It's a battle for the future of Los Angeles, live and direct.
One month ago the L.A. City Council voted to adopt a visionary plan that would guide the transformation of the city from a car-crazed metropolis to one much more dependent on bikes, trains, buses and your feet.
They will pry the automobile from this Angeleno's cold, dead hands, but you have to hand it to a City Hall obsessed with sweating the small stuff, particularly under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose motto is "back to basics:"
The Mobility Plan 2035, five years in the making, has mad, much-needed vision for this global town. It's about time. In the two decades to come it would create 300 more miles of protected bike lines, expand public transportation and focus planning on pedestrian and Metro-friendly development.
The plan is the new blueprint for L.A.'s so-called Third Wave of growth in which the city is repopulating its core and focusing on more vertical, dense, public transportation–friendly housing and retail.
"The Mobility Plan 2035 proposes developing a network of bike lanes, transit lines and pedestrian-friendly streets to help encourage more people to choose to walk, bike or take public transit, taking cars off the road in L.A. neighborhoods," states the office of City Councilman Jose Huizar, a key backer of the document.
Enter a Westside nonprofit called Fix the City. Yesterday it announced it's taking the city to court in an attempt make the Mobility Plan hit the stop button and do a remix.
The suit alleges that the document seeks to tweak the city's all-important General Plan without having undergone proper environmental reviews and public airings. It seems like a fair set of allegations. City Hall has a habit of cooking up schemes in back rooms and then springing them on the people
"This was railroaded through City Hall on a fast track," says Laura Lake, a onetime City Council candidate from Westwood who sits on the board of Fix the City. "I believe that if people knew about it and we had a public debate, it would be voted down."
Perhaps the biggest peeve for the plaintiffs, however, is traffic.
You see, under the Mobility Plan 2035, things would get worse before they get better. As with a lot of grand plans — a bullet train to San Francisco, L.A.'s subway system, the Golden Gate Bridge — there will be suffering before there is cruising.
The suit puts it this way:
The EIR concluded that the implementation of MP2035 would have significant and unavoidable impacts to transportation and safety, substantially reducing the number of street segments citywide operating at acceptable impact levels as a result of plan implementation; and that there would be less congestion without the plan. As a result of the MP2035-related increased congestion, the EIR concluded that traffic would also divert onto parallel residential streets that are currently not as congested, increasing neighborhood traffic intrusion.
A key element of the plan is to change the way we live. Would a car lover like this author get on a bike if the streets were safer? Maybe. Build it and we will come.
But Fix the City isn't having it.
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"I think they did not come up with a vision," Fix the City's Lake says. "They came up with a scam. Choking traffic is not a good thing for adjacent streets, first responders or anyone who breathes the air."
The suit calls the plans aims "purported aspirational benefits." It says the plan doesn't abide by state environmental review standards nor by the city's own General Plan.
It seeks to halt implementation of the plan until it's made consistent with the General Plan and its requirements for public feedback.
"They should have gone back to the drawing board," Lake says.