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Video: Meet Bobby Shriver, Candidate for L.A. County Supervisor, 3rd District

[Editor's note: This is the second of two video interviews with the candidates for L.A. County Supervisor. You can see our interview with former State legislator Sheila Kuehl here. Videos are directed and edited by Saul Rubin.]

Former Santa Monica Mayor – and nephew of late president John F. Kennedy – Bobby Shriver is one of two candidates running to replace Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is leaving office due to term limits after two decades.

Shriver, who served on the Santa Monica City Council from 2004 to 2012, is running against former State law maker Sheila Kuehl in what is arguably one of the most important local elections in Southern California this year.

With an annual budget of about $25 billion dollars and a constituency of nearly 10 million people, the five-person Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is one of the most powerful local government institutions in the country.

Yaroslavsky’s district, the 3rd District, alone is home to about two million people. It includes well-heeled westside cities like Santa Monica, Malibu, and Beverly Hills, but its boundaries also include the historically underserved neighborhoods in the valley, including Sylmar, Pacoima, and part of San Fernando.

Aside from overseeing the County’s vast network of social services, including hospitals, homeless shelters, and libraries, all five Supervisors also sit on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), one of the nation’s largest transportation agencies.

Los Angeles Streetsblog/Santa Monica Next sat down with Shriver at his campaign headquarters on Wilshire in eastern Santa Monica to talk about his history with multi-modal transportation, his views on Measure R-2, what he believes the County can do to address the region’s housing crisis, and his vision for a more sustainable Los Angeles County.

Watch the edited video at the top of the post. Highlights from the interview include:

  • At the 30 second mark, Shriver talks about his history with active transportation: “I’m a bicyclist myself, although I don’t ride my bike to work. I like to ride and I’m very aware of the danger people face while riding in L.A.”
  • Shriver talks about his record on affordable housing at the 1:30 mark: “I voted in Santa Monica for the Community Corp [Santa Monica's leading nonprofit affordable housing developer] funding and as far as I know, for every 100 percent affordable project that ever came before the Council.”
  • At the 2:20 mark: “But it’s clear now that, in L.A., new housing needs to be built on a very broad basis. Rents have gotten totally ridiculous.”
  • Shriver talks about how he, if elected, would address the need for affordable housing at the 2:50 mark: “I’d like to get a certain amount of money into a program whereby the nonprofits can come and build affordable housing… and work with cities to see where sites might be for affordable housing construction.”
  • At 4:35, Shriver talks about Measure R-2 and how much of the future ballot measure should be alloted for pedestrian and bike improvements: “As much as is necessary to make the transportation work, so whether it’s bicycle and pedestrian improvements or its shuttles to bring people to stops where there is no parking, that has to be done.”
  • Shriver shares his vision for transit in the Valley at the 6:10 mark: “If you talk to people in general… people want the light rail on the Orange line…. That’s a priority. North-south connectors, they also want.”
  • Also, Shriver said, “I think the biggest near-term thing that should be done in the near-term is to give all the community college students, like the CSUN students, like we did in Santa Monica, a pass to ride free on Metro… I think you should just ride free with your college ID.”
  • At the 7:15 mark, Shriver talks about what he would do if he could instantly change one thing about L.A. County transit: “I’d have some sort of train facility in the Valley that zipped across the Valley.”

Watch the full 20-minute interview at Santa Monica Next.  Read more…

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Video: Meet Sheila Kuehl, Candidate for L.A. County Supervisor, 3rd District

[Editor's note: This is the first of two video interviews with the candidates for L.A. County Supervisor. Check in tomorrow for our interview with former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver. Videos are directed and edited by Saul Rubin.]

Veteran State legislator Sheila Kuehl is one of two candidates running to replace Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who will have to step down this year due to term limits after two decades in office.

Kuehl is running against former Santa Monica Mayor – and member of the Kennedy clan – Bobby Shriver in what is arguably one of the most important local elections in Southern California this year.

With an annual budget of about $25 billion dollars and a constituency of nearly 10 million people, the five-person Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is one of the most powerful local government institutions in the country.

Yaroslavsky’s district, the 3rd District, alone is home to about two million people. It includes well-heeled westside cities like Santa Monica, Malibu, West Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, but its boundaries also include historically underserved neighborhoods in the valley, including Sylmar, Pacoima, and part of San Fernando.

Aside from overseeing the County’s vast network of social services, including hospitals, homeless shelters, and libraries, all five Supervisors also sit on the Board of Directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), one of the nation’s largest transportation agencies.

Los Angeles Streetsblog/Santa Monica Next sat down with Kuehl at her home in Santa Monica’s Sunset Park neighborhood to talk about her history with multi-modal transportation, her views on Measure R-2, what she believes the County can do to address the region’s housing crisis, and her vision for a more sustainable Los Angeles County.

Watch the edited video at the top of the post. Highlights from the interview include:

  • At the 30 second mark, Kuehl discusses her own personal history with active transportation: “I’m not a bicyclist anymore, though I was, of course, all the way through, I guess, the first four decades… But I am a walker.”
  • At the 1:08 mark, Kuehl talks about traffic: “A lot of people have asked me during this campaign, ‘What are you going to do about the traffic?’ and my answer to them is always, ‘I’m going to try to get you out of your car.’”
  • At the 2 minute mark, Kuehl talks about first-mile/last-mile connections to light rail: “I want to make sure that the Big Blue Bus [Santa Monica's municipal public transit system] or something like the DASH system exists everywhere so that I have a seamless trip.”
  • Whoever is elected to the County Board of Supervisors will have a hand in drafting Measure R-2, the successor to the half-cent sales tax voters approved in 2008 to pay for major transit improvements, like the Expo light rail.
    At the 2:15 mark, Kuehl discusses how much of Measure R-2 should be designated for bike and ped improvements: “I think if it was more than four or five percent, it’d be difficult to get it passed because most people aren’t used to thinking about walking and bicycling as part of what they are paying for in terms of transit… They want to know the money’s going for trains.”
  • At the 3:40 mark, Kuehl talks about her record on affordable housing issues: “The main thing that I did and took the lead on really had to do with rent control. From my point of view [rent control] is a very important aspect of affordable housing because it is not only affordable when you move in, it stays affordable.”
  • At the 5:10 mark, Kuehl talks about her role passing legislation to create funding for permanent supportive housing for the County’s chronically homeless population.
  • At the 5:50 mark, Kuehl addresses the County’s housing crisis and what she could do, if elected, as a County Supervisor to help alleviate it: “On the MTA Board, I think we have to pay attention, in terms of all the transportation funds, to what we do to encourage people to live near transit. I don’t know if you can do much more than just sweeten the pot.”
  • At the 6:35 mark, Kuehl talks about her priorities for bringing better public transit to the Valley: “One very long-term goal would be [a train from the] Valley to LAX… there has got to be a way to get from the Valley to LAX and lots of great stops in between.”
  • Kuehl talks about the Orange line at the 7:45 mark: “There needs to be an evaluation about whether the Orange line would do better as a train… It’s not clear that we need a train, but I think, frankly, the capacity of a train could be more attractive.”
  • If she could change one thing instantly about L.A. County public transit, what would Kuehl change? She talks about that at the 8:20 mark: “We would have never done away with streetcars and the [Pacific Electric] Red Car. We wouldn’t be the same kind of transit, obviously, but the mindset would not have gone away in terms of public transit… It is the car fetishism in L.A. that really led to our demise in our traffic.”

You can watch the full 30 minute interview with Kuehl at Santa Monica Next.  Read more…

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Save the Date: Streetsblog and Santa Monica Next Host City Council Candidates Forum on 9/22

SaMo-Next-Vote-Local

The forum is the fifth scheduled event that is part of the Vote Local campaign, Santa Monica Next’s effort to introduce progressive transportation and planning issues into the local political debate and encourage younger voters to register and “vote local.”

On September 22, Streetsblog Los Angeles and Santa Monica Next will host a public forum for the candidates for City Council of the City of Santa Monica. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica public library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica.

We’re still in the process of adding co-sponsors, inviting candidates and selecting a moderator, but for now we wanted to get the event on the calendar. The forum will be broadcast and archived at our Live Stream page, StreetsblogTV.

There are 13 announced candidates for office three open seats including Mayor Pam O’Connor and Councilmember Kevin McKeown.  Their colleague, Councilmember Bob Holbrook, opted not to run for reelection after 24 years of service, leaving his seat on the seven-member Council wide open. Meaning at least one of the remaining eleven candidates will ascend to the Council dais.

For more coverage on the City Council election, be sure to check out Santa Monica Next. We will continue to post details of the debate as they emerge at both Streetsblog L.A. and Santa Monica Next.

The forum is strictly an informational event and neither Streetsblog L.A. nor Santa Monica Next will endorse candidates.

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Hit the Brakes. Santa Monica Votes to Lower Some Speed Limits

SMNXT logo Santa Monica NextWhile debates on a proposed major development and the bungled hiring and firing of a public relations director, the City Council also quietly made a step towards becoming a more progressive city. The Council voted unanimously, and with little debate, to reduce motor vehicle speed limits on a half-dozen stretches of roadway.

The staff report, which includes a list of the streets that will see reduced speeds, can be read here.

Because state law restricts how much cities can control speed through limits, decreasing speeds on streets is more of a reaction to current traffic patterns than an attempt to slow down existing traffic. Los Angeles officials have been raising limits throughout high-traffic streets in the San Fernando Valley despite the opposition of community groups and local politicians. Conversely, lowering speed limits on residential streets has become a hot issue in New York.

There are certainly benefits to lowering speed limits. A study on the impact of lowering speed limits in London over 20 years showed an overall decrease in traffic fatalities, even on streets that did not have limits lowered. At “How We Drive,” Tom Vanderbilt explains, “…the introduction of 20 mph zones was associated with a 41.9% (95% confidence interval 36.0% to 47.8%) reduction in road casualties, after adjustment for underlying time trends…The reduction, they also note, was greatest for young children.”

And that’s what Santa Monica is hoping to achieve. Creating safe streets is important. Lowering limits is just a means to an end.

“It is not that we are looking to slow down traffic; rather, the improvements we’ve made on certain street segments – traffic calming measures (curb extensions, medians, etc.), buffered bike lanes, on-street parking – cause motorists to recognize that our streets are the types of places where you shouldn’t drive too fast,” Sam Morrisey, a traffic engineer with the City, wrote in an email to Next.

Read more…

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Santa Monica City Council Scuttles Plans for Bergamot Transit Village

A view of the former Papermate factory from the future Expo light rail station at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard (photos by Jason Islas)

A view of the former Papermate factory from the future Expo light rail station at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard (photos by Jason Islas)

The Santa Monica City Council put to rest Tuesday night what has become one of the single-most divisive development projects Santa Monica has seen in decades when it voted 4-1 to rescind its approval of the Bergamot Transit Village development.

After months of acrimonious debate, a successful referendum drive, and several rallies by a coalition of anti-development activists, the Council voted 4-1 to rescind its February approval of the 765,000 square-foot residential and commercial project proposed by Texas-based developer Hines for a five-acre “super block” across the street from a future Expo light rail station.

While the decision settles the matter of whether project will be on the November ballot (it will not), it opens up the question of what Hines will do with the property, currently home to an abandoned Papermate factory.

On the south side of the former Papermate site, a barbed-wire fence lines Olympic Boulevard.

On the south side of the former Papermate site, a barbed-wire fence lines Olympic Boulevard.

“This is private property. They hold the cards and they get to decide what do with it,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis, one of the four who approved the project originally.

However, Davis joined Councilmembers Ted Winterer, Kevin McKeown and Tony Vazquez in voting to rescind the project because she said that the referendum drive to overturn the project had turned a land use decision into a political one.

“Putting this on the ballot in November will run a serious risk of creating great rifts in this city that will take a long time to heal,” she said.

People would pour “a lot of money into the election on both sides,” Davis said. “Inviting the kind of bloodletting – financial and political – that would happen in November if we were to have this project on the ballot really troubles me.”  Read more…

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Locals Nominated for National Bike Advocacy Award

Santa Monica Spoke's Cynthia Rose and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom cut the ribbon.  Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyseven/sets/72157629669284695/with/7013165951/##Gary Rides Bikes/Flickr##

Santa Monica Spoke’s Cynthia Rose and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom cut the ribbon. Photo: Gary Rides Bikes/Flickr

Congratulations to Cynthia Rose, founder and director of Santa Monica Spoke, and Samantha Ollinger, Executive Director of BikeSD in San Diego. These two local activists are among the ten finalists for the 2014 Advocate of the Year Award to be given by the Alliance for Biking and Walking today.

The award is for an individual leader at a bicycling and/or walking advocacy organization “who has shown tireless commitment to promoting active transportation at the state and/or local level” and who goes “above and beyond the call of duty” with the “highest standard of excellence.”

Cynthia Rose founded Santa Monica Spoke, the first local chapter of the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition, five years ago. “My mission is to make the LACBC local chapters program a reality,” she said, “to make sure that those connections and that collaboration happens.”

She sees her job as one of connecting people: local to regional to statewide to national advocates working on similar issues. “Everything else I do is regional,” she said. “My job is to work with our elected officials to make projects that we hope will be models for others.” She was particularly excited about the MANGo project, which will turn Michigan Avenue into a greenway to connect the beach with the new Expo line.

Read more…

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Thinking Ahead: Big Blue Bus Seeks Input on Expo Line Integration

Expo Phase 2

L.A. Metro Expo Line Phase 2, Image via Big Blue Bus

Big Blue Bus (BBB) has just begun the gargantuan process of figuring out how to best integrate its system with the Metro Expo Line Phase 2, set to open in early 2016. Three of the seven new stations being built are within the City of Santa Monica, but all are within BBB’s service area. The end of the line will be at Colorado Avenue and 4th Street, just a few blocks from the beach. The line connects to Downtown Los Angeles via Culver City, ending at Metro Center, 7th St. and Figueroa St.

Most of the future stations already have some overlap with existing bus routes, including four routes that already serve the current end of the line in Culver City at Venice and Robertson Boulevards. BBB is embarking on this Expo Integration Study to decide how to best serve its new and existing riders given its current budget and resources.

Last week, it held three community meetings at which consulting firm Nelson\Nygaard presented the current system and some of the questions it and BBB are trying to answer with the study. What the agency was looking for at the meetings—and is still looking for at the beginning of the process—is public comment. What people say now will help inform the direction of the planning moving forward.

In other words, the first step is to hear from the riders before they start working on updating its routes.

The project’s manager at Nelson\Nygaard, Thomas Whittmann, called Expo a “game changer,” because it will provide BBB riders with “fast, frequent service access to destinations throughout the region.” BBB already connects with L.A. Metro service, but Expo advertises 46-minute commutes from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica upon completion of Phase 2. Not only that, but existing Metro train lines serve places including the San Fernando Valley, Universal Studios, LAX, Hollywood, and many other city attractions. They also provide connections to commuter trains like Metrolink and nationwide train service like Amtrak.

Attendance at the meetings was light (about 40 people total at all three), but there is still plenty of opportunity get involved. BBB will soon release an online survey on its study website that will include multiple-choice and write-in questions, as well as a “create your own transit system” game. The results of the survey and preferences gathered at this stage will be incorporated into a plan, or a few options for a plan, that the agency will present in July. At this point the public will again have an opportunity to voice its opinion on the service. BBB projects that the changes identified in the study will be implemented by late 2015, as soon as Phase 2 is ready to open.

“This is like putting pieces of a puzzle together,” said the project’s manager at Nelson\Nygaard, Thomas Whittmann. “Big Blue Bus won’t have more budget to run shuttle buses to every Expo Line station. But when we’re making changes to the bus routes we’re messing with people’s lives. We need to understand what people want.”

Some of the questions BBB is looking at answering in these early days include, should it create any new lines? Should it truncate any lines at Expo stations or reroute nearby lines to connect? How should it accommodate buses, bus stops, and riders at Expo stations? How can it best continue to serve popular destinations like downtown Santa Monica and UCLA? Should it serve any new areas like Playa Vista? Should it expand hours or increase frequencies on popular routes? In short, how can it best “extend the reach” of Expo and Metro Rail?

At one of the meetings, Whittmann asked the audience what its vision for transit looked like. One community member said she envisioned walking to the end of her block, taking a blue bus to whichever Expo Line station was safest and most convenient to her needs, then using Expo to go wherever she needed to go. She wanted the bigger link to Expo—but she also did not want to lose the ability to take a blue bus for her local trips either.

“We want to leverage Expo as a primary resource, but we need to be thinking about the local needs and people too,” said BBB’s Chief Operations Officer Patrick Campbell. “This is about how to leverage a major resource with the reasonable constraints we have.” Read more…

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SaMo Advocates Unshaken by Ruling Against City in Airport Closure Case

Photo: Naomi Campbell

Photo: Naomi Campbell

A federal judge issued a harsh rebuke last week to Santa Monica’s legal efforts to wrest control of the city’s airport from the federal government.

SMNXT_SQ_Logo1In a word: dismissed. As in, go home, your legal arguments carry no weight here.

U.S.  Federal Court Judge John Walter’s ruling would seem like a tough blow to absorb for community groups seeking to close the facility.

Instead, those groups are acting as if the legal setback never happened. Ruling? What ruling?

The Airport2Park organization, dedicated to transforming the airport into a cultural and lush oasis, immediately issued an optimistically worded press release proclaiming that the group was “undaunted” by the judge’s decision.

“This isn’t going to stop Santa Monica getting its park,” said Frank Gruber, an Airport2Park member. “We are confident that when the dust has settled, it will be the wonderful green space residents are hoping for.”

And it’s business as usual for Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, an organization that has been fighting to close the airport for the past 10 years.

“We are going to continue doing what we have been doing all along,” said the group’s co-founder, Martin Rubin.

Part of this bravado is savvy political posturing, of course. But this cheerful spin is rooted in the belief that the ruling is more of a short-term setback. Both Gruber and Rubin said that they remain convinced that Santa Monica has strong legal standing for closing the airport should the city pursue further court action.

And more legal documents are likely to fly, according to Santa Monica City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, who hinted as much last Thursday just after the ruling was issued.

“Of course, we are disappointed. But there is likely much more work to come,” Moutrie said.

Just what that legal strategy might be will be discussed at the next city council meeting on February 25, Moutrie said. Read more…

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Early Returns: Few Trainers Paying the Price to Teach in SaMo’s Parks

Photo 2: Trainer Lynn Case leads a group of moms in a Stroller Strides class in Palisades Park in Santa Monica on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Photo: Saul Rubin

Photo 2: Trainer Lynn Case leads a group of moms in a Stroller Strides class in Palisades Park in Santa Monica on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Photo: Saul Rubin

Santa Monica’s new law regulating group exercise classes in city parks got its first full workout this week.

SMNXT_SQ_Logo1From the looks of things Tuesday morning in Palisades Park, what some city officials hoped would be a fair method to manage fitness classes in city parks might be choking them off altogether.

The clusters of kickboxers, weight-trainers, and other fitness-minded groups that once cluttered the park were missing.  Instead, the park slowly filled with solitary joggers, power striders and dog-walkers. They were treated to striking ocean views, open expanses of green, and something new: several sandwich-board signs placed throughout the park. The signs were reminding everyone that group fitness classes in all city parks, especially Palisades Park, were now strictly regulated.

Trainers must purchase permits from the city that could potentially cost them $8,100 a year to use Palisades Park for classes. And trainers must also follow strict rules on where, when and how they whip their clients into shape.

The new rules range from the practical (no group classes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.), to the ear-pleasing (no boom boxes, whistles or bull horns) to the obvious (no exercise classes in Chess Park) to the absurd (barbecue grills cannot be used as exercise equipment).

The rules were intended to reclaim outdoor public spaces for general recreational purposes and make them look less like the outdoor gyms that many residents claimed they had become.

“It was private enterprise co-opting public land for profit,” declares Phil Brock, chair of the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission. Read more…

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  ”This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…