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#DamienTalks 35 – Mike Gatto and Parking Placard Reform

Parking placard abuse.

#DamienTalksArguing for reforms in the placard system is one of the few times parking reformers don’t sound overly wonky to the larger car driving public. In California, one out of every eight drivers has a disabled parking placard, a number which doesn’t correlate to data concerning how many drivers SHOULD have such a placard.

This abuse of the placard system creates a ripple effect of unsafe street conditions, a distorted view of our car parking stock, and worst of all undercuts the value of the placard to those drivers who are actually disabled.

Today #DamienTalks with Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-SFV) about AB 2602, his legislation that seeks to reduce placard abuse through two common sense reforms attacking the supply of and demand for disabled placards to those who don’t really need them. Gatto’s legislation sailed through committee last week.

Also moving in the Assembly is Gatto’s “Parking Bill of Rights” which takes a broader look at parking issues.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA. Or, if you want to reach Asm. Gatto, he can be reached at twitter @mikegatto or at his webpage,

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California Legislative Update: Bikes, Transit, Environmental Justice, More

bikeatCapitollabel2Today is the deadline to pass any policy bills that have a fiscal impact out of all California legislative committees, so the last two weeks have seen a flurry of long hearings. Here’s a quick recap of pertinent bills.


Riding side-by-side is okay: Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has a bill, A.B. 2509, that would clarify existing law that it is not illegal for bikes to ride side-by-side in certain circumstances. It passed the Assembly and now awaits its assignment to Senate committees.


Transit passes for veterans: S.B. 951 is also known as the Golden State Patriot Passes Program from Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). The bill would use money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to develop a pilot transit pass program for veterans. The bill unanimously passed the Environmental Quality Committee this week.


Fair representation: The issue of environmental justice, and the effects of policies on low-income communities in the state, seems to be gaining some traction in the California legislature, at least among some Democrats. Republican lawmakers, however, are sticking to the party line that the economy trumps fairness, and also, usually, the environment. Unfortunately some members who aren’t Republicans are also falling into that trap, including people wielding power as committee chairs.

For example, two bills that would have reconfigured major decision-making bodies to include representatives of low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities were shot down in the Assembly Transportation Committee. They got a hostile reception from committee chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), and some Democrats on the Committee were not willing to stand up to him. The two bills, A.B. 1982 and A.B. 2382, would have added representatives to the California Transportation Commission, which allocates the state’s transportation funding, and to the High Speed Rail Authority.

On the other hand, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee was much more receptive to several similar bills. S.B. 1387 from Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) easily passed that committee with a 5-2 vote, which fell along party lines. That bill, in addition to forcing the South Coast Air Quality Management District to consider the impacts of its actions on disadvantaged communities, would add three new members to the SCAQMD board, all representatives of environmental justice organizations.

Read more…

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Transportation Committee Hears Bills: Active Transpo, High-Speed Rail, More


Assemblymember Chris Holden presents his transit pass bill; Asms. Richard Bloom and Eduardo Garcia listen at right. Image: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A marathon hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee yesterday was a sign of looming deadlines in the California legislature. It was also an illustration of the strange and sometimes surreal world in which California’s laws are debated and created.

An hour before the hearing, a coalition of groups working on equity and transportation presented a package of bills at a press conference. At the time, the press was downstairs watching Governor Brown sign the minimum wage bill, but upstairs the room was packed with supporters, a group of whom had driven all the way from Fresno. Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) presented bills aimed at improving transportation options for people who need the most help, including creating a free transit pass program, increasing funding for the Active Transportation Program, and providing representation for disadvantaged communities on the California Transportation Commission.

Some of those transportation equity bills were among the 22 bills the Transportation Committee heard and discussed over the course its five-plus-hour hearing yesterday afternoon. The Transportation Committee meets next week to consider additional legislation. That promises to be another long hearing as the committee works through a large number of bills in a few short weeks.


Among the bills heard yesterday were attempts by Republicans to stop California’s high-speed rail project (CAHSR). These bring the total to eleven such efforts, according to Keith Dunn, a consultant for the Association for California High-Speed Trains, who testified at the hearing. These bills, like earlier similar bills, received few votes. They may well crop up again, but for now they are dead in the water.

This time around the anti-high-speed rail bills were:

  • A.B. 1717: Since the High-Speed Rail Authority changed its plans and decided to build towards the Bay Area first, rather than to L.A., Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance) proposed that CAHSR’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund money be taken away and given to other rail projects.
  • A.B. 1768: High-speed rail is a waste of money and the bonds currently used for it should be used instead to repair roads and highways, said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake).
  • A.B. 2049: Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) wrote pretty much the same bill as Gallagher’s.
  • A.B. 1866: Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) wants the high-speed rail bonds to be taken away and spent on water projects.


Three bills heard in yesterday’s meeting aimed to create a specialized license plate program to raise money for specific causes. Such bills have run into trouble in the past, with a moratorium on their proliferation causing hard feelings between legislators about pet causes. Committee Chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) warned that not only do the bills face an uphill battle, but their effectiveness as fundraising strategies is questionable: several past such attempts, he said, did not get enough applicants to start production of the particular specialized plate.

Nonetheless, the committee passed two of them: a “bicycle pathways” plate with proceeds going to the Active Transportation Program (A.B. 2303, Holden), and another that would support local food banks (A.B. 2131, Maienschein).

Read more…

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CA Transportation Funding Should Reflect State Goals

To increase biking and walking, California needs to put its money where its mouth is. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog California

To increase biking and walking, California needs to put its money where its mouth is. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog California

Transportation funding in California has, as SBCA readers must know by now, reached a “crisis.” Shrinking gas tax revenues, combined with an increasing reliance on local sales taxes limited to specific transportation projects, have left our overbuilt and under-maintained highways, roads, and bridges without enough funds to keep them in a basic state of good repair.

Last year the need for a solution was so urgent that Governor Brown called a “special legislative session” on transportation funding, but the process so far has produced little. Some legislators proposed “bold” funding ideas, including raising the gas tax. Increasing the gas tax is long overdue, but meets such knee-jerk opposition that just bringing up the subject counts as a bold action. A lack of focus, and an inability to come to an agreement about how to “fix” what is a royal mess, means that so far no solution is forthcoming.

Meanwhile the yearly state budget process is underway again, with hearings to begin in earnest in the next few weeks. Governor Jerry Brown made his budget proposal in January, and will issue a “May revise” after tax day when state revenues are clearer.

In addition to the state budget, legislators are deciding how to spend the forty percent of last year’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) that remained unallocated. This money comes from cap-and-trade and must be used to further reduce greenhouse gases. In this case, having such a large chunk of extra funds has created a sort of paralysis because everyone wants some of it.

While transportation is only part of the budget, it is a big one, and how we invest transportation dollars now will have an impact on the state for many years.

Governor Brown’s proposed budget includes a couple of new sources of income for transportation funding, but it is unclear how he will make them happen. In addition to raising gas taxes, Brown proposed a “road improvement charge” that would be added to vehicle registration fees. However, both proposals need approval by two-thirds of the legislature to pass, and Republican members continue to oppose raising taxes or adding fees. The new sources of funds would add $4 billion to Brown’s transportation budget—so if they do not pass, transportation spending could be in jeopardy.

Read more…

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A Few Bad Bills

bikeatCapitollabel2The California legislature is back from spring recess and the process of hearing and arguing about bills is beginning in earnest. In the next few days, Streetsblog California will talk about some exciting bills coming up that may need your support.

But first, we’ll take a quick look at a few bills that are not so good. For the most part, the transportation bills listed here take the wrong approach.

Transportation funding is in a crisis, but Sacramento isn’t offering many solutions. The danger is, with agreement so hard to come by, any compromise on funding might lose sight of other state goals, such as clean air, avoiding climate change, and fairness. We’ve made serious mistakes in the past, as eloquently noted by US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx a few days ago when he talked about how freeways destroyed low income neighborhoods. So it’s crucial that when we talk about transportation funding, we get away from the status quo—no more widening highways, speeding up traffic and otherwise encouraging driving. People need real choices about how they move around.

Meanwhile, California’s cap-and-trade system is bringing money into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). That fund looks like a cash cow to some legislators. The bills listed here play fast and loose with the GGRF, which by law is supposed to be used to further reduce greenhouse gases, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities that have historically paid a higher price, in every way, for the environmental degradation brought by industry.

Read more…

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Assemblymember Gatto Introduces Parking Reform Bills

Assemblymember Mike Gatto. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto touting parking reform this morning. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a downtown Los Angeles press event this morning in front of Caltrans District 7 headquarters, Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-L.A., Glendale) explained two parking reform bills he recently introduced.

A.B. 2602 takes on parking issues related to disability placards. Disability placard abuse is a major parking issue for many cities, including Los Angeles, but change needs to begin at the state level to allow cities to implement solutions.

Gatto outlined the magnitude of placard abuse issues, citing state statistics: of 24 million CA drivers, three million have some form of disability parking placard, whether a permanent or temporary placard, or a disabled person license plate.

“Something is wrong,” proclaimed Gatto, when one in eight California drivers claims a disability.

Municipalities cannot ticket cars parked at expired meters if they display a handicapped driver’s placard. Thus, perfectly healthy scofflaw drivers regularly use illegally obtained placards to both cheat the city out of parking revenue and to turn a public parking space into their personal space because they are under no obligation to move their car.

In 2012, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez conducted his own placard sting and discovered that many placards were being illegally used by healthy drivers. Numerous other more recent governmental and media stings have shown placard abuse to be an ongoing issue.

Gatto had planned to introduce disability placard legislation in the 2013-14 legislative session, but delayed the bill to work more closely with disability advocates. Gatto stated that his office is working with advocacy organizations, some of whom support the bill in its current form.

Gatto also stumped for A.B. 2586 , the so-called “Parking Bill of Rights.” From a livability perspective, this measure is a somewhat mixed bag. It promotes variable-priced parking, but also places some restrictions on how and when localities can enforce metered parking.

These bills will likely change in the course of the legislative process. After the jump is a summary of where they stand right now.  Read more…

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Santa Monica Assemblymember Bloom Takes Aim at CA Housing Shortage

bikeatCapitollabel2California State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has set his sights on tackling the dire shortage of homesand the resulting affordability crisiscurrently facing the state.

Bloom, whose district includes Malibu, Santa Monica, West L.A., Brentwood, and Beverly Hills, currently has three bills pending—A.B. 2501, A.B. 2299, and A.B. 2522—that seek to lower barriers to new housing production in cities throughout California.

“California is faced with a critical housing crisis. It has already caused severe escalation of housing prices, making the state less affordable to those living in poverty, our state’s workforce, and millennials,” said Bloom.

“If this crisis isn’t solved, our economy and quality of life will diminish as ever larger shares of people’s net income goes towards their housing,” he said.

Details about specific bills after the jump. Read more…

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SoCal Government Coalition SCAG Wants to Keep Planning for Cars

SCAG wants Measure R highway expansion projects, among others, grandfathered past new CEQA rules

SCAG wants Measure R highway expansion projects, among others, grandfathered past new CEQA rules.

SCAG sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

Regular Streetsblog readers know that the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has been working on rules that will remove traffic congestion from consideration as an environmental impact under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The impetus came from the slowly dawning realization that measuring—and mitigating—traffic Level of Service, which is what CEQA rules have done for twenty-plus years, was creating many unintended consequences that were detrimental to the environment. The way CEQA rules are carried out, if it looks like a project is going to cause traffic delay, planners must figure out a way to fix it. That in turn has led to street designs with wide lanes and overbuilt intersections that discourage people from choosing more environmentally friendly ways to travel than cars.

The rule-change process has taken a long time. Over the past two years, OPR staff traveled to all parts of the state to discuss Level of Service issues to gather ideas and feedback from experienced planners and engineers. They settled on substituting Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for Level of Service (LOS). Streetsblog coverage of the reasons for that choice can be found here; in brief, measuring how much travel a project induces rather than how much it slows traffic gives a better idea of its true environmental impact.

The deadline for comments was February 29, and SCAG’s letter came in just under the wire. In it, SCAG requests that OPR limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to “grandfather in” highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.

“In other words,” said Amanda Eakin of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “SCAG is saying not to apply the VMT metric to the projects that are most likely to cause more VMT.”

To the NRDC, SCAG’s request makes no sense. “As a state,” she said, “we’ve acknowledged all the problems with LOS, and have agreed to move to a new measure that can promote greenhouse gas reductions and other environmental goals. It makes no sense to apply the new metric to only certain projects.”

“If we know that capacity expansion projects are going to increase VMT, then we have to be examining that now,” she added.

Read more…

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More Californians Are Commuting by Bike

Screen shot 2016-03-08 at 12.02.28 PMThe Alliance for Biking and Walking just published its 2016 Benchmarking Report, which ranks states and cities on key statistics including the percentage of people commuting by bike. Every biannual report is a little bit different, as states develop their data collection and the Alliance is better able to compare statistics across fields.

California’s bike commute mode share now ranks fourth among the fifty states, up from sixth in 2014. At 1.1 percent of all California commuters, the number of bike commuters is slightly up from the 1 percent in the 2014 report. But it still has a ways to go to get to the tripling of bike mode share that Caltrans and the California Bicycle Coalition have set as goals for the state (to 4.5 percent of all trips by 2020).

The Alliance’s Benchmarking Report promotes good data collection about bicycling and walking, and makes that data available to support informed decisions about policy, infrastructure, and funding. It also seeks to make the connection between health and active transportation. To that end this report includes data about health markers including obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

There are caveats. For one thing, the data is very general, comparing population-wide statistics that may or may not have a causal relationship. It is also limited by its sources; for example, the bike and pedestrian mode share data comes from the U.S. Census, which limits travel mode questions to the commute trip. This not only leaves out the considerable number of other trips people make—thus likely undercounting these modes in particular—but the census only gives people one choice when they answer, so that a person who walks to transit will report that as a transit trip, not a walking trip.

Screen shot 2016-03-08 at 12.04.39 PM

One of the very useful charts in the 2016 Benchmarking Report.

Furthermore, much of the data is self-reported. It is not necessarily wrong, but in some cases it can be inconsistent, especially when comparing between different states.

Keeping these caveats in mind, the Alliance’s Benchmarking Report is still a key source of nationwide data about bicycle and pedestrian trips. Though more and better data is needed, this report is a great place to start and getting better every time.

California’s 1.1 percent bike commute mode share is smaller than cyclists want it to be, but it is nothing to sneeze at. California is, by a long shot, the most populous state in the nation. At 38 million, CA is 12 million more than the next most populous state, Texas—which only has a 0.3 percent bike commute mode share. At 1.1 percent, that’s a lot more bicycle commuters on our roads than in many other states.

The report has a fascinating story to tell, buried in its statistics, about poverty, gender, race, and mode choice was well. For example, Read more…

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State Legislative Update: CalBike Agenda for 2016

bikeatCapitollabel2The California Bicycle Coalition, aka CalBike, continues to push for increasing funding for the Active Transportation Program, which currently receives $120 million per year. The bike coalition wants the state to add $100 million to the program, which sounds like a lot but is roughly one percent of the total transportation budget—even though bike and walking trips make up nearly 19 percent of all trips made in California. The state budget planning process, in which the two legislative houses and the governor negotiate a final budget by June, is one avenue for getting more funding.

Also in play are several bills that were introduced in last year’s Special Session on Transportation. Senator Jim Beall’s (D-Campbell) proposal to raise transportation funds through higher gas taxes, S.B. X1-1, would limit highway expansions and require complete streets improvements. Senator Jim Frazier’s (D-Oakley) transportation funding bill, A.B. 1591, has some similarities. The Special Session on Transportation lost steam at the end of last year’s session and these two bills were left hanging. However, now that the other Special Session—on health care funding—has successfully concluded, attention will soon turn to the unfinished business of transportation funding—so stay tuned.

Additionally, CalBike is sponsoring a couple of bills that will benefit bike riders in other ways. One, A.B. 1982 from Streetsblog California Streetsie winner, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), calls for traffic signals to be timed to give bike riders a “green wave”—that is, any vehicle traveling at an average speed of 12 to 15 miles per hour would get a green light as it arrives at intersections. Under Bloom’s bill, when money from the state’s cap-and-trade program is used to fix signal timing so that traffic runs smoothly—thus reducing emissions, a requirement for receiving cap and trade funds—the signal timing must be set to match the speed of the average bike rider. That would give bike riders a big advantage, speeding up and smoothing bike commutes. “Green waves” have been successfully implemented in San Francisco along Valencia street, where they make bike and car speeds about the same. That is another advantage of “green waves” at that speed: they encourage slower, safer driving by all vehicles.

Bloom is also co-author, with Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), of A.B. 2796, which would require the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to award Active Transportation Program funds for planning and community engagement in disadvantaged communities, as well as other non-infrastructure projects. This has long been a subject of some contention in workshops on guidelines for the Active Transportation Program. The CTC tends to award money to infrastructure projects, and Commissioner Carl Guardino, who was recently reappointed, has made it clear he doesn’t want to allocate any money for planning. However, it’s hard to build infrastructure if you can’t plan it, and many areas of the state have very little capacity (that is, money) to support planning for bikes, let alone conduct real community outreach that lets planners know what would work best for people.

Read more…