Vision-less L.A. City Budget Committee Turns Its Back On Vision Zero Funding

Committee allocates new $24 million to resurfacing, Vision Zero could get some of future unallocated balance

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaking on the 2017 budget.  Reynolds estimated that $80 million is needed for Vision Zero. As it now stands, the Budget Committee currently has no funds allocated to Vision Zero. Screenshot via
LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds speaking on the 2017 budget. Reynolds estimated that $80 million is needed for Vision Zero. As it now stands, the Budget Committee currently has no funds allocated to Vision Zero. Screenshot via

As it now stands, this Thursday the Los Angeles City Council could approve a fiscal year 2017-18 budget that includes no funding specifically for Vision Zero. The budget would dedicate $24 million in new funding to road resurfacing, while Vision Zero might in the future receive some unspecified portion of the unallocated transportation funding balance.

As outlined in an earlier SBLA article, the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee is figuring out how to spend two new sources of funding: Measure M county sales tax local return and S.B. 1 gas tax increase revenue. These are new monies with some uncertainty in timing and flexibility. Measure M starts on July 1. S.B. 1’s gas tax starts January 2018. Revenue figures have bounced around a bit on these funding sources, but there is now about $47 million worth of new funding still undecided: nearly $40 million from Measure M, and nearly $8 million from S.B. 1.

Mayor Eric Garcetti had proposed a budget that would have tied $30 million for street resurfacing to $16.7 million for Vision Zero. LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds estimated $80 million would be needed for fiscal year 2017-18 to reduce traffic fatalities by 20 percent.

Even though Garcetti’s Vision Zero allocation was inadequate, the budget committee failed to approve even that much. Given some differences among committee members, the committee’s plan had been to push the $47 million in new funding into an unallocated balance, to be determined later by further committee and council deliberations expected to take place in advance of the July 1 start date for the new budget.

On Friday afternoon (city video starting at 1:43:00), Councilmember Paul Krekorian moved that for the 2017-18 budget the city would allocate half of Measure M and S.B. 1 funds to street reconstruction: $20 million from Measure M local return, and $4 million from S.B. 1 gas tax.

Councilmembers Krekorian and Mitch Englander made the case that Measure M had been advertised to voters as fixing roads, so it was the council’s duty to make good on that. However, that same Measure M promotion also promised to fix sidewalks and touted the goal of a broad multi-modal transportation system.

Despite LADOT having submitted a Vision Zero work plan with costs (see budget memos 130 and 131), Krekorian and Englander both asserted that directing monies to LADOT for Vision Zero was – in Krekorian’s words “buying a pig in a poke” – paying for an unknown quantity lacking “specific expenditures.” On the other hand, the Bureau of Street Services has not submitted an expenditure plan, but it can pour money into its perpetually backlogged repaving programs, which simply divide allocations by 15 for the 15 council districts.

The Vision Zero plan, by contrast, focuses interventions in areas where the loss of life is greatest. In the words of councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin: “Equity demands more significant investments be made in South Los Angeles, the East San Fernando Valley, and the city’s urban core.”

At the meeting, Councilmember Bonin questioned the wisdom of locking in repaving expenditures while not dedicating any funds specifically for Vision Zero. Bonin has pushed for the lion’s share of Measure M local return to be set aside for Vision Zero, as was approved in Bonin’s Transportation Committee. Bonin made the case that even putting all of the unallocated $23 million balance towards Vision Zero is not enough to reach L.A.’s adopted traffic fatality reduction policy goal.

Krekorian responded that “nobody’s intent” is to zero out Vision Zero, but that further deliberations were needed, beyond the scope of that day’s budget hearing.

After about an hour’s discussion, Krekorian’s motion was approved with councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Englander, and Krekorian voting in favor. Councilmembers Nury Martinez and Bonin voted against.

In an interview with Streetsblog this morning, Bonin expressed frustration that his colleagues were praising the city budget for its no-kill animal shelters, while not yet dedicating any money to no-kill sidewalks. Bonin said that it didn’t make any sense for the council to put off Vision Zero funding that would prevent deaths and save lives. He further stated that he is continuing to push for a genuine city commitment to Vision Zero.

This could take place at the full council vote on the city budget, scheduled for this Thursday, or in further deliberation on the remaining $23 million unallocated balance. The unallocated balance could be decided in a council committee soon, perhaps a joint meeting of the Transportation and Budget committees.

One other elected official who can continue to influence the city budget is Mayor Garcetti. At Friday’s hearing Garcetti deputy chief of staff Matt Szabo stressed that the mayor favors both “overlapping objectives” of resurfacing and “incorporating livability and safety.” Further, though, Szabo stated that the mayor would support the majority of Measure M local funds going to resurfacing. In committee, Bonin stated that he would not support a budget that doesn’t have a Vision Zero program. Would Garcetti sign a city budget with no money for Vision Zero? Can Garcetti work his influence with council allies, Krekorian prominent among them, to make sure that the budget includes – at the very least – Garcetti’s proposed $16.7 million Vision Zero allocation?

  • Never mind

    With all the intense shit talking about Vision Zero coming from the professional advocacy community it is small wonder this thing died. Hope something good comes along at some point cause bike / ped deaths are up on the streets.

  • michael macdonald

    So you’re saying that Krekorian, Englander, Blumenfield, Ryu & Koretz are basing their prioritization of funding for street repairs on 2 year old criticisms that Tamika Butler made of a possible enforcement-focused application of Vision Zero, rather than the editorials, testimony, and neighborhood council campaign to prioritize roadway reconstruction and repaving that Jack Humphreyville has pressed them on over the last 2 months?

  • over it

    Someone deleted my previous comment apparently. No, Im saying that all the controversy and shit talking about Vision Zero had the effect of dampening any enthusiasm to mount a campaign to rival or out shout Humphreyville’s campaign. Where is our Humphreyville to push for Vision Zero?

  • barf

    Holy chriss these councilmembers congratulating the fuck out of each other at the end of this meeting video.

  • Matt

    Lets face it, the City of LA just doesn’t have the fiscal discipline to start a new massive program all of a sudden. They let the sidewalks and roads deteriorate for half a century, while doling out huge raises and benefits to city employees (garbage men make around $100k in LA with a little overtime plus a very nice benefit package). We now have a road repair backlog of over $3B. The City just paid $4.5M to a cyclist who was killed by uneven payment. Bonin says the roads are just too far gone to make an investment in and the problem is just too big. That is unacceptable.
    Maybe the City can fix a few of the worst intersections with Vision Zero and prove itself as a worthy program after a few years that can attract additional money if they hold the line on city employee raises in the future, which is very doubtful. Right now, there are too many unanswered questions. How exactly would the money be spent? Where? What about law enforcement and some minorities worrying about Vision Zero and the effect on them? How do we know Vision Zero will actually reduce accidents by what LADOT is claiming? Seems like just a guess now.
    Realistically, the City just doesn’t have the resources and discipline for Vision Zero and probably the best chance for a real Vision Zero is waiting for driverless cars here in LA given the massive problems. People all over the City and visitors especially always ask why the roads and sidewalks are such a mess. The average person has no idea about Vision Zero. Until the City can start doing the basic tasks that a City is supposed to do (and that other cities in CA that are not beholden to employee unions like LA, take care of all the time), programs like Vision Zero will be on the backburner. Sad but true.

  • “Realistically, the City just doesn’t have the resources and discipline for Vision Zero” – This is just about the most damning criticism of the city, and its leadership, that you can imagine in one freakin’ sentence.

  • Petra

    Considering how they shoved this down the throats of Sunland – without real public input – I say GOOD RIDDANCE. No program should operate that way in LA.

  • Petra

    (reply to Never mind) There are more ways than just one to accomplish this. The community should have input. However, Vision Zero operates as a “my way or the highway”.

  • dexter

    Yeah… who asked for safer streets around here anyways? Not me!

  • Matt

    And the way Bonin frames it is not going to work. He is saying we can have Vision Zero but not road resurfacing. It is like saying we can have a Police Dept. or a Fire Dept. but not both. It is a political loser and people will not respond to that. Most everyone in the City will say I’ll just take the road resurfacing.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    There is going to be about $148 million annually coming to the city of Los Angeles from the increases in motor fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Plus an additional $10 million annually for active transportation. On top of that is the local return from Measure M of $48 million annually. Want $80 million annually to be spent on Vision Zero, got it. The Bureau of Street Services has stated the maximum additional amount that they have the capacity to use is $100 million annually for repaving streets. There is no shortage of money for repaving streets or Vision Zero. People are arguing over a lack of enough funding problem that doesn’t exist.

  • Matt

    Doubtful Los Angeles will get 10% of the local street rehabilitation budget. The breakdown is not necessarily based on population. LA is going to use some of the money for sidewalks also. Some of the Measure M money must go to local contributions for rail projects so there isn’t the bonanza you anticipate. Watch the fights over this for the next few years.

  • calwatch

    If you’re going to have a Vision Zero you need to fund it adequately. Otherwise, don’t make the commitment in the first place!

  • Joe Linton

    From what I have heard in meetings, Bonin has been urging Measure M local return funds to go to Vision Zero, and S.B. 1 funds go to road rehab.

  • Matt

    That is the story of the City. Everything is underfunded from street & sidewalk repair to police and fire. This despite surging property tax revenues. It is going to be tough for a new program to suddenly go from $0 to $80M a year even with a new tax. This is how you get billions in deferred maintenance of sidewalks and roads.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Property tax revenue is surging? I thought Prop 13 limited any significant growth and even if the county and City added more people and property owners through that, I doubt it’d be significant.

  • Lorenzo Mutia

    Let’s not ignore that the freeways we’re largely built with the literal “my way or the highway” approach. A protected bike lane, road diet, crosswalk treatment, or whatever else is planned for Vision Zero doesn’t necessarily hold the same weight as widening a freeway or surface street to accommodate more cars.

  • james rojas

    There seems to be a lack of Latino support from electes and community based organizations for Vision Zero policy. I wonder why?

  • Matt

    When a property changes hands, it gets reassessed at the new value. Values are soaring. People are selling for 2-3 times and more what they paid, which means the new property tax is much more. I believe property tax revenue was up 6-7% in the City of LA in the last year (much higher than inflation).

  • dexter

    The CBO position makes sense to me…the electeds not so much. Serious question…what do you think is driving this on the elected officials front?