In an attempt to track and measure progress in the on-going fight for a more livable Northeast LA, we introduced the monthly “NELA Livable Streets Roundup.” Now with a full year of posts in the books, it’s time to take the best of the best and see how 2018 fared overall. In general while there was forward momentum, the rate of progress must increase dramatically in order to transform Northeast LA into a sustainable, livable community. Let’s take a look…
Best Infrastructure Improvement
What remains most fascinating about this particular project is the urgency and smart coordination with which it was implemented. The first community meeting for the project was hosted in March 2017. Just over a year later, the project was completed in tandem with routine street resurfacing, which means the bike lanes, crosswalk upgrades, and center turn lane all were achieved for free since the street gets re-striped when it is resurfaced anyway.
The only problem is that this project occurred in isolation. If we have any hope of creating a more sustainable future, we need at least half a dozen such cheap and effective street transformation in NELA every year. Other streets in NELA that would be ideal for converting vehicle lanes for bike lanes in 2019 would be Verdugo Road, Yosemite Drive, Townsend Avenue, Avenue 64, Griffin Avenue, and Eastern Avenue.
Runner up – 30MPH Speed Limt on York Boulevard: Another worthwhile livability enhancement that occurred in 2018 include the reduction in posted speed limit on York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and San Pascual Avenue from 35mph to 30mph. The reduction in speed limit was legally allowed because the majority of drivers were going at about 30mph on York Boulevard (likely as a result of the road diet that took place some years ago). This arguably is not an infrastructure “improvement” but a byproduct of the positive traffic calming effect of York Boulevard’s road diet that was put in place 13 years ago.
Runner up – Avenue 26 and Humboldt Avenue Traffic Signal: Also worth mentioning is the new traffic signal and crossing that went up at the intersection of Humboldt Avenue and Avenue 26. Humboldt Avenue is used informally as a low-stress bike route between Northeast LA and Downtown that avoids the craziness of North Figueroa and Pasadena Avenue and freeway on/off ramps. Unfortunately, it’s ill-advised to use this bike route after dark as there are numerous potholes and can feel isolated. The biggest issue with Humboldt has long been trying to cross the busy Avenue 26 but now one can safely do so thanks to the traffic signal.
Best Livability Campaign
- Winner – Rock The Boulevard: The Eagle Rock Association (TERA) spearheaded a partnership with Council District 14 and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council to develop a community-inspired blue print for a safer Eagle Rock Boulevard. Over the course of half a year, TERA worked to hold community meetings and workshops and get input from a wide range of stakeholders. The result was a compelling vision plan created by consultant Deborah Murphy incorporating protected bike lanes, expanded medians, and new crosswalks. Now all that is missing is the funding…
Runner Up – Walnut Canyon Preservation: We admittedly don’t know much about this effort led by the Glassell Park Improvement Association but they appear to have made enough progress to enter some negotiation with the developer that wanted to build dozens of hillside homes on Walnut Canyon. This was an admirable effort that skillfully used branding, powerful pictures, lawn signs, and a website to rally neighbors for this cause. Best of luck to the GPIA as they continue their fight.
Runner Up – NoHo to Pasadena BRT Coalition: Individual community activists in Glendale, Eagle Rock, and Pasadena gave dogged support for routing the planned NoHo to Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on surface streets instead of along the 134 Freeway. Although there was no formal coalition, people were activated for every public meeting and sent emails, resulting in approximately 75% of public feedback favoring the surface street route, according to Metro. Metro has yet to make an official decision, but all signs point toward the agency picking the surface street route.
Runner Up – N/A
- Winner – Jose Huizar: Unfortunately the councilmember is caught in some controversy at the moment, but for this segment we will reflect on his record of delivering livability improvements. Simply put, there is no councilmember that is more visionary and pro-active in supporting progressive transportation on the city council, certainly not in Northeast LA or any of the other areas covered in this segment. What Huizar does well is that he articulates a vision, and then actively pursues it through infrastructure and policy. Most councilmembers are content keeping their seat warm and not making any waves. The better ones talk a good game about their vision, but very few actually take action. Huizar, despite his flaws, has likely done the most to make Northeast LA, and arguably the whole city, a better place for walking and bicycling in a very long time.
Runner Up: Mitch O’Farrell: O’Farrell doesn’t like to be bold. He is good on talk, especially if advocating for pedestrians and bus riders (he seldom acknowledges the hardships of bicycling in the City or at his worst dismisses it as a fringe activity), but appears content with the status quo. O’Farrell has no apparent vision for a more sustainable built environment or transportation system. He does a decent job of getting transit shelters installed, sidewalks repaired, and new traffic signals, but none of this shakes up the unsustainable, car-centric status quo. He’s far too comfortable antagonizing people that call him out on his lack of leadership on safe streets, even though he killed plans for bike lanes and road diets on Hyperion Bridge, Fletcher Drive, and Temple Street. And yet, despite all that, he remains the runner up for this category simply because of his steady stream of marginal pedestrian improvements, which just tells you how low the bar is set for this category.
And with that, we conclude our “Best of 2018.” Did we miss a category? Disagree with our results? Let us know in the comments.