City to restore all Playa del Rey traffic lanes

LOS ANGELES — Responding to public backlash, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Oct. 18 that all the remaining traffic lanes that were removed in Playa del Rey will be restored.

The city recently restored some lanes in the neighborhood, but all that were removed on Culver Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard and Pershing Drive also will be brought back into the traffic grid.

The city also will be adding new safety features, including speed feedback signs, flashing beacon crosswalks and new crosswalks.

The lane reductions — or “road diets” — were done in May as part of a pilot safety program and in some instances removed traffic lanes in both directions.

The changes generated a significant backlash among some residents and business operators, who said they resulted in traffic jams. An effort to recall Bonin was begun by a group of residents angered over the traffic.

“This pilot program has shown us that lane reductions are not the right approach in Playa del Rey, but we can and will find a way to ease congestion and improve traffic safety in this neighborhood,” Garcetti said.

“We have the will and know-how to find smart, balanced, effective and flexible solutions — and I’m confident that the new safety measures we are putting in place will help us accomplish those goals.”

The lane reductions were done as part of the Safe Streets for Playa del Rey pilot program, which did not include some other nearby lane reductions that were a part of other projects, including along Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista.

The city has restored lanes on Vista Del Mar and part of Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey.

“From the beginning of the Safe Streets for Playa del Rey initiative, community feedback has been a crucial component in creating a safe and inviting community,” Bonin said.

“Reducing the frequency and severity of traffic collisions is one of the top public safety imperatives for the city of Los Angeles, and the community-supported safety improvements we are announcing will help keep people in Playa del Rey safe.”

The lane reductions were meant to improve safety. Between 2003 and 2016, 244 collisions that resulted in injuries occurred along Pershing Drive, Culver Boulevard and Jefferson Boulevard, and eight people lost their lives, according to city data.

“It’s because of the Recall Bonin campaign efforts, along with local grassroots organizations and local businesses, that we were able to get L.A. City Hall to back down,” said Alexis Edelstein, co-chair of the Recall Bonin campaign.

“We’re happy that Bonin — amid the pressure of a recall — was brought to heel. However we’re not done,” Edelstein said in a statement.

“There are still 19 streets in Bonin’s district that are slated for reconfigurations including Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, where injury collision rates are up 7 percent since the lanes were removed. Residents and businesses alike should be troubled by the upcoming plans. We won’t stop our efforts until all of the roads are safe.”

Edelstein told City News Service that the “reconfigurations” he referred to in his statement does not mean lane reductions, but are 19 streets the city has pegged for potential safety changes in its Vision Zero and Mobility Plan 2035 guidelines.

Although the changes have not been specified and could end up meaning an addition of a crosswalk or other similar safety feature that is not a lane reduction, Edelstein said he doesn’t trust the city to conduct any changes in a proper way.

“We’re not opposed to any safety changes whatsoever, but what we have seen is ill thought out,” Edelstein said.

As to Venice Boulevard, Edelstein disputed statistics that were put out by Bonin in a recent newsletter that contradict Edelstein’s statement that injury collisions are up 7 percent.

According to Bonin’s newsletter, statistics show that average monthly collisions on Venice are down 22 percent since the lane reductions, and injuries from collisions on Venice Boulevard are down 10 percent.

Edelstein pointed to his group’s website that said city Department of Transportation statistics show that although fewer cars are moving through Venice Boulevard and few accidents have occurred, the percentage of injuries per 100,000 cars has gone up.

Lane restoration work is scheduled to begin on Culver and Jefferson on Oct. 27, with work on Pershing beginning in November.

A remaining stretch of Vista Del Mar, from Waterview to Culver Boulevard, will remain narrowed until after the Bureau of Engineering completes work in the area on the Dual Force Main project, according to Bonin’s office.

Playa del Rey traffic lanes to be restored

LOS ANGELES — A group leading an effort to recall City Councilman Mike Bonin over a series of lane reductions on Westside streets welcomed his announcement that some of the lanes are coming back in Playa del Rey and credited pressure from its members for the development.

Bonin announced on Facebook Oct. 2 that the city will be restoring a second westbound traffic lane on Culver and Jefferson boulevards.

The Recall Bonin campaign, which was formed after the lane closures were enacted over the summer, issued a statement saying the group “is happy to hear that Councilmember Mike Bonin has capitulated for the second time in as many months to public pressure placed on him by our efforts to recall him. As we celebrate our second big win, we recognize that Bonin’s decision was made under duress and under fear of being recalled.”

Bonin said the decision was made based on feedback from a community panel he had formed, the Playa del Rey Safer Streets Task Force.

“The plan was approved after the task force listened to the concerns of small businesses in Playa del Rey regarding increased traffic, and I’m very proud of the hard work that advocates, neighbors and business leaders on all sides of this issue have done to come to consensus on provide this quick relief to [Playa del Rey] businesses,” Bonin said in the Facebook post.

Bonin also said the changes were an interim measure to improve traffic while the task force continues to study more permanent solutions.

“It’s my hope that this first agreement on an issue of vital importance to [Playa del Rey] businesses will lead to greater cooperation on all sides, and a comprehensive solution for Playa del Rey that enhances street safety and minimizes traffic congestion,” Bonin said.

The city closed 9.4 miles of lanes over the summer along Venice Boulevard, Pershing Drive, Jefferson Boulevard, Vista del Mar and Culver Boulevard, reducing them one lane in each direction. Bonin called the changes a safety improvement while detractors called it “one-lane madness.” Other than the recall effort, two lawsuits also were filed over the lane reductions.

Bonin announced in July that the city would return a lane to Vista del Mar, conceding that “most people outright hated” the change. He also announced that he would be forming the traffic task force, which was comprised of residents who both support and oppose the changes.

Bonin has represented the Westside’s District 11 since 2013, and he was easily re-elected in March with 71 percent of the vote. To initiate a recall election, around 27,000 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters in the district, would need to be gathered.

Recent history shows the recall of a City Council member is an uphill battle.

Councilman Paul Krekorian was re-elected in District 2 in 2015 with 74 percent of the vote, and an effort was launched to recall him in 2016 by residents upset about development issues, but they were unable to collect enough signatures. A recall effort against former Councilman Jack Weiss also failed in 2007 because enough signatures were not gathered.

 

City Council toughens food truck parking penalties

LOS ANGELES — The City Council amended a municipal ordinance Aug. 22 to crack down on food truck operators who regularly park illegally in residential areas and “eat” the cost of the parking ticket as part of their overhead.

Food trucks are allowed to park in residential neighborhoods for up to 30 minutes, but city law only allows one ticket to be issued per day for a violation.

The amended ordinance — which only applies to food trucks and requires Mayor Eric Garcetti’s signature to become law — would create escalated penalties for each 30-minute increment during a parking violation in a residential area. The amendment was approved on a 14-0 vote.

“The current ordinance is as a single ticket, and folks sort of incorporate it as a cost of doing business,” Councilman Mike Bonin said. “This adds a tiered fine structure so that if you don’t move after getting a ticket after 30 minutes, you can get a second and then you can get a third.”

The motion to amend the ordinance sailed through the Transportation Committee earlier this year, but was delayed for a vote by the full council several times as the city addressed objections raised by the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association.

At a Transportation Committee meeting on Aug. 9, Bonin said the amendment had been refined slightly since it was initially approved in the spring to clarify the definition of a residential street and block and specify how far a truck would have to move to avoid receiving another ticket, which is a half-mile.

Bonin chairs the Transportation Committee and also introduced the motion calling for the amendment.

Matt Geller, CEO of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, said his organization still objects to the amendment and plans to file a lawsuit challenging it. He said he has been raising concerns with the city and Bonin’s office for months but has been largely ignored.

“They just didn’t care about anything regarding input,” Geller told City News Service. “They don’t return my phone calls. They don’t return emails. Nothing.”

Bonin said the idea for the ordinance grew out of complaints that food truck operators in the Brentwood area were illegally parking and refusing to move. The trucks were becoming a safety hazard in some areas, including the intersection of Bundy Drive and Shetland Lane, where several serious auto collisions have occurred, he said.

In June, Geller pointed out that the existing ordinance the council is seeking to amend was declared unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge in 2009, and the same year, then-LAPD Chief William Bratton sent out a memo telling officers not to enforce the ordinance due to the court’s ruling.

A spokesman for Bonin’s office did not return a call seeking comment, but Geller said because the original ordinance was being altered he was told the city believes it is no longer the same ordinance that was declared unconstitutional.

Geller also said the amended ordinance does not address the issue of public safety, because it would not prevent another food truck from immediately taking another’s place for 30 minutes, or for a delivery truck or an RV from parking in the same place and receiving escalating tickets, so the safety hazard could remain.

“If there’s an actual public safety concern on sight lines, then there is an actual public safety concern on Fed Ex trucks as well. Or on giant vehicles,” Geller said. “And if that spot is as good as they say, then as soon as a truck moves another one is just going to pop into its place. Now instead of one truck for four hours, you’re going to have four to eight trucks for four hours. If it’s a public safety concern, then why are you OK with it being unsafe for 30 minutes?”

Geller also said his organization was in favor of an ordinance that just addressed the problem area in Brentwood or that imposed height regulations on trucks in residential neighborhoods.

“This is a group of West L.A. residents that are going to dictate food truck policy across the city. It’s just these two trucks [in Brentwood], and I wish I could tell those two trucks to get lost. They’ve been talked to and they just don’t care,” Geller said. “And that’s very, very frustrating, but it’s also not fair to communities that rely on food trucks for a night out to dinner.”