Last Tuesday, two street beautification items were on City Council’s agenda.
Everybody seems to support a plan to “green” Ocean Park Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and Neilson Way. For years, Ocean Park neighbors have been urging the city to beautify a largely unused, concrete section of OPB with landscaping, bike and pedestrian amenities without substantially altering existing traffic flow. After commenting, City Council gave the go-ahead to one of the OPB streetscaping proposals.
Unfortunately, It was a different story with 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard in the Pico Neighborhood. In 1999, Pico residents asked for trees and landscaping on 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and the I-10 Freeway.
Preliminary landscape designs were presented to neighbors about two years ago. Although there were concerns about loss of parking and curb bump-outs on Cloverfield (since rectified), neighbors liked the straightforward proposal for 20th. Later, during two design reviews, various City Council members suggested removing or shrinking traffic lanes, adding medians, traffic islands, bike lanes and curb bump-outs because “landscaping didn’t go far enough.” Hmmmm.
So, city staff and its outside design consultants created four proposals. One was just “greenscaping” and three involved various physical changes to the street and its traffic flow. After public surveys and three community meetings, the proposals affecting traffic were rejected because neighbors feared additional congestion and gridlock.
Last week, City Council reviewed all four designs and staff’s recommendation to complete the landscaping and save street alterations until after the citywide traffic plan revision was finalized in a year or two.
Nevertheless, Councilman Kevin McKeown disagreed, insisting on bicycle lanes (which would mandate removal of one or more traffic lanes on a busy four lane section of 20th that carries 19,000-plus vehicles a day) if any work were to commence. Mayor Ken Genser desired medians and pedestrian enhancements which would also contribute to increased congestion and gridlock. Surprisingly, even Councilman Bobby Shriver agreed on the need for bike lanes.
During public comment, three bicycle lobbyists (one from Sherman Oaks and one from Los Angeles) addressed the dais on the need for bike lanes. The third cyclist advocate, who didn’t identify where she was from (raising the question, “Why aren’t public speakers providing addresses like they are supposed to, Mr. Mayor?”), agreed with her friends.
Forgetting who his constituency is, McKeown, a bicyclist himself, lauded the out of towners. I’m thinking he didn’t even acknowledge the six dozen residents who answered surveys, attended meetings and sent letters or e-mails because they disagreed with him — this after attending at least one of the public forums I attended and hearing concerns about additional traffic for himself. Obviously, it’s personal agenda, not resident wishes, that count with McKeown.
Micro manager Genser stated “community education was lacking” which was why neighbors weren’t “seeing the light.” Yep, time to crank up the city propaganda machine and “sell” non-believers on something else they don’t want.
“This plan is insufficient,” Genser added, proving that he’s a big advocate of piecemeal planning and bad piecemeal planning at that. After 20 years on council, Genser knows it all. He even questioned a fire department document that said traffic mitigation would affect timely emergency vehicle deployment — as if he knows more about public safety than the experts.
Genser pointed out with pride that Pico Boulevard has medians and they’re not a problem. Pico Boulevard? The slalom course with narrow, undulating traffic lanes downright hazardous to motorist and pedestrian alike? Please. Genser isn’t facing reality.
Genser and McKeown refuse to accept that this is/was just street beautification, not street engineering. Together, they’ve turned a decade old request for trees from a molehill into a mountain and added hundreds of thousands of dollars (approaching $625,000) in extra outside design fees alone.
Councilman Richard Bloom urged moving forward stating the landscaping proposal “was a dramatic improvement.” Councilman Bob Holbrook fretted about reducing street capacity, now over 19,000 vehicles, daily. Mayor Pro-Tem Pam O’Connor wondered if 20th might not become the ideal “complete street” that McKeown and Genser envision.
Council voted to continue discussion after asking a reluctant staff to reconsider bicycle and pedestrian “enhancements” that’ll surely cause gridlocked traffic to short-cut through adjacent residential neighborhoods. Bottom line: this will add a least another year and a couple million dollars to the project’s present $6.7-million cost and force something neighbors don’t want down their throats.
Common sense says plant trees now, and wait to make traffic alterations based on a unified city-wide transportation plan instead of piecemeal. With revisions due in about 60 days, Genser and McKeown will get their own way or delay the project forever. Public be damned.
Want to bet that this silliness won’t end at the freeway. You know that “traffic calming” and “complete street” elements will extend up 20th to Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards next and eventually spread to a thoroughfare near you.
When not struck in gridlock, Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.