Streetscast: StreetSummit Speakers Inspire, Educate and Rally Livable Streets Advocates

3_22_10_gk.jpgThanks for the commentary Gary Se7en/Flickr

The StreetSummit has come and gone. In order to provide the best coverage that I can, we’ll spread out the remaining coverage into three days. Today will focus on the plenary speakers, tomorrow we’ll look at the three sessions I attended and Wednesday we’ll look at three sessions that I recorded. Any conference that has the audience booing free public parking for automobiles.

But first, the plenary speakers. Because I taped each of the plenary speeches, there will just be a short summary of each speech and then the audio. If you were at the summit, you already know what i’m going to say. If you haven’t, listen to the speeches. Each one will take between fifteen and twenty minutes. If you have to break your listening up, do so.

Kicking off the summit was a second speech by New York’s miracle worker, Janette Sadik-Kahn, the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation. I’m not going to go into too much detail because it was a similar speech to the one given last Thursday. One thing I got from this speech that I missed on Thursday, but sure enough is right there in the audio, was a call to couch our arguments for better streets in safety. After all, who could argue against making our streets safer?

But, if you want to listen, or re-listen, to Sadik-Kahn’s Saturday speech, you can find the audio right here:


Next up was Carl Anthony, the founder of an organization called Breakthrough Communities. Anthony made several points that are critical to the Livable Streets Movement, yet are too often overlooked. Did you know that by the percentages, schools are more segregated now then they were when Brown v Board of Education was decided? The advent of the freeway society made white flight all the more attractive, and too many communities ended up being segregated whether that was the intention or not.

Anthony offered a different vision for the future. By focusing on improving communities instead of making it easier for people to flee them, we would not only rebuild our metropolitan regions, improve the environment, make our streets safer and all of the other things that Livable Streets advocates regularly discuss and promote; our society will also begin to undo the segregation that we’ve created with our car culture, freeway society. Anthony was somewhat blunt that all transportation reform advocates need to do a better job of reaching out to communities of color.

For more of Anthony’s speech, assisted by Paloma Pavel, listen on here:


3_22_10_group.jpgBefore lunch, it’s group picture time.

After lunch, Charles Gandy, the mobility coordinator for Long Beach took the podium. There’s a lot of great things going on in Long Beach these days, from the Green Sharrowed streets to the bike stations, to a city-supported bike co-op modeled after L.A.’s Bicycle Kitchen. If Sadik-Kahn’s speech was meant to inspire, than Gandy’s speech was meant to motivate. Gandy’s speech was mixed with promotion of Long Beach, "Come to Long Beach and see what the revolution looks like!" and pragmatic advice such as a repeated effort to get activists to better encourage political leaders and departments of transportation buerocrats to think of streets in a new way.

Of course, mixed in with his exhortations were descriptions of what’s been done and what will be done to make Long Beach the "most bicycle friendly city in America." If you’d like to hear more about Long Beach, check out the two parts (Part 1, Part 2) series "Long Beach’s Leap Towards Livability" by Joe Linton or any of the series of posts by Drew Reed.

Or, you can listen to the audio from Gandy’s presentation, here.


3_22_10_trucks.jpgFood trucks: Good enough for the streets summit, but not for the forces of gentrification.

The last speaker before the workshops was Lydia Avilia of the Eastside Community Development Corporation. She described how in Boyle Heights, people are already living in the public space, but now that the area has been largely cleaned up from its days as the poster-community for L.A. gang culture, the forces of gentrification are trying to push people back in their homes.

The evidence? Crackdowns on street vending, especially since the Gold Line Eastside Extension opened and what she referred to as the "criminalization of low-income people." Responding directly to the question, posed by Streetsblog, of whether the Gold Line Eastside Extension has had an impact on the community, she responded that most of the community ignores it. It doesn’t go where they need it to, and half the community doesn’t have easy access to a station. A pretty damning statement, and one Metro and the city should consider when planning the circulation plans for the Expo Line in both phases.

That being said, Avilia also touched on the community’s attempts to do their own planning, putting them way ahead of the Department of City Planning, to decide what they want Boyle Heights to look like. So, Boyle Heights provides an interesting case study, here we have people already living the streets life that much of the rest of the city is searching for and the local development corporation is worried the city is trying to push the people back in their houses. You can listen to Avilia’s speech, here:


3_22_10_gandy_and_snyder.jpgCharles Gandy and Ryan Snyder Share a moment.

After the workshops were over, Ryan Snyder, a local planner who’s been pushing the progressive message locally for decades. After a brief history of local advocacy, Snyder built on Gandy’s call for action and urged the audience to keep fighting because we’re close to the top of the hill.

His entire speech can be summarized in just one sentence from the speech, "No more excuses Los Angeles!" Snyder’s speech can be heard here.



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