Happy Endings: Judge Rules Traffic Calming Measures Put Back in Holmby-Westwood

7_8_10_selby.jpgThese humps appeared on Selby Avenue.  For more images of the removed traffic calming, visit our Flickr page.

Yesterday, Judge Robert O’Brien of the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a tentative ruling that traffic calming measures in the Holmby-Westood community that were removed by the LADOT and City Council in the summer of 2009 be returned.  The traffic calming was first put in as part of a Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) when the Palazzo development was constructed on the west side of the community.  The measures were "only temporary" pending a vote of the neighborhood six months after installation.  However, when LADOT surveyed the community, they surveyed a different and larger area than the one agreed to in the plan.  The vote to keep the traffic calming was approved by "only" 60% of residents who responded to the survey, which was short of the two-thirds needed to keep the calming in place.

O’Brien was as confused by the city’s rationale for changing the survey area as project supporters and chided the LADOT and the City for utterly failing to live up to the Neighborhood Protection Plan. Because the agreement between community, developers and city was a condition for the construction of Palazzo, the NPP has the force of law.  By distributing a ballot to areas that were not deemed "effected areas" in the NPP, the City broke the law:

Screen_shot_2010_07_07_at_9.20.51_PM.png

The result?  The city has to put the traffic calming back, and put it in permanently.  No lobbying by the City Council office, or maneuvering by the LADOT can change that simple fact.

Last year when the removal was being debated in City Hall, it amazed me that these measures were so controversial, yet it was an issue that divided the community.  At the two City Council Transportation Committee hearings on the issue there was shouting, accusations of lying, and even charges of rigging the LADOT’s survey.  Tough times.  And what were the measures that were so controversial?  I described them last year:

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, a restriction 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.

The judge’s decision leaves plenty of people with egg on their faces.  Poor Councilman Jack Weiss, who already lost his election for City Attorney, was the City Council Champion for the residents who lived east of the effected area that wanted the calming removed.  His cohorts on the Transportation Committee, many of whom still sit on the committee, voted unanimously to remove the traffic calming.  Worst of all, LADOT and City Planning both went to the mat to defend the idea that the Neighborhood Protection Plan was not a contract between their departments and residents.  Now there’s judicial precedence that these plans aren’t just "contracts" but that they actually carry the weight of law.

But the biggest losers are the people of Holmby-Westwood who live east of the effected areas.  LADOT traffic counts showed increased traffic on these streets when the measures were in place.  Doubtless that traffic will return.  Instead of spending the last two years fighting for similar protective measures for their streets that their neighbors will now enjoy; they’ve spent that time more concerned about speeding up traffic on those streets to their west so the whole neighborhood.

I honestly feel bad for these folks, who seem to genuinely be concerned about the safety of their streets that are being used as a cut-through to Palazzo and UCLA.  After last year’s articles, I received several angry emails accusing me of only telling one side of the story.  However, sympathy for their situation doesn’t mean I agree with their strategy.  If they wanted similar measures on their streets, Streetsblog would stand with them.  When the message is that the city needs to remove other streets’ calming, that’s not something that Streetsblog will support.

But the winners are the residents who fought developers, their City Councilman, the LADOT, City Planning, the City Council and heck, just about the entire city bureaucracy for the right to have streets free of people looking for a shortcut to the Palazzo development.  Their tenaciousness is going to bring the measures they desire back to their streets.  Let’s hope the news of their happy ending inspires more Los Angeles communities to fight for slower streets.  I had a chance to talk to Esther Magna, who is one of the leaders of the Holmby-Westwood Traffic Committee and sent me the official ruling from Judge O’Brien. She could barely contain her excitement in talking about not just how happy they were with the outcome after the long struggle, but how much she looked forward to cut through traffic for a retail development getting off her street.

Her neighbors are correct when they argue that moving the traffic off a couple of streets on to a couple of others is the proper solution.  If the city really wants to protect this neighborhood from cut-through traffic, they’ll find a way to get those cars back on the arterial streets where they belong.

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