Monday, February 04, 2008

Villaraigosa's Plan for a Car-Free City Hall

In an effort to cut the budget deficit, LA’s Mayor San Antonio has announced plans to reduce the City motor pool and eliminate the “home garage” perk that a significant number of City Hall staffers currently enjoy.

Opponents to the plan argue that this would mean that staffers would have to rely on personal cars, many of them gas-guzzling SUVs, minivans and sedans.

Sadly, none of our City’s leadership looked at this situation and realized that this is an opportunity to get our City staff onto the streets, literally, on foot, on a bike or on mass transit.

How far have we NOT come in our march to becoming the “greenest and cleanest big city in America” if it’s simply not an option for our leadership to get out of the car and go for a walk!

This is a good time for the Mayor and the City Council to act aggressively, not only to cut costs, but to really lay down a city-wide commitment to supporting and promoting alternative transportation.

SoapBoxLA proposals:

Hire local – The City of Los Angeles could reduce congestion as well as its travel expenses simply by hiring local and encouraging city employees to walk, ride or use transit.

How is it that the Mayor’s first rep to Hollywood lived in Palmdale and commuted to Hollywood in order to represent the Mayor. Are there no people living in Hollywood qualified to work for the Mayor? (No word yet on the new rep)

Hollywood is on the Red Line. If the Mayor sends out the signal, his reps can jump on the Metro and be at City Hall faster than those traveling by single occupant vehicle. (SOV)

Take it all the way through the departments! A City Council motion to requiring the General Managers of City Departments to live in the city has been floating for years with no success. Not even GM’s are required to live in the city?

At one point, LADOT had a GM who commuted from home in San Jose to work in Los Angeles.

How great would it be if City Staff actually walked the same streets, used the same bus stops, shopped at the same stores and could actually relate to the issues of our unique communities from the inside, not just from workshops and discussions and hearings.

Hiring locally will also force us to confront the housing shortage. Staffers currently explain that their choice to live in other communities is based on a lack of affordable housing. We need to be talking about this and the answer is not to have City staff live in surrounding communities, it’s to grab the bull by the horns, confront the housing issue and get busy dealing with the shortage.

Once we’ve got staff out of the SOV’s and living in the neighborhoods they serve the next step will be:

Accessibility - Hold all meetings at locations that are accessible for peds, cyclists and transit users. This simple step will go a long way in reducing congestion in our neighborhoods. It will also go a long way in enlightening our City Staff on the issues faced by those who live in the neighborhood. Staff will truly experience first hand the lack of amenities for those who walk, pedal and ride transit.

For example, the Griffith Park Master Plan Working Group holds its meeting at the Ranger Station in Griffith Park. There is no evening bus service, it’s a long walk with minimal amenities for peds and it’s dark, way dark.

This commitment to meeting locations with full access should be complemented by full promotion on all meeting announcements of pedestrian access, bike parking locations and transit routes that service the locations. Current meeting information typically promotes parking directions as if parking is a birthright! Stop giving away “free parking” as if it’s free!

Once we’ve got the community out of the SOV-only paradigm, the next step will be:

Car Pool – Get the “City Family” to car pool with the other Agencies that hold meetings in our communities. In fact, hold the meetings together and perhaps even start to work together!

Our communities currently host meetings held by the LAUSD, the CRA, the Metro, SCAG, Caltrans, LAPlanning, LADOT, DWP, RAP, CERT, our NCs, our City Council, our City Council Committees, and it goes on and on. We’re getting met to death.

It is impossible to attend all the meetings of all the departments and agencies that have a piece of the neighborhood. It requires full time focus just to monitor, forget about participating and advocating and attempting to affect the process and the outcome.

If these departments and agencies held meetings in the communities together, perhaps they would get to know each other and perhaps they would start to work together.

For example, the LAUSD is coming to the neighborhood but they are unaware of the NC structure in the neighborhood, they are unaware of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment. The community organizers were even unaware of the City’s early notification system!

Why is it up to the community to point out conflict and disconnect between departments and agencies?

Why is it up to the community to chase from one department to the next when the “Community Family” has a mandate to work together, represent the people and improve the quality of life in our community?

Three weeks ago the LACounty Transportation Funding Collaborative held an all day session entitled “It’s Time to Move LA!”

Two weeks ago SCAG held hearings on its Regional Transportation Plan.

Last week the LA City Council held an all-day session to present its Strategic Transportation Plan.

The Metro is currently holding Westside Extension Transit Corridor hearings.

The LA Planning Department and LADOT will be holding Bicycle Master Plan Workshops in the next few weeks.

All these meetings on transportation and traffic congestion relief and solutions (complete with free parking!) will wear out even the most committed of community activists.

Is this the intention?

If not, let’s consolidate, work together, bring the whole “Community Family” together and get back to the business of improving the quality of life in our community!

Ultimately, the Mayor’s simple proposal to get rid of some of the City’s motor pool has in it the ability to create significant connectivity in our city.

By hiring local city staff, by holding meetings that are accessible to all modes of travel and by getting the “Community Family” to carpool, literally as well as figuratively, we will have gone a long way to better representing our communities and improving the quality of life for all.

1 comment:

ubrayj02 said...

One thing that is so strange about this "green" Mayor of ours: his damned "Tiger Team" of transportation gurus want to turn Pico and Olympic into freeways.

How is piping more cars through out city going to make it any "greener"?