GUEST COMMENTARY – What is happening? The City Council’s Public Works and Finance Committees are holding a joint meeting to consider approval of the contract and environmental clearances for the new STAP/Street Furniture program.
The proposed program, while failing to provide guarantees of adequate funding to provide the shade and shelter structures as publicly presented for LA’s transit riders, contains new legislation that opens up the PUBLIC right-of-way (our sidewalks, parkways and streets) to the potential for unlimited advertising structures. The proposed transit amenities are inadequate and will not meet the needs to shelter LA’s transit ridership from the intensifying heat we experience. Program elements presented to the public are now treated as optional or secondary. A recent CAO analysis of the program identifies significant financial concerns over the funding of the program.
WHY THIS SHOULD NOT HAPPEN: The citizens of Los Angeles have waited 20 years for the current street furniture contract to expire -- a contract that placed a generation of ad revenues above serving transit riders. That reflected the priorities of the City at the time the contract was written. Now, with shifting priorities and the growing need to provide shade and shelter, the program is structured in such a way as to fail to fund the amenities described while also failing to generate significant ad revenues for several years.
- It still favors rich areas over poor neighborhoods with its strategy to place high income generating shelters first.
- Only 2% of the needed funds to implement the program have been identified leaving the program’s fate to uncertain grant funds and the generosity and support of the City Council and Mayor during annual budget planning.
- Important program elements are now optional. Where are shade structures for locations too small for full shelters? What happened to all the features publicly touted like hydration and cooling stations, Wi fi, scooter docks, etc.?
- Why is a new LA Municipal Code (LAMC) allowed to add structures on public land being introduced as if none is needed to implement STAP? There is already an LAMC section that permits advertising structures for transit shelters.
- The STAP program and its new LAMC section cannot possibly be approved with an MND. It requires a full environmental impact report under CEQA.
- The implementation of the program requires the proposed hiring of 18 new staff and the City’s takeover of the public automated toilet program now provided as part of the current street furniture program. How will those expenses be covered? (The CAO’s report recommends against the staff hiring which will result in an oversight issue for the program if adopted.)
The many problems with STAP go back to its beginning when the program’s RFP was written with input from the outdoor advertising industry in focus groups hosted by the Dept of Public Works (DPW) Street Services Division. Sadly, DPW did not come to transit advocacy organizations, neighborhood councils, transit users, community or public health organizations. (They did not even seek input from the Dept. of Transportation as to the dangers of digital signage and related driver distraction that could further undermine pursuit of the City’s Vision Zero goals.) The end result is that STAP will open up our neighborhood streets to new advertising signage programs -- many with distracting digital signage. Communities will have no say, no opportunities for input as all the new advertising programs will have been pre-approved using the STAP’s proposed environmental clearance documentation that is before the Council.
HOW CAN YOU STOP THIS? Let the City Council know of your opposition!
- Agenda Item 1: Voice your opposition to proposed contract and environmental clearance. Oppose the adoption of new language to adopt the CEQA findings, oppose adoption of the insufficient MND and its proposed mitigation monitoring program, the proposed STAP contract and recommend return of the program to Public Works to reconsider program elements based upon public comment and true outreach.
- Agenda Item 2: Strongly oppose the adoption of the new proposed LAMC to allow advertising structures (beyond those already permitted for transit shelters) in the public right-of-way.
- Support the return of the proposed program to the Public Works Dept. to do a full EIR that will identify program alternatives to consider that are generated with public input.
THE BIG REVEAL. It is important to note there has never been a description of the CF 20-1536 that refers to the Council File as a measure that seeks to amend the LAMC and introduce a new LAMC to clarify the definition of outdoor advertising structure, and to exempt certain approved structures from the prohibition of outdoor advertising structures in the public right-of-way. The posting of the agenda item and council file in this manner at long last reveals the true intent of the STAP program which has been to serve as a TROJAN HORSE for the City’s desire to allow for commercial advertising on the City’s PUBLIC right-of-way -- stripping away protections that have long been in place.
While Public Works staff promote STAP as a transportation program; it is clear at long last that the Mayor’s office and those behind the proposed advertising programs look at STAP as the tool to enable the opening up of the PUBLIC’s right-of-way to invasive, distracting (and dangerous) commercial advertising.
This is being done in a deceitful underhanded manner while promoting unfunded shade and shelter structures for transit riders and failing to design a true world class transit amenity program.
TAKE ACTION NOW
- Follow the link HERE to submit a written comment on agenda item # 1.
- Follow the link HERE to submit your second comment on agenda item # 2.
- Call in to make a LIVE public comment to the joint Council meeting. Those wishing to speak should call 1 669 254 5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 073 2397 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, listen for the public comment period and press *9 to request to speak when directed to do so.
(Barbara Broide is President of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd. Homeowners Association. She is also a Board Members of the Coalition for a Scenic Los Angeles.)