Memo to the Mayor: When Does Your Pro-Development Peon Nat Gale Give Us the Data for ‘Great Streets’ Venice Blvd?

ALPERN AT LARGE--There used to be a time when Transportation and Planning meant something like "discussion, debate, and public policy based on data and obeying the laws of physics".  Of course, now that they've been co-opted by the developers and activists, Transportation and Planning increasingly means: 

"Delay, lie, obfuscate, demean your detractors, delay, build, make up data, demean your detractors, and then do whatever it takes to matter what laws of public policy, physics or biology get violated in the process." 

This is NOT an attack on the legitimate engineers at Metro and LADOT and City Planning.  They're educated (some of the younger ones are perhaps more indoctrinated than educated, but that's what age, experience and wisdom are supposed to correct with time) and know what's scientific and what's political. 

And clearly the fears of my retired father, a civil engineer who worked at and made the Department of Sanitation and Refuse into something great, have become reality: 

1) Civil service positions are being awarded based on political appointments, and not based on testing, demonstrated capability, and scientific knowledge. 

2) Civil service positions and policy are being rammed down our collective throats and being promoted as "pro-safety" and "for the greater good". 

There's been enough said about how the efforts to beautify Venice Blvd., rapid transit, and enhancing the availability of affordable housing has led to a "Great Streets" on Venice Blvd. that is anything but "great", and with both an exploding traffic and homeless proliferation that risks a public health, and not just public policy, nightmare. 

And well past the six months we'd been promised for Venice Blvd. safety data after its reconfiguration, the "Vision Zero" effort which is one of the first steps to artificially make Venice Blvd. a Transit District and establish a second Wilshire Blvd. in the Westside, we've got nothing. 

Repeated requests and demands for LADOT "Vision Zero Guru" Nat Gale to come up with the data proving that yanking away a car lane from what once was a secondary highway in order to (theoretically) help a few bicyclists has left us with the following: 

1) At the very least, there's been no difference in the accidents involving motorists and bicyclists, and the very worst, there's been a very sharp rise in accidents, and even a recent death, on Venice Blvd. and adjacent side streets now seething with cut-through traffic. 

2) Councilmember Mike Bonin, who has been left with the unenviable task of defending this poor approach to safety/transportation, has seen his support erode sharply after being one of the most liked and respected champions of the Westside.  This problem is NOT going to go away.  It WON'T. 

3) Many bicyclists don't like to use the protected bicycle lanes because of the limited visibility. 

4) Businesses have been profoundly and negatively impacted on Venice Blvd. 

5) Mar Vista, once an example of unity in the Westside and the rest of the City, has been horribly divided.  And other City Council districts throughout the city have made darned sure not to repeat what is going on in CD11. 

6) Continued pleas to the LADOT (particularly to Nat Gale, the "guru" who rammed this down our throat with very little advance notice, and used a beautification effort on Venice Blvd. to become something that has done anything BUT beautify Venice Blvd.) for the data promised last summer have gone unanswered. 

7) The growing suspicion that Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Bonin have misused Measure M funds and taken in large contributions from bicycle enthusiasts to inappropriately perpetuate public policy is worsening, and leading many to conclude that--as with the Measure H/HHH efforts--there is a massive "bait and switch" with respect to transportation and homeless taxes, fees and policies. 

It should be noted that I helped cowrite/cosponsor motions allowing Vision Zero and other reconfiguration efforts ONLY if the data was done right: 

a) Gather data for at least six months BEFORE reconfigure Venice Blvd. is reconfigured. 

b) Gather data for the six months AFTER Venice Blvd. is reconfigured. 

c) Gather data for at least six months AFTER Venice Blvd. is reconfigured back to its initial configuration, unless safety and mobility strongly favor otherwise. 

Science, right?  Data, right? 

But if the goal is to just have Nat Gale (who has turned the once-venerable reputation of the LADOT into something horrible) lay out Venice Blvd. into a future megadensity zone, and to be Mayor Garcetti's fall guy to appease Garcetti's developer donors, then Garcetti is doing a GREAT job of using bad City zealotry to hurt us all. 

And the conclusion will be only too obvious that, as with the homeless problem, Garcetti is a FAILURE of enhancing transportation and mobility, and clearly has a developer-only priority list that does  anything BUT help transportation, affordable housing, and our ever-worsening homeless crisis. 

And the conclusion will be only too obvious that Mayor Garcetti, like his predecessor, has left Los Angeles all the worse for his tenure because of Garcetti's inappropriate and ulterior motives, and because of Garcetti's unsustainable agenda.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member 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 was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired 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 Dr. Alpern.)