City Council approves a motion to study the feasibility of fixing LA’s streets in our lifetime

In the end the vote, as usual, was unanimous.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 15 to 0 this morning, not to fix the city’s crumbling streets, but to study how to fix them.

And more importantly, how to pay for it.

Potholes like this could — could — be a thing of the past; photo from The Source

The vote came on a proposal from Council Members Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander to put a $3 billion dollar bond issue on next year’s fall ballot to repair 8,700 of the city’s 28,000 lane miles of city streets. Currently, 38% of the city’s streets are graded D or F on a typical A through F scale, and are being allowed to deteriorate because the cost of rebuilding them is too high.

That estimated cost has doubled, from $1.5 billion to $3 billion, since the city first considered fixing the streets nearly a decade ago. And it’s predicted to double again within another 10 years if nothing is done to fix them in the meantime.

The proposal, now called Save Our Streets Los Angeles, first came up early this year when the two council members suggested putting it on the May mayoral ballot. However, it was quickly pulled in the face of opposition from property owners who would have borne the $28 annual cost of the bond issue.

It also faced opposition from various other groups, including bicycle and pedestrian advocates who considered the proposal dead in the water unless it incorporated a complete streets approach that would benefit all road users, as well as fix L.A.’s 10750 miles of sidewalks, an estimated 40% of which need complete reconstruction.

However, the presentation from the two council members compared that $28 cost to the estimated $750 in additional vehicle-operating costs paid by L.A. motorists due to the poor condition of the roadways.

Of course, drivers aren’t the only ones at risk from bad roads. A pothole or crack in the roadway that might be a mere annoyance to a motorist can result in severe injury, or worse, to a bicyclist who has to swerve around it or risk falling in front of oncoming traffic after trying to ride through it.

And today’s presentation noted that the city already faces lawsuits from pedestrians injured while walking — or often clambering over — the jumble of broken sidewalks that only serve to discourage strolling through many parts of the city.

Fortunately, there’s a lot to like in the proposal to study the proposal that passed the council today.

  • Long term preservation of streets to maintain an overall B grade
  • Use of alternative paving materials to reduce the heat island effect
  • Sidewalk and alley construction and repair, as well as possibly vacating under-used streets and alleys
  • A complete streets approach to serve all road users, including motorists, transit users, bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, children and the elderly
  • Possibly more Green Streets, similar to the Elmer Avenue Project in Council District Six

Of course, none of that is guaranteed to make the final ballot proposal. The current motion only says that city agencies should consider the feasibility of incorporating them into it.

Then there’s the question of how to pay for it.

The motion passed this morning instructs city agencies to study a number of financing options, ranging from government grants and borrowing against future revenues, to the previously suggested property tax increase. Along with more inventive proposals, including funding strategies that could replace declining gas tax revenues, tapping future Waste Hauling Franchise Fees, or charging fees to vehicle owners, such as a local vehicle registration fee, gas tax or tolls.

If passed — and that’s a big if, given the current two-thirds super-majority currently required to pass a bond issue — the result could be smoother, safer and healthier streets and sidewalks for everyone who lives in or moves through LA. As well as a promise of tens of thousands of new jobs to complete the task, whose salaries would benefit businesses and boost tax rolls throughout the Los Angeles area.

Of course, it all depends on what survives the city’s feasibility study, which is due back before the council by next July in order to make it onto the fall ballot.

And yes, they promise there will be many meetings in the meantime to give everyone a chance to weigh in.

You can read the full motion that passed the city council here (#23).

  • Anonymous

    If you can’t afford to maintain it, you can’t afford to own it. So LA should decide how much asphalt it can afford to maintain and which sections of asphalt it should return to nature. Meanwhile, LA should eliminate its minimum parking requirements that encourage people to drive and use up as much road space as possible, because we just can’t afford that anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Government is an oxymoron. They get paid to make sure nothing gets done then tax you more to study the reasons they never did what they were supposed to manage.
    I say quit paying taxes and see what happens

  • Egbert True

    Raise funds to fix streets by selling street parking permits. There is no reason that private property should be able to park on public accessways without paying for the privilege.

  • Eric W

    Yay – Caltrans repaved part o Venice this week – from Lincoln Eastward.

    Way safer riding!! And it does seem like LADOT is working their way around Mar Vista. Seveal other bad streets have been repaved this summer!

    Maybe they can find a way to fix the streets…

  • Bill Powers

    I wonder if anybody in the city is going to explore any funding options that aren’t regressive, asking the poor to pay more than anyone else (as a percentage of their income)? Selling permits, raising sales tax, borrowing against future revenues, or taxing residential property owners (while commercial property owners exploit loopholes and never pay higher taxes)…all of these lead to more crumbling streets, and cuts in other services. Meanwhile, the city pays more in fees to Wall Street than it does to maintain the streets. I wonder if they’re going to study that…