Katy Yaroslavsky Interview by Damien Newton, 9/13/2022
Damien: This is the fourth one of these interviews we've done and we started all of them with the same question, "which is could you describe your transportation diet. You can answer for the time during the campaign, or when you're not, pre- or post-covid. How do you get around and what kind of thought goes into it when you choose to walk versus take a bus versus drive...whatever your choice of the day is? Katy: Most of the time I drive and have a 2009 Camry Hybrid. It's got 110,000 miles on it. When I lived here, we're at Palms for this interview, I took the Expo quite a bit, to downtown. We intentionally moved a block away from my oldest son's school so we could walk to school everyday and pick him up everyday, which is nice. But most of my trips are by car these days and as we sort of think about anywhere we may land next if we if we choose to move, being near mass transits going to be a priority for us. Damien: I just want to make sure just cuz the truck went by right when you said "being near Mass Transit is a priority for us" that I don't want to mess up that line. Katy: Yes. And it would be great to live near the subway so I could take it downtown at least a few days a week. One of the challenges of having three kids, now with only two drop offs is is is drop off some pickups in and needing to be able to get them and get them home. Damien: We live two blockss from my kids school now but we don't know where there is our son's going to middle school next year. We're not sure where he's going to physically be next year so that will be a big change in our lives that one us will have to do something besides walk two blocks in the morning to get the other one to where they need to be. Katy: School transportation challenges are real in L.A. Damien: One of the easier questions when we do these interviews we always let the person we're interviewing pick a location and usually they pick a location where there's some sort of story are tired or it's in their office. I'm giving an asterisk on this one to Traci Park cuz we did it in her office, but her office is a block from where I live, so it would have been weird if we are both traveled somewhere far away to do the interview. But everyone else has picked a place with a little bit of a story behind it. We are right next to Venice Boulevard, so the people listening will probably assume that there's going to be a tie-in with the road diet... Katy: Palms is in Council District 5, obviously. I used to live on Vinton just south of Venice a couple blocks away from here and love this neighborhood deeply. There's a lot to say about where we are, we're adjacent to a city-owned parking lot that the Palms Neighborhood Council is proposing to turn to park. Damien: Oh, so it's the parking lot, not the boulevard. Katy: Hold on, we're going to get to talk about all of it. Smart transportation planning and street design needs to be all integrated together. Palms only has one park, and that's insane given the density of the population here now. There's a real need ,and so I think building more small parks in neighborhoods across the district is going to be a priority for me. Leveraging Measure W funds and state funds to do that. Then also making, making Venice safer for everyone: bicyclists, drivers. Damien; And of course, LADOT has big plans for Venice in this section. I believe they're talking about protected bike lanes AND bus lanes in this section. Is there anything you want to share at this point about the project or the outreach or...anything? Katy: I recently joined LADOT and the Palms Neighborhood Council for a walk down Venice to really talk about the proposed project. I really appreciate what they're trying to do here which is to make the road safer for everyone, to incentivize alternative transportation, whether it is making a protected bike lane. Right now we have an unprotected bike lane here. It used to be a a state highway and it was just turned over to the city of LA. It gives us an opportunity to rethink mobility along this corridor. A lot of people use it to get to the freeway. There's a lot we can do here to slow cars, to incentivize bus use. I'm looking forward to transforming it. Look, theres not a lot of shade. There's an opportunity to do more in terms of mixed-use. Making sure we're not gentrifying, Palms is one of the last remaining affordableish affordable neighborhoods in Council District 5. So we need to be thoughtful of minimizing gentrification as we add bike infrastructure and trees and housing. Damien: There's a lot of time and attention being spent on Venice Boulevard right now. CD 5 is a big district with very diverse types of neighborhoods. There are other projects throughout the district, and we can go through through community by community if that's easier. But are there any projects going on, or proposed, right now that you're really excited about? Katy: I was a land-use lawyer after graduating from UCLA Law School. It was my first job out of law school. So I'm really interested in transportation planning and coherent land use planning and and how it intersects with coherent Transportation Planning and Climate Change and sustainability in really creating livable healthy neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles, in particular in Council District 5. I see the opportunities as really being two fold. One is to put the density near our job centers, the density and housing near our job centers near our new Metro stations that are coming to the Westside. We have several coming through Council District 5 in the next few years. As we update our plans, which is something that I'm talking about a long time and strongly support, we have an opportunity to get all of it right at the same time. So in particular we need a protected connected bike network that gets people where they want to go safely and efficiently. We can build on the Slow Streets program. We can build out the Mobility Plan. I support a bike lane on Westwood into the village, a bike lane on 6th Street a good east-west street that will also give us a chance to slow down traffic on 6th, because people drive by really quickly by the park. People are looking forward to the opportunity to see if they can get out of their cars. We just need to build it, it we're already doing it but it shouldn't have to put their lives in their hands to do it. Damien: CD5 has one of the more 'famous' examples of a community stopping a connected bikeway with the bikeway along the Expo Line. It is very fragmented in CD 5. There's a protected bike path in Santa Monica that runs up to Overland, then no bike lanes at all (now granted the geography is weird at this point) and then a new bike lane leading into Culver City that reconnects to a path through the west part of CD5 until it gets to regular on-street bike lanes to USD. ow do we balance these needs for interconnected networks with occasional spot opposition? That balance seems to be something every council member ends up having to figure out. Katy: One of the strengths that I have coming into this job is that I have nearly 20 years of doing stakeholder processes. As a land use lawyer, as Supervisor Kuehl's senior environmental and climate deputy; when people are heard and have a chance to participate early and often, you can eliminate a lot of that really strong and vocal opposition. Look, at the end of the day my job is to do what I think is best for my constituents, and Angelenos and not cow-tow to a few loud voices on any issue or either side of the political spectrum. When possible, incorporatingfeedback to make project better. Damien: Just to touch up some of the other parts of the district, and you did it this a little bit in the bike lanes, when you look at the spread out nature fo the district let's talk about it where there is a lot of high traffic streets with low traffic quiet neighborhood spread spread the high-traffic street. Fifteen years ago I lived on Vista Street between Beverly and Melrose. It was funny because if I go a block in either direction it's loud. But at my house it was silent. How do you plan for that area? It's been awhile since I lived there, maybe cut-throughs have become a larger problem where I live in CD11, but it's like trying to plan for two areas. Katy: I live in mid-city in South Carthay and people use our neighborhood as cut through all the time. It's really unsafe it's also very unpleasant obviously. I think the vast majority of CD 5 is one giant cut through. I doesn't matter where you are unless you're on a cul-de-sac at the top of Bel-Air; your street is probably a cut through street. And that's frustrating and annoying and creates real impacts on the quality of life. Building out the alternative infrastructure, getting Metro and the subway to the west side, is going to profoundly change how people get around in CD 5. We haven't had something like this since the red car in the fifties when my mom was a teenager. I'm not going to say how old she is now... Damien: I'm sure she appreciates that when she reads Streetsblog. Katy: I think the goal is to make transportation, whether it's protected protected bike lanes, Metro bus or whatever it is, easy for people to use. Whether it is elementary school kids taking the bus to school or my mom and people in their seventies and beyond who maybe can't drive their car anymore and can't get around. Making sure that City ride is available and so there's a lot we can do. Specifically about cut-through traffic you know there are traffic engineering we can use. Whether it's the potted plants that make a cul de sac and block off thru traffic or something else; I'm interested in doing some pilots and cd-5 to see how we can eliminate some of that cut through traffic as we build out. If we're going to take away a lane of traffic how do we make sure it's not just going straight into the the one street parallel. Damien: And that's been the critique of Slow Streets. If you live on a Slow Street, you love it. But if you live next to one, it's different. That's what we're dealing with in our little neighborhood, the city is giving us a chance to add Slow Streets and everyone is pointing to the streets that had been the losers so they speak in that early programming of it. Now we have the chance to fix that long term. Katy: Look it's not going to be instantaneous were cut through traffic abates, but as we get as we do proactive planning as a city...Right now we're not doing proactive planning, it's all reactive, it's all ad-hoc, the community plans are mere suggestions that are ignored. As we start to be more thoughtful about what goes where and then the transportation that supports that development...no one wants to drive 45 minutes to get to work sitting in traffic as far as I can tell. Making it easier to have 15 minute neighborhoods where they can walk or have a quick bike ride that's what I'm here. Damien: Because these are shorter interviews, we like to close by just asking if there is something you really wanted to talk about or I didn't ask the right question in time. So if there's something else you want to say, speak now. Katy: One of the the most exciting aspects to me of the council job is is the opportunities for a council member to play a really impactful role in what we're talking about: the intersection of land use and climate in transportation planning and then having that implemented on the ground. As a former land use attorney, as someone who does Climate work regionally, I think we're going to improve our quality of life in a really big way as we start to make progress on this. These aren't hugely expensive wins and there's a lot of money at the state and federal level right now to do this work . It's just being strategic and smart going after and bringing those resources and funding streams to the 5th. I'm excited about it.