CityWatch, Jan 16, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 5
The City Council's Transportation Committee put the brakes on the LADOT's proposed West Valley speed limit increases, directing the LADOT to allow the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council (WHWCNC) the opportunity to weigh in on the Corbin Ave., Fallbrook Ave., and Mulholland Drive surveys. Public opposition to the five proposed speed limit increases included several different objections but it was the simple complaint of flawed civic engagement, of ineffective outreach, of a year long journey without public participation that resonated most. The Committee resolved the issue by deferring City Council action until after the community and the LADOT take the proposals to the public.
Of the five speed limit increase proposals on the agenda, two of them, Saticoy Street and White Oak Avenue, were not affected by the Committee's ruling. They stand approved and there will be no additional public presentation or hearing before they go to the City Council for final approval.
At issue is the routine maintenance or recertification of the speed limits on the City's streets that are certified for radar or lasar speed limit enforcement.
There are approximately 700 street segments in the City that are certified for radar or lasar and each year approximately 100 of them come up for recertification. Of those 100 speed limit surveys, approximately 20 resulted in recommendations of an increase in speed limit so that the prevailing speed might better match the speed limit.
This process is in accordance with the State's 85% rule, aka the "speed trap" law, which calls for the setting the speed limit so that 85% of the motorists are considered driving at legal speed, which then allows the LAPD to enforce the speed limit with radar or laser. Or as the LADOT's Principal Engineer, Allen Willis, puts it: "In other words, the public gets to vote on the speed limit with their gas pedals."
Arguments against the process include calls to explore street calming techniques so that the prevailing speed matches the speed limit. Instead of raising the speed limit, for example, using tools such as speed humps, speed tables, road diets, lane reconfiguration, signal positioning and signal timing, that would make the streets more accessible to other modes of travel, such as pedestrians and cyclists.
"This is great for our Neighborhood Council and for our community.,” noted Jim Anderson, Chair of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council Public Safety Committee, “Our commitment is to partner with the LAPD and the LADOT to make sure our streets are safe for everybody, not just for motorists but for everybody. The Town Hall that I'm planning will give us the opportunity to work together and to engage our community." (Stephen Box writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreateive.net )