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Posts from the Paul Koretz Category

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Koretz Takes Credit for Expo Line, While Spreading Blame for Its Flaws

Missing sidewalk xxx

Missing sidewalk west of Palms Expo Line Station. Photo by Jonathan Weiss

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz’ website includes photos of the councilmember celebrating the Expo Line’s opening. The site touts Koretz’ time on the Expo Construction Authority Board: “Councilmember Koretz served first as an alternate board member and then as a full board member of this body until 2015. He served on this body through the completion of Phase 1 of this project and through most of the construction for Phase 2, much of which travels through Council District 5.”

But what Paul Koretz has delivered is the worst section of the Expo Line.

Koretz’ section has a mile-long gap in the bike path. Koretz’ section has kids walking in the street because of a missing sidewalk between the Palms Station and Lycée Français High School. Koretz’ section has an at-grade crossing at Overland Avenue that is worsening gridlock and leading to crashes that prompted neighbors to create a “Stop the Wrecks on Overland” Facebook page.

Koretz takes no responsibility for Expo’s flaws – flaws that were clear when he was a member of the Expo Board. At last night’s Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association meeting, he said “we kind of knew this would be a disaster.” For that, Kortez blames his predecessor. “Unfortunately, my election was kind of being too late to the party. The previous councilmember really was there when all of the negotiations were happening. And … at least regarding the Expo, I don’t think he did enough to protect the community.”

But Councilmember Koretz shouldn’t get off the hook so easily: he could have resisted widening Overland and he could have pushed for grade separation. Indeed, before he took office, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation wrote to Expo opposing the misguided widening – which was designed to dodge Metro’s grade crossing policy that required grade separation based on the per-lane traffic count without widening. Councilmember Koretz could have tried to stop it. He didn’t.

Now, Councilmember Koretz is claiming credit ($300,000 of taxpayer money credit) for reducing wheel squeal noise as the train passes Cheviot Hills. Read more…

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Amendments to Remove Central, Westwood Bike Lanes from Mobility Plan, Add Substitutes Move Through Planning Commission

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Listening to the City Planning Commission vote in favor – albeit somewhat reluctantly – of moving forward on the regressive amendments to the Mobility Plan 2035 this morning, I felt my heart sink.

With recommendations the City Council approve amendments that a) remove Westwood Boulevard (between LeConte and Ohio) and approximately seven miles of Central Avenue from the Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN), b) substitute those routes with less direct and less-likely-to-be-used parallel streets (Gayley and Midvale in Westwood and Avalon and San Pedro in South L.A.), and c) allow for more north-south corridor substitutions in the future, where deemed prudent, the city of Los Angeles officially moved closer to taking a significant step back from its commitment to building a safer and more accessible city for all. [See the CPC agenda and staff report.]

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

The amendments to the Mobility Plan that the City Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt.

Worse still, it was all happening in the guise of greater “safety” and mobility as defined by people who appeared to care very little about either for people other than themselves or their own narrow interests.

That hypocrisy was perhaps best exemplified by the Westwood contingent of homeowners who now were masquerading as bus huggers. Which was truly bizarre, considering that just last year, when Fix the City and their Westside supporters launched their lawsuit against the Mobility Plan, they were decidedly anti-transit and anti-options in their approach. The group’s president had ranted about how the city “want[ed] to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses.” Laura Lake, the group’s secretary, had told the L.A. Times that safer streets and more transportation options could only lead to greater tailpipe emissions, greater congestion, first responders getting trapped in traffic more often (implying more death and destruction), and greater sacrifices made by people whose schedules would be so disrupted that they would lose untold hours that would otherwise have been spent working or with their families.

Today, Lake had completely changed her tune. Now she was telling the commissioners that she was deeply concerned about the more than 900 buses traveling along Westwood every day. If those buses were to get stuck behind a bicyclist, she posited, thousands of bus riders could be impeded from getting to work or school.

Clearly unencumbered by the idea that the whole point of having separate lanes for bikes and buses is to keep them from having to cross each others’ paths and that the only ones blocking buses in such a scenario would be private vehicles, she declared she only hoped to benefit “the greater good.”

Other Westwood advocates that stood to speak took their lead from the backwards logic regularly deployed by Councilmember Paul Koretz regarding bike lanes, arguing busy streets with no bike infrastructure were dangerous for cyclists and therefore better infrastructure must be avoided at all costs.

“It’s really simple,” declared Stephen Resnick, president of the Westwood Homeowners Association. Substituting the less-busy Gayley and Midvale streets for Westwood on the bicycle network was about nothing more than “safety” and “transportation.”

Barbara Broide, another Westwood HOA president, argued bikes on Westwood would deter people trying to connect to the Expo Line via bus and wondered how people could possibly feel safe riding bikes alongside hundreds of buses anyways (which of course they don’t, which is why they have clamored for the bike lane). Stakeholder Debbie Nussbaum warned against bike lanes on busy streets in general, proclaiming they ran the risk of giving people a false sense of security. Read more…

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Closing the Exposition Bikeway Northvale Gap, Meeting Next Week

LADOT is responsible for bike lanes and other road markings for this area connecting the Expo Bike Paths in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Recently, the city announced it has no timeline on when this bikeway will be completed.

The Expo Line bike path will soon extend east and west of this 0.7-mile “Northvale Gap.”

When Metro’s 6.6-mile Expo Line opens in mid-2016, the parallel Expo bikeway will open too.

Except where it won’t.

Two stretches of Expo bike path under construction are nearing completion. Unfortunately there is a 0.7-mile gap between them. Next week the city of L.A. will host a meeting to receive input on plans to close the gap, which parallels Northvale Road. Meeting details after the jump.

Here are the two sections of Expo Line bikeway nearing completion:

  1. Venice Boulevard to Motor Avenue: This 1.2-mile stretch includes two components. On the east end, located just south of the 10 Freeway, there will be a 0.7-mile bike path extending from Venice Boulevard (across the street from Culver City Station) to Palms Boulevard/National Boulevard (across from Palms Station). West of Palms Station, the bikeway is on the streets for a half mile. This includes National Boulevard (with a very short stretch of bike lanes) and Motor Avenue.
  2. Overland Avenue to Colorado Avenue: This 3.5-mile stretch is all off-street bike path, extending from Cheviot Hills to downtown Santa Monica. Like the Orange Line and other bike paths, there are a handful of places where cyclists cross perpendicular streets, but both bikes and trains run in the old rail right-of-way. The eastern terminus of the path is at Overland Avenue, near the Westwood Station. The western terminus is at 17th Street Station in Santa Monica, where cyclists can connect with the city of Santa Monica’s bike networks, including bike lanes on 17th Street, Broadway, and Arizona Avenue, and the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

Between those two segments – about 0.7 miles from Motor Avenue to Overland Avenue – is the Northvale Gap.  Read more…

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Is Bikelash Spreading to Some of the More Progressive Neighborhood Councils?

Last night, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council voted to “reconsider” its support of the recently-passed Mobility Plan for the City of Los Angeles. The plan, which places safety at the center of all transportation decisions instead of vehicle travel speed, has been a favorite target for conservative talk radio hosts, “Fix the City,” and now some Neighborhood Councils who favor the reverse.

LACBC has made bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to Expo and to UCLA a priority for years.

The LACBC has made bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to Expo and to UCLA a priority for years.

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, located in newly-elected David Ryu’s 4th Council District, isn’t the first Neighborhood Council to reconsider support for the Mobility Plan. The Mar Vista Neighborhood Council considered, and rejected, a motion from one of its transportation committee chairs to change its position from support for the mobility plan to opposition. Mar Vista’s vote, which occurred hours after the City Council passed the plan, was good politics given that their Westside City Councilmember was one of the leading forces in getting the plan passed.

However, there is still an opportunity for mischief.

Three Councilmembers are pushing amendments that would gut the plan in their districts. Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz are each proposing removing planned bike lanes from Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard. Both of these streets are designated as “Great Streets” by the L.A. Mayor’s Office. Taking bike infrastructure off the table on Westwood and Central seems a direct challenge to Vision Zero and Great Streets and the soaring rhetoric of Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Gil Cedillo has slipped into self-parody and is actually proposing to remove all planned infrastructure in his northeast Council District.

These amendments were tabled in August, but a report on their projected impact is due later this month. Because the last City Council Transportation Committee in September has been cancelled, and its schedule falls on the first night of Yom Kippur, these proposals will likely be debated again in October. Read more…

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Opinion: Climate Change Leaves No Room for Phonies: The Westwood Bike Lane Represents the Future–or Failure–of Los Angeles

Recently, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and others at a preview of the Expo Line Phase II, which extends that light rail line from its current terminus in Culver City, all the way to downtown Santa Monica. Afterwards, a press conference for this long-overdue project was held at the nearly-completed Palms Station, where they gave speeches and celebrated this milestone toward providing better mobility and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards created by LACBC. Proposal would not cost any parking or rush hour Level of Service. Study of the proposal was squashed by Councilmember Koretz before it could be completed by LADOT.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Koretz is sabotaging Expo by killing the bike lane that will connect it to UCLA and Westwood Village. The Westwood Boulevard bike lanes are opposed by his not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) constituents near Westwood, who fear it will aggravate traffic. In an email from his office obtained via a California Public Records Act request, he told them: “I can’t see any way that I wind up supporting the bike lane on Westwood […] I am going to just kill it now, rather than waiting for a study.”

Los Angeles is a dense and clustered city. But in any city, it is rare that someone can take transit from their doorstep all the way to exactly where they want to go. Transit planners call it the “last mile” problem: figuring out how to get people from the train stations to destinations that are sometimes too far to walk.

Shuttles and taxis are part of the solution, but so are bikes. This is clear in the case of the Westwood Boulevard stop, which is a 10-to-15 minute bike ride from UCLA. However, it is perilous: according to a July 21 article in the L.A. Times, there have been 52 bike crashes on the route since 2002. Imagine how high that number will go when the Exposition Line opens and UCLA students start biking to the train. It’s a no-brainer: we simply must build safe, protected bike lanes directly between UCLA and the station.

As the Times pointed out, there’s an 11-foot and an 18-foot car lane in each direction on Westwood. That leaves more than enough room for bike lanes, preferably with a curb or buffer to keep cars from crashing into cyclist. This benefits motorists too: on those rare occasions when traffic is light enough for cars to go faster than bicycle speed, cyclists are out of the way. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Cars Running the Red at Venice and Robertson

Expo super-fan Gökhan Esirgen sends along the above video of cars running the red light at the newly-reconstructed intersection of Venice Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. Esirgen writes, “Note that this is not a seldom event — it happens for about five seconds in almost every cycle during rush hour and it’s typical of this intersection now. A pedestrian who looks at the signal but not the cars would be hit.”

Streetsblog editorial board member Jonathan Weiss forwarded the message to staff at LADOT. Before the afternoon was out, Jay Greenstein with Councilmember Paul Koretz’s office responded that engineers with LADOT are re-examining the intersection and LAPD’s enforcement division was notified.

We’ll keep an eye of our own on the intersection to see if there are any new, more positive, changes in the coming weeks and months.

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Five Things I Learned at This Week’s L.A. Transportation Committee

Here are the top five things I learned listening in to this week’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting. The public meeting took place Wednesday, August 27, at Los Angeles City Hall. If you’re nimble and/or having trouble sleeping, catch the full audio here.

1. Seleta Reynolds Hearts Car Share

In discussion of the city’s anemic car share program, new Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager Seleta Reynolds described herself as a “long-time fan of car share and a frequent user of it.” Reynolds bemoaned the lack of a viable car share option in her new Silver Lake neighborhood.

Hertz car share didn't work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

Hertz car share didn’t work out so well for Los Angeles. Image via Flickr user tom-margie

The GM announced an “immediate expansion” of the city’s provisions to enable basic car sharing planned for this September, with a more robust expansion, likely including point-to-point options, coming at some unspecified later date. Reynolds stated that she favors a system that would include multiple providers. This should prevent issues like those associated with the failures like the city’s selected vendor Hertz becoming unresponsive.

To be continued. I too dig car share, and am happy Reynolds is on it.

2. Protected Bike Lanes This Year – Or Probably Not

In public testimony (audio at 01:05 here) about Los Angeles some day maybe perhaps one day you know possibly getting around to implementing those newfangled protected bike lanes that are all the rage in other cities, LADOT Bikeways’ Michelle Mowery stated:

MyFig is certainly one of these [protected bike lanes]. We’re also looking at Los Angeles Street right now. We believe we will have that on the ground within this next fiscal year.

When SBLA tweeted the good news, LADOT Bike Program took to the Twittersphere to let folks know that no protected bike lanes are coming this year, but that My Figueroa construction will happen soon. SBLA will dig more into this story. Did Mowery mean “a Los Angeles street” or “Los Angeles Street?” Could it be part of longer-term plans for Union Station? In any case, I am looking forward to protected bike lanes arriving on these shores. Ones not inside tunnels, that is.

3. Streetsblog Hearts Great New Traffic Metrics

Spoiler alert: wonky acronyms ahead. I knew that changes in California’s traffic modeling was big news, with the state ditching its car-centric car-only car-always Level of Service (LOS) measures for evaluating California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental impacts, and instead using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

It was great to hear it from LADOT Assistant General Manager Jay Kim.

Read more…

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March Transpo Committee Recap: SRTS, Counts, Parking and Commish Bayne

Yesterday’s Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting featured a number of livability issues that deserve more in-depth attention: Safe Routes to School, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts, parking privatization, and more. SBLA will do a brief re-cap, and will track and report on these issues more in the future.

SRTSmap

Map of the Top 50 LAUSD Schools with most need for safer routes to school. From LADOT SRTS Fact Sheet. Click to view entire fact sheet.

The Top 50 List You Don’t Really Want Your School On: Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff reported on progress made in the city’s Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program. In the past, for a number of reasons, the city of L.A. has been unsuccessful at receiving its fair share of SRTS grant funding. LADOT’s two new pedestrian coordinators have done a lot of work to begin to remedy this: building relationships with LAUSD and using actual data to determine which schools make sense to prioritize. This Transportation Committee meeting was the first broad public vetting of the city’s new data-driven list of 50 schools with “greatest need.” The 50-school list will be used to target some city applications for the upcoming state Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant cycle.

Advocates from about a half-dozen non-profits commented on this item, urging two main requests: more LADOT resources be directed toward SRTS, and SRTS efforts be more open and collaborative.

Committee members expressed some concerns (see below) over the criteria behind the 50 school ranking, but accepted it, pending full council approval. They requested that LADOT return to the committee in 60 days (after this ATP cycle submission) to further examine the criteria.

Most Likely to be Undercounted and Undervalued: City councilmembers requested that LADOT review their traffic count methodology to include bicycle and pedestrian data. LADOT staff responded with a draft policy, including an annual count, which moves forward to a vote of the full city council. It’s unclear whether city counts will augment or replace those currently conducted by L.A. County Bicycle Coalition volunteers, though the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins voiced support for city counts, stating that the Coalition “wants to get out of this business.” Read more…

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Bike Advisory Committee: Stop Wasting Time and Money Stalling on Bike Projects

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Boulevard as the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Street as the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

In March of 2011, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed into law the city’s Bicycle Plan, a list of some 1,600 miles of bicycle lanes, routes, friendly streets and paths scheduled for the next 30 years. In some ways, implementation is going exceedingly well. The pace at which new bicycle lanes are being added exceeds even that of New York City. In other ways, the plan seems stalled as many of the projects that make up the “Backbone Bicycling Network” connecting neighborhoods, are being delayed or canceled as nervous City Councilmembers put up roadblocks to bicycle progress.

And bicyclists aren’t going to stand for it much longer.

On Tuesday night, the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee, a body of advocates appointed by individual City Councilmembers and the Mayor’s Office, passed two resolutions (text not available) basically telling the city it’s wasting time and resources by studying and stopping bicycle projects that are already studied and funded.

“In some cases, the City has identified key corridors for bicycle infrastructure and pursued funding for improvements on those corridors, such as the $20 million Proposition 1C grant for the My Figueroa project or Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds,” writes Jeff Jacobberger, a lawyer who chairs the Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“Often, those funds must be spent on that specific street, and cannot be transferred to other projects. When funded projects do not go forward, the money spent on planning and design has been wasted. Moreover, the City’s poor track record of seeing projects through to completion means that it has a harder time competing for future funds.”

The two motions single out proposed bicycle lanes on North Figueroa Street and on Westwood Boulevard, but they could easily apply to projects on Lankershim Boulevard or South Figueroa. Read more…

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Koretz Pushes Expo for a Little Collaboration on the Expo Greenway

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Picture take earlier this afternoon at Exposition and Westwood, looking east at the future Greenway. Pic: Damien Newton

Tomorrow, the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors will hear a motion by Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz requiring “the CEO and staff to work collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles to ensure that the landscaping of the two projects (the Expo Greenway and the landscaping for the Expo Line) compliment each other…”

The Expo Greenway project would transform the area between Westwood Boulevard and Overland Avenue adjacent to the future bikeway and rail project into a sustainable urban greenway that would provide a corridor of native species, a stretch of open space, and a place where rainwater is sustainably moved back to the ground. Original plans called for a large parking lot in the area now slated for a greenway and botanical garden.

For those following the progress of the Expo Greenway for the past six years, this might seem a ho-hum motion. But for those working on the project, it’s big news. For the first time, Expo staff will be compelled to truly work with the City of Los Angeles on this project. While the two projects are still separate, coordination between the City and Expo hasn’t always been smooth. Advocates for the fully-funded bicycle path and other projects have long-complained that staff seems concerned with building a railroad and nothing else.

Koretz’s motion makes it clear that the Greenway is a part of the greater Expo vision, even if it’s not officially part of the Expo Line.

“Our office wants to make sure there is a seamless transition between the two projects,” says Jay Greenstein, the transportation deputy for Paul Koretz. “One day in the future people will visit these projects when they’re completed. Other than the sound wall, we don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between the Los Angeles project and the Expo Line project.”

Jonathan Weiss, a Cheviot Hills resident and long-time advocate for Expo rail and bicycle projects, is considered by many the driving force behind the Greenway.

“Expo was envisioned as multimodal green corridor promoting sustainability of natural resources;  it adapted for the 21st Century a 1930s plan to use parkways to connect recreational open spaces to the beaches.  Paul Koretz motion seeks to create the context for that to happen,”writes Weiss, who represents Koretz on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We will now have a multi-benefit greenway to provide urban runoff treatment, a simulated stream, green space, native landscaping, a tree-lined vegetative buffer, a bikeway, access to public transit, and educational and recreational opportunities.” Read more…