PLAYA DEL REY, CA -- August 9, 2017 -- While Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin has yet to fulfill his promise to return lanes along a key arterials connecting his district with the South Bay, a local citizens’ rights group has made good on a promise of its own. Today, KeepLAMoving filed a lawsuit [https://keeplamoving.com/lawsuit/] challenging the so-called “Road Diets” Bonin had the LADOT implement in Playa del Rey just days after filing a Letter of Determination announcing the project on May 31.
Lanes on four critical roads – Vista del Mar, Culver, Pershing and Jefferson – were “repurposed” into bike lanes and parking in what Bonin called his “Safer Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative.” The District 11 Councilmember explained that his plan was to force drivers to use other roads, including the 405, instead of the longstanding arterials designated to serve coastal communities.
“These were established regional arterials, not neighborhood side streets. 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,” said Karla Mendelson, Director of KeepLAMoving, “They feel it every day.”
The backlash was immediate, as commutes lengthened by hours each week, access to beaches and homes was impeded, and local business suffered devastating losses. Most are reporting a 15%-20% drop in revenue, with some citing declines as high as 40%. Ironically, the accident rate skyrocketed along these corridors, and with no way through the gridlock, Emergency Response teams are finding it much harder to reach crash scenes. With school set to start, residents expect the situation will worsen exponentially.
“We’ve documented 27 accidents in two months,” notes Playa del Rey resident and KeepLAMoving Chief Analytics Officer, John Russo. “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.” Russo says his group believes there are many valid ways to improve safety on his town's roads, “but this road diet is just a poorly planned and executed approach.”
Ed McPherson, a member of the group and co-counsel in the lawsuit, agrees. “At stake here are not just the safety and quality of life issues, but Bonin’s abuse of public trust.” In their 53 page petition, KeepLAMoving alleges that the City did not follow proper CEQA procedure, denying residents their due process before the project commenced. “ 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.”
“What’s more,” Mendelson contends, “This is an egregious misappropriation of public funds.” She cites the fact that Councilmember Bonin, who is also the chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, proposed a plan allocating 60% of the City’s Measure M funds to such Vision Zero projects. The proposal was passed by the Committee in a 3-2 vote, defying the City staff recommendation that two-thirds of Measure M money be used for repaving the City’s most deteriorated streets. Says Mendelson, “Measure M was sold to the public as a promise to fix our roads, not make them worse.“
“Citizens have the right to open and honest dialog, real data and factual representations of projects affecting their lives and livelihoods,” concludes Russo. “What’s happened to us here is not only unsafe, it’s un-democratic. The problem is Bonin and his fellow lawmakers are planning to do this to at least 40 other major boulevards around the city.” As a result, residents from around the region are uniting to push back against “road diets” being forced upon them, The Mar Vista and Virgil Street neighborhoods are among the areas where such efforts are being organized. For more information, visit KeepLAMoving.com.