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Where’s Damien?

Sorry for the delay in getting our content up today. I’ve been out of the office doing some research for an upcoming series of stories. So where was I? I’ve put a teaser video above, and the first person to correctly say where I was this morning in the comments section wins a Streetsblog t-shirt.

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The Big Surprise: We’re Hiring for Two Full Time Positions

Streetsblog is happy to announce that tomorrow morning we are going to post two new, full time, job openings on the jobs board. Both are writing positions for Streetsblog Los Angeles beginning in early 2014.

streetsblog-logo-sxswThe first position is full-time writing position for Streetsblog Los Angeles covering the city of Los Angeles, maintaining the calendar, and writing The Week in Livable Streets Events. The ideal candidate will display a knowledge of city government and Metro, ability to work under deadline, and of course a passion for all things Livable Streets.

Bringing on a new staff writer will allow for Damien to become more of an actual editor for Streetsblog Los Angeles, Santa Monica Next and Long Beachize, while handling the administrative details and fundraising. The writer will work with Damien and Sahra and Gary and Brian and our Board of Directors and freelancers to provide a more complete picture of transportation, planning, open space and public health in Greater Los Angeles.

Some Streetsblog readers guessed at the first piece of news, but the second is even more exciting and definitely more surprising. We weren’t even sure this was going to happen until last week.

Streetsblog Los Angeles will also be hiring a Sacramento-based writer to cover the legislature, executive branch, Caltrans, High-Speed Rail and other issues outside of the Greater Los Angeles and Bay Areas. We’ll be working closely with  Streetsblog San Francisco editor Aaron Bialick and the rest of the Streetsblog team at OpenPlans to ensure that we’re providing the same kind of equitable and in-depth coverage to issues around the state.

The Los Angeles position is funded by The David Bohnett Foundation, reader donations, and a large anonymous contribution. The Sacramento position is funded by The California Endowment and the same anonymous donor. Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our readers, donors, friends and tipsters.

You can find the text of the application for the Los Angeles position and Sacramento position on Google Drive. They will be available tomorrow on the Streetsblog jobs board.

Streetsblog NYC 18 Comments

Fox Business Tries and Fails to Capture the Dorothy Rabinowitz Magic

 

Might the talking heads at Fox Business turn their gaze to the Plaza Hotel’s lawsuit against a nearby Citi Bike station and sneer at the frivolous litigation tying up our courts? Of course not.

Watch Dorothy Rabinowitz wannabes Melissa Francis and Fred Tecce spend four and half minutes in faux-libertarian outrage over the installation of bike-share stations on public streets. The gall!

So, yes, Streetsblog is taking the bait and embedding their clip, but when it comes to pageviews, I don’t think this one will come close to matching Rabinowitz, creator of the original and best crazy Citi Bike screed. A few reasons:

  • The catchphrases stink. Dorothy Rabinowitz gave us “the bike-lobby is an all-powerful enterprise,” the alliterative “blazing blue Citi Bank bikes,” and “do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians.” When she said the word “begrimed,” you were transfixed. After watching Francis and Tecce, I came away with some vague images of snails, frogs, and pigs, but nothing really stuck in my head.
  • It’s too canned. The Rabinowitz video was a genuine cri de coeur. She was saying all these insane things, and she really meant them. The Francis and Tecce bit is full of mugging and hamming it up for the camera. It’s got theatrical sighs and forced laughter, but no soul.
  • Reality intrudes. Rabinowitz maintained a consistent internal hallucination from start to finish. In her world, she just had to speak for the silent, bike-share-hating majority. In this Fox Business segment, when Francis acknowledges that she must be in the minority, reality manages to puncture the fantasy.
Streetsblog NYC 48 Comments

NYC’s First Speed Cameras Will Go Into Effect When Kids Head Back to School

Mayor Bloomberg joined Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYPD Chief of Transportation James Tuller outside a Crown Heights high school this morning to announce the impending launch of the city’s first automated speed enforcement program. Cameras issuing fines for drivers who exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more will begin operating on September 9, when students head back to school, though for the first few weeks the program will only send violators warnings.

On Eastern Parkway this morning, Bloomberg addressed the need to enforce the NYC speed limit. Photo: @JohnSurico

Speeding was the leading cause of traffic deaths in NYC last year, contributing to 81 fatal crashes. Still, the state law enabling automated enforcement of the speed limit — which passed after several previous attempts had died in Albany — includes several restrictions. The city has just 20 cameras to work with, and they can only be placed within a quarter-mile of schools. They can’t be operated at times when classes or after-school activities are not in session. On the plus side, the city will be able to move the cameras to different locations, providing some flexibility that should help reduce egregious speeding on a greater share of NYC’s 6,000-mile street network.

To prevent motorists from selectively slowing down near known camera locations, the city is not disclosing the locations of these enforcement cameras. However, the site of today’s press event — W.E.B. DuBois High School on Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue — is “a candidate to receive speed camera technology nearby due to a high crash rate in its vicinity,” according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“Keeping streets safe for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is one of the most important public safety challenges any government faces,” Bloomberg said in the announcement. “Our streets are the safest they have ever been, due in large part to our enforcement efforts and innovative traffic engineering that have brought traffic fatalities to record lows. Curbing speeding around schools will help us continue to make our City’s streets safer for everyone.”

The cameras will start monitoring speeds on the first day of the school year, September 9, but the mayor’s office says the $50 fines for violators won’t start until a few weeks later:

DOT will begin the five-year program with a combination of fixed and mobile cameras at unspecified locations, which will be determined based upon factors such as crash and injury data, rates of speed and road geometry. During the initial weeks of the program and in order to send a message to speeders, DOT will only issue warning notices to motorists found on camera to be speeding in excess of 10 or more miles above the posted speed limit before eventually issuing $50 fines for the offense. Violations would be issued to the vehicle owner and will be adjudicated by the New York Parking Violations Bureau.

Streetsblog NYC 18 Comments

Meet Streetmix, the Website Where You Can Design Your Own Street

Streetmix lets users mix and match design elements to create the street of their dreams. Image: Streetmix

Last fall, Lou Huang was at a community meeting for the initiative to redesign Second Street in San Francisco. Planners handed out paper cutouts, allowing participants to mix and match to create their ideal street. Huang, an urban designer himself, thought the exercise would make for a great website. Now, after months of work beginning at a January hackathon with colleagues at Code for America, it is a great website.

The principle behind Streetmix is simple: it brings drag-and-drop functionality to a basic street design template. Users select a road width and add or remove everything from light rail to wayfinding signs, adjusting the size of each feature meet their specifications.

“It’s a little bit like a video game,” collaborator Marcin Wichary said. ”We were very inspired by SimCity.”

But Streetmix is more than just a fun way for amateur street designers to spend an afternoon. “What we want to focus on is, how can this enable meaningful conversations around streets?” Wichary said. “For many people it’s a kind of entry point.”

The first version of Streetmix went online in January, but the latest version, which has new features and a slicker design, launched less than two weeks ago. In that short time, advocates have used the website to illustrate possibilities for Dexter Avenue in Seattle and Route 35 on the Jersey Shore. Streetmix has profiled how people from Vancouver to Cleveland use the website. Residents of Sioux Center, Iowa, even used Streetmix illustrations in their campaign to stop the state DOT’s road widening plan in their town.

“It’s giving power back to the people, allowing them to vocalize what their streetscape priorities are,” Huang said.

Read more…

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Meet Tyler Hakomori, the Newest Editor of Streetsblog LITE

For the next couple of months, you might notice a difference at Streetsblog LITE. For the first time since last summer, we have a volunteer intern who will be running our tumblr…so say hello to Tyler Hakomori.

Tyler is a rising senior at Santa Monica High School. He is an avid cyclist, runner, and tennis player, who has ridden his bike for both transportation and recreation as a member of Velo Club La Grange. He hopes that, through his interaction with Streetsblog, he will learn more about what it takes to be an activist in the current social and political climate.

For those of you that haven’t checked out Streetsblog LITE again, it’s a great place to see the pictures, images and videos created for Streetsblog and by the groups that we regularly cover without all the boring text I write around them. LITE was founded by Veronica Hernandez, who interned with us last summer and also completed a project examining the growing bicycling network in Downtown Los Angeles.

If you have a suggestion for us to publish on LITE, send you suggestion to tips@la.streetsblog.org or send a message via twitter @streetsblogla.

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Streetsblog Wins Two Awards from L.A. Press Club (Update, 4:40)

When we first decided to submit for Los Angeles Press Club Awards, I was just hoping we would place in the top three once or twice. Not that I didn’t think we had some great stories, from Sahra’s photography and groundbreaking “Listening to the Streets” series, to Kris Fortin’s vivid profiles of the Ovarian-Psycos Bicycle Brigade to some of my own “slightly more opinionated pieces,” I thought we had a solid set of entries.

Sahra, Fidel, Damien. Photo: Marybeth Miceli Newton

When our seven nominations were paired down to three finalists, I was just hoping to get our name mentioned once or twice at last night’s awards ceremony.

So, last night was a very pleasant surprise. Even when a friend on the Press Club staff hinted to me on Friday we “had good reason to come,” I was still thinking we were going to get a third place, or honorable mention. After all, our work was up against Forbes, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. The amazingly in-depth series on the life of Fidel, an ernest young man who extricated himself from a life as a gang member, will remain one of the best pieces of journalism on any Streetsblog site ever…but it was up against profiles of pretty famous people such as Bon Jovi and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

But last night turned out to be Streetsblog’s night.

Sahra won “Best Personality Profile – Online” for her amazing three part series covering Fidel, a then 19 year old Business Administration student who began running with crews in elementary school. The series also explores how the traditional view of a “Livable Street” can be forever altered when one has reason to be scared of going for a walk in his own community. Read the entire three part series, here: “It’s a Small World,” April 4, 2012, “Are You Ready to Rumble,” April 27, 2012, and “Listening to the Streets,” August 9, 2012.

Making the evening even more special, Sahra brought Fidel as her guest for the evening. I have to believe that seeing how many people are moved and inspired by his story provided a moment he won’t forget. A congratulations to both Sahra and Fidel are more than in order. If nothing else, it was a pleasure meeting such an amazing young man with such a great future.

Don’t Let MyFigueroa! Get Lost in the CRA Shuffle, a piece I wrote begging the city to not screw up the golden opportunity to make real change on South Figueroa Street just because the Community Redevelopment Agency in-charge of the project collapsed was awarded “Best Non-Political Commentary – Online” from the Club. I didn’t get to give a speech, but if I did I would have to thank Deborah Murphy. Her passion, knowledge and contacts for MyFigueroa! drove and informed my work on the project over the years, and I never would have written as good a piece without her help.

Three other thoughts from last night. Read more…

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Notes About Streetsblog: Sahra’s Promotion, Streetsblog Summer Series, New Ads, Tomorrow’s Schedule

Every now and then, we like to update readers on a couple of internal things both because you all seem to like what’s going on and because we value transparency. So, without further adieu…

1) We’re undergoing a small staff shuffle. Kris Fortin is leaving as our Boyle Heights/East L.A. writer to pursue other interests.  You’ll still see him from time to time as he’ll be freelancing with us and continuing to work on our film series. Kris provided great coverage for us in East L.A., and we wish him well in his non-Streetsblog projects.

Instead of going through rehiring process for the Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles position, we decided to promote Sahra Sulaiman to a new position of Community Editor. She’ll be writing in both East and South L.A.. Because it’s impossible to be in two places at once, there will be a team of freelancers helping her out on a regular basis. We’re excited to see how this develops, as Sahra is a unique talent…something I think you all know.

2) Speaking of videos, you might notice it’s been awhile since we posted a new video, broadcast a Live Stream, or hosted a live Google Hangout/YouTube conversation. That’s going to change as I’m working with intern Matthew Tinoco on the “Streetsblog Summer Series,” a 10-part set of Google Hangout broadcasts set to begin on Monday, June 24 at noon. We’ll be discussing the incoming administration with some of Garcetti’s campaign volunteers and people that have worked with his office over the years. We’ll have more information on our lineup early next week.

3) You might have noticed a new advertisement on the right hand column or on the top of the website for Terranea, L.A.’s Oceanfront Resort and thought, “that’s odd, when did Streetsblog start getting ads from resorts.” Read more…

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Your Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane Photo Contest Winner Is…

Photo by Glen Primm

Glen Primm, the author of Postcards from L.A. and a professional photographer in his own right, is the winner of the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane photo contest. Grimm’s piece is actually the masthead of said blog, and it earned $300 more than the next closest picture at Saturday night’s fundraiser.

I asked Glen to send some thoughts, including how he took the picture. They are available after the jump, and his Streetsblog prize bag is in the mail.

I’m a native Los Angeleno and a car nut, but I like bikes and think cyclists deserve respect and room to ride, so I was actually pretty excited when they announced the lanes for downtown. For years commuters have been using Spring and Main streets as extensions of the freeways and blasting through downtown at crazy speeds. That might have been OK ten years ago when downtown was basically empty, but we have upwards of 40,000 residents downtown now, many with children, and a heck of a lot of them use bicycles. A perfect setup for bad news, any way you look at it. The bike lanes funnel the cars, which slows them down, and as time as gone by, it seems that car commuters have learned that our downtown streets are no longer a speedway, and the volume of traffic is much less.

Read more…

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LA 2050 – Some of the Best Ideas for Los Angeles’ Future Livability

A couple of weeks ago, GOOD and the Goldhirsh Foundation announced a series of ten $100,00 grants to people, organizations and non-profits that have an idea and plan to make Los Angeles a better place. The applicants submitted their plans last week in eight different categories: arts & cultural vitalityeducationenvironmental quality,healthhousingincome & employmentpublic safety, and social connectedness.

Learn more about the projects and programs by clicking on the image.

Even though we’re part of one of the grants, objectively we have to say that there are many applications that would improve the livability of the city. Since there are 279 applications and ten grants available, many of the deserving applications aren’t going to be funded. So, Streetsblog is devoting our entire coverage for today to saluting the great applications. I’ll be reviewing the city-wide livability grants below, and Sahra Sulaiman and Kris Fortin will be covering ones in their geographic areas later today.

In the end, it will be public votes that decide the winner. Just a note, you can only vote once, even though there will be 10 winners.

Without futher adieu, let’s get to it:

What’s the BF(B)D? Connecting Neighborhoods through Bicycle-Friendly Business Districts
by Green Octopus Consulting, LACBC, Streetsblog Los Angeles
Indicator: Social Connectedness

Quote:”Bicycle-friendly business districts improve local economies by strengthening connections between residents and their local businesses, increasing small business revenues, and improving neighborhood vitality and connectedness, all the while improving public safety, environmental health, and GLH – Gross Local Happiness.”

Learn more and vote, by clicking here.

Hey, I’m Walking Here! Celebrating Pedestrians in the City of Los Angeles
by Los Angeles Walks
Indicator: Health

Quote: “But the solution is not simply to get more people walking—it also requires that streets & sidewalks be redesigned to protect pedestrians from roadway traffic, slow down cars & trucks, & keep walkers feeling safe. With these ideas in mind, LA Walks proposes to launch “Hey, I’m Walking Here!” (or in Español, “¡Ay, Estoy Caminando!”)—a campaign which will not only increase pedestrian safety, but also highlight & celebrate walking as a conscious act that’s happening all over the city.”

Learn more and vote, by clicking here.

Building Blocks LA: changing the shape of Los Angeles through imaginative urban planning Read more…