City Council Votes to Rescind/Re-Adopt Mobility Plan 2035; Substantive Amendments to Be Discussed in 2016
Midway through a rather uneventful City Council meeting — minus the dude pacing the aisle in what looked like a Klu Klux Klan hood made out of a pillowcase — the council took the next steps forward on Mobility Plan 2035.
You will recall that Fix the City — tireless crusaders against “lane-stealing” transit users and cyclists — launched a lawsuit against the city for not following proper procedure in adopting the plan to bring Los Angeles into compliance with Complete Streets principles via safe, accessible, and “world class” infrastructure. The council had adopted amendments to the plan and approved it without first sending it back to the City Planning Commission for review.
To remedy this problem, the council essentially went the route of a do-over. They would rescind their vote to adopt the amended plan, and then vote to adopt the original draft plan, as considered and recommended by the City Planning Commission and the Mayor last spring. The proposed amendments — now detached from the plan — would be sent to committee for review and discussion.
Using this approach, the Plan successfully made it through a joint committee meeting on November 10 and was sent back up for a full council vote.
Today’s vote, Councilmember Jose Huizar said as he introduced the rescind/re-adopt motion, would be more procedural than anything (given that the council had previously approved the original Plan in August). And the amendments which were more technical in nature (seeking changes in wording, for example) could be heard in December, while amendments seeking more substantive changes — greater community engagement or voice on implementation, the removal of bike lanes from the plan, etc. — could be heard in February, when there would also be discussion of the environmental impact of potential changes.
When Councilmember Mike Bonin stood to second the rescind/re-adopt motion, he said he was doing so to ensure that the Mobility Plan was on the soundest of legal footing going forward.
“But I also want to take a moment to remind us all of what this plan is about,” he continued. “This plan is about mobility in Los Angeles. This plan is about giving people an opportunity to get out of the increasing, soul-sucking gridlock we have in this city. It is about stopping the process we have now which forces people into their cars and [offering] them an alternative.”
It “doesn’t make a lot of sense in a city that has 300 days of sunshine and is relatively flat,” he said, that 84 per cent of the trips Angelenos make under three miles are made by car.
It also doesn’t make sense, he continued, that Los Angeles has such a “horrible, horrible track record…of pedestrian deaths.” The emphasis on safety, improved infrastructure, environmental protection, and improved access to transit would fundamentally change the way residents interacted with the city and each other. And “this plan, if fully implemented,” he concluded, “would put 90 per cent of people in Los Angeles within one mile of a transit stop. 90 per cent. That is a game-changing thing.”
Only two other councilmembers stood to speak.
Councilmember Mitch Englander said he agreed with Bonin, but had concerns about the ability of stakeholders to add their input when it came time to implement the plan in their communities. He asked that the council vote twice on the motion — once to approve the rescind/re-adopt resolution and a second time to send any amendments, including two added at the last minute by Councilmember David Ryu, to committee to ensure that they were heard (and, “out of an abundance of caution,” met the legal procedural requirements).
Councilmember Paul Koretz, ever stalwart in his opposition, stood to announce, “I’m opposed to any actions until we’ve actually removed the Westwood Blvd. bike lane from this plan.”
Noting that because today’s vote would mean that any amendments to the plan would be heard only after its approval, he repeated his stance, saying, “I’ll vote no on this and anything else until Westwood Blvd. has been removed.”
As no public comment was heard, Koretz’ brief comments were as adversarial as the discussion on the motion got.
When council president Herb Wesson called for votes on the rescind/re-adopt motion and the motion to send all amendments to committee, both passed rather resoundingly. Koretz, Englander, and Ryu opposed the rescind/re-adopt motion (Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Paul Krekorian were not present; Ryu’s vote first registered as “yes” and then was changed verbally).
The vote to send the amendments to the Plan to committee for further review and discussion passed with only one opposing vote.
The fact that the Plan had moved forward so easily and so unceremoniously seemed to take community members hoping to speak in its favor a bit by surprise. Only when Wesson moved on to the next item was there finally a smattering of applause.
Outside the chambers, the group of supporters gathered to discuss the vote.
They were happy, said Malcolm Harris, Director of Programs & Organizing at TRUST South L.A., that the City Council had come out in support of the Mobility Plan. But they were still interested in ensuring that the South L.A. community was engaged on the Plan and that its final iteration was more representative of the vision of a diverse group of stakeholders.
Most of the outreach regarding the Plan had taken place online (under the name “LA/2B”) and used language and concepts that were not always accessible or relevant to residents of marginalized communities. Moreover, the level of education in basic planning one might have needed to have in order to either understand the impact of the various options presented in the online surveys or to be able to suggest (and justify) alternatives would have excluded many from being able to participate outright, regardless of their ability to connect to the LA2B website. As a result, the visions of communities like South L.A. were not well-represented in the final product.
And, as Victor Aquino (also with TRUST) said, the community’s mobility needs did not stand in isolation from other concerns. While door-knocking in South Central to gather support for the Central Avenue bike lane and engage residents on mobility more generally, he explained, he and other volunteers were finding that residents spoke of mobility as being inextricably intertwined with issues like health, economic development, and safety. Shifts in one area — say, a rise in rents — could have a significant impact on everything else (e.g. impacting their transit or food budgets, forcing people to move to more distant, more crowded, or substandard housing, etc.)
They were looking forward, Aquino and other members of TRUST said, to further engaging area business owners and residents of all ages, particularly the youth, to dialogue on what a representative plan should encompass.
As if to prove that point, the youngest volunteer in attendance, Sherry Alvarado, read out the statement she had planned to give during public comment. Her brother had been hit by a car, she said, holding up a grisly photo of his battered leg, “because the road wasn’t fit for a bike.”
Safer streets for all users can’t come soon enough.