This morning, Green L.A. Coalition had a meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  Here’s the mayoral ask from the Transportation Work Group:

The City of Los Angeles has prioritized car traffic over other modes. This over-dependence on automobiles has resulted in many problems locally — from congestion, to smog, to obesity, to a rash of recent collisions resulting in pedestrian fatalities — and globally — from resource wars, to global warming. Continuing our imbalanced reliance on cars hurts Los Angeles economically, environmentally, and erodes our quality of life.

While there are some notable smaller-scale initiatives, mostly from the City Planning Department, the culture of LADOT continues to approach streets as if the only users are cars. There is a new paradigm emerging nationally for “Complete Streets” — streets that are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and cars.

Green L.A. Ask:

We urge the Mayor to move Los Angeles into the era of Complete Streets. There are four arenas where Mayoral action is necessary to make this vision a reality:

1. Adopt a Complete Streets policy, including reworking existing street standards.

2. Ensure that future city budgets reflect the city’s commitment to accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders, by dedicating more funds specifically for such modes. This includes dedicating local return funds from Measure R for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit services.

3. Use the Mayor’s leadership at Metro to emphasize Complete Streets regionally, including incorporating a Complete Streets policy in Metro’s Call for Projects, where pedestrian and bicycle projects need to be given more funding.

4. Direct deputy mayors for environment, transportation, and economic development to work together and meet with us on a regular basis to make Los Angeles streets livable, vibrant, environmentally-friendly and efficient for all.

The mayor responded affirmatively, though not necessarily committing to specifics.  He cited his leadership on Measure R,  pledged to keep Metro fares low, and stated his interest in a “more serious bicycle program.”  The mayor concluded with a call to the assembled environmental and environmental justice communities to “stand up more” so that our agenda can move forward and not get bogged down by the “retrenched group of folks who weigh in against everything we do.”

Environmental Deputy Mayor David Freeman followed.  Freeman was generally very good – refreshingly straightforward and emphasizing “actions that end up in results.”  He placed a lot of importance on climate change which he considers the most important issue facing us today.  He was generally supportive of bikes, but his interest, though, was more in getting cleaner/renewable energy and ultimately getting L.A.’s fleet of cars to be powered by renewable energy.

(For more information on GLATWG Complete Streets campaign, see older posts here, here, and here.)

Today the city of Los Angeles’ Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee heard a report back on the Complete Streets Council Motion 08-3349. The motion (outlined in an earlier blog post here) instructs the city’s Planning and Transportation Departments (DCP and DOT respectively) to report on the city’s plans to implement last year’s state Complete Streets legislation.  The Green L.A. Trasnportation Working Group was well-represented as Dorothy Le (Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Planning and Policy Director) and I attended and testified.

City Planning's Urban Design Studio's excellent Downtown Design Guidelines

City Planning's Urban Design Studio's excellent Downtown Design Guidelines

The meeting was dominated by an item concerning hillsides, which brought out all sorts of homeowners from the San Fernando Valley.  When the complete streets item was heard, DCP’s Claire Bowen and Emily Gabel-Luddy presented.  Both of them are excellent planning staff who have lead important plans to make L.A. streets more livable.  Bowen has been the lead on citywide river plans, including the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan.  Gabel-Luddy heads up the Urban Design Studio, which produced the recently updated (and greatly improved) Downtown Streets Standards.

Councilmember Reyes stated his interest in “citywide” complete streets, and that he was interested in a presentation on this before the full council. Bowen stated that it’s a DCP priority to update the mobility element of the city’s general plan to include complete streets… but… it’s a budget issue.  DCP has requested this, but it hasn’t been funded.

Gabel-Luddy stated that the city has “been doing [complete streets] now” and went on to state examples that, to me, appear more exceptional than comprehensive.  She stated that the Downtown Street Standards were “a good precedent.”  Luddy called attention to a set of planning principles that will be heard by the City Planning Commission on June 25th.  She stated that it includes “great green streets” and support for bicyclists and pedestrians, and that when it passes it will amend the city’s General Plan framework.  Sounds good!  I think the proposal is this document (but I am not 100% sure.)

Dorothy Le commented that some of the city’s examples of complete street efforts were over-hyped in the DCP/DOT report, especially its characterization of the city’s Bike Plan which the report describes as “elevating Los Angeles into one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country.”  Le emphasized the need for routine accommodation for all users on all L.A. streets.

I commented that, though many of the pilot projects are excellent, they do not comply with the state legislation (AB 1358) mandate for “a balanced multimodal transportation network that meets the needs of all users… [including] bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities … pedestrians,  users of public transportation, and seniors.”  I also stressed that the city would need to update its car-centric street standards.

Councilmember Reyes expressed interest in what other cities had done tfor complete street guidelines and concluded that he would continue to receive updates on this from DCP and DOT.  I look forward to the complete streets presentation he stated was being planned for the full city council.

This blog entry follows an earlier one which began to explore the possibilities for a Green L.A. Transportation Work Group campaign for a complete streets policy for the city of Los Angeles.  I recently spoke with Stefanie Seskin of the national Complete Streets Coalition and here are some of her recommendations for how to proceed in Los Angeles.

She recommended exemplary ordinances in the cities of Seattle, Washington and Orlando, Florida as potentially helping shape ours in Los Angeles.

The national coalition recommends ten specific points be included in the ordinance.  Per the national coalition, a good complete streets policy:

1. Includes a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets.
2. Specifies that ‘all users’ includes pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses, and automobiles.
3. Encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all modes.
4. Is adoptable by all agencies to cover all roads.
5. Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
6. Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval of exceptions.
7. Directs the use of the latest and best design standards while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
8. Directs that complete streets solutions compliment the context of the community.
9. Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
10. Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy.

Stefanie also alerted me to a local development that I wasn’t aware of.  There is actually already a Los Angeles City Council motion on complete streets – actually two.  Councilwoman Jan Perry put forth a motion CF 07-0002-S141 for the city to endorse the state Complete Streets legislation AB1358 (described in my earlier post.)  That motion is still pending, though it’s moot now because the state legislation already passed.

In December 2008, Councilmember Ed Reyes introduced a motion CF 08-3349, which was seconded by Councilmember Wendy Greuel.  CF 08-3349 calls for:

the Planning and Transportation Departments to prepare a report that delineates the City’s plan to implement AB1358

This motion is still pending, though the departments of Planning and Transportation issued a report on May 8th.  The report states that

a number of actions have already occurred and additional activities are underway that will facilitate the transformation of our roadways into “Complete Streets.”

The report continues by citing various plans that the city is working on.  I don’t think that any of these plans actually fulfill the Complete Streets mandate in the state legislation.  Most of these are a step in the right direction, for example: the Los Angeles River Improvement Overlay, the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, Green Streets and Green Alleys, and the Downtown Street Standards.  Some are a bit more questionable as Complete Streets endeavors, including the Bike Plan,  the Transportation Strategic Plan and various Community Plan Updates.

Overall the report is rather frustrating to me, as Complete Streets legislation is meant to foster routine accomodation of all road users, while the city’s approach seems to be to a little bit here and there, while continuing its incomplete streets policy throughout most of the city.  The report should come before the city’s Planning and Land Use Management committee soon, and I expect that Green L.A. Transportation Work Group members will be there to make our positions known.

TOMORROW, Tuesday, June 9th 2PM-4PM
Green LA Transportation Working Group Meeting
@ Coalition for Clean Air
811 West 7th Street, Ste. 1100, LA 90017

AGENDA

1.)     Complete Streets Campaign Strategy

2.)     Mayor’s Meeting Review and Finalizing Asks

3.)     Communications
a.       Blog
b.       Googlegroup

4.)     Updates/Report Back
a.       Measure R
b.       LA Bike Plan
c.        SB 375
d.       Wilshire Bus-Only lanes

5.)     Announcements

6.)     Next Meeting Date

Here’s the text of letter that the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition brought to the Green L.A. Coalition Transportation Work Group for discussion and sign-ons.  The final letter below was sent to Mayor Villaraigosa on May 22nd.  At that time, the new city bike plan, which was slated for draft release in late 2008, had been stalled for half a year – in departmental review.  Advocate pressure has resulted in the city releasing its draft bike plan maps of bike facilities.  Though there’s plenty more to do as the maps appear less than adequate to green transportation advocates, the draft proposals are at least being aired with public discussion and input, which is a small victory that the Green L.A. Transportation Work Group played a role in.

May 22, 2009

The Honorable Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
200 North Spring Street, Room 303
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Dear Mayor Villaraigosa,

The undersigned are members of the Green LA Coalition Transportation Work Group. We write to urge you to prioritize the prompt release and approval of the new City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan.

Los Angeles has some of highest levels of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to our excessive dependence on automobiles. Our children are facing problems of obesity. More people are developing asthma and heart conditions. The new city of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan offers L.A. an opportunity to improve many of our worst environmental and quality of life problems.

You are already well aware that bicycles are a very important piece of a broad green mobility agenda. We applaud your Plan on Energy and Environment and on Traffic and Transportation, and its focus on improving public health and increasing public transit use. Bicycling improves public health. Bikes also make public transit more effective. The number of people using a bicycle as a mode of transportation is steadily rising. It is an inexpensive transportation alternative accessible to all Angelenos, including many immigrants. By creating safer and more efficient ways to travel by bike, you will help get people out of their cars, and improve public health, air quality and transportation equity.

As you know, the departments of Planning and Transportation are in the process of updating the city’s Bicycle Plan. The new bicycle plan was due to be released in late 2008, but has been delayed. We urge you to prioritize the prompt release and approval of the new City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan.

Please work with your planning and transportation staff to ensure that the new plan is a visionary one that will brings Los Angeles closer to your goal of becoming the greenest big city in the world. Let’s work together to approve the plan, so the city can be poised for capitalizing on implementation opportunities including this year’s federal transportation bill authorization and potential future federal economic stimulus.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Taylor
Work Group Coordinator, Green LA Coalition

Ron Milam 
BikeSage

Marlene Grossman

Colleen Callahan
Manager of Air Quality Policy & Advocacy, American Lung Association in California

Joe Linton
Program Associate, Urban and Environmental Policy Institute