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Posts from the "Pico/Olympic" Category

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Both CD5 Council Candidates Oppose Pico-Olympic Plan

I may not be thrilled with the reasoning, but each of the last two evenings one of the two finalists for the Fifth District City Council race attended one of the LADOT's open meetings and voiced opposition to the project in it's current form.

Reporting on last night's meeting, Ted Rogers, of BikinginLA fame writes of candidate David Vahedi:

As for Vahedi, he said that he absolutely opposed the project in its present form, and pointed out that he had filed the suit that initially halted the project. He said that he would support the elimination of on-street parking, which could add as much as 25% additional capacity during rush hour, but only after the city builds off-street parking facilities to compensate for the loss of parking spaces and prevent spill-over into the surrounding neighborhoods. And he noted that he and his family would be personally affected by this plan, as both he and his father live in the area bounded by Pico and Olympic.

An evening earlier I ran into Paul Koretz, Vahedi's opponent, who gave me a similar statement:

"I thought from Day 1 that removing parking without plans for an adequate alternative was a disaster...it make so little sense; I can't believe it's still being considered."

Assuming that Bill Rosendahl is still opposed to the plan, and the changes that were made don't address his concerns; you have to wonder about the politics of Pico-Olympic.  If both of the City Councilmen for the reasons effected oppose the project, and comments at public hearings close to 100% against; why exactly is this plan still being pushed?  Who is the Mayor's constituency in pushing this plan besides Santa Monica residents who "deserve" congestion relief on their trips downtown?

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Fairfax Residents Still Don’t Like LADOT’s Plans for Pico-Olympic

4_2_09_sign.jpgThe LADOT used project boards instead of a presentation to spread the word.

The more I think about the LADOT's new plan for the Olympic-West Pico-East project the more I think they may have gotten things backward.  Starting last night, the LADOT began a series of public meetings to provide the public input on "scoping" for the environmental studies, i.e. gave the public a chance to weigh in on what alternatives they would like to see to alleviate automobile congestion on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.

Meanwhile, while the public is discussing what alternatives they would like to see studied, the LADOT is promoting a plan they've already written which would take away peak hour parking and re-time the traffic signals to increase vehicle flow between Fairfax and Sepulveda.  In other words, we're being asked to provide alternatives for the LADOT to study that would compete with the alternative they've already developed.

The format for last night's public outreach meeting for the new Olympic-West Pico-East transportation plan was different than the other meetings for the project I'd been to.  Instead of a public presentation and open microphone for comments, attendees were invited to walk around the room to discuss the projects with a series of consultants and LADOT staff.  Different stations were set up to discuss the different concerns people might have with the project.

The new format did little to reduce public complaints and anger about a plan that would ultimately increae traffic in their neighborhood.  One resident basically commandeered the "parking" station where an image of the project area was projected onto the wall; and used it to make his own case against the project.  Residents also gathered around the a table set up for people to provide written comments to the point where it was sometime "standing room" only.

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What You Need to Know Before This Week’s Pico-Olympic Meetings

3_30_09_pico_olympic.jpg

When I first read that the Los Angeles Department of Public Transportation was holding public meetings this week on a revised Pico-Olympic Plan, I got nostalgic.  Covering the battle between the community and the city over the plan to remove rush-hour parking, restripe the roads and retime the signals was the signature story back at StreetHeat, the precursor blog to  LA Streetsblog.  As a matter of fact, most of the links below are to Street Heat stories that were brought over, which hopefully explains some of the issues with layout and image quality.

This morning, the LADOT released an outline for their "new" Pico East-Olympic West plan in advance of pulbic meetings this week.  There is one large change, instead of five lanes going in one direction and two in the other, the new plan has three going in each direction with extra room to create turn lanes.  Signal progression will still benefite people going in the "preferred" direction.  However, since a lot of the community was freaking out about the parking changes, I'm willing to predict the battle isn't over.

The "revised" plan for the boulevards would remove street parking at rush hour and convert the parking lanes into travel lanes.   After signals are re-timed there will also be greater priority given to vehicles traveling on one of the four lanes.  In typical fashion, the words "pedestrian" or "cyclist" don't appear anywhere in the summary.  Of course, it probably wouldn't aid their cause to mention that their plan would make the roads completely inhospitable to non-motorized transportation and a barrier for people foolish enough to try crossing the street on foot.

However, a lot of issues still remain with the new plan.  There's no mention of the lawsuit that forced the environmental review process of which these meetings are part, no mention of the impact the plan would have on traffic patterns on the local streets that connect or run parallel to Pico and Olympic Boulevards nor even a good explanation of any alternatives being considered.  Complete Streets?  Express Bus?  Anything?  And what about Councilman Rosendahl's demand that City Planning be involved in the creation and study of the plan?

As you may imagine, the history of this project is long and complicated.  To make it easy for new readers to follow and for veterans of the Pico-Olympic controversy to get caught back up, I've broken the story into six episodes.

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It’s Back: Council Approves Funding for Environmental Study of Pico/Olympic Plan


A View from Olympic Boulevard at Dusk

February's "Done Deal," that was later left for dead after a court ruled against the Mayor two months ago, is once again very much alive. 

Today the city council approved a resolution outlining how the city should conduct a full environmental review of the "Olympic West Pico East Initiative," the proposed plan to speed up traffic on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.  The plan has three components to achieve maximum car traffic flow: restrict parking at rush hour, synchronize lights to benefit vehicles traveling west on Olympic and east on Pico, and add traffic lanes at rush hour to aid cars going in the favored direction.

In response to a lawsuit by the communities along the corridors, a judge had ordered a complete environmental review of the plan before the city could begin to make any changes.  Interestingly, today's resolution  was put forward by Councilmen Bill Rosendahl, who has been one of the plan's chief critics, and Jack Weiss, who supports the project in the newspaper but rarely shows up to defend it in public.

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Senator Romero Won’t Support Anything Without Guarantees for SGV

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero is taking a stand.  Romero tells the Times that if she doesn't get she wants for San Gabriel Valley, at no extra cost to her constituents, she'll vote to make sure all of LA County is denied the opportunity to to vote to increase everyone's transit options.  The Senator may have the muscle to back up her threat as AB 2321, the legislation authorizing the sales tax to be on the fall ballot after Metro's approval, still needs a full vote of the State Senate.

Romero's position doesn't make sense from a transportation stand point.  She's basically opposed to the sales tax measure because Metro won't guarantee a Gold Line extension without the funding from the sales tax.  While her argument that the $328 million set aside from sales tax proceeds won't extend the Gold Line as far as it needs to go has some merit; her argument that Metro should guarantee more funds for an extension without the sales tax rests on the argument that San Gabriel Valley residents would be more likely to support a sales tax increase if they have nothing to gain from it doesn't make a lot of sense.  After all, would you vote for a tax increase that has no benefits for you?

Have a headache yet?  If not, Romero also tells the Times that she opposes congestion pricing and Metro should approve it's plan for transit for the valley without knowing whether it will have the $213 million in federal funds.  Her argument?  SGV residents shouldn't be "forced" to pay tolls because there is a lack of reliable transit options.  Last I checked, which was right before I wrote this post, most of that $213 would be going to provide increased transit options for the effected corridors, including the San Gabriel Valley. 

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5 Lessons Every Transportation Engineer Should Learn


LADOT Should Have Learned Lesson 3

A recent article in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal, found here at Red Orbit, discusses the five important lessons that every transportation engineer should learn. When I was saw the title of the article, I was hopeful that it was going to be about how transportation engineers need to be progressive and think outside the box. I was dissapointed.

When Nicholas Whitaker and I went on a car ride with Deborah Murphy, she expressed exasperation that transportation engineers are still so concerned with "improving" roads as the key to more efficient transportation. Sometimes, because the readers of this blog and many of the planners and engineers to whom I speak are more progressive, it's easy to forget how far we have to go to change the culture of transportation engineers.

Without further adieu, here is the list of five lessons every transportation engineer needs to know. Remember, this article was written by transportation engineers, for transportation engineers:

lESSON 1(sic): ONlY(sic) TRAFFIC ENGINEERS/ PIANNERS (sic) UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF LEVEL OF SERVICE

LESSON 2: TRAFFIC ENGINEERS/ PLANNERS KNOW TOO MUCH MATH

LESSON 3: THE PUBLIC OFTEN ARE THE REAL LOCAL TRAFFIC EXPERTS

LESSON 4: VISIT THE STUDY AREA SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE PROJECT, ESPECIALLY DURING THE MOST RELEVANT TIME PERIODS AND JUST BEFORE KEY MEETINGS

LESSON 5: UNDERSTAND EACH JURISDICTION'S TRAFFIC STUDY REQUIREMENTS, DESIGN STANDARDS AND HEARING/ MEETING PROCEDURES

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Judge Slams, Stalls Pico-Olympic Plan

Maybe it's not such a "done-deal" after all.

Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss, the two elected proponents of speeding up traffic on Pico and Olympic Boulevards at the expense of local businesses and non-motorized travel, were dealt a setback yesterday when a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge ruled that the city needs to study the impacts of the project before moving forward.  To read the ruling, click here.

The Pico-Olympic project has caused heated debate since Villaraigosa announced it last fall. Controversy over the project wasn't just spurred by businesses being scared by a loss of parking at rush hours, but also by a "press conference over policy" approach to lawmaking. Residents were furious that they didn't hear about the plan until watching it on the news or reading it in the newspaper after a press conference. As more details on the plan were released, such as the traffic counts were completed on a Jewish Holiday, the community grew more incensed and pleaded with their Councilmembers to kill the project.

Attempts by the City Council to discuss the proposal were effectively tabled when Villaraigosa declared that the plan was moving forward and he didn't need the council's approval. In a perceived slap to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, the most recent revision included the entirety of the roads in Rosendahl's district while cutting out the part of the plan in Councilmember Herb Wesson's district.

Villaraigosa declared that the plan would go into effect the first weekend in March. It was then delayed until the end of March after local business groups filed suit. Most recently, the plan was set to go into motion "later this week."

City Watch reports that the lack of a public process wasn't lost on the judge.

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Redefining a 180

In yesterday's Times, Steve Hymon discusses the changing attitude at LADOT about how best to move people throughout the city. The headline, "L.A. officials do a 180 in traffic planning" suggests that we were about to read some radical stuff. Maybe he was going to discuss Gordon Price's argument that LA needs to be more like Vancouver and plan on how to design the roads to best move people, not cars . Maybe he was going to discuss charging people to use our highways through a toll or HOT Lane system and redirect that money towards transit. Instead, this is what we was meant by a "180 in traffic planning":

By the 1950s, the politicians and planners of Southern California had made their bet: Freeways would solve the awful traffic gripping city streets.

Now, Los Angeles officials are taking a different tack. With the Santa Monica Freeway congested, they're looking at increasing the capacity of Olympic and Pico boulevards to ease traffic on the Westside.

Life has a way of coming full circle, eh?

Oh. So the "180" is adding capacity arterial streets instead of adding capacity to the highways.

How radical.

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"Done Deal" Pico Plan Moves Forward Depite "Some Opposition"

Who Cares What This Guy Thinks?

In their rush to cover the news (broken last night in an excellent piece in the Times) that the Mayor is ignoring the wishes of the City Council and local councilmen, the mainstream media is downplaying the opposition to the Mayor's plan to remove parking, synchronize lights and promote traffic flow on Pico and Olympic Boulevards.

Fox, the LA Business Journal and NBC are all running with the AP story on the mayor's move which marginalizes the near unanimous opposition of the community groups, business groups, business owners and residents along the corridor as "some opposition." The AP story takes the Mayor's word on the benefits of the project, and ignores the controversy created by a Mayor bulldozing opposition and the public process. There is no mention of the thousands of people that have shown up to hearings and public meetings, that testified and signed petititions in the time between the plan's surprise announcement and yesterday's decree that "the council did not have jurisdiction over such issues as parking regulations or whether streets were one-way."
The Times gets it right, repeatedly going back to the breadth and passion of the opponents to this plan. The story here isn't just that the Mayor has a new plan to fight traffic, the story here is also that neighborhood councils and councilmen don't have any power to influence what happens on their streets (according to the Mayor's office.)

While the community will doubtless fight on, lawsuits are already in the works, the other big loser is Counciman Bill Rosendahl, an outspoken critic of the project who saw the concerns of Councilman Herb Wesson addressed (the plan no longer extends all the way from Santa Monica to La Brea, it now stops at Fairfax) and his own ignored.
And what were Rosendahl's radical ideas that were so revolutionary that they couldn't even be considered? Rosendahl asked that the Department of Planning work with LADOT and the community to address the community's concerns before the plan was implemented.
Yesterday's power play by the Mayor marks the end of the pretense that the city and the community is working together to make the best plan possible for everyone.
You can check back with Street Heat for full all of the latest coverage as the controversy enters its next stages.
For previous coverage of the Pico/Olympic plan, click here.
Image from PR Web.
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Council Holds Slimmed Down Pico/Olympic Plan

When an angry mob of westside business owners descends on city hall it can mean just one thing...it's time for another hearing of the Mayor's Pico/Olympic Plan.

Yesterday, the City Council's Transportation Committee picked up where they left off last December to listen to LADOT and the local business owners tell two different stories of the beleaguered plan to eliminate parking, modernize traffic signals and give "preferential directional flow" to the Pico and Olympic Boulevard corridors.

But first, the Council Members registered their own anger and opposition to the project. Councilmember Bernard Parks read a letter from Councilmember Herb Wesson promising an amendment to the plan exempting his district to the applause of the audience.
Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the northern end of the proposal, didn't go as far as Wesson but did promise a similar resolution for his district if the LADOT didn't work with the city's planning office and the community to rethink the plan in his area. "If we're every going to move beyond the rhetoric of transportation and planning being joined at the hip, it's now."

LADOT representative John Fisher reported on the 13 public meetings the DOT held with community and business groups along the corridor. Based on community response, the new Pico/Olympic plan has fewer parking restrictions than the previous plan. Restrictions are no longer planned for the areas of Pico Boulevard between Centinella and Gateway, and the area between Fairfax and La Brea. DOT has also shortened the hours for restrictions in both the morning and evening. The DOT distributed maps of the new restricted areas to the committee, but not the general audience. Fortunately, Councilmember Tom LaBonge shared his with the audience and community activists huddled around the map as the DOT continued its presentation.

The community was unimpressed with the new plan. The cruxes of the arguments were one's we've heard before at other public hearings. Some new twists were added as two groups promised legal action to stop the project.

Jay Handal, Chairman of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, claimed that 5th District Councilman Jack Weiss, a vocal supporter of the plan, is telling people the plan is a "done deal." Despite not yet receiving funding from the Council, Weiss is allegedly giving specific dates that the project’s phases will begin. Handal claims that such deal making is a violation of the Brown Act (mandating open public meetings in California) and the WLACC will contact the Attorney General's office later today. Weiss was again conspicuous by his absence.

Zariah Washington, representing the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, announced a lawsuit against the DOT claiming that the informal community process is a violation of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The committee ultimately tabled the report, meaning it will have to hold another hearing before either sending the report to the full council or rejecting it. Based on the strength of the opposition and the multiple avenues it is pursuing to fight, this project isn't a "Done Deal" quite yet.

Photo from LA Times