The Tripping Point advocacy training summit for smooth sidewalks and safe, healhty streets is this Saturday! REGISTER NOW before we reach capacity and close sign-ups. FREE!
Ask an Angeleno basic questions about our city streets, like how to request a curb ramp, what the heck an “unmarked crosswalk” is, or how to improve a bus stop, and you’re likely to get a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Los Angeles Walks is out to change that through The Tripping Point, a FREE half-day advocacy training summit we’re co-hosting this Saturday, June 10th in Boyle Heights.
What you'll get at The Tripping Point:
- The skills, tools, strategies, and insights you need to more effectively shape your world.
- A fundamental understanding of the who, what, where, when, why of transportation, streets, and sidewalks in LA.
- A chance to meet decision-makers and practitioners who build our urban environment.
- Food! Light breakfast and lunch are included.
- Need Spanish translation or childcare? We've got that too.
Here’s why you should register today:
Because now is the time for Angelenos to understand how our built environment takes shape, who determines its form, and how to influence the process.
The City of Los Angeles is in the midst of a Mobility Moment. In the last year alone:
- LA City Council adopted the sweeping and ambitious Mobility Plan 2035.
- LA County voters passed Measure M, expressing overwhelming support for public transit expansion.
- LA Bureau of Engineering launched Safe Sidewalks LA, finally committing to repair our sidewalk network.
- LA Dept. of Transportation released a Vision Zero Action Plan outlining safety solutions for 40 priority roadway corridors in 2017.
- LA City Council increased the City’s Vision Zero budget from $3 million in 2017 to $27.2 million in 2018.
So, join us this Saturday, June 10th at Puente Learning Center in Boyle Heights from 9am to 2pm for keynotes, interactive trainings, workshops, and networking with colleagues, friends, advocacy leaders, public agency staff, and elected officials' staff.
Anyone interested in safe sidewalks and crosswalks, complete streets, bus shelters, and/or healthy trees for shade is welcome!
About the Day
We’ll hear from keynote speakers Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero and City of Los Angeles Councilmember Nury Martinez, followed by community voices. Next up will be a 45-minute introductory session called Pathways to Change 101, before we split into breakout sessions.
Los Angeles Walks will host two breakout sessions that focus on advocacy through hyper-local organizing. Join us at:
10:50am-12pm: Hands-On Walk Audit: A Practical Tool to Assess Your Walking Environment & Engage Allies
12:40pm-1:50pm: Organizing for Change: The Power of Relationships (led by Proyecto Pastoral)
Voters, lawmakers, and City staff have turned their attention to how we get around, and - importantly - how we can get around while preserving human life, saving street trees, and improving environmental health. After a lot of hard work by advocates and staffers, long-overdue decisions about mobility in Los Angeles are finally being made, and long-overdue investments are finally being dedicated to our urban infrastructure.
Now is the time to understand how we can make our voices heard during this process!
The Tripping Point is a collaboration between Investing in Place, Los Angeles Walks, AARP, the Los Angeles Aging Advocacy Coalition, Pacoima Beautiful, and Tree People.
Funding for LA Walks' breakout sessions was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Today, Friday, May 5th, contact the CA State Assembly Transportation Committee to support Assembly Bill 390, the crosswalk countdown law!
Across California, it's currently illegal to step off the curb and cross the street once a pedestrian countdown signal has begun, even if the person walking knows they have enough time to cross.
Yep, the California Vehicle Code states that it is unlawful for a person to enter a crosswalk at any time other than when the signal says “Walk," including during a countdown. Why? Because the law was written before pedestrian countdown clocks even existed!
It's time our state legislators update this law, not only to bring it in line with the times and avoid confusion, but to bring an end to counterproductive LAPD pedestrian "jaywalking" sting operations, widely covered in spring 2015 by the LA Times and Streetsblog LA.
Assembly Bill 390, recently introduced by Assemblymembers Santiago and Ting, will change the law to make it legal for people walking to enter the crosswalk during a countdown signal if there is enough time to reasonably complete the crossing safely. This will bring the law in line with how pedestrians are actually behaving - so we can all stop breaking the law unintentionally.
One more benefit of the clarified law is that pedestrians who enter the crosswalk during the countdown phase will more clearly have the right of way. Should a person walking be involved in a collision, the updated law may make it easier to argue that the pedestrian was acting lawfully. (Reminder that drivers should ALWAYS yield to pedestrians.)
Take action! Contact the CA State Assembly Transportation Committee to urge them to support AB 390.
This Monday, May 1, 2017, LA City Council's Budget and Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Mayor Garcetti's proposed 2017-18 city budget, including a close review of the proposed Transportation budget.
While the Mayor's proposal does increase funding for Vision Zero, it doesn't go far enough.
In fact, it falls about $63 million short from funding work needed to achieve Vision Zero's initial benchmark: a 20% reduction in traffic deaths by the end of 2017.
Dial-in to an info call this Friday, April 28, at 2pm, and then join us at City Hall on Monday morning, May 1, to speak up for fully funding Vision Zero in LA.
Los Angeles is the deadliest city for traffic crashes in the United States. Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 in Los Angeles County.
Our leaders need to hear it loud and clear: a public health crisis of this magnitude demands adequate funding.
RSVP now for Friday's call (hosted by Investing in Place), and join us in person on Monday morning at City Hall.
Hope to see you there!
PS: Can't be there on Monday? Contact the Budget & Finance Committee to voice your support for a robust, fully funded Vision Zero initiative in Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, March 29th, LA City Council Transportation Committee members will consider how to spend Measure M Local Return dollars - roughly $50 million every year for the foreseeable future.
Los Angeles Walks believes a significant portion of these funds should be used to build an equitable street and sidewalk system that is safe, comfortable, and convenient for people of all ages, abilities, and modes of transportation across LA.
Read our letter to the City Council Transportation Committee below.
Dear Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee Members,
What a terrific opportunity Measure M Local Return funding presents for the City of Los Angeles, which already has forward-looking plans in place to guide this critical decision – one that has the potential to significantly improve the safety, comfort, and convenience of road users of all ages, abilities, and modes of transportation long into the future.
Los Angeles Walks urges City Council members to take into account the key policy initiatives, strategies, and goals of both Mobility Plan 2035 and the Vision Zero Action Plan when considering how to spend future Local Return funding.
Ultimately, we ask that you consider committing 20% of Local Return to fund safety-enhancing projects that help the City to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries in Los Angeles and achieve Vision Zero.
Both Mobility Plan 2035 and Vision Zero prioritize safety and call for a transportation system that, above all else, preserves and protects human life. In fact, a key principle of Vision Zero Los Angeles is that government policies at all levels should be coordinated to promote safety as the highest priority. Mobility Plan 2035 calls on the City to use data to prioritize transportation decisions that strive towards equity in safety, public health, access, social benefits, and economic benefits.
As the City prepares to receive roughly $50 million in sales tax revenue every year through Local Return, this is an important moment to remember these principles and to acknowledge the true cost of our current transportation system.
In Los Angeles in 2016, 260 children, older adults, men, and women were killed in traffic collisions, making LA the deadliest city for traffic crashes in the United States. Sadly, traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 in Los Angeles County.
The status quo is not acceptable. And in fact, conditions are worsening. Pedestrian fatalities in Los Angeles jumped by almost 50% between 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, current Vision Zero funding - $3 million in 2017 – is woefully inadequate. Upon the release of the Vision Zero Action Plan, LA Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds noted that millions more dollars are required in order to reach the City’s 2017 goal to reduce severe and fatal injuries for people walking and bicycling by 20%.
Knowing this, an investment strategy that puts two-thirds of Measure M Local Return into repaving “D” and “F” streets, and divides that funding by 15 City Council districts, is not just outdated, it’s irresponsible. It ignores the core principles of our most visionary plans and policies, which call for City investments that protect life, health, and community while improving transportation.
For these reasons, we urge you to commit 20% of Local Return funding to Vision Zero efforts and projects that work to create “complete streets” in Los Angeles – those that take into account the many community needs that streets fulfill.
As the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan states, “As the city with the most traffic deaths per capita, funding for solutions must match the severity of the problem.”
One final consideration that the City Council should acknowledge is that Local Return funds are often used to provide matching funds for active transportation projects where the City is pursuing grant funds from state and federal agencies like Caltrans and the FTA. These granting sources often don’t fund critical features like street trees, traffic calming devices like curb extensions, and street furniture. The City’s Local Return dollars can be used to fund these important design features of active transportation projects.
Los Angeles Walks calls on City Council members to channel the visionary, ambitious spirit of Mobility Plan 2035 and LA Vision Zero when considering how to invest Measure M Local Return.
Action Alert! Tell City Council Transportation Committee Members How to Spend $50M/year to Make LA Streets Safer
This Wednesday, March 29th, LA City Council's Transportation Committee will discuss how to spend almost $50 million per year on local transportation infrastructure, like better sidewalks, crosswalks, and lighting. These funds, generated from the recent Measure M sales tax initiative, are called "Local Return," and will start to flow on July 1, 2017 -- very soon!
Now is the time to tell LA City Council members that Local Return funding should be used to make our streets safer and more welcoming to people - especially the most vulnerable among us: children, older adults, people with disabilities, and anyone walking or bicycling.
Take Action! Send an email to Transportation Committee members today!
Scroll down to find a complete email template urging City Council members to:
- Dedicate Local Return funds to improving street safety, helping LA to achieve its ambitious Vision Zero goals.
- Prioritize low-income communities and communities of color, often last to receive critical infrastructure investments.
- Commit to data transparency and community engagement every step of the way.
Measure M Local Return presents a terrific opportunity to fund the safe, equitable walking and bicycling environment Los Angeles has needed for decades.
Tell your City Council member to seize this moment!
Contact City Council members today to ensure that Measure M Local Return funding prioritizes safety, focuses on equity, and supports our most basic, affordable, and healthiest forms of transportation for years to come.
Thank you to our Vision Zero Alliance partners at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for guiding this effort.
Interested in doing more? Show up to City Council on Wednesday, March 29 at 12:45pm in City Hall Room 1010 to testify in person!
Copy, paste, and send the email below today!
Subj: Use Measure M Local Return to #MakeLACity streets safer for all Angelenos! CF# 16-0395
Dear Honorable Councilmembers,
As a ___________ [e.g. bike rider, pedestrian, transit user, student, parent, etc.], I strongly encourage the City to use Measure M Local Return dollars to prioritize active transportation, safety, and equity.
The City of L.A. will receive about $50 million dollars annually from Measure M local return. I support using local return funds on projects that create safer, more livable streets so that we achieve Vision Zero and ensure that the visionary Mobility Plan 2035 becomes a reality - with a focus on equity that does not leave our most vulnerable residents behind. In deciding how to use Measure M local return funds, the City should consider the following priorities:
- Dedicate More Funding to Vision Zero - The City should set aside the majority of its local return to support its Vision Zero work. People walking and biking are at a disproportionate risk of being killed from traffic violence, accounting for 49% of deaths, despite being in only 14% of crashes. Emphasizing active transportation will ensure that the most vulnerable road users are prioritized.
- Resume Commitment to Bike Lane Installation - LACBC’s 2015 Bike and Pedestrian Count found that bike lane installation decreased from 101 miles in 2013 to just 11 miles in 2015, and only 25% of high priority bike lanes identified in the Bicycle Plan had been installed since 2010. A portion of local return funds should be used to install the other 75% of high priority bike lanes. The City should also conduct annual manual bicycle and pedestrian counts and/or install automatic counters across the city to track the impact of bike lane installation.
- Prioritize Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color - There is a historical and continual lack of investment in low-income communities and communities of color by government agencies who often leave these communities as afterthoughts of their planning practices. Local return dollars and Vision Zero are opportunities to prioritize low-income communities and communities of color - neighborhoods that have been historically neglected by street safety projects; where people are more likely to walk, bike, and take transit; and where a disproportionate percentage of serious and fatal traffic collisions occur.
- Commit to Data Transparency - Data collection is essential to understanding traffic deaths, prioritizing intervention locations and resources, and holding public agencies accountable. The City must demonstrate its commitment to equity by collecting better data on race/ethnicity and income to allow for more robust health equity analysis and targeted interventions. Potential strategies include: enhancing existing data collection sources and practices, accessing relevant data from alternative sources, and conducting community needs assessments in the High Injury Network neighborhoods.
- Promote Meaningful Community Engagement - Foster community dialogues with law enforcement to ensure that resident voices, especially those most disparately targeted by law enforcement (young men of color and transgender people of color) are used to shape Vision Zero's enforcement strategies, using prevention and restorative rather than criminalization approaches.
Please ensure that active transportation, safety, and equity are prioritized in spending Measure M local return dollars.
Under 4-minute read
Earlier today, February 8, 2017, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) presented the Vision Zero Action Plan to members of the City Council Transportation Committee.
The Action Plan outlines the City’s strategy for reducing traffic fatalities by 20% by the end of 2017 -- the initial benchmark of the ten-year Vision Zero initiative Mayor Eric Garcetti launched in August 2015 through Executive Directive 10.
Mayor Garcetti signs Executive Directive 10 in August 2015
Ultimately, Vision Zero aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries in the City of Los Angeles by 2025.
The Action Plan arrives after LADOT, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, spent more than a year analyzing collision data in order to thoroughly understand the problem of traffic crashes in Los Angeles. Here in LA, more than 200 people are killed and close to 1000 people are seriously injured in traffic every year. Alarmingly, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of children between the ages of 5 and 14 in Los Angeles.
As the Vision Zero Action Plan states, Los Angeles is facing a public health crisis. Pedestrian fatalities in Los Angeles jumped by almost 50% between 2015 and 2016, mirroring nationwide trends. At this rate, reducing traffic fatalities by 20% in 2017 will simply bring Los Angeles back to 2015 levels, no lower.
The need for a clear Vision Zero plan, followed by swift action, is urgent.
The City intends to address this crisis - and achieve Vision Zero - by focusing on four outcomes:
- Creating safe streets for all through evidence-based engineering projects
- Developing a culture of safety through engineering, enforcement, and education
- Adopting new policy and legislation that strengthens safety and gives LA greater control over its streets
- Responding to relevant data in order to create changes where they are needed most
As we said at today's Transportation Committee meeting, Los Angeles Walks appreciates the complexity of this multiagency effort and applauds LADOT for moving from analysis to action. We have concerns, though, related to funding levels, speed management, and the safety of older adults.
2015 Vision Zero press conference at Cesar E. Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights, an example of Vision Zero engineering changes.
Los Angeles Walks is encouraged to see the prioritization of evidence-based engineering projects within the City’s Action Plan outcomes. We are concerned, though, that the benchmarks listed within the Plan focus heavily only on completing design plans. The action items listed do not convey the extent to which evidence-based engineering projects will actually be implemented and built across the city, with the exception of concrete pedestrian islands and high visibility crosswalks.
The Action Plan’s ambiguous engineering commitments may be due to the woefully inadequate funding currently dedicated to the Vision Zero initiative: only $3 million in 2017.
In order to achieve a 20% reduction of severe and fatal injuries for people walking and bicycling, the City will focus its initial efforts on eliminating deaths on a set of priority corridors in the city. The Action Plan lists 40 priority corridors that cover 90 miles throughout Los Angeles.
At today's Transportation Committee meeting, LADOT General Manager told City Councilmember Mike Bonin that realistically it will take $77 million more this year to achieve that 20% reduction along those 40 corridors. As the Action Plan states, “As the city with the most traffic deaths per capita, funding for solutions must match the severity of the problem.”
LA’s current Vision Zero funding levels pale in comparison to other cities. For example, New York City’s Fiscal Year 17 budget allocated $115 million to Vision Zero street capital construction projects. San Francisco - one tenth the size of Los Angeles - allocated $9.6 million in Fiscal Year 16.
More broadly, the Action Plan does not adequately address speeding, widely known to be the fundamental factor in crash severity. Though the Plan clearly states that “we can stop deaths by focusing on controlling vehicle speeds,” the Plan does not present a clear strategy for reducing speeds, either by wresting control of local speed limits from the State (as other U.S. cities have accomplished) or by redesigning roadways to reduce speeds (see "Funding" above).
The Action Plan lists nine High-Injury Network intersection projects currently in progress, but those projects seem to do little to address speeding along the wide mini-freeways that criss-cross Los Angeles neighborhoods. The City is well aware that an effective Vision Zero initiative must prioritize speed management above all else. We hope to see the implementation of engineering projects and advocacy towards state legislation that reflect this understanding well before 2020.
The Action Plan is strong when it comes to protecting the safety of school-aged children through Safe Routes to School programs and projects. The Plan does not present an equally bold or well-funded plan to address the needs of older adults, though, and doesn't mention how Vision Zero will support Purposeful Aging Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, the pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 people is highest among those age 75 and older, followed by those age 65 and older. Seniors are far overrepresented in fatal crash data. In 2015, when people age 65 and older made up 15% of the population in LA, they made up over 29% of the people killed while walking. Seniors are the most rapidly growing population in Los Angeles. As the number of older adults expands, the City must act quickly to address the specific needs of this vulnerable group.
Finally, any effort to reduce swift vehicle movement or redesign congested streets in Los Angeles, even if to save lives, will result in push-back from those resistant to change. With the release of the Vision Zero Action Plan, and the clear urgency of traffic crashes, which claim more lives every year than gang violence, Los Angeles Walks calls on City Council members to champion this cause within their districts.
Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD11) displayed great leadership at today's Transportation Committee meeting. After presentations and discussion among fellow Council Members Martinez and Ryu, Bonin made the following recommendations to the City Council:
- Regularly report on implementation of Action Plan, including data on assessments and impact, to Transportation Committee
- Regularly report on anticipated funding needs of continued implementation
- DOT to report more info on a plan/progress on increasing community engagement, particularly within underserved areas
- LAPD and LADOT to report jointly on a City of LA version of Focus on the Five traffic citation report (cited example from San Francisco)
- LAPD to report in 60 days on a timeline of development of the software and reporting system to enhance data transparency
- LAPD to report in 60 days on the status of the "no profiling" pledge (cited Portland example)
The hallmarks of Vision Zero are the prioritization of human life above all else and the collaborative effort across agencies, departments, and legislative bodies in order to preserve life.
Los Angeles Walks looks forward to working with the Mayor's Office and City Council members to identify funding opportunities, to educate residents on effective evidence-based countermeasures that save lives, and to help develop a culture of safety on Los Angeles streets. As the lead organization of the LA Vision Zero Alliance, Los Angeles Walks is committed to collaborating with City agencies, elected officials, community organizations, and residents to eliminate traffic deaths in our city, and bring more life to streets and sidewalks across Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Walks, a project of Community Partners, is a pedestrian advocacy organization that works to make walking safe, accessible, fun, and equitable across the City of Los Angeles. Since November 2015, Los Angeles Walks has serves as leader of the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance, a coalition of 20 community organizations dedicated to supporting and influencing the City of Los Angeles Vision Zero initiative.
Los Angeles Walks is proud to report that we will join Gabba Gallery, Pilipino Workers Center, and Public Matters to bring community-based outreach, education, and public art to Historic Filipinotown this spring and summer.
Our project, centered around Temple Street between Beverly Blvd. and Beaudry Ave., will be one component of the City's Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate serious and fatal traffic collisions in Los Angeles by 2025 through a mix of engineering, education, enforcement, and engagement.
Seven other teams will develop and coordinate similar community-based projects throughout the City of Los Angeles. We all hope to raise awareness of the impacts of traffic violence on individuals and entire communities, and to highlight the need for safe street design and smart driving behavior.
The official LADOT press release is below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Inquiries Only
Los Angeles Department of Transportation
Announces Community Partnerships to Help Eliminate Traffic Deaths by 2025
LOS ANGELES, CA (January 19, 2017)
“We are making L.A.’s streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. And we can make improvements faster — and more effective — when the City works closely with local organizations that understand our neighborhoods’ specific needs,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Safety education and outreach is the first step in making all Angelenos part of the movement to end traffic deaths in our city.”
The highest concentrations of fatal and severe collisions on the City’s High-Injury Network have been identified as priority corridors. Focusing Vision Zero efforts on the priority corridors will help address the locations with the highest number of people being killed and severely injured in a collision. Over the next year, ten of these priority corridors will be part of a coordinated education and outreach plan in an effort to build support for engineering and enforcement solutions along these corridors and ensure that people move through our city safely.
"This work empowers local community-based organizations and artists to be emissaries for Vision Zero. We expect to learn from their work and follow their lead in understanding how to reach our urgent goal to reduce deaths from traffic violence," says LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds.
These eight teams are made up of community-based organizations and local artists who will work closely with the City to plan, implement, and evaluate an on-the-ground engagement plan. The plans may include at least one of the following interventions: developing community-specific traffic safety education materials using local and cultural vocabulary; leading interactive activities that involve participation by residents in the area; creative interventions along the identified corridor(s), that may include (but are not limited to) graphics, visuals, or temporal projects that raise awareness on the issue of traffic safety; iterative processes that develop a project using on-going, continual public engagement to inform and refine a finished product and/or program. Each team will assemble “street teams” meant to engage directly with the community on Vision Zero. Our partners will also conduct pre and post intervention evaluations that will help the city evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy.
The format of the partnership allows the people who have worked within their communities to develop an outreach program tailored to each individual neighborhood. Organizations were selected by demonstrating their abilities and experiences in working with the communities that are most affected by traffic violence. Planning will happen from January to March 2017, community engagement will take place in Summer 2017 and evaluation will conclude September 2017.
“Tapping into our local creative human capital in Los Angeles to tell the story of Vision Zero ensures a meaningful impact for our communities,” said DCA General Manager Danielle Brazell.
Community Arts Resources (CARS) will serve in a technical advisory capacity for these partnerships as the City works toward expanding its resources within the community. As a leader in local public engagement, CARS will provide invaluable insight in planning and implementing engagement strategies. Other grant funding will go to support the individual teams’ direct costs, such as printing, documentation, and evaluation. Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Department of Transportation continues to work together and partner with other agencies to ensure that people move safely through the city and region. Additional information regarding the City’s Vision Zero effort can be found at visionzero.lacity.org.
Released January 12, 2017. Want to receive our monthly updates? Sign up here.
Fired up to act locally in 2017?!?
Earlier this week, President Obama urged Americans to lace up our shoes and take action. Learn how you can effect change through your Neighborhood Council in our recent blog post. Or March 4th! with us, join our team, or lead a walk! More below...
March 4th! With Us
Despite what's looming on the national horizon, we are confident that bright days are ahead for Los Angeles. Join other LA Walks supporters to March 4th! into 2017, celebrating a transit-rich future filled with safe, ADA-compliant streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks. Food, drinks, music, fun and games in DTLA on Saturday night, March 4th! Party Info >
Did you know that Los Angeles Walks leads a coalition of over 20 organizations that supports and influences the City's Vision Zero initiative? No?! Well, we're trying to fix that. Apply to improve our communications or please share our part-time position description with a friend. Communications Associate job description >
You're a Natural Leader
If there's a pocket of Los Angeles that you just love to pieces, or that simply intrigues you, consider becoming an LA Walks volunteer Walk Ambassador. Set a route, schedule a date, and share your slice of LA with the world on a weekend walk. Submit your idea today! Submissions due Feb 1. Submit your idea >
Ask an Officer
Together with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the LA Vision Zero Alliance, Los Angeles Walks invites you to Ask an Officer, an opportunity to speak directly with members of law enforcement (LAPD, CHP, and Sheriff's Dept.) as well as bicycle collision attorney Jim Pocrass. Monday, January 30 6:30pm-8:30pm at LACBC. Food and drinks included, free. RSVP now >
In his farewell address last night, President Obama called on American citizens to take concrete steps to create positive change - to be action-oriented, engaged, and to get offline and talk to one another. Luke Klipp, president of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and recent winner of Streetsblog LA's 2016 Deborah Murphy Award for Excellence in Advocacy (named after our very own founder), explains how you can get to work right in your own neighborhood.
Why I NC, and You Can Too
“Neighborhood Councils are the place where good ideas go to die.” That was me a few years ago, reflecting on frustrations serving on a neighborhood council that, at the time, was more interested in preserving parking spaces than in creating human spaces.
While neighborhood councils were created 15 years ago to better connect residents with their city government, oftentimes it can feel like they just stand in the way of progress. That said, I have since come to recognize the opportunities that these groups represent, and the ways in which people who care about walkability, bikeability, and street safety in their communities can create change on a micro-scale, albeit an important one, through their neighborhood councils.
Many neighborhood councils – though certainly not all – are ambivalent about or openly oppose the things that folks at Los Angeles Walks support: things like more and better-marked crosswalks, more stop signs, and slower street speeds. However, this is neither always the case, nor is it a done deal. As the strongest and clearest link to the constituents they serve, neighborhood councils are more responsive to citizen involvement than any other City function or body.
This brings me to why I’m writing this post and why you should care. In just my few years as an elected member of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, I’ve seen a sea change in our council’s approach to street safety measures and support for efforts to improve walkability and bikeability, as people who care about these things have shown up, spoken up, and gotten involved.
At a time when much of our world – at least nationally – has been turned upside down, local involvement is one of the best-available tools that we have to effect change.
I guarantee you that, while your neighborhood council may or may not be responsive to your concerns in the moment, if you stay involved, if you keep showing up, if you join a committee and/or run for a seat – you will effect change through your neighborhood council. You will get the marked crosswalk that your busy street needs. You will get your city councilmember to support new street tree plantings. You will get improved DASH service, or better public spaces, or new bike lanes.
But it takes time, it takes persistence, and it takes showing up. As someone who has sat through innumerable meetings hearing the same complaints about how there’s too much traffic and not enough parking; I can assure you that that voice of reason, the voice you can bring to the neighborhood council that says we must do better by our kids and our seniors and our businesses by improving our sidewalks and street trees and crosswalks – that is the voice that is so often missing and so often needed.
It’s a new year, and we need you more than ever. There’s never been a better time to get involved in your community, and your neighborhood council is a great place to start.
Luke H. Klipp is president of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @lukehklipp.
As we reported last week, Investing in Place, Los Angeles Walks, AARP, and Tree People recently convened stakeholders and representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Bureau of Engineering to discuss Safe Sidewalks LA, the City’s new pedestrian infrastructure repair program.
While we learned a good amount about the planned implementation and structure of the new program, we at Los Angeles Walks remain concerned about the lack of detail in a few key areas. Over the coming weeks we will elaborate on those particular concerns. We will begin by considering the City’s discretion in making repairs.
Despite some positive signs, most notably the recent groundbreaking of the MyFigueroa complete streets project, mobility advocates have been frustrated with the seeming inability of the City of Los Angeles to come through on safety-enhancing projects that present any sort of implementation challenge. Most often, unfortunately, a project to increase the safety of all road users is deemed “controversial” due to opposition from either a particular group or a particular City Councilmember. Proof of widespread opposition isn’t required; just a whisper has been enough to shelf projects that would provide a vital connection for Angelenos and/or would surely save lives.
We are therefore very concerned about the lack of detail regarding how the decision to either postpone or exempt a submitted Access Request (see earlier post) will be determined, and who will have that discretion.
The legal settlement that was the impetus for Safe Sidewalks LA includes a remarkable number of clauses that give the City discretion to postpone or exempt a safety issue. Five paragraphs stand out (highlights ours):
- (i) The City shall prioritize remediation, installation or other construction for locations that do not have site constraints or technical infeasibility issues, as defined in the standards set forth in Section 12.9 below;
- (ii) With respect to unusually expensive installation or remediation concerning any Pedestrian Facility, the City shall have the discretion to address such items in connection with larger, street-related capital projects at such locations;
- (iii) Work on difficult sites may be postponed if there is an alternative accessible route within no more than 200 feet of the condition at issue (to the maximum extent feasible). Such alternative routes will be identified to persons with Mobility Disabilities in accordance with applicable ADA Title II regulations;
- (iv) Locations at which site constraints make strict compliance with applicable design standards impracticable may be made compliant with the standards set forth in Section 12.9 below to the maximum extent feasible;
- (iv) there exists a technical infeasibility to installing or performing a Program Access Improvement at the particular location because of topography or some other factor, including if remediation would be “technically infeasible” as defined by Standard 106.5 of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Our concerns begin with the vagueness of what constitutes an “unusually expensive” or “difficult” site. These terms are not defined, which is understandable, as the City likely did not want to be legally bound to repair facilities immediately if the repair would bust the budget.
However, with the lack of a clear set of guidelines or other planning document that the public can view and comment on, we do not know how Access Requests will be sorted as either feasible or infeasible.
Since immediately infeasible work may be postponed, our next concern is for how long may work be postponed? Indefinitely? Or is there a set period? If the City will be able to delay an Access Request or other repair to include in a future, larger street-related capital project, is there a time limit as to when that larger capital project may begin? How can the public, and especially those with mobility disabilities, be ensured that the future capital project would include the repair, that it would be remembered by City staff, and that it wouldn’t be excluded for cost or other reasons?
Where will the money for making signs for alternative accessible routes around “difficult” sites come from? If someone submits an Access Request, and the site is deemed “difficult” and an alternative accessible route is identified, will the original requester be notified of that fact? Or will they simply be told that the repair is not feasible?
Lastly, if a project can be exempted entirely due to “topography or some other factor,” will the requester or public be notified as to what that “some other factor” is? Will there be a chance for either the requester or the public at large to appeal an exemption?
As an example of our concerns, the photo above shows the north side (looking west) of Melrose Ave. from Wilcox Ave. past Cole Ave. near the Paramount studios. It is clearly not accessible (see the poles?). If an Access Request is made for this sidewalk, what will happen? Either the utility poles will have to be moved, an easement will have to be taken from the adjoining properties, or space will have to be taken from the travel/parking lane (or some combination of those options).
Any of those options will be expensive, and possibly even “difficult.” Will the City just say the project is infeasible and exempt it? Will the City say it’s too “difficult” and postpone work until some future work on Melrose Avenue? And when would that be? Would they postpone work and sign an alternative accessible route on the south side of Melrose?
Safe Sidewalks LA was created to fix these problems, but how can we be assured that it will?
We worry about a program where the most troublesome and dangerous chokepoints are exempted or effectively postponed forever, leaving intact the most pernicious gaps in our accessible network. We worry about a program that fixes all the tree root rollercoasters and greater than half-inch gaps, but fails to fix the blocks-long stretches of three-foot sidewalk. We worry about a program that lets our leaders and City staff off the hook for making “difficult” choices that prioritize safety and accessibility.