City Council Declines to Approve Healthy Streets L.A., Pushing It to 2024 Ballot

The L.A. City Council voted unanimously against adopting Healthy Streets L.A. outright, which sends the measure to the March 2024 election
The L.A. City Council voted unanimously against adopting Healthy Streets L.A. outright, which sends the measure to the March 2024 election

This morning, the L.A. City Council had a chance to approve the Healthy Streets L.A. initiative outright. Instead, the council chose to do what it generally does regarding bus, bike, and walk improvements: avoid taking action to actually commit to implementing street safety improvements.

Healthy Streets L.A. would require the city to implement its approved multi-modal Mobility Plan every time it repaves a street. The measure’s backers gathered enough signatures for it to be put before L.A. voters, but they did not meet the deadline for this year’s election. City law allows 20 days for council to approve measures instead of sending them to the ballot. Council turned that option down, so the measure will go to city voters in March 2024.

This result was not unexpected, as Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz had both voted against Mobility Plan adoption and four others – Curren PriceDavid RyuMitch O’Farrell, and Paul Krekorian – had openly blocked plan implementation in their districts.

Among councilmembers who spoke and nearly all public commenters, there is a broad consensus that L.A. has to do more to make streets safer.

Debate hinged on how this gets done – in terms of equity and the legislative processes.

Public comment included two dozen speakers favoring immediate adoption of Healthy Streets L.A. (HSLA); these speakers included representatives of Streets for All, Climate Resolve, and the Coalition for Clean Air.

In contrast, a half-dozen mobility justice advocacy group speakers urged against outright adoption of Healthy Streets L.A., instead favoring Council President Nury Martinez’s alternative “Safe Streets” motion, as it would include an equity lens in project implementation. These speakers included representatives from People for Mobility Justice, SCOPE LA, Pacoima Beautiful, L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust, Los Angeles Walks, and Investing in Place.

Streetsblog outlined the Safe Streets proposal in earlier HSLA coverage. Safe Streets is still making its way through the council’s often lengthy legislative process. It could be further amended for better or for worse; there is no guarantee that the council will ultimately approve it. Like HSLA, Safe Streets would mandate Mobility Plan facilities be implemented during resurfacing, though it would allow the city some flexibility as to where this takes place. Safe Streets does include equity concerns not included in HSLA, though these are in the form of city departments reporting back later to the council with recommendations for including equity, health, local hire, and other factors. Equity advocates criticized HSLA for not centering equity. HSLA proponents maintain that the city can and should factor in equity when implementing HSLA.

While a few councilmembers – Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mike Bonin – made calls for both equity and accountability (in the form of stepped up mandatory plan implementation), most of the council made it clear that they supported Martinez’s Safe Streets over HSLA.

A few councilmembers expressed concerns about the legislative process. Councilmember Bob Blumenfield opined against legislating by initiatives. A ballot measure, whether approved by the council or the voters, would essentially require a subsequent ballot measure to undo. Blumenfield and others favored the city’s legislative process, which they can much more easily undo or amend.

Martinez maintained that she is committed to equity-focused implementation of the Mobility Plan via her Safe Streets proposal. She moved that the council not approve Healthy Streets L.A. today, but schedule it for a 2024 vote. The council voted unanimously 13-0 to approve her motion.

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