Culver City Edition

Westside residents file suit over traffic lane reductions

LOS ANGELES — A group of residents on the Westside announced Aug. 10 that they have filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over a series of controversial lane reductions on key streets in the Playa del Rey area.

A group called KeepLAMoving is challenging the “road diets” the city instituted recently with the support of Councilman Mike Bonin which reduced parts of Venice Boulevard, Pershing Drive, Jefferson Boulevard, Vista del Mar and Culver Boulevard to one lane in each direction.

Bonin advertised the changes as a series of needed safety improvements, while opponents called it “one-lane madness” that made an area already known for traffic even more congested. Amid the rising uproar, KeepLAMoving started raising money online for the legal challenge and has so far raised just over $22,000.

An online petition calling for an end to the project gathered thousands of signatures, and another online campaign has formed to try and recall Bonin.

“These were established regional arterials, not neighborhood side streets,” KeepLAMoving Director Karla Mendelson said. “Bonin has lost sight of the fact that people who live, work, own businesses, pay taxes and vote in his district have been deeply affected and endangered by his actions. They feel it every day.”

The city already has reversed of some of the changes, including adding a lane back to Culver Boulevard, and the city will soon start bringing a lane back in each direction on Vista del Mar beginning Aug. 21.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation estimated it would take two to three weeks to restore a lane in both directions on Vista del Mar.

One additional travel lane southbound from Waterview Street to Imperial Highway will be returned, and one additional travel lane northbound from Imperial Highway to Napoleon Street on will be restored, officials said.

Parking spaces that had been added on Vista del Mar also will be removed.

The councilman has also acknowledged the significant opposition to the changes, and admitted in a YouTube video in July that “most people outright hated” the changes on Vista del Mar.

In the video, Bonin announced that a new Road Safety Task Force — consisting of residents, business operators and safety advocates — will evaluate and make recommendations on road projects in the area.

Bonin’s spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which named the city as a defendant, alleges that the city did not follow proper California Environmental Quality Act procedures, did not produce a required environmental impact report and did not hold public hearings on some of the changes.

“At stake here are not just the safety and quality of life issues, but Bonin’s abuse of public trust,” said Ed McPherson, a member of the group and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “From the lack of an environmental impact report and public hearings, to the outright misrepresentation of facts and data, this has been one example of governmental overreach after another. Not to mention the attempt to pass these very unsafe road diets off as emergency safety measures.”

KeepLAMoving said the changes have in fact made the local streets less safe because more commuters are speeding through side streets to try and avoid the clogged thoroughfares.

“We’ve documented 27 accidents in two months,” said John Russo, chief analytics officer for KeepLAMoving. “That’s an astounding increase of 132 percent over the previous average of just 11.6 per year. The fact is, our streets are not safer. Our residential streets are being deluged with cars cutting through to avoid the gridlock created on the arterials, our businesses are dying, air pollution is noticeably worse, and our quality of life has diminished.”