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Park It, LA!

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APLERN AT LARGE-I was a bit surprised, but pleased, by the above-average amount of feedback I received on my last article about the Mayor's Parking Day effort in Boyle Heights to bring City Hall to the people.  

The surprisingly-high feedback numbers reinforced my belief that the average citizen really is engaged in making our quality of life better through both public works and cleaning up of local government waste and inefficiency: 

 

1) To begin with, I want to thank those who brought up the fact that--unlike freeway projects, which are funded with all the bells and whistles, light rail projects and busway/rapid bus projects are always budgeted on the cheap, with funds for betterments like train station amenities, safety and visibility improvements, and (of course) parking just not included. 

So when we rob funds that would otherwise go to mass transit for the 405 freeway project, it's a "no-brainer", but funds for more parking and the like for key Expo train stations becomes suddenly "uh-oh...expensive".  

Of course everything is expensive, but if it's needed the overwhelming majority of the taxpayers WON'T CARE so long as the money is spent well and in a transparent fashion. When the Red Line Subway was extended years ago to North Hollywood and Universal City, and ridership exploded with parking at those stations suddenly becoming a hot commodity, the first thing I thought was, "Hey, let's build 2-300 more spots to meet demand and facilitate access."  

I doubt I was the only one, but any parking enhancements always come with a fight that infuriates, not placates, taxpayers, who want MORE parking. History is repeating itself--according to Metro, the Culver City parking lot for the Expo Line (where the current western terminus exists as Phase 2 to Santa Monica is being built) begins to fill up by 6 am, and is full by 9:45 am.  

I predicted this because of the critical need of the Culver City station to fulfill the needs of the Westside while Phase 2 is being built, but it's also a freeway-adjacent location to the Venice Blvd. Rapid Bus. 

And it's my prediction that ridership for the Expo Line will continue to explode, and it's my prediction that parking needs at Culver City will continue to be underserved even after Phase 2 is completed and operational in 2015 or so.  

Not everyone can or wants to take the Rapid Bus on Venice to access the Expo Line, and it's not like there's parking access to the Venice Blvd. Rapid Bus (it's the transit line of "Expo to the Beach!"). Similarly, one of the main objections I had to the Casden project near the future Expo/Sepulveda station is that it would not pay for the increased parking needed for that site--that freeway-adjacent station will also, as with Culver City, be a huge destination for Expo Line and Sepulveda/Pico/Sawtelle transit riders, and will require up to 300 parking spaces or more that isn't forthcoming. 

On a similar note, bicycle parking spaces and bicycle parking lots, as well as first-rate bus stations and amenities that service Culver City and Expo/Sepulveda stations are also critical...but they're "expensive".  Show me a bicycle parking lot, or an automobile parking lot, that's busy and used and I'll show you a taxpaying majority that's just peachy and fine with paying for it so long as it's done on budget and with quality work. 

The $100 million or so for cost overruns of the 405 freeway widening projects (which I do not disagree with, or have problems with, by the way--that project is pretty legit but complicated to build) that was pulled from the Expo Line can be brought back to make sure Phase 1 and 2 of the Expo Line has the right amenities and access to make sure it's able to handle full capacity by 2020 … and I do predict that this light rail line, which is virtually an expansion/widening of the I-10 freeway corridor, will reach full capacity years before anyone predicted.  

As I've brought up repeatedly, it has features like Metrolink for intermodal transportation access and needs PARKING as much as does Metrolink.  It's the closest thing the Westside and Mid-City will have to Metrolink anytime soon, and I don't see Metrolink stations without parking! 

2) Folks, we've already GOT a parking meter fund to build more parking structures on major thoroughfares, but it keeps being raided by the City Council for general fund purposes.  And it's to be reminded that PARKING REALLY DOES GET PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR CARS, so both the City and private developers need to build more from whatever income sources we've got. Ditto for bus benches/shelters, and bicycle amenities, of course--arguing for one form of used and necessary transportation against another is as ridiculous a debate as arguing for food versus water. 

A note for the City Council and the Mayor:  get those parking structure funds rededicated--and paid back--for what they were intended to do before you ever make your future push for more taxes/bonds for transportation! 

And while you're at it, please do what Culver City and other municipalities do by giving variances to developers and businesses who build underground or other parking structures to serve the community.  

Parking is a resource that helps everyone, and structures or underground lots are the perfect way to rededicate streetside parking for bus, bicycle, sidewalk or other mobility efforts. 

3) I was impressed by the Palms Neighborhood Council Transportation Committee the other day in their discussion of improving Overland Avenue.  There was much debate, but the one thing they agreed on was the need to replace a ficus tree with a native tree as part of a sidewalk repair next to the La Lycee Francaise de Los Angeles (French school) parking lot. Not only parking, but safety and pedestrian mobility are key components of our need to emulate Beverly Hills and other cities in slowly but methodically replacing our ficus trees with native trees as we restore our sidewalks.   

The Los Angeles "urban forest" is actually one of the largest in the nation, and it should be carefully altered with a focus on non-water wasting native trees that are so friendly to local birds and other fauna. 

I will leave it up to my friend, neighbor and historian Fred Gurzeler, who just wrote a first-rate piece for CityWatch on the long history of the Expo Line, as to who and why and how we threw up all these sidewalk- and utility-destroying ficus trees, but it's evident that we need to fix that monumental infrastructure boo-boo. 

In closing, policy and thoughtful spending will help restore and repair the transportation/infrastructure and governmental credibility mistakes committed over many years (if not decades) of municipal inefficiency and shortsightedness.  

The time is now, and the source of reform will come from the grassroots (including Neighborhood Councils), but the political leadership is in place and is now listening for ways to fix and fund a better LA.

  

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-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  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 78

Pub: Sept 27, 2013

 

 

 

 

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