Holmby-Westwood Furious at Jack Weiss’ Plan to Remove Traffic Calming

4_7_09_palazzo.jpgPhoto of Palazzo by Matthew Correia via LA Urban Design Studio

Westwood residents are furious with Councilman Jack Weiss and the LADOT over a resolution appearing on tomorrow’s City Council Transportation Committee Agenda which would strip traffic calming off of local streets that were placed in February of 2008 as a "pilot program."  The Holmby-Westwood Traffic Committee had asked for certain traffic calming measures to protect their local streets from traffic created by the Palazzo mixed use development which features a Trader Joes and other retail in addition to residential.

In addition to removing the existing traffic calming, the measure in front of the city would also alleviate Caden, Palazzo’s developer, from having to build further traffic reduction measures in disregard of an agreement between the city, Casden and the neighborhood homeowner’s association.  By alleviating Caden’s responsibilities, the developer could save a quarter of a million dollars.  So if someone ever asks you rhetorically what the value of keeping children safe on the streets is, now you know.  It’s a quarter of a million dollars.

As part of the deal, the city installed traffic calming throughout the community including a restriction prohibiting eastbound and westbound straight through traffic on Le Conte Avenue across Hilgard Avenue, arestriction prohibiting eastbound and westbound straight through traffic on Weyburn Avenue across Hilgard Avenue a restriction prohibiting southbound to eastbound left-turns from Hilgard Avenue to Lindbrook Drive and a median island and a sidewalk bump-out on Lindbrook Drive at Hilgard Avenue.

While the traffic calming has been an unparalleled success,  the Holmby-Westwood Traffic Committee claims the measures reduced traffic by 124.3% according to the LADOT’s own traffic data.  Yet, for the traffic calming to be permanent, it needed two-thirds support of the community.  Yet, when the LADOT did a mail survey of the target area, just over sixty percent asked that the traffic calming remain on the street.  Thus, the city’s transportation planners are working with Councilman Jack Weiss to remove traffic calming from the streets.  Their plan has already been approved by the City’s Transportation Commission.

Not so fast cry the residents.  The LADOT’s area polled seems designed to make certain the poll wouldn’t meet the two-thirds required.  Instead of the area bound by the original agreement with Palazzo, the survey stretched farther east into communities that don’t see the benefits of traffic calming.  If the LADOT had restricted their survey to the immediate community, it received the support of three-quarters of the community.

In a letter to the Transportation Commission, the Homeowner’s spell out their complaints with the LADOT’s survey noting that people were unaware that supporting the traffic calming was "all or nothing" and that over ninety three percent of all respondents favored some form of traffic calming for the area.

The public outreach about the proposal to take away the traffic calming was, as is often the case when it comes to a proposal to speed up and increase traffic flow at the expense of safe local streets, abysmal.  The community didn’t receive notice of the plan or its hearing in front of the CTC until three days before the first hearing, which was conveniently held hours before a Jewish holiday.

However, the hearing also provides an opportunity for the City Council.  Do they support the LADOT and Jack Weiss’ plan to rip working traffic calming out of the ground, or do they look out for the best interestes of the community.  If they truly are legally required to remove the traffic calming, will they require a new transportation plan to protect the local neighborhood from the traffic created by large developments.  Their actions will send a clear signal to other communities as to what they can expect in the citycontinues to grow.

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