Complete Streets: Report from PLUM Committee

16 June 2009

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.

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One Response to “Complete Streets: Report from PLUM Committee”

  1. Space, it takes space. So many streets are to narrow to accomodate bikes, cars, buses, pedestrians and trees. So when we lack space what are the prioritites? Can we reach concensus? Even when we have space, do we have money? What is the cost in disruption to reconfigure a busy large street? This brings me to trees, my favorite topic – A decade ago the City Street Tree Superintendant, Mr. Kennedy, said he was 17 years behind in just answering complaints. As I drive the city streets, it does not seem to get better. We also need to consider what we can maintain and for how long. If we plant a million trees as the good mayor suggested, who will maintain them? Will there be a million more limb drop or trip and fall cases? Is this “sustainability”?

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