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.
Cities embrace the future — and determine their destiny — by constantly reinventing themselves.
In Los Angeles, we are in the midst of a historic transition away from our reputation as the car capital of the world. Today, a growing mass transit network is redefining how people think about commuting to work, getting to afternoons at the beach, and enjoying nights out with friends.Read more
On May 18, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled the Age-Friendly City Initiative: Purposeful Aging LA, which is his 17th Executive Directive in the three years he has been mayor. With the Initiative, Los Angeles joins 90 other American cities and three others in California—San Francisco, Saratoga, and West Sacramento—in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities.Read more
Safe Sidewalks LA is the long-awaited plan to fix LA’s deteriorating (and sometimes non-existent) sidewalk system. The program is the result of a class action lawsuit filed by people with mobility disabilities, and requires the City to spend roughly $30 million every year for the next 30 years to make LA sidewalks meet accessibility standards.
This past Wednesday, November 30, as City Council members discussed and ultimately approved Safe Sidewalks LA in City Hall, 40 community stakeholders met in the Arts District to ask representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Bureau of Engineering all about the program.
The meeting, led by Investing in Place and co-hosted by Los Angeles Walks, AARP, and Tree People, brought together advocates, activists, representatives from community groups, and individuals who work on everything from water conservation and urban forestry to racial justice and disability rights.
Here is a snippet of what we learned about Safe Sidewalks LA:
- The City has created three repair categories: Access Repair Requests, General Repair Requests, and a Rebate Program.
- Access Requests must be made by or on behalf of anyone with a mobility disability.
- The City will prioritize Access Requests by type of repair or construction as mandated by the settlement (i.e. repairs on transportation corridors will be completed before sidewalks adjacent to hospitals).
- General Requests will consist of requests for repairs in the pedestrian right of way made by people not in the Settlement Class (i.e. people without a mobility disability).
- For the Rebate Program, the City will offer a rebate to property owners who fix sidewalks in front of their property using one of the city-approved contractors.
- The City will reimburse up to $2,000 per residential lot and $4,000 per commercial lot under the Rebate Program.
While the City began accepting repair requests online and over the phone (via 311) on Thursday, December 1, many details of the program are yet to be determined.
Other aspects of Safe Sidewalks LA are already concerning. Los Angeles Walks has many questions about the implementation and operation of the program.
Primarily these concerns have to do with:
- How the City will raise awareness of the program;
- How the City will ensure that all residents have the skills, knowledge, and ability to submit requests for repairs;
- How the City will prioritize projects and implement them equitably;
- Who will have discretion in determining the feasibility of repairs;
- How the City will interact with stakeholders and the public;
- The lack of consideration of crosswalks as part of the path of travel.
To address these concerns and many others, the stakeholder group will continue to meet as the City rolls out Safe Sidewalks LA. You are invited to join us! Let us know if you are interested.
Stay tuned. There's lots more to come on this in the future!
Here's what we covered in our update this month --
Keep Seniors on the Move this #GivingTuesday
Mr. Wong (top left) walks six miles a day through Westlake and Koreatown. But many of his neighbors are afraid to walk two blocks to Food4Less. This #GivingTuesday, you can make Westlake safer for hundreds of older adults by providing group walks, trainings, and workshops. Programming you make possible will bring attention and resources to the senior walking environment in Westlake and beyond. Learn more >
Footnotes 2016 is Out
This year's edition of our annual publication brought together gerontologists, policy advocates, and activists to address the mobility concerns of LA's seniors. How will Los Angeles accommodate this booming population? Find out >
You're Invited: Sidewalk Repair Info Session 11/30
The long-awaited City of Los Angeles Sidewalk Repair Program is underway. How will it work? Where will the City start? Find out directly from Ted Bardacke, Director of Infrastructure, Los Angeles Mayor's Office, on November 30, 1pm-3pm, Arts District. Presented by Los Angeles Walks, Investing in Place, and Tree People. RSVP now >
Bike Ped Count Numbers are In
The LA County Bicycle Coalition recently released the 2015 Bike Ped Count report. The effort, funded by AARP and supported by Los Angeles Walks, counted nearly 21,000 people biking and 140,000 people walking over six hours at 156 distinct locations. Go to the numbers >
See you on the sidewalk!
Los Angeles Walks
Over 40 Los Angeles artists will perform and present site-specific works along a two-mile stretch of Downtown LA this Sunday, November 20, 2016, to honor people who have been killed and seriously injured on our city streets this year.
The "Day of Remembrance Road Concert," produced by LA Road Concerts, commemorates International World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, and is part of a worldwide effort to bring attention to the fact that traffic violence is one of the leading causes of death around the world, as it is in Los Angeles and the United States. Globally, more than 1.25 million lives were lost in traffic crashes last year; 35,092 people were killed in traffic in the US in 2015.
The Day of Remembrance Road Concert is presented in partnership by LA Road Concerts, the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance, the City of Los Angeles Vision Zero Initiative, and Alan Nakagawa, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s Artist-in-Residence.
The Road Concert is part of the Vision Zero Initiative, a citywide effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Los Angeles by 2025 through engineering projects, education, and enforcement. The event intends to raise awareness of traffic violence in Los Angeles through creative, captivating, and curious works of art.
Participants are invited to join Los Angeles Walks at Spring Street Park from 11am-2pm to create memorials to people killed while walking in Los Angeles. At 2:30pm, Los Angeles Walks will offer a group walk of the entire Road Concert route, meeting and ending at Spring Street Park. RSVP here.
Find much more information here: Day of Remembrance Road Concert
Find a full press release below.
One year ago, your support allowed Los Angeles Walks to hire our first staff member, Emilia Crotty, as a full time policy and program manager. To mark this milestone, we’ve compiled a list of four things we are proud to have accomplished since then.
As a direct result of your support, these are your accomplishments. Thank you for making it all possible...
1. This year, you built a citywide coalition committed to creating safe, healthy streets.
Over the last 12 months, more than 20 community organizations and concerned individuals came together to form the Vision Zero Alliance. The Alliance is a unique coalition that supports and influences the City’s ambitious Vision Zero initiative, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Los Angeles by 2025.
Your support allowed Los Angeles Walks to facilitate monthly Vision Zero Alliance meetings, liaison with City agencies, and foster the development of the Alliance, which creates a unified constituency for safe streets in Los Angeles.
Through your support, the Alliance has pushed the City of Los Angeles to (1) increase and improve its community engagement methods, (2) commit to advancing social equity through engineering investments, and (3) make enforcement strategies more transparent.
We are proud that these efforts have brought national attention to the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance. Thanks to Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Program for partially funding this vital program.
2. You offered seniors a chance to improve their quality of life.
Your support created the beginnings of a Safe Routes for Seniors campaign in the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown LA, a dense neighborhood where more seniors are involved in traffic collisions than anywhere else in Los Angeles. Safe Routes for Seniors engages older adults to identify and champion street safety improvements in their neighborhood.
Through the program, you’ve made it possible for residents to identify obstacles to walking, develop a set of design solutions to improve walkability and safety for senior residents, and advocate for physical changes on the streets and sidewalks they frequent. A more walkable environment will improve the physical and emotional health of senior residents, and reduce social isolation.
3. You installed wayfinding signs in South Los Angeles.
This year you also helped to launch the Walk This Way/Caminale wayfinding signage program. Along with the support of ioby (In Our Backyard), you made it possible for a group of teenagers to lead a community-based project that installed 11 wayfinding signs along Central Avenue, a main route in their South Los Angeles neighborhood.
The signs provide information on walking and biking times between various destinations, show connectivity between neighborhoods, celebrate community history and assets, and encourage walking. A pilot program, we will use this experience to develop a Walk This Way toolkit for easy implementation in other Los Angeles communities.
4. You got hundreds of people outside to walk their city.
Finally, you offered hundreds of people a chance to experience dynamic and diverse neighborhoods across the city through twelve group walks, all led by volunteer Walk Ambassadors. In addition to monthly walks, you made it possible for Los Angeles Walks to host four WalkLAvias - the simplest way to CicLAvia.
The best thing people can do for walking in Los Angeles is to get out and walk, and these group walks make that possible for so many people.
Thank you for all you’ve done this year to make walking safe, accessible, fun, and equitable for all Angelenos. We look forward to working with you to do even more in 2017.
All the best and safe streets for all,
Founder and Executive Director
My mom always told me she felt comfortable in her dented-but-charming 2011 black Toyota Camry. I’ve never bought into the notion that a car could be a sanctuary, but she thinks of her car as a second home. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley of the 1980s, a mall-centric autotopia, so it makes sense. But, at twenty years old, it’s not the sort of mentality that I’ve grown to share.Read more
The Day of Remembrance Road Concert loop traverses DTLA’s Historic Core, moving southwesterly along Spring and northeasterly along Main, passing LAPD Headquarters, the LA Times Building, $9 flat rate public parking lots, the Hotel Cecil, City Hall, and other landmarks. Works can be in one location, many locations, or no location in particular. Participating artists don't need to be physically present and may choose to make downloadable work.