Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CityWatchLA - Bike Path to Blight Path … and No One to Blame

CityWatch, Apr 28, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 34

The Orange Line Bike Path is 14 miles of bureaucratic "no-man's land"  and a jurisdictional "hot-potato" that has departments and agencies  scrambling for cover as the City's Transportation Committee asks "Hey! How did the Bike Path turn into a homeless encampment?"

Critics long ago warned that building a bike path with a fence on one   side, a wall on the other and surrounding it with bushes and trees   that grow up and out would result in an environment that is unsafe   for pedestrians and cyclists but hospitable to those who favor seclusion and a place to hide.

Those warnings were ignored and the predictions came true. The Orange Line Bike Path is now so overgrown that in some areas such as Van  Nuys, it is populated with homeless encampments. Making things worse is the close proximity of a recycling center and two liquor stores.  All very convenient for the campers but at the expense of the pedestrians, the cyclists and the local residents.

Two months ago, the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council convened a meeting   to address the situation, a meeting so well attended by agency and department reps that it seemed certain that the Bike Path was to be  cleaned up and reclaimed. Such was not the case.

This past week, the Transportation Committee jumped into the fray and convened a meeting to determine what went wrong and who is going to   fix it. The LADOT took the hot seat and explained the difficulty in supervising maintenance contracts and of working with the Metro and Rec & Parks and how the abundant overgrown landscaping wasn't their fault.

The LAPD was represented, Councilman Cardenas was represented and the Neighborhood Prosecutor, Tamar Galatzan also  appeared but nobody could explain who was in charge, who had authority and who had a plan.

Councilman Alarcon cut to the chase at one point in the "Who's  responsible?" debate and said simply "If it's LA's Bike Path then we  should take care of it!"

That should have been the point at which everybody stepped up but  instead we were treated to another round of "Yes, We Can't!"

Unfortunately, the Groupthink that prevents agencies and departments   from being "negative" and just calling it as they see it is still in   play and the LADOT, the Metro, the LAPD, the LASD, the Neighborhood   Prosecutor, the BOSS, LAHSA, the Councilmembers and anyone else with   a piece of the Bike Path are still having polite meetings where they dance about and explain why they're not responsible.

The Orange Line Bike Path has been around for a little over three  years. It was designed and built by the Metro and the LADOT Bikeways Department was there through the entire process. In fact the LADOT is so proud of the Orange Line that they have a presentation they take  to conferences taking credit for its success. Somewhere along the way, the responsibility for the Orange Line was formally transferred  to the LADOT which, based on results, dropped the ball.

Perhaps it's time to call in the DWP and have them cut down the  forest, relandscape with drought tolerant plants and create a 14 mile long demonstration garden on water conservation. Maybe we could plow it all under and plant a 14 mile long Victory  
Garden and use the wide stretches for a Farmer's Market.

Whatever we do, it is imperative that the LADOT stop paying its contractors until they execute their contracts.

It is also imperative that the LAPD clarify with dispatch and the  patrol officers that the Orange Line Bike Path is not the  responsibility of the Sheriff but is the responsibility of the LAPD.

If the Van Nuys area is to be cleaned up, it would also be wise to have the Neighborhood Prosecutor work with the ABC to address the two  liquor stores that cater to the "campers" and who are a blight on the  community.

As long as blight is on the radar, the recycling center has had a negative impact on the area and yet it continues to operate. It's time for us to work together to make our abatement programs work for  the neighborhood.

Most of all, we've got to get over our fear of raising the standards and offending other departments. We've got to evaluate performance  based on results, not on bureaucratic endurance. We've got to stop   settling for mediocrity and we've got to reach for greatness.

The Orange Line Bike Path is either a monument to our mediocrity or   it’s an opportunity to demonstrate our greatness. Either way, it's our   call. (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)


LADOT - The Los Angeles Department of Transportation. Within the  LADOT is the Bikeways Division, responsible for the Orange Line and  other bikeways facilities.   http://www.ladot.lacity.org

Metro - The Countywide Metropolitan Transit Authority. They are the  major operator of bus and rail service in Los Angeles County. http://www.metro.net/index.asp 

LAPD - The Los Angeles Police Department . They are responsible for the Bike Path. When calling 911 from a cell phone remember that it goes to the CHP. Program 213-928-8206 or 213-928-8208 into your cell phone so that you can get to LAPD dispatch quickly.http://www.lapdonline.org

LASD - The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. They are a County Agency under contract to provide services to the Metro. They patrol the Metro Stations, they are responsible for the busway and they respond if there is an incident on a bus. They are not responsible for the Bike Path. http://www.lasd.org

BOSS - LA's Bureau of Street Services. They are responsible for the 6500 miles of streets within Los Angeles. They pick up the abandoned furniture and they factor into this scenario on the Orange Line because of the homeless encampments and the amount of furniture that must sometimes be removed. You can reach them by calling 311. http://www.lacity.org/BOSS 

LAHSA - The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is a joint powers authority representing both the City of LA and the County of LA. You can access social services by calling 211. http://www.lahsa.org

Rec & Parks - The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks is sometimes mentioned when discussing bike paths because bike paths are often considered recreational facilities. In fact the LADOT fought all the way to the State Supreme Court to have bike paths declared recreational facilities so that the City would not be liable for injuries resulting from design or maintenance negligence. (Prokop vs. City of Los Angeles) LA prevailed and bike paths are now funded with transportation funding but then declared recreationa facilities. Meanwhile, Rec & Parks has little to do with bikeway facilities except when Bikeways was looking for someone to handle the Orange Line maintenance. http://www.laparks.org

ABC - The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issues and regulates liquor licenses. If the two liquor stores along the Orange Line Bike Path in Van Nuys are contributing to the problems, it must be documented and the ABC will consider this when evaluating the licenses. If the LAPD and the Neighborhood Prosecutor aren't documenting the incidents and their relation to the liquor stores, the ABC can't do its job. The local ABC agent must be involved in the Orange Line Task Force. http://www.abc.ca.gov

VNNC - The Van Nuys Neighborhood Council meets every month and on May 13, the full Board will convene to address the issues of the  community. Expect to see reps from the offices of Padilla and Cardenas and Villaraigosa as well as Bikeways, the LAPD, the Metro, the City Attorney's office and anyone else with a piece of the Orange Line Bike Path. http://vnnc.org


Anonymous said...

Great reporting. Thanks for staying on top of this, and filling in the blanks for all of us who wonder why things don't get done in this city. It really makes you wonder why no one seems to be empowered to just cut through the crap and get things done.

Interurbans said...

The Expo Line Phase II is under final design and a bike path is under consideration for this route which much of it is away from homes and roads and will be isolated. Will the designers of this new line learn form the experience of the Orange Bus Line bike path? The problems found on the Orange Bus Line path need to be addressed in the design of the Expo Line.