CityWatch, Nov 27, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 97
City Council President Eric Garcetti is raising eyebrows as he tosses obstacle after obstacle at Hollywood's proposed car-share program, only to have reality contradict his objections.
Bechir Blagui, the operator of Hollywood Rent A Car, went to City Council last week to ask for help in establishing an electric car charging station on Hollywood Boulevard, located at a dedicated parking space, that would support his proposed electric car-share program along with the electric cars of those in the community.
Garcetti responded to Blagui's request for help by offering moral support tempered by the admonition that state law regulated the establishment of electric charging stations on the street. He offered to work together with Bechir to change the vehicle code and to make it happen. "That's why we're here!"
A visit to Montana Avenue in Santa Monica yielded the discovery of two electric charging stations, positioned on the sidewalk and supported by dedicated parking spaces, all in direct contradiction to Garcetti's "state regulated" reality and his claim of the need for a change to the law.
When a photo of the Montana Avenue charging stations was forwarded to Garcetti, he responded, "This is a great example of a public charger on the street (I've used it many times!). This is an open-to-the-public example (different than a dedicated space for an individual business), but a great example that it can be done."
What happened to the "Let's work together to change State Law!" objection?
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Mike Feuer's Transportation Deputy responded to Garcetti's "state law" objection by saying "I checked with our legislative director in Sacramento and he does not know of any such legislation."
Garcetti's "it can be done" affirmation came on the tail end of a revised objection, claiming Bechir's request was for a "dedicated space for an individual business." Bechir responded by pointing out that his request was not for an exclusive space but for an open charging station, accessible to the public. Either way, it turned out to be irrelevant.
A visit to Adams Boulevard just north of USC yielded the discovery of two parking spaces, on the street, empty and supported by signage that indicated they were for the exclusive use of the ZipCar Company, all in direct contradiction to Garcetti's ""individual business" reality and the need to maintain "open-to-the-public" parking.
There are approximately a dozen parking spaces in the USC neighborhood and approximately a dozen more in the UCLA neighborhood, all designated as ZipCar spaces and supported by Tow Away signs.
The parking spaces are in densely populated areas where parking is at a premium, most are on the street while some are on school property and some are in City controlled parking structures.
The City's ability to offer dedicated parking spaces for car-share programs is supported by State Law that went into effect on January 1, 2007. California Vehicle Code Section 5205.5 specifies that cities have the authority to reserve public, on-street parking spaces for the exclusive use of vehicles participating in a car-share vehicle program.
Bechir's quest for a Hollywood car-share program, offering electric community cars, supported by a charging station on Hollywood Boulevard, open to the public and accessible 24 hours a day, has led him to the LADOT, the DWP, Councilman LaBonge's office, City Council President Eric Garcetti's office, Assemblyman Mike Feuer's office, the City Council, the streets of Santa Monica, the neighborhoods surrounding USC and UCLA and all he has to show for his travails is a request from Garcetti's Transportation Deputy to do more research for a meeting next month.
Why is it so difficult to get support for a car-share program in Hollywood? Does the City of Los Angeles have an exclusive deal with ZipCar?
Just last year, Mayor Villaraigosa announced a partnership with ZipCar and gushed "Los Angeles may be the car capital of the world, but through this partnership among universities, ZipCar and the City of Los Angeles we are opening the door to make car ownership optional for people who live or work here."
"Providing alternatives to car ownership will help improve the environment and the city's traffic congestion," Villaraigosa said.
Unfortunately, ZipCar is only interested in offering cars in the USC and UCLA areas and the maximum number of vehicles was projected to be less than two dozen in a city of four million people.
It has been over two years since the City of Los Angeles authorized the LADOT to solicit car-share companies to participate in a "one-year car-sharing pilot in the City of Los Angeles."
In the letter that went to the "big four" car-share companies, the city claimed the right "to grant exclusive car-sharing service rights to a single provider or non-exclusive rights to several providers in each pilot area depending on the level of interest in each area."
At first pass, there were no takers but a second effort yielded the ZipCar company and a thin commitment of 20 vehicles, located at USC and UCLA. The pilot program was initially scheduled to start in mid-February 2008 and was projected to last for one-year.
If ZipCar is only interested in providing car-share services to the USC and UCLA neighborhoods, is the City of LA "holding" the Hollywood neighborhood and considering offering it as an exclusive territory to a car-share company?
Is the LADOT relying on City Attorney advice that the City of Los Angeles can "sole source a contract for car-sharing service" as it conducts the "pilot project" at USC and UCLA?
Does the USC/UCLA project prevent car-share programs from being implemented in other areas of the city?
Perhaps the City of Los Angeles is waiting for the W Hotel and Residences on Hollywood Boulevard to open. Several years ago, during the community outreach phase of the project, locals were assured that traffic mitigation measures such as a car-share program and a bike-share facility were to be incorporated into the development.
Of course, that was during the "courting" phase, now that construction is nearing completion, one must take those early "promises" with a grain of salt.
Maybe Garcetti is holding Hollywood's car-share program in reserve for the Clarret Group's Blvd 6200 Project. Two years ago, in an interview with The Planning Report, Garcetti gushed, "This is a very important development for Hollywood. It is probably the largest residential development that I’ll work on in my time."
Garcetti apparently negotiated a $2 million Clarett contribution to the Hollywood Mobility Trust Fund along with a commitment to host a car-share program on Hollywood Boulevard.
Whatever the explanation, the people of Los Angeles deserve straight talk and real solutions, not false obstacles and the run-around.
(Stephen Box is a transportation advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)