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City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Representatives of the National Resources Defense Council, Investing in Place, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Los Angeles Walks, and TRUST South L.A., along with Don Ward/Roadblock, gather outside the City Council chambers. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.

You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.

To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.

Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.

Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.

When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.

“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”

It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.

It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”

Only two other councilmembers stood to speak. Read more…

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Main Street in Santa Monica Poised to Get 2 Parklets

A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.

A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.

Update: The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved three locations for the city’s pilot parklet program. The three locations include the two recommended by staff and a third at Main and Hill in front of Finn McCool’s.

The Santa Monica City Council next Tuesday will consider giving the go-ahead to the beachside city’s first two parklets — small public open-space expansions of the sidewalk that usually replace on-street parking stalls.

If approved by the City Council, the parklet pilot program will begin with two locations on Main Street — one of the city’s most popular commercial districts — and will be a public-private partnership in which the city constructs the parklets and contracts with local businesses for operation and maintenance. The city is proposing the parklets be roughly a block apart with one in front of Holy Guacamole (at Ashland and Main) and the other in front of Ashland Hill, formerly Wildflour Pizza (between Ashland and Hill on Main).

“The pilot would be a public experiment with the Main Street community to temporarily test this new concept in the public realm,” according to the staff report. “The parklet design would be temporary and easily reversible, should the pilot demonstrate the need for design changes.”

As proposed, the parklet pilot program will last a year, “but may end earlier if public safety issues arise,” according to city staff.

“‘Parklets (transforming small urban spaces such as on-street parking stalls into public space and/or landscaping) has become increasingly common across America, but has not yet been authorized in Santa Monica,” according to the staff report. In the report, city officials point to the success of parklet programs in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.

A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.

Los Angeles, through its People St. program, has seen a number of parklets pop up in recent year, including the one on York Street pictured above. In Downtown L.A., there is also a parklet on Spring Street.

“Parklets introduce new streetscape features such as seating, planting, bicycle parking, or elements of play. Parklets encourage pedestrian activity by offering these human-scale ‘eddies in the stream,’ which is especially beneficial in areas that lack sufficient sidewalk width or access to public space,” according to the People St. website. Read more…
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TIGER Restored, Transit Expansion Funds Cut in 2016 Spending Bill

As the House and the Senate get to work on hashing out a multi-year transportation bill in conference committee, Congress is also putting together its annual spending package for transportation. The annual bill decides the fate of several discretionary programs, and earlier this year it looked like US DOT’s TIGER grants, which tend to fund multi-modal projects at the regional or local level, might not survive.

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking facilities in Lee County, Florida, one of the most dangerous areas for walking and biking. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

TIGER funding provided $10.5 million to build a network of biking and walking routes in Lee County, Florida. Image: Lee County MPO via Bike Walk Lee

Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says the final bill keeps TIGER but still represents a step backward for transit:

Good news: the new bill proposes no changes to what kinds of projects can apply for TIGER funding, and increases funding for the program by $100 million this year.

The Senate’s initial bill introduced this summer provided $500 million for TIGER — the same amount as the just-ended fiscal year — and the House version of this bill provided far less at $100 million. It’s encouraging to see the Senate appropriators increase funding for this important program in the newest draft proposal, and that there are no changes to what kinds of projects can apply. This is a hopeful sign that for future House-Senate negotiations on the final transportation spending bill for 2016.

The funding for building new transit service — New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity — was increased by more than $300 million from this summer’s Senate THUD bill up to $1.9 billion, just $24 million less than the proposed House levels of $1.92 billion. That sounds like good news, but it’s still represents a $200 million cut from last year for this program.

Amtrak funding was unchanged: $289 million for operating and $1.1B for capital projects, which is slightly more ($39 million) than this year.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Jarrett Walker at Human Transit says transit doesn’t have to be designed to serve a single “downtown” focal point — in fact there are major benefits to having multiple clusters of destinations. Also at Human Transit, a guest author asks whether autonomous cars will lead to a big boost in vehicle miles traveled. And BTA Blog writes that a group of victims’ families is speaking up for safer streets in Oregon.


Terms of Art: Boyle Heights Youth Rally against Being Columbused by the New York Times


Ray Vargas works on a mural featuring the Boyle Heights Bridge Runners and scenes from the community at the Ambularte event last Saturday. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Speaking about her new 35,000 square foot gallery space, located in the western industrial edge of Boyle Heights, art dealer Michele Maccarone told the New York Times, “It still has a dangerous quality — I kind of like that. I like that we spent a fortune on security.”

It was a line that, to the students at CALÓ YouthBuild in Boyle Heights that read the Times‘ story in their classes, felt like a slap in the face.

Well, it was one of many such lines found in the article, New Art Galleries Enjoy a Los Angeles Advantage: Space, actually.

In chronicling the expansion of the arts district to the east side of the river, the Times‘ Melena Ryzik had managed to paint a picture of Boyle Heights that few from the neighborhood recognized.

Some of the blame lay with the artists and gallery-owners who were quoted as celebrating the rapid turnover in the arts district that saw homeless people replaced by “guys with mustaches, sipping lattes” and the growth of a “young scene” that inspired Boyle Heights transplants with the “energy” and “momentum” needed to take risks with their work.

But most of the problems lay with the assumptions made by the journalist herself. Calling the spaces along Mission Road “outposts” in an area of Boyle Heights “that still has an anything-goes feel,” Ryzik pointed to the newer galleries as “beacons in the neighborhood” and praised them for giving “the area the urban cultural density that Los Angeles mostly lacks.”

“I cried a little when I read that,” said Stephanie Ponce, one of the YouthBuild students that had helped put together Ambularte, a mobile art exhibit held outside Maccarone’s new space as a way to protest how the community had been characterized. “They are saying we need culture…[our] people are our culture!”

Sergio Quintero, the student that took the lead on organizing last Saturday’s event, agreed.

Newcomers to the area wanted to be there because of the vibrant murals found on so many of Boyle Heights’ walls, he said. What they cared about was being able to feel “edgy,” not being challenged to get to know the local people, artists, or the histories those murals represented.

The Ambularte event represented an opportunity, the students felt, to remind the larger arts world that there was an entire community with a rich and storied history of intertwining the arts with culture, heritage, and resistance just up the hill from where the new galleries stood. And that it was a community that they were proud of and that they loved.

"Art is Community; Art is Resistance" is projected on the wall of Michele Maccarone's new gallery space on Mission Road in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“Art is Community; Art is Resistance” is projected on the wall of Michele Maccarone’s new gallery space on Mission Road in Boyle Heights. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“The event is [being held] outside,” Quintero continued, “because that’s where our art usually is.”

He was alluding to the community’s history of exclusion from the kinds of fine arts circles within which Maccarone and others featured in the Times’ story are able to move with much greater ease. Read more…

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South L.A. Residents Deliver Message to Curren Price Ahead of Vote to (Re)Adopt Mobility Plan 2035

Community members that regularly commute by bike ride toward Councilmember Curren Price's office to deliver a letter asking him to support a bike lane along Central Avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Community members that regularly commute by bike ride toward Councilmember Curren Price’s office to deliver a letter asking him to support a bike lane along Central Avenue. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tuesday afternoon, a special joint meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management and Transportation Committees will be held to, first, “consider a Motion to rescind the August 11, 2015 Resolution adopting the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended by the City Council,” and, second, “adopt a Resolution adopting the draft Mobility Plan 2035 as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor on May 28, 2015 and June 5, 2015, respectively.” [Full text of motion is here.]

Sounds straightforward enough, right?

As explained in Joe Linton’s recent story on the rescind-adopt effort, the City Council’s approval of three amendments to the semi-ambitious plan to overhaul how Angelenos get around their city had not adhered to the procedures set out in the city charter. The procedural oversight quickly became the cornerstone of a lawsuit by Fix the City, the group perhaps best remembered for accusing bike- and transit-dependent commuters of luxuriating about in traffic lanes they had “stolen” from drivers.

“In order to cure the alleged procedural defect,” Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Jose Huizar, Felipe Fuentes, and Joe Buscaino stated in the motion put forth on October 30, “Council would first need to rescind the Mobility Plan 2035 as amended.”

Given the support for the Mobility Plan the first time around, supporters speaking in an Los Angeles Times article today sound confident that the city will adopt the Plan again.

But a few challenges still remain. Last time around, as noted here, several councilmembers jumped at the chance to try to remove planned bikeways slated for their districts. Efforts by Paul Koretz (to see Westwood Boulevard nixed from the plan) and Gil Cedillo (to essentially exorcise bikeways from his district in favor of pedestrian facilities) went nowhere. But community members in Curren Price’s district expect he will revisit his motion to remove Central Avenue from the planned bikeway network at tomorrow’s hearing.

And they’re not happy about it. Read more…


Equity Advocates Discuss Needs of “Invisible” Cyclists on HuffPost Live

Pedestrians wait to be able to cross Jefferson and continue south on Central along the sidewalk. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Pedestrians and cyclists both take refuge on the sidewalk as they head south on Central Ave. in South Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Last week, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University published a story declaring that “Most Cyclists Are Working-Class Immigrants, Not Hipsters.”

If you spend any time in the streets and/or pay attention to cycling issues, this is something you probably already knew. At least, intuitively. It’s been a little harder to substantiate that claim using data, as the article explains, thanks to the way the Census lumps bicycle commuting to work in with motorcycling and taking taxis. The fact that the poor may also combine multiple modes to get from A to B (and C and D, depending on how many jobs or obligations they have) complicates the data. So does the fact that lower-income residents of color, particularly immigrants, are the people least likely to answer Census or other surveys or have habits that fit well into standardized categories.

The fact that the urban hipster persists as the face of cycling despite being the minority, author Andrew Keatts suggests, means that we aren’t dedicating enough time or resources to understanding and responding to the unique needs of the “invisible” majority — the cyclists that have the fewest resources or options at their disposal.

And then an interesting thing happens. Keatts reaches out to Adonia Lugo, former Equity Initiative Manager at the League of American Bicyclists, Sam Ollinger, who heads up Bike San Diego, the L.A.-based group Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), and Watts-based John Jones III of the East Side Riders Bike Club to ask about specific challenges that keep poorer cyclists from being seen, heard, or able to ride safely. He hears about gangs, fears of gentrification, lack of access to reliable transit at off-peak hours, lack of access to reliable bikes and safety equipment (e.g. lights), and the lack of time to participate in city planning processes, among other things.

But instead of broadening the analysis to think about transportation in a more holistic context that accommodates these issues, he seems to try to fit their needs back into a bike-specific box.

He ends the article by paraphrasing his conversation with Geoff Carleton of Traffic Engineers, Inc. (tasked with putting together Houston’s bike plan), who he says argues that “there’s a formula out there…for increasing bike safety and multi-modal access that fits what each neighborhood wants. In some places it’s better infrastructure, but in others, it’s finding a balance between safety, education and enforcement.”

But what if there isn’t a bicycle-specific formula out there? Read more…


The Rail-to-(Almost)-River Project Gets Boost with $15mil TIGER Grant

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, and Metro CEO Phil Washington. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas, Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James Butts, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez, and Metro CEO Phil Washington hold the ceremonial check granted to the Rail-to-River project set to run along Slauson Avenue in South L.A. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“[Let’s give] a big round of applause for Victor Mendez. He brought money,” quipped County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Turning to Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mendez, he continued, “Come back soon and come back often!”

Preferably with another $15 million grant in hand, he joked.

He might have been referring to the fact that Metro originally anticipated receiving $21.3 million from the program — not $15 million. But the fact that L.A. got $15 million at all is still a pretty big deal.

There had been 627 applications from all 50 states and a handful of territories for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant (TIGER) VII program and only 39 grants handed out, Mendez told the small crowd of press and staff gathered in the east parking lot for the Metro Silver Line at Slauson and Broadway.

The Rail-to-River project, he said, had stood out as an opportunity to turn a 6.4-mile stretch of a “dormant” and “blighted” rail right-of-way (ROW) in a “historically distressed area” into a biking and walking path that could more efficiently connect people to transit while also bettering the local economy, health outcomes for residents, and the local environment.

The Rail-to-Rail-to-eventually-the-River project will turn a right-of-way along Slauson Ave. into a bike and pedestrian path connecting folks to the Crenshaw, Silver, and Blue Lines. Source: Metro

The Rail-to-Rail-to-eventually-the-River project will turn a right-of-way along Slauson Ave. in South Los Angeles into a bike and pedestrian path connecting folks to the Crenshaw, Silver, and Blue Lines. Source: Metro

Given projections that the U.S. population will grow by 70 million by 2045, that freight volume will grow by 45%, and that existing infrastructure will not be able to meet either of those demands, he continued, citing the USDOT’s Beyond Traffic 2045 report, the time for alternative transportation projects was now.

“Congratulations,” Mendez concluded. “Let’s get to work!” Read more…


Area Mobility Advocate Exhausted by Bus, Makes Decision to Buy Car

Erick Huerta checks his phone as he waits for the bus on Western Ave. at Exposition Blvd. At this point he has already taken one bus and one train and has been in transit for an hour and fifteen minutes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Erick Huerta checks his phone as he waits for the bus on Western Ave. at Exposition Blvd. At this point, he has already taken one bus, one train, walked three-quarters of a mile, and been in transit for an hour and twenty minutes. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

What was I writing about, a woman wanted to know.

She had heard me explain to a gentleman passenger on the bus that, just because I had a camera with me, I was not also a model. Nor was I a stripper. I was a journalist.

That news seemed to have disappointed him. He had fond memories of taking fifty dollars’ worth of one dollar bills to the Gold Digger and “ballin'” as a young man. So much so that even when I explained I was interested in seeing more investment in the bus system so people could get to their destinations in a reasonable amount of time, he kept taking the subject back to the ladies of “extraordinary talents” that he had once known.

I turned to the woman that had asked the question, gestured toward my friend, social justice advocate, and noted Boyle Heights resident Erick Huerta, and said, “His commute.”

“Commute” did not seem like the right word to describe a trek that involved two buses, a train, just under a mile’s worth of walking, and anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours of transit time for one trip. Coming home was more of the same, adding as many as four hours to an 8-hour (but sometimes longer, as Huerta is in the non-profit world and there are often community meetings) work day. And that’s when service wasn’t held up because of a bus or train breakdown, something which happened far too often for his taste.

“It shouldn’t take me two hours to go 12 miles,” he said as we boarded the first bus at 8:08 that morning.

He’s right.

By bike, the commute takes under an hour. And when he’s gotten a lift in a co-worker’s car (or on a rare occasion, a very costly Uber/Lyft ride), it takes just half an hour.

It was so crazy getting a ride after work one day and realizing he had the time to meet a friend for dinner and just hang out, he said.

It’s the reason he has decided to buy a car.

Not to drive it every day, he reassured me. But to be able to have the option of doing so when he wanted to have time to have a life outside of work and commuting.

You see, Huerta has never owned a car.

Brought to the U.S. as a young child, his undocumented status meant that, until recently, he couldn’t get a driver’s license. And because of his status, the struggle to find stable work and even stable living arrangements, at times, meant that a car would have been out of reach, anyways.

Growing up, his family owned one car and it was mainly for his father to use for work and special errands, like runs to the grocery store. For everything else his family did and everywhere else Huerta needed to go, there was the bus.

And it kind of sucked.

Read more…


Boyle Heights to See Improvements in Phase Two of the Eastside Access Project

The streets that will see improvements are Boyle, Soto, State, and St. Louis (between Cesar Chavez to the north and 4th to the south). Source: ATP proposal

The streets that will see improvements in phase two of the Eastside Access project are Boyle, Soto, State, and St. Louis (between Cesar Chavez to the north and 4th to the south). Image: Deborah Murphy Urban Design + Planning

“I’m here to ask that you really take into account accessibility [when implementing any new improvements],” Boyle Heights resident and advocate for those with disabilities, Hector Ochoa, said as the meeting discussing phase two of the Eastside Access Project came to a close Wednesday night.

Phase one — the $12 million in improvements along 1st Street intended to enhance the pedestrian environment between two important Metro Gold Line stops in Boyle Heights — had not done so well in that regard.

As documented here recently, new bike racks in the form of flowers and butterflies were placed in the door zones of parking spaces, making it a challenge for wheelchair users like Ochoa to extend their ramps and exit their vehicles.

The flower bike rack blocks access to the side doors of a van sporting a disabled placard. If someone in a wheelchair needs that side door to be able to enter and exit their vehicle, they may have to park quite a distance from their intended destination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The flower bike rack blocks access to the passenger side doors of a van bearing a disabled placard. If someone in a wheelchair needs a side door to be able to enter and exit their vehicle, they may have to park quite a distance from their intended destination. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Throughout their presentation on the potential improvements phase two would entail, staff from the Department of Public Works, the Bureau of Street Services, and Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office reiterated that the new curb ramps, curb extensions, and improvements around bus stops would all be in compliance ADA standards.

Familiar with this mantra and unconvinced by it, Ochoa reiterated, “Often times the bare minimum is done [for those with disabilities], when we could do a little more.”

Making the street more accessible for people like him, he concluded, would benefit everyone that used the street.

Given that the phase two plans for Boyle, St. Louis, Soto, and State appear rather basic, at present, problems of that nature should (hopefully) be easily avoidable.

The proposal seeking $2,237,000 in funding from the Active Transportation Program named sidewalk repair, curb extensions and improved crossings, new trees, and bus stop lighting as enhancements that would improve connectivity between the commercial corridors of 1st St. and Cesar Chavez, to transit options, and to important amenities (Hollenbeck Park) and services (schools, senior centers, medical facilities, etc.). The $3.65 million project (with matching funds added in) would also build on active transportation improvements made as part of phase one of the Eastside Access project, the anticipated $5.6 million in improvements to the sidewalks and overall pedestrian environment slated for Cesar Chavez in 2017, and a Safe Routes to School project intended to make pedestrian access to Breed Street and Sheridan Elementary Schools safer.

Because bus benches are provided free of charge by Martin Outdoor Media (in exchange for advertising being allowed on the benches) benches will also be added to many of the bus stops.

The purpose of the meeting held Wednesday night, while in part to remedy the failure to do outreach ahead of the implementation of phase one of the project, was meant to give residents of the impacted streets a heads’ up regarding pending changes and to get their input on the kinds of street trees, bus benches, and bus lighting they would like to see. (Survey options follow after the jump.) Read more…

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Groundswell Video: Rojas On Planning – Imagine, Investigate, Construct, Reflect

There is a new video out this week from Groundswell, a project of multi-faceted bike activists Joe Biel and Elly Blue. Streetsblog USA profiled Groundswell last month. They’ve created a series of engaging and entertaining videos that explore the intersections of equity, community and cycling.

“The idea behind Groundswell was to recontextualize bicycling as a social movement and also to look at all the different people that have been excluded from that,” Biel told SBUSA. “It is often people at a ground level that are the ones that create social change around bicycling movements.”

This week’s short video focuses on Los Angeles’ James Rojas. Streetsblog Los Angeles readers are likely familiar with James Rojas as he has contributed numerous articles, and his interactive planning workshops have been chronicled at SBLA: from Pacoima to Highland Park to Boyle Heights.

Building Stories: City Planning With James Rojas profiles Rojas community planning sessions where participants use toys, games, sticks, and various doodads to create dioramas and tell what kind of community they would like to see. Using everyday objects, Rojas invites everyday people to participate in visioning and planning. Rojas’ simple techniques allow untrained non-experts – children, the elderly, and other overlooked peoples – to have a voice in community planning.

Watch Groundswell’s excellent earlier videos on Black Women Bike, Take Back the Streets, and Toward Equitable Bicycle Advocacy. Also check Groundswell’s website for additional videos coming soon.