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Rooting for the Grassroots of the Westside

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - It pleases me to no end that individuals still care enough about their neighborhood, city and even county to take time from their busy work, family and personal schedules to play the proverbial David against the Goliath of City Hall.  One prominent example of that type of volunteerism can be found in the Neighborhood Councils of Los Angeles. Another example can be found in the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee that meets once a month, which I am proud to co-chair with David Ewing of Venice.  Mr. Ewing and the rest of that Committee are involved with quite a few issues outside of the world of transportation, but they feel obliged to play whatever role they can (whenever they can) if there’s a chance they can make a difference.

From Brentwood to Westchester, from Venice to Palms, and everywhere in between (and even from some folks outside of CD11, particularly from CD5), these individuals give up their time and energy every month to take on the powerful political aristocracy, the equally powerful developers and lobbyists who push the citizenry around, and the City and County staff who are at times our allies and at times our obstacles towards achieving the greater good.

Of course, the definition of what comprises “the greater good” is entirely up for grabs and might be either elusive or arbitrary, depending on your perspective.  The committee has both bicycle advocates who can’t stand our car-based culture, and those who think that these advocates are not living in the real world.  The committee has environmentalists and those who think that environmentalists are the problem, not the solution (ditto with our budding Metro bus/train system).

What does appear to unite the committee is an understanding that the City of LA has an oligarchical hierarchy that ignores “the little people” and makes decisions that benefit a few at the expense of the majority.  

Which makes it fortunate, indeed, that we have a City Councilmember who wants our input—although it’s his prerogative to heed or skip our recommendations when it comes to Downtown votes.  However, since many of our CD11 (and CD5) committee members are also in neighborhood councils, it’s nice to know that the CD11 and CD5 Councilmembers are currently the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee.

It’s also fortunate that we live in a political culture where city council and mayoral staff are either personally interested or politically mandated to present to us and hear our input and recommendations, such as the Expo Authority Staff, the Metro Green/Crenshaw Line Staff, the 405 Freeway Widening Staff and the Westside Mobility Study Staff.

Of note is that the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee has voted to be the “go-to” grassroots group to advocate for an oft-discussed-but-never-properly-studied Westside-Valley passenger rail line that would be the north-south counterpart to the future Expo Line and Wilshire Subway.

It’s also recently voted to increase late-night transit service, oppose Metro’s free parking policy and advocate for more private and/or public parking for our rail lines, create a Westside Regional Plan for large developments to avoid more land use/transportation disasters to plague the Westside, and defend CEQA.

The Bundy Village Project?  We opposed it.  

The Bergamot Village Projects?  We fear them, even though they’re within the confines of Santa Monica, and outside our ability to effectively weigh in with sufficient clout.

The Casden (Exposition/Pico/Sepulveda) Project?  We await the upcoming EIR, and dread another “transit-oriented development” that’s using the Expo Line as an excuse to merely create another Westside overdeveloped project.

Speaking of which, how many of us have observed that transit advocates really don’t advocate for the aforementioned projects of this enormity?

While we’re on that subject, how many of us have observed that “transit-oriented development” is a term that’s been thrown around, abused and exploited as much as “affordable housing”?  Anyone reading this really know what “transit-oriented development” specifically means?  Really?   Reeeeally?

So the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee continues to push for greater input, transparency and outreach for the big projects that we’re hearing about, seeing, and perhaps even paying for (directly or indirectly).

Whether the Committee has been successful is up for interpretation.  I believe it has, at the very least in that it’s a group that governmental staff members, grassroots advocates and ordinary individuals can go to when big issues arise that will affect both our future and that of our future generations.

Most importantly, whether it’s as a team effort or as a group of individuals who can “spread the word” to their local neighborhoods and civic groups, the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee represents one more nail in the coffin of an era where everything was planned behind closed doors.

Particularly with respect to the Westside, the committee (and all it represents) is a big step forward to promoting the paradigm that for big projects to move forward, they have to achieve the vetting, planning and support of the general public—which now has another opportunity to articulate its input whenever the need arises.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) –cw

Tags: Ken Alpern, West LA, Neighborhood Councils, Venice, Palms, Brentwood, Westchester

Vol 10 Issue 15
Pub: Feb 21, 2012