Council Moves Forward with EIR for Wilshire Boulevard

11_13_08_wilshire_bus.jpgBus lane free. Photo: LA Wad/Flickr

Yesterday’s full Los Angeles City Council meeting ran
extraordinarily late due to a potential lawsuit between the Controller
and the City Attorney. The council’s Transportation Committee meeting, previewed last week here and here, was scheduled for 2:00 P.M. but didn’t begin until after 4:30 P.M. By then,
most of the Department of Transportation (LADOT) staff had left.
Remaining were a little more than half of the initial 30+
yellow-t-shirt clad Bus Riders Union members, a half-dozen Comstock
Hills homeowners, and a couple of bicyclists.

Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl apologized profusely for the delay,
and, with fellow committee members Alarcón, Koretz and LaBonge in
attendance, immediately launched into the most contentious agenda item:
the LADOT’s recommendation that the city move forward with full
environmental review of the federally-funded peak hour bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard.

Paul Koretz is the newly elected Council Member representing the
city’s 5th district, which includes the Comstock Hills, aka the
"condo canyon," stretch of Wilshire between Beverly Hills and UCLA. The
bulk of the opposition to the bus-only lane project has come from this
area. Among the committee, Koretz was the most openly skeptical of the
project – asking a number of questions, including if the project is a
"disaster" could it be removed? LADOT staff responded that they "didn’t
want to go there" and reassured Koretz that their calculations showed a
very modest impact on traffic. DOT stated that estimates show a
3-5 minute delay for cars driving the entire corridor, with a
corresponding 24% reduction in the time it takes for a bus to go the
same length.  Koretz ultimately moved the motion to fund the environmental study at Rosendahl’s suggestion.

Council Member LaBonge questioned whether the route could go to other
high-volume destination centers like Century City;  LADOT countered
that Wilshire itself is a destination-rich corridor, indeed "the number
one bus line in the United States."

Four Bus Riders Union speakers testified in support of the project
and the important precedent it will set. Speakers representing the
Green L.A. Transportation Working Group and the Los Angeles County
Bicycle Coalition also spoke in favor. Homeowners expressed their
displeasure at the planned bus lanes which they stated would
be "dangerous" for residents getting into and out of
driveways, and negatively impact trash trucks, mail delivery,
ambulances, and fire engines.

Rosendahl diplomatically thanked speakers for raising important
issues and suggested that the full Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
process would be where all these benefits and costs can get full public
airing. The committee unanimously approved the motion for the project
EIR to proceed, including directing LADOT to report back in 90 days.
The motion (08-2595-S1) will now be scheduled for a vote of the full city council.

Running very late, the committee then spent less than three minutes
approving LADOT’s proposed contract for ShelterCLEAN to maintain the
Orange Line Bike Path (09-2120) and continued the rest of the agenda to future meetings.

(Editor’s Note: Linton is Chair of the Green L.A. Transportation Working Group and is an unabashed supporter of the Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes project.)

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