In a Sept. 14 meeting, City Councilmembers’ discussion items ran the gamut of resident concerns from speeding to noise complaints, street sweeping and bus tickets.

While staff were directed to research all of these issues, the most immediate action residents will see is the waiving of street sweeping citations issued between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3.

Weekly street sweeping recently resumed after over a year, and although SMPD and the City conducted extensive outreach, many residents were caught off guard.

In order to have citations waived, or receive a refund if they have already paid, residents must submit a declaration that they were not aware of weekly street sweeping during the period between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3. This can be done by submitting a request through the City’s website, mailing the City a letter, calling 800-214-1526 or visiting the LADOT Parking Violations Bureau at 1575 Westwood Blvd, Ste 100B.

Another discussion item brought up in response to a recent City policy change was the issue of cashless payments on Big Blue Bus (BBB).

The City launched a six month contactless payment pilot for BBB on July 12, which eliminates the use of cash and tokens and asks customers to pay using a TAP card or mobile ticket. The program is intended to create faster boarding times, make buses safer for customers and drivers and offer more convenient and economical ways for customers to pay their fare.

Some residents have voiced concerns that this discriminates against low-income, elderly and Latino residents, who are most likely to pay for the bus with cash. Residents said that several passengers were recently denied entry on the bus for not having a payment available, which is against BBB policy.

“The removal of cash payment access without having a fully developed plan to compensate for the objective inconvenience of restricted TAP card purchase access is an inexplicable Big Blue Bus management omission,” said Marc Verville during public comment. “The obvious discrimination against the most vulnerable in our community that’s such a move engenders creates access hurdles.”

City Councilmembers did not decide to roll back the cashless pilot program. Several members said the pilot was important for allowing Big Blue Bus to adopt a 21st Century public transit model.

Council did direct staff to research ways to make it easier for residents to purchase TAP cards, with cash or credit, including potentially providing them on buses, in grocery stores and convenience stores. They also asked BBB to reiterate to all their drivers that people cannot be turned away from the bus due to an inability to pay.

Also on the subject of transportation concerns, City Council directed staff to research means to ease vehicle speeds on Neilson and Barnard Way. This discussion item suggested installing speed bumps, which are currently used by the City of LA to control traffic directly south of Neilson Way.

“We had a petition in 2019 that over 500 neighbors signed asking for traffic calming after a scooter rider was killed in a hit and run and we just had another hit and run involving a neighbor’s daughter,” said Ocean Park resident Karen Blackman during public comment. “Please support traffic calming in our neighborhood.”

Similar in geographic location, but different in subject, the last City Council discussion item of note was targeted at noise complaints in Ocean View Park on Barnard Way.

For several months residents in adjacent buildings have been upset by the loud music being played in the park on the weekends. Their complaints mainly relate to a DJ who sets up several speakers, but also include a jazz band that plays live music.

Code enforcement officers have been called to the scene on numerous occasions to take decibel readings and have found neither the timing nor volume of music to be in violation of the City’s noise ordinance.

Council members directed staff to explore means to change the noise and time regulations around amplified sound in parks, but caveated this with an explanation of why such a change to the noise ordinance may be difficult.

“I’m willing to vote for this because I do think we need to explore it, but I think there are serious First Amendment implications here,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis. “I think people should manage their expectations about what we can do under the First Amendment and what might come back from staff.”

Interim City Attorney George Cardona said that since the decibel levels were already in line with the noise ordinance, creating an enforcement measure for music in the park may take extensive time and City resources.

“This is not a short term project and potentially it might even involve taking noise measurements and potentially coming back with a proposal to do a revision of our noise study, which was the basis for the decibel levels that are in place,” said Cardona. “In fact that proposal would impose significant costs.”

Clara@smdp.com