A Positive End in the Conflict Between Councilman Cedillo and #Fig4All?

The most closely-watched story of 2014 for Livable Streets advocates was the ongoing battle between Councilman Gil Cedillo and the advocates themselves over the future design of North Figueroa Street. However, 2015 is a new year and the hot debate may be cooling off with the groundwork for future collaboration being laid.

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Boulevard as the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon
During the campaign two years ago, Cedillo (center) campaigned in the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, owned by Josef Bray-Ali (right). Many bike advocates were disappointed in a decision to delay bicycle lanes on North Figueroa Street. A team of advocates, partially led by Bray-Ali, adopted the banner #Fig4All to rally behind. Recently, Cedillo’s office has reached out to end the bad feelings. Cedillo and the Mayor’s Office are promising progressive transportation planning for North Figueroa.

The first sign came last week.

One day after advocates rallied outside of the Councilman’s apartment building to protest comments delivered at a December City Council Meeting, the Council office met quietly with staff from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. At the meeting, staff presented some draft concepts of road improvements for the five blocks being considered for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Great Streets” proposal for North Figueroa.

The Mayor’s Office has long-stated that Great Streets improvements will become templates for larger improvements along L.A.’s iconic corridors.

Following the meeting, the LACBC sent a message to its Northeast Los Angeles advocacy arm, “Ride Figueroa,” that stated:

After years of outreach, stakeholder education, meetings, rides and rallies, we are delighted to report that Councilman Gil Cedillo is seriously considering project options that are true to this inclusive vision for North Figueroa. Focusing on the historic core of Highland Park from Avenue 55 to Avenue 60, Cedillo’s staff worked with LADOT to produce a series of options that included essential safety elements, such as a road diet, better sidewalks and crosswalks, transit enhancements, and physically protected or buffered bike lanes.

Later in the week, at a meeting of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Cedillo’s staff announced it was working with the city to remove an application for parallel parking the city was including in an application to Metro. The batch of applications had been approved by the City Council in a December meeting, where local advocates and Cedillo sparred during the public comment period. The new application to Metro, now excluding the parking changes along North Figueroa, will be heard by Council soon.

In an email to Streetsblog, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes explains the reasoning behind the change.

“Although our project was ranked number one [and] included multiple components that would increase street safety on Figueroa, we were driven by an application deadline that did not allow us to properly vet the project thoroughly with the community,” Reyes writes.

“Therefore, we are going to conduct additional stakeholder outreach in order [to] achieve consensus on a specific proposal. We encourage bicyclist[s] to participate and educate other community members [on] the merits of bicycle lanes.”

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The Mayor’s Office promises these goals and standards were applied to all potential designs for the Great Street program on North Figueroa.

Just yesterday, the Mayor’s Office itself weighed in with its enthusiasm for the yet-to-be-made-public plans for North Figueroa. In a post on the Great Streets tumblr, the Great Streets team celebrated their collaboration and explained why the progressive transportation plans are being kept under wraps for now.

Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative is excited to be working with Councilmember Gil Cedillo and the staff of Council District 1 on the development of traffic calming options for the North Figueroa corridor. A hearty thanks goes out to the staff at LADOT and L.A. Bureau of Street Services for their tremendous efforts towards making North Figueroa a street where Angelenos of all walks of life can safely walk, sit, and gather. Project refinement is in the works, and once all options have been technically vetted, our offices will return to the community for input.

Is rapprochement for Cedillo and the #Fig4All advocates just around the corner? That likely depends on the proposals put forward for the Great Streets Initiative on North Figueroa and whether or not both sides can put the rhetoric and battle scars from 2014 behind them. But, at least for now, Cedillo’s office has extended the olive branch and his harshest critics are holding their fire, willing to wait and see what happens next.

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