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Posts from the "Road repair bond" Category

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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…

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If A Tree Falls In A #RoadBond, Do Editorial Writers Hear?

Trees are just one amenity that this RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Trees are just one “amenity” that L.A.’s RoadBond really needs. photo: Thue via Wikimedia

Today’s Los Angeles Times has two editorials that don’t quite go together.

In the editorial South L.A. needs trees, the Times reviews tree removal underway for Metro’s Crenshaw rail line. Almost channeling their inner Lorax, the Times lauds the city and county’s “ambitious post-construction plans” for “planting twice as many trees as they remove, and adding seating, lighting and walkways.” The Times values South L.A.’s trees for “fighting against drought, desert climate, urban blight and concrete streets.”

Indeed, trees are critical for urban livability. Especially for pedestrians and transit riders, trees provide much needed shade. Trees are often an important buffer between pedestrian space and vehicle space. They clean air and water, and lessen noise pollution.  

On the other hand, the editorial Fixing L.A.’s asphalt jungle won’t come cheap isn’t so keen on those same tree, seating, and walkway “amenities.”

(SBLA tries hard not to use that a-word to describe important infrastructure for biking, walking, or transit. When was the last time someone called a parking lot or a freeway an amenity? Who ever heard of a “car amenity”? Just googled it and they do exist – stuff like jeweled hubcaps – but amenity is nearly never used to publicly funded car infrastructure. We digress.)

Here’s what the Times editorial has to say:

Los Angeles’ streets are a potholed mess and its sidewalks are cracked and jagged. Some 35% of the streets have been given a failing grade by the Bureau of Street Services, and a city consultant estimates it will cost nearly $3.9 billion to fix the worst of them. Add to that the cost of repairing the sidewalks and the tab jumps to $4.5 billion.

In the past, City Council members have floated the idea of a bond measure, to be approved by voters and repaid by property owners, to cover the cost of repairs. [...] Community groups have since called for the proposal to also include sidewalk repairs, street trees, streetscapes, “green streets” to absorb storm water, “complete streets” that incorporate bicycle and pedestrian enhancements — all great amenities, but ones that could increase the project’s cost and complexity. City leaders must define their mission. Is it to fix crumbling asphalt? Or remake L.A.’s urban landscape? Can both be done affordably?

Should livability fans be happy that at least there’s sidewalk icing on this asphalt cake? Should those pesky “community groups” be content that bike and walk stuff are at least “great amenities”? The Times could have called them “lousy amenities.”

Read more…

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Livability Advocates Dominate #RoadBond Hearing, Press Ignores

On Wednesday, the City Council Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee ordered city staff to study funding options for a bond proposal to fix city streets.

Wait 'til this year? Photo:The Source.

You may remember Council Members Joe Buscaino, who happens to chair the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, and Mitch Englander proposed a property tax increase to fund a bonding system that would repair all of L.A.’s decaying streets in a ten year period.

The proposal never made it to the May ballot after complaints that the process was being rushed. The two members then held six hearings throughout the city to solicit feedback from across the city. On Wednesday, Englander reported on those efforts and presented the findings of those reports.

The “big news” from the report is that a future proposal would include more funding than just a property tax bond and that a work plan would be submitted before any funding plan went to the general public.

The Council motion asked city staff to look into twenty six issues relating to the bond program. Many of those issues had to deal with diversifying funding streams, creating a citizens oversight committee, and a work plan for the billions of dollars that would be spent on street reconstruction.

However, at least six action items from the report asked staff to look into funding sidewalk repair as a part of a bond proposal and the feasibility of creating a “green street,” “complete streets,” “living streets” and “great streets” program. The request was passed unanimously, with Buscaino and Council Members Gilbert Cedillo and Curren Price all voting to move it to the full Council.

As with the City Hall hearings on the proposal last winter, environmental and Livable Streets advocates dominated the hearing offering nine of the ten public comments. As in the winter, the Daily News writer present managed only to quote the one person present who was concerned about a tax increase and one representative of the Neighborhood Councils that wasn’t even present.

Since the Daily News decided to ignore the advocates for livability, Streetsblog would like to highlight their concerns. Read more…

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Englander/Buscaino Road Bond Off the Ballot for 2013

It’s official. Moments ago, Council Members Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino pulled the plug on efforts to place a $3 billion property tax bond that would fund road repair from the Spring ballot. The Council Members ammeded their motion requesting the city attorney draft a motion with language for a ballot in “the future.”

Wait 'til next year. Photo:The Source.

“Providing for safe, well-maintained streets is one of the basic functions of city government,” Englander stated while making the case for a future road bond. Once the City Attorney drafts the motion, Englander and Buscaino plan to use it for outreach both to Neighborhood Councils and in the City Council Public Works Committee. Buscaino is chair of the public works committee.

“Not one single person has argued that this project is not needed,” stated Buscaino. “But many have argued that we need more time to get it right.” A press release from Englander and Buscaino’s offices can be found at the end of the story.

In a recent interview, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa suggested that the November 2014 ballot might be a better time for this measure, or a similar one to be on the ballot. However, no timeline for placing a road bond on the ballot was discussed.

Which is not to say the City Council didn’t discuss things. While there wasn’t much discussion of bicycle and pedestrian issues, which dominated last week’s hearing on the road bond, but the idea that more funding mechanisms than just a property tax could make for a fairer tax. The same idea was discussed in-depth on Streetsblog this morning in an op/ed by Juan Matute. Read more…

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Op-Ed: Invest in multipurpose streets to support housing values

Municipal bond rates are at historic lows.  A memo by two respected faculty members at the UCLA Anderson Forecast (available at Streetsblog, for some reason link to city website is broken) suggests the city take advantage of these low rates to fund a $3 billion program to resurface, rehabilitate, and reconstruct city streets. This same logic extends to any local investment activity – because rates are low, it’s a good time to build or repair anything the city will need in the future. Street repair is an especially good choice for a city experiencing an historically high unemployment rate because a higher proportion of street investment goes into labor and wages than for other investments, a subway tunnel for instance.

...does a gas tax, or a mix of user fees, make more sense to fund road repair than a property tax increase?

While the UCLA Anderson Forecast memo connects street quality and property values, assessing street repair bonds on property tax bills disconnects the payers and the beneficiaries. Although the street improvements, like any increase in amenity value, will be capitalized into slightly higher housing prices, the primary beneficiaries will be drivers who enjoy a smoother ride and reduced vehicle maintenance costs. These drivers need not live in the City of Los Angeles to benefit.  Those Los Angelenos who do no or little driving will be assessed the same amount as those who drive fully-loaded Humvees.  Even lower income renters who rely on transit and walking will absorb some of the property tax increase.

These are some of the many reasons that policymakers have used user fees to generate revenues for transportation. This century-old system of user fees was born in Southern California.  The belief at the time was that asking those who purchase cars and use gasoline to fund roads would be fair and equitable. The gas tax served the transportation system well, until increased vehicle fuel economy and inflation eroded its purchasing power. Californians pay the same nominal tax on a gallon of gasoline as they did in October, 1993.  However, a dollar spent on state and local investment in 1993 is only worth 57 cents today.

The City of Los Angeles can’t increase the gas tax, but it can implement other revenue measures that target transportation system users.  These measures include:

  • an increase in the citywide parking tax charged on private lots
  • an increase in citywide parking rates charged on public lots
  • cordon pricing – requiring a fee to enter certain areas of Los Angeles.  The city can even exempt residents from the fee
  • participation in a regional VMT fee, congestion pricing system, or gas tax supplement, with a local return to the city. Read more…
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Council Vote on Road Bond Pushed Until Next Tuesday, Advocates Push for Safer Streets for All

Deborah Murphy and Don Ward (left) listen as Eric Bruins testifies at today's L.A. City Council Hearing. Photo: LACBC/Instagram

At the start of the public hearing on the resolution asking the City Attorney to draft a bond measure for the May 21 that would dedicate 29 years of taxes towards road repair bonds, Council President Herb Wesson announced that the Council would not vote or debate the measure until next Tuesday. While Wesson offered praise to both sponsors of the legislation, Council Members Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino, he was also concerned that there wasn’t enough public outreach or participation in the construction of the measure.

That didn’t stop a group of fifteen bicycle and pedestrian advocates and a handful of Neighborhood Council Board Members from making their case.

Not content with Englander’s promises that the final ordinance would include improving reconstructed roads with modern crosswalks, approved bicycle projects and ADA compliant curb cuts, advocates representing the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), the Safe Routes to School’s National Partnership, Midnight Ridazz, Cyclists Inciting Change Through Live Exchange, Los Angeles Walks and independent activists from stating their case.

“We want to make sure this bond is for the future transportation system, not the past transportation system,” testified Eric Bruins, the Policy and Program Director for the LACBC. Bruins, along with other staff and volunteers from the LACBC and L.A. Walks, prepared a policy document for Council Members that can be read here.

While the majority of those testifying were bicycle advocates either LACBC staff or Midnight Ridazz organized by Don Ward, the conversation kept returning to the $1.5 billion needed to repair the city’s crumbling sidewalks.

Repeating a statistic she uses often, Jessica Meaney of the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership reminded Council Members that, “Over 20% of all trips made in L.A. County are on foot or on bicycle yet it receives only 1% of funding.” Later, Meghan Kavanagh argued that, “”If we decided (funding allocations) based on mode share, $1 billion (of the bond) would go towards sidewalks.”

Or, as Deborah Murphy, the Chair of the City’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee and Founder of Los Angeles Walks put it, “This bond could improve the state of our roads and sidewalks for all people, especially people with disabilities.”

While most Council Members refrained from commenting, President Wesson took time to thank each commenter for taking the time to come down to City Hall and even gave a bicycle shop owner a chance to plug his business. After comment was done, Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl took a moment to voice his support for bringing bicycle planning into the bond measure.

“Absolutely every aspect of cyclists issues needs to be addressed.,” Rosendahl said of the measure. “Cycling is part of the solution.”

But it wasn’t just safe streets advocates that packed into City Hall. A handful of Neighborhood Council advocates were also present to make the argument that the N.C.’s were being left out of the process. Read more…

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Behind the $3 Billion Road Repair Bond Measure, Englander Promises Better Streets for All

Last week, two of Los Angeles’ newest Council Members, Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino, made news by announcing a campaign for a $3 billion bond to fund road repair on L.A.’s worst streets.  The “Los Angeles Emergency Local Street Safety and Traffic Improvement Measure” would need a two-thirds vote of city voters in May 21 and would create a twenty year real-estate tax that would be bonded against to fix the 31% of city roads that rate either a “D” or “F” on road conditions in the next ten years.

Englander, pictured here at a 2011 meeting on the Wilbur Road Diet, promises big things for all street users if his proposed $3 billion road repair bond passes in May.

The proposal, as outlined in the major local news outlets, drew concern from many Livable Streets advocates. The language of the proposal that the City Council would vote to send to the City Attorney, who legally is the one that drafts the ordinance for the ballot, seemed awfully car-centric. To make matters worse, a two-page report by professors at UCLA (pages 2 and 3) accompanying the motion argues that great cities are rated on how easy it is to drive from one place to another.

“Let’s not forget that bad roads are a much a threat to cyclists as bad drivers,” wrote Ted Rogers, the author of Biking In L.A. and Streetsblog contributor in an email to advocates which well summarized the feelings of a listserve formed to discuss the bond measure. “We all know people who have been taken out by potholes or had to swerve dangerously into traffic to avoid them. But fixing the streets without fixing sidewalks is just more of the same auto-centric (design) that has destroyed the quality of life in this city.”

However, in an exclusive interview with Streetsblog, Councilman Englander sounded positively upbeat about the proposed bond’s ability to improve street safety for all users.

“Everything that’s been approved on city-wide bicycle master plan, everything that’s on a reconstructed street would be completed,” Englander promised. “That includes the new crosswalks and ADA accesible access to the crosswalks.”

This week, the City Council will vote on whether or not to ask the City Attorney to draft an ordinance for the May 21 ballot. Englander’s office has already communicated with the City Attorney and city departments on the intent of the bond measure and seems certain that the language that voters see will include not just repairing the 31% of city streets, but also striping them with the most modern approved design including bike infrastructure, Continental Crosswalks, and left and right hand turning lanes.

“The end goal is to improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” he continued. Read more…