For Our 7th Birthday: 7 Stupid Things That Might Have Happened If Streetsblog L.A. Hadn’t Been Here
When Streetsblog Los Angeles first published in 2008, L.A.’s mood was a lot different than it is today. Now, Joe, Sahra, and the rest of the team are mostly focusing on moving the ball forward instead of “playing defense.” So, I write this to hopefully make you laugh a little and reflect and, of course, to plug our fundraiser tomorrow. Hopefully, next year at this time, we’ll have added to the list “stopped stupid helmet/reflective clothing law.” So without further adieu, here is our list of seven ways transportation planning in L.A. would be stupider if Streetsblog weren’t around.
1) The Pittance of Measure R Funds that Go to Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects Wouldn’t Have – Sitting in the back of a Metro Board meeting, LACBC’s Dorothy Le and I lamented that there was no discussion of improving bicycle or pedestrian conditions in the $30 billion sales tax proposal being pitched to the Board. We hastily pulled together the “1% for bikes, 1% for peds” campaign that garnered hundreds of signatures, support from a broad cross-section of environmental and planning organizations. At the request of Metro Director Richard Katz, we even got Joe Linton to draft up a dream list of bike projects. In the end, we didn’t win — Measure R has no firm set-aside for bicycle and pedestrian projects.
However, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised that L.A. would set aside 10% of its Measure R local return funds for bike/ped projects. That money funded a lot of the implementation of the bike plan and the hiring of the two pedestrian coordinators who happen to be responsible for People St and the city’s Safe Routes to Schools Program.
2) Eli Broad’s Half-Baked Plans for the Regional Connector – Remember that time Eli Broad drew a bunch of lines on a Google Map to re-route the Regional Connector? Unfortunately, when you’re a billionaire people take your ideas seriously no matter how strange they are. By shining the light on his plans that were meant be kept in the back room, we helped keep the timeline for the Regional Connector on track.
3) It Would Be Harder to Get Bikes on Trains – With all of the talk about solving the first mile/last mile problem facing transit agencies, and the need to improve bicycle safety and connectivity, it is hard to believe that as recently as five years ago we were still debating whether or not it was a good idea to ban bikes on trains during rush hour. The existing ban had been sparingly enforced, but it was still a hot-button issue until May 2010, when Metro announced the ban would be lifted during a “Bike Week” press event in May. Bonus points if you noticed the person who broke that story now works in the Mayor’s Office.
Amazingly, that isn’t the only battle over bike access on trains. AMTRAK announced a special ticket and reservation fee for bikes on the Coast Line and Surfline service along the coast in 2013. After our coverage went viral on Amtrak-related news outlets, the added ticket cost was scrapped.
4) The Bike Plan Isn’t a Plan Hated by People Who Ride Bikes – The city didn’t exactly have a firm game plan for the Bike Plan, and for years there was a public outreach plan that some advocates referred to as the “civic enragement” plan. Bikeside organized partially around fixing the plan and even created their own bike plan website and series of hearings. In the end, a team effort of bike-friendly activists across the spectrum got the Planning Commission to reject the city’s initial plan that pretty much nobody who rode a bike actually liked. Six months later, a bike plan that the city leadership and advocates alike could get behind was approved by the City Council, and Antonio Villaraigosa stepped up city implementation efforts.
5) Fancy Cars Would Get to Park for Free at Meters – When the LADOT asked the City Council to renew a plan that cars with stickers announcing the produced less greenhouse gases than other cars to park for free at parking meters and city-owned lots, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl picked up Streetsblog’s call to reject the plan. Inexplicably, the City Council accidentally passed the LADOT’s initial plan after the public input phase of the meeting was truncated so that Councilmembers could play catch with the Dodgers. After we pitched a fit, Rosendahl got the Council to go back on its initial vote and the free parking for hybrids plan was never heard from again.
6) No Parking Structure at Mariachi Plaza – Remember Metro’s plan for jointly developing multi-story parking on top of Mariachi Plaza? The excellent reporting done by Sahra Sulaiman and Kris Fortin introduced the plans to thousands of community members, and provided ammunition for the various hearings. Yesterday, Metro staff recommended that the procurement process be terminated. The whole debacle is leading Metro to reconsider and reform its community engagement processes for joint development of transit-oriented affordable housing.
7) The Glendale-Hyperion Freeway Bridge Plan Didn’t Happen – Streetsblog was one of the outlets most active in amplifying community voices against the city of Los Angeles’ wrong-headed plans for a faster and deadlier freeway bridge replacement for the historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Even though the current city design leaves something to be desired, we’re happy that original plans were shredded. And we’ll continue to press for a truly safe and wonderful project there.
If you want to keep seeing stupid things like these not happen, join us tomorrow for our 7th birthday celebration fundraiser!