Livability Advocates Dominate #RoadBond Hearing, Press Ignores
On Wednesday, the City Council Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee ordered city staff to study funding options for a bond proposal to fix city streets.
You may remember Council Members Joe Buscaino, who happens to chair the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, and Mitch Englander proposed a property tax increase to fund a bonding system that would repair all of L.A.’s decaying streets in a ten year period.
The proposal never made it to the May ballot after complaints that the process was being rushed. The two members then held six hearings throughout the city to solicit feedback from across the city. On Wednesday, Englander reported on those efforts and presented the findings of those reports.
The “big news” from the report is that a future proposal would include more funding than just a property tax bond and that a work plan would be submitted before any funding plan went to the general public.
The Council motion asked city staff to look into twenty six issues relating to the bond program. Many of those issues had to deal with diversifying funding streams, creating a citizens oversight committee, and a work plan for the billions of dollars that would be spent on street reconstruction.
However, at least six action items from the report asked staff to look into funding sidewalk repair as a part of a bond proposal and the feasibility of creating a “green street,” “complete streets,” “living streets” and “great streets” program. The request was passed unanimously, with Buscaino and Council Members Gilbert Cedillo and Curren Price all voting to move it to the full Council.
As with the City Hall hearings on the proposal last winter, environmental and Livable Streets advocates dominated the hearing offering nine of the ten public comments. As in the winter, the Daily News writer present managed only to quote the one person present who was concerned about a tax increase and one representative of the Neighborhood Councils that wasn’t even present.
Since the Daily News decided to ignore the advocates for livability, Streetsblog would like to highlight their concerns.
First to speak in public comment was Caryn Mandelbaum with Environment Now. “For several years I’ve worked on Green Streets,” began Mandelbaum before explaining how green streets are an improvement for urban water irrigation. She ended her testimony by urging the Council to work with other departments to include Green Street design and materials in any proposal to fix the roads.
Next was Barry Johnson, a Studio City Resident. Johnson was concerned about the bond falling exclusively on homeowners. Barry Johnson was the only member of the public quoted in Rick Orlov’s coverage of the hearing on the Daily News.
After Johnson was Debra Weinstein, the policy director of Tree People also speaking for the Green L.A. Coalition. “We want to see any road measure put forward by the city to be successful. But to be successful, you need to redefine what a “failing street” is. Yes, a failing street is one riddled by potholes, and we certainly all see that throughout the city. But it’s also failing because of the numerous services our streets should be providing but are not.”
Weinstein then ticked off a way our streets fail pedestrians, non-motorized road users, and yes…the local water supply and runoff system.
Following Weinstein was Eric Bruins from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Deborah Murphy from L.A. Walks. Bruins argued that a 30 year funding proposal should yield streets that are functional in 2043. As studies demonstrate that America and Los Angeles has already reached peak driving, rebuilding a road network just for cars is not a good use of money.
“Streets, not roads, are the life blood of our city. It’s where we get together, it’s where we make place, it’s where we gather to conduct commerce, to get to our jobs, our schools, to visit our friends…we’re all pedestrians,” Murphy began before delivering the statistics that 25% of our trips in L.A. are made on foot, yet are a staggering 40% of fatalities.
“We need to make our streets for the future of Los Angeles, not the past of Los Angeles,” she concluded.
Next up was Mike Antos from the Council for Watershed Health. Antos used the Elmer Avenue Project in Sun Valley as an example of what can be done. Elmer Avenue was a run down road, which now conducts millions of gallons of water, relies on solar power for lighting and is a model green street.
David Fink with Campaigns for Climate Resolve next spoke in favor of complete, cool and complete streets.”
“We know the city is going to get hotter, the question is what can we do now to prepare. The best answer is to rethink what we use for asphalt,” Fink posited. “Temperatures can get up to 140 degrees on that surface. Reflective surfaces can reduce that temperature by forty degrees or more.”
Jerard Wright with Move L.A. noted that residents of the City of Los Angeles voted for Measure J last fall by 73% to 27%. Measure J would have extended the 2008 Measure R sales tax for another 30 years for transportation improvements.
Wright urged that any bonding proposal should include a vision for remaking the streets not just because it’s good policy, but also because it’s good politics.
Mark Vallianatos, a professor at Occidental College and regular Streetsblog contributor, also pushed for a complete streets approach. “A lot of good stuff is happening, but it’s happening against a landscape of decades and decades of moving lots of cars really fast and not worrying about the implications.”
Jeff Jacoburger, Chair of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee but speaking for himself, urged the City Council to wait until the City Planning Department finishes it’s long term circulation plan before moving forward.
James Alamillo, the urban programs manager with Heal the Bay, wrapped up testimony with a call to look at great streets beyond an auto-centric measure. He urged that a cost-benefit analysis look at more than just the financial costs and financial benefits. Having a working network for bicyclists and pedestrians that handles clean stormwater benefits the entire city.
The last speaker was D. Malcolm Carson, General Counsel and Policy Director for Environmental Health for the Community Health Councils. “We have a lot of ideas that are percolating through the system with a health update to the general plan, a circulation system to the general plan…all these ideas are out there, are gathering community support. To have a vehicle like a bond to move these ideas could be transformative.”
Jay Handal, from the West L.A. Neighborhood Council did not speak. However, Daily News writer Rick Orlov made sure to include his feelings on the hearing and gave him the last word in his article.
(Full Disclosure: Deborah Murphy is a member of the Southern California Streets Initiative, the co-publisher of Streetsblog L.A.)