Months After LA Voters Approved Measure Requiring City to Build Bike/Walk Network; City Dragging Its Feet. What’s Next?

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t is now three months since the March election when voters approved the Healthy Streets L.A. initiative, resoundingly supporting making L.A. streets safer and more multimodal. Measure HLA took effect April 9.

Measure HLA requires the city of L.A. to gradually implement its own multimodal Mobility Plan 2035 (MP2035), approved in 2015. Whenever the city repaves a street segment at least one-eighth of a mile long, the city must install approved bus, bike, and walk facilities.

You might think that after the vote, the city would be stepping up its efforts toward safer streets. Maybe there would be a celebration commemorating the first new bus or bike lanes of the HLA era? Maybe the Public Works Department or Transportation Department (LADOT) or the mayor or city council would make some kind of announcement?

Not yet.

Unsurprisingly, the city hasn’t hit the ground running. This despite Mobility Plan 2035 having been approved in 2015, and HLA having qualified for the ballot in 2022, and departments rushing to prepare (dubiousdetailed cost analyses just before the election.

Instead of doing more multimodal projects right now, the city is doing less.

The Public Works Department Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA) quietly placed a hold on routine street repaving that would trigger installing Mobility Plan improvements.

Two weeks ago, the city repaved Coronado Street, which should have triggered installing planned bike lanes. Today LADOT spokesperson Colin Sweeney confirmed that, “The LADWP pipeline replacement project on Coronado was scoped in 2020, prior to the passage of HLA, and does not include plans for a new bicycle facility.”

(Note that the Coronado Street bikeway was approved in 2015 as part of the Mobility Plan, well ahead of 2020 scoping. It still appears that city resurfacing of Coronado in May 2024 should have triggered HLA, regardless of when DWP initially omitted the bikeway from its project.)

Sweeney further noted that LADOT is working with StreetsLA to plan MP2035 work starting in July: (shortly after publication StreetsLA forwarded SBLA essentially the same message received from DOT)

Since passage of HLA, LADOT has worked with StreetsLA and partner agencies to identify shared priorities for MP2035 implementation starting next fiscal year. A joint work plan is currently being finalized and will be made publicly available in coming weeks.

In the meantime, StreetsLA is attributing safety project delays to a need to wait for guidance on HLA. In a May 30 email to Eagle Rock stakeholders regarding the Rock The Boulevard (RTB) project, StreetsLA spokesperson Dan Halden noted some funding and design concerns, then alluded to project delays due to StreetsLA having to wait for direction on HLA:

…the passage of Measure HLA has created additional uncertainty for the “Rock the Boulevard” project. As now required by law, Mobility Plan 2035 elements must be incorporated into major street improvement projects. Our Bureau is awaiting direction from the Mayor, Council and City Attorney regarding implementation of Measure HLA, and we are hopeful that greater clarity will be provided soon.

In 2019, the city received a $16 million Metro grant to implement RTB bike and walk improvements approved for Eagle Rock Boulevard in MP2035. RTB is specifically designed to implement MP2035. There’s no reason HLA should delay the project.

Last week, Streetsblog checked in with Streets for All founder Michael Schneider, the person who leads the organization that built the coalitions that developed and passed Measure HLA.

Schneider is pushing for the City Council to instruct city departments on how to proceed. Since 2022, the council had been working on its alternate version of HLA, called “Safe Streets” (Council file 15-0719-S26). Schneider states that the council approving an implementation ordinance, tightly aligned with the Measure HLA language already approved by voters, is key to directing city implementation work.

“Every day that city departments don’t have official direction on how to implement HLA,” Schneider stated, “there’s a legal risk.” The city “unintentionally ignoring MP2035, opens the city up to legal action by any resident of Los Angeles.”

In March, the City Council Transportation Committee approved various changes (some promising, some problematic) to a draft version of Safe Streets, but that modified version still needs to be approved by the full City Council before it would become official. Before the Safe Streets draft goes to full council, it needs to be heard (or waived out of) the City Council Public Works Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember John Lee.

Next to Traci Park, who campaigned against HLA, Lee is perhaps the City Councilmember most antithetical to Measure HLA. Lee campaigned against bus lanes and pushed to remove bike lanes.

Schneider stated “I’d encourage Councilmember Lee to follow his colleagues on the Transportation Committee who passed direction nearly three months ago, and either schedule HLA at the Public Works committee or waive it out of committee so the city can move forward.”

SBLA checked in with Lee’s Communications Director Roger Quintanilla who responded (on May 30) that, “We are reviewing the recommendations that have come out of the Transportation Committee, working with the appropriate departments, and aiming to have it on the agenda in the coming month.”

That is the status of HLA right now.

There are lots of questions unanswered. Below are some leading editorializing questions from SBLA.

Given that the council and city departments have already taken two years to come up with a Safe Streets ordinance draft, how long will it take the city to finalize and approve an HLA-aligned version? Months? Years? What will come first, a Safe Streets ordinance or an HLA-enforcement lawsuit?

Would looming lawsuits get the city to install street safety upgrades, or make the city further dig in its heels?

Where is Mayor Karen Bass on HLA in the push for safer and more multimodal streets?

Could City Councilmembers get proactive about Measure HLA projects in their own districts? This might be Hugo Soto-Martinez on Coronado Street, Katy Young Yaroslavsky on National Boulevard, or many other streets currently on StreetsLA’s FY23-24 repaving project map, which includes (all subject to change – and presumably all on-hold) repaving this month: Eunisses Hernandez’s Rampart Boulevard and Beaudry Avenue, Nithya Raman’s Cahuenga Boulevard, Young Yaroslavsky’s Fairfax Avenue, and many more HLA busways and bikeways in all fifteen council districts. These projects vary; they aren’t all painless (in reallocating road space away from drivers). Perhaps council offices could work with city departments to identify “low-hanging fruit” bus/bike/walk projects that could uncork StreetsLA’s current hold? Which councilmember will preside over the first HLA era ribbon-cutting? (The alternative might be: who wants the first HLA lawsuit located in their district?)

Are the Mayor and council okay with StreetsLA unilaterally putting routine repaving on-hold? Why can StreetsLA (which has long collaborated with LADOT on street safety projects) unilaterally indefinitely pause planned repaving and corresponding safety improvements? Why does StreetsLA claim it now needs Mayor, Council and City Attorney guidance for StreetsLA to continue work (routine repaving, plus projects like Rock The Boulevard) already underway – and already budgeted – prior to voters approving HLA?

How many Angelenos – disproportionately low-income people on foot and on bicycle – will lose their lives on the city’s unsafe streets while the city further delays safety improvements?

Joe Linton
Joe Lintonhttp://la.streetsblog.org
Joe Linton is editor of Los Angeles Streetsblog. He is also a longtime urban environmental activist. His main areas of interest have been restoring the Los Angeles River and fostering bicycling for everyday transportation. He’s worked for many Los Angeles livability non-profits, including Friends of the L.A. River, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, C.I.C.L.E., Livable Places, and CicLAvia. He also served as deputy to Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes.

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