managers to create the Los Angeles Transit Corridors Cabinet (TCC), a central entity to ensure all City departments and agencies coordinate, collaborate, and communicate their efforts to bring about a more transit-oriented Los Angeles.

“By coordinating the City’s efforts through the new Transit Corridors Cabinet, we can better focus our resources toward investments and policies that encourage and support transit use,” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “This strategy will provide Angelenos of all income levels access to quality transportation, housing, and job opportunities while encouraging participation in the community development process. Together we can ensure that all stakeholders share in the benefits of growth and revitalization created by transit investment.”

Gloria Ohland, a staff member at Move L.A. and long-time supporter of Transit Oriented Development, explains some of the ways the TOD Corridors Cabinet can make a difference.

“The TOD Corridors Cabinet is a very sophisticated 21st century approach, a new work paradigm that’s all about cooperation and coordination whereas the 20th century was about working in silos, often at cross purposes. For example, LA DOT will widen streets around stations to mitigate projected traffic increases, while Metro spends money trying to make station areas more walkable. Hopefully the Cabinet will help everyone get on the same page about TOD, which offers L.A. County real potential for building affordable, walkable, bikeable, healthy, groovy green neighborhoods.”

Noting that there is a coming boom in transit oriented development as new transit projects come online in the coming years, Move L.A. applauded the Mayor’s statement. ”Thanks to voter approval of Measure R in 2008, Los Angeles, both city and county, are on the verge of a transit transformation,” writes Denny Zane, the Executive Director of Move L.A. Read more…