CityWatch, August 19, 2008
Vol 6 Issue 67
By Stephen Box
For the last three weeks, the agendas of the Transportation Commission, the Transportation Committee and the City Council have contained LADOT proposals to increase the speed limits on streets throughout the San Fernando Valley.
In spite of the almost year long effort that precedes the speed limit proposal’s appearance on the agenda, this is often the first time the community has heard of the speed limit proposals and the 72 –hour notification process doesn’t give much time for reaction.
At issue are the speed limit surveys that the LADOT performs in order to certify the speed limits of local streets in order to issue certificates that allow the LAPD to enforce the speed limits with radar.
The process consists of the LADOT asking the LAPD if they would like to continue using radar. “Sure!”
The LADOT notifies the affected City Council office by email that they are providing the LAPD with the means to enforce the speed limits. “Great!”
The LADOT works with the City Attorney to write the new ordinances for the increased speed limits that resulted from the speed limit surveys. “Excellent!”
The speed limit increases are presented to the Transportation Commission and traffic engineers explain the very efficient process. “Bravo!”
The same speed limit increases are now presented to the Transportation Committee and the same traffic engineers explain the same very efficient process. “Encore!”
The City Council musters a quorum and the proposals are bundled up and approved as part of the consent calendar and a very tight year-long process takes place with nary a speed bump…unless the community finds out!
Three weeks ago, the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council noted the agenda items referring to speed limit increases on three streets in the West Valley and sent a letter to the Transportation Commission saying, "These proposals were never presented to the Neighborhood Council.” How does the NC advise the City on the delivery of services if the LADOT doesn’t present to the NC?
The Transportation commission voted unanimously to reject the LADOT proposals and advised the LADOT to communicate with the neighborhood council.
Two weeks ago, several speed limit increases appeared on the agenda for the Transportation Committee. Members of the Bike Writers Collective showed up to speak in protest but the protests fell on deaf ears.
The Transportation Committee voted unanimously to approve the LADOT proposals, pulling only the Zelzah Avenue proposal. (Subject of School, NC and Chamber objections, pulled at the request of Councilman Smith)
Last week, the Transportation Commission met and the West Valley speed limit proposals were back on the agenda. The speed limit proposals hadn’t been presented to the Neighborhood Council Board for input and in fact the WHWCNC had met the night before and approved a motion opposing any recommendations that don’t first come to the NC for approval.
The Transportation Commission, to its credit, grappled with the issue but ultimately resolved that it is not within their authority to require the LADOT to interact with the Neighborhood Councils.
The Commission voted to approve the LADOT speed limit increase proposals (Commissioner Carson voted against the proposals, not just because they had not gone before the NC’s but because of his concern with the larger issue of “raising the speed limits” and the significant impact on quality of life in the community)
Over the last three weeks the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council has been joined by the Granada Hills South NC, the Northridge East NC, the Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce, LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan and concerned community members who all believe that the LADOT should involve the community in the business of the community.
Rita Robinson, General Manager of the Department of Transportation, acknowledged that the current system does not require the LADOT to present its projects and proposals to the Neighborhood Councils but that she was open to exploring possibilities for better communication.
The City Charter provides that information from the City Council, Council committees and City boards and commissions should be sent to Certified Neighborhood Councils as soon as practical so that they are afforded as much opportunity as is practical to provide comment before decisions are made. It also provides that City department officials should have periodic meetings with neighborhood councils.
It is now up to the Neighborhood Councils to establish a standard for communication and a process for making it happen.
Perhaps the place to begin is the already existing unsigned Memorandum of Understanding between councils and Robinson’s LADOT. The MOU could set the minimum standard for communication.
LADOT. Neighborhood councils. It’s time to start talking. Care to join me?
(Stephen Box is a long-time community issues advocate. Box writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)