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Public Works Board Approves Sidewalk Deficient Glendale-Hyperion Bridge

Members of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

Public Works to Glendale-Hyperion Bridge pedestrians: drop dead.  Bridge committee, city staff, and officials walking there in 2014. Photo: Don Ward

In a hearing at City Hall this morning, the mayor-appointed Board of Public Works unanimously approved proceeding with the city Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) recommendation to eliminate one of two sidewalks on its Glendale-Hyperion Bridge retrofit project. The latest version, announced earlier this week, has not changed significantly since 2013 when BOE pushed a similar unsafe design, leading to a backlash, and the formation of an advisory committee to re-think the dangerous design.

Despite both traffic studies and the advisory committee favoring full safe sidewalks, Los Angeles City staff have continued to recommend a design that keeps the bridge unsafe for drivers and fails to accommodate pedestrian traffic.

Councilmember Tom LaBonge attended the hearing to dig his heels in against elimination of a single car lane. Ironically, he also pressed for automated enforcement cameras to be added to the bridge to solve speeding problems.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell was considered to be more open to a less car-centric design, but today his staff stated that the council office had “heard loud and clear” that their constituents don’t want fewer car lanes and further that the road diet Option 3, the option that had sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, “had never been a viable option.”

More than 40 stakeholders showed up to testify in favor of full sidewalks on the bridge. Nonetheless, the BOE, using discredited Level of Service (LOS) metrics and different traffic studies than what had been shared with the project advisory committee, held sway saying that fewer car lanes would trigger a full environmental review. BOE recommended that the current four car lanes would need to remain in place in order for the city to skirt full environmental review by just approving its current Mitgated Negative Declaration (MND). 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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Garcetti Unveils “Sustainable City pLAn” Includes Transportation and Livability Goals

Mayor Garcetti (seated center) signs executive order enacting his new Sustainable City pLAn. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Mayor Garcetti (seated center) signs executive order enacting his new Sustainable City pLAn. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a public signing ceremony this morning in Echo Park, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced his ambitious new “Sustainable City pLAn.” The environmental plan [PDF] describes itself as “a roadmap for a Los Angeles that is environmentally healthy, economically prosperous, and equitable in opportunity for all — now and over the next 20 years.” The mayor’s event was well attended by more than 200 people, including city department heads and many environmental leaders.

The document is extensive, but written very simply and clearly. For each category, the plan includes very specific, measurable goals for 2025 and 2035. Additionally, it includes near-term outcomes to be completed by 2017.

There is a whole lot to like in the 100-page Sustainable City pLAn – from water to solar energy to waste to urban agriculture. This article just summarizes outcomes directly related to transportation and livability. Those include:

Mobility and Transit: (page 54)

  • Outcome: Reduce daily vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 5 percent by 2025, and by 10 percent by 2035. 2012 per capita VMT was 14.7 miles/day, according to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
  • Outcome: Increase the mode share percentage of all trips made by walking, bicycling, and transit to at least 35 percent by 2025, and to at least 50 percent by 2035. 2012 walk/bike/transit mode share totaled 26 percent, per SCAG.
  • Outcome: Increase trips through shared services – car share, bike share, ride share – to at least 2 percent by 2025, and to at least 5 percent by 2035. 2012 shared transportation mode share totals 0.9 percent, per SCAG.
  • Near-Term Outcomes for 2017: implement 1,000-bike bike share (Metro regional bike share underway), and increase multimodal connections at 10 rail stations.
  • Strategies and Priority Initiatives include: build bike infrastructure, expand and upgrade Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), expand rail network, expand dynamically priced parking, and revise parking minimums.

Livable Neighborhoods: (page 92)

  • Outcome: Implement Vision Zero policy to reduce traffic fatalities.
  • Outcome: Increase L.A.’s average Walk Score to 75 by 2025. Current L.A. average is 64.
  • Strategies and Priority Initiatives include: Adopt Vision Zero policy, establish multi-agency Vision Zero task force, incorporate pedestrian safety into all street designs/redesigns, expand People St, and increase number/scope of CicLAvias.

 Housing and Development: (page 48)  Read more…

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Reseda Boulevard Getting Its Great Street Improvements (Updated 5:30pm)

Reseda Boulevard now has parking-protected bike lanes! A Los Angeles first! Photo via @LADOTBikeProg Twitter

Reseda Boulevard now has parking-protected bike lanes! A Los Angeles first! Photo via @LADOTBikeProg Twitter

Update: LADOT Bicycle Program just tweeted photos of the Reseda Boulevard protected bike lanes! Woot! Wooooot! 

LA-Más crews spiffing up Reseda Boulevard sidewalks yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LA-Más crews spiffing up Reseda Boulevard sidewalks yesterday. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Great Streets improvements are underway on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge.

Streetsblog previewed Reseda Blvd’s exciting upgrades last week. It is just one of fifteen priority streets identified for makeovers under Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative. The upgrades will extend one mile from Parthenia Street to Plummer Street. Kudos to Garcetti, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander, and the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) for taking advantage of street resurfacing and the upcoming State of the City address to pilot some innovative new street designs in Reseda.

The big big big exciting news is that Reseda Blvd will, very very very soon, have the city of Los Angeles’ very first parking-protected bike lanes.

I took the train-BRT-bike trip to Northridge yesterday, hoping to witness and tweet the tectonic shift of parking spaces from sidewalk-smooching to sidewalk-arm’s-length. Unfortunately the parking-protected bike lane has not been striped. Yet.

Reseda's regular bike lanes are missing after re-surfacing, as LADOT converts them into protected bike lanes. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Reseda’s regular bike lanes are missing after re-surfacing, as LADOT converts them into protected bike lanes. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

I did notice that Reseda Boulevard’s striped median and inner travel lanes do appear a little narrower. So even if L.A.’s first mile of protected bike lanes is not there yet, it is clear that LADOT is making room for them.

This is your parents two-way turn median. Narrower median and turns preliminary striping on Reseda Boulevard. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This is not your parents two-way center turn median. Narrowed median and inner lanes preliminary striping on Reseda Boulevard. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Reseda Boulevard does have groovy new sidewalk patterns.  Read more…

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Englander Touts Reseda Great Street Upgrade, Includes Protected Bike Lanes

Parking protected bike lane improvements coming to Reseda Boulevard. Diagram via SFMTA

Parking protected bike lane improvements coming to Reseda Boulevard. Diagram via SFMTA

The city of Los Angeles will receive its first parking-protected bike lanes this weekend. The new parking-protected lanes are part of a Great Streets upgrade to Reseda Boulevard in Northridge. They will extend one mile from Parthenia Street to Plummer Street, replacing existing conventional bike lanes. If readers are unfamiliar with parking-protected bike lanes, also called cycle tracks, this Portland video can help.

plan via LAGreatStreets Tumblr

Reseda Boulevard plan configuration via LAGreatStreets Tumblr

At a community meeting last night, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander expressed his enthusiasm for Reseda Boulevard’s new street design, stating, “Wait ’til you see the striping, it’s never been done before in Los Angeles.” Englander, responding to a common critique, added, “People say that the Valley is always last. Here, we’re first!”

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander announces Reseda Boulevard Great Streets improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch Englander announces Reseda Boulevard Great Streets improvements. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Englander explained that the new street design had grown out of the Northridge Vision Plan. The plan, adopted in 2013, calls for improving “the Reseda Boulevard area traffic flow so that it is a safer environment for vehicles and a pedestrian/ bicycle-friendly environment for shoppers, students, and tourists.”

Englander stressed the new striping as a safety improvement. According to the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT), this portion of Reseda Blvd had 209 car crashes reported over the past five years. LADOT has done baseline surveys before implementing street improvements, and will be returning to record post-improvement behavior in early 2016.

Englander seized the opportunity to advance Reseda Boulevard upgrades under Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative. In June, 2014, Mayor Garcetti chose Northridge’s Reseda Boulevard as the site to announce his first fifteen priority areas, including Reseda, targeted for Great Streets improvements.

Englander announced that the current phase of street improvements will be completed by April 14, the same day that Garcetti will deliver his State of the City address at the Valley Performing Arts Center at California State University Northridge. That event will include a walking tour of the new Reseda Boulevard improvements. Englander stated that this will be the first time a Los Angeles mayor has chosen to make his State of the City speech in the San Fernando Valley.  Read more…

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Continental Crosswalks Appear at Barrington and National

Nearly two months ago, on November 12, Mayor Eric Garcetti stood with Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino and Controller Ron Galerpin at the road repaving project at Barrington Avenue and National Boulevard. The Mayor announced that, thanks to new revenue, the city would now be repaving 200 additional miles of roadway, above and beyond its regular repaving budget every year.

Photo: Damien Newton

Photo: Damien Newton

Garcetti also promised, in response to a question posed by me on behalf of Streetsblog, that the city would look at ways to streamline the process on getting paint on the ground after a road is repaved. Earlier in the same press conference, Buscaino told horror stories of how it could take weeks to get the road repainted leading to confused travelers and unsafe conditions.

This might not sound like the most difficult goal, but it requires coordination both between city departments, including Transportation (LADOT) and Public Works’ Bureau of Street Services (BSS), and outside agencies such as Big Blue Bus and Metro.

Sadly, even by the most generous of estimates, the poster-project for the new way of doing things took a slow route to repainting. The intersection of Barrington and National was repaved in mid-November 2014. It was repainted in 2015.

In mid-December I inquired to the Mayor’s office on why the intersection had not been repainted yet. They responded that even though the intersection at National and Barrington had been begun to be repaved in mid-November, the repaving phase of the project hadn’t been completed until early December.

Even if we accept that rationale, it still took a month to get the street repainted.  Read more…

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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…