Friday, March 15, 2019

Venice Blvd. CEQA Appeal Update


Going in front of the City Council was a necessary step to get us to Court. We didn't expect the City Council to grant our CEQA appeal. The members of the City Council ALWAYS support each others' projects in their own districts - and that's another problem for us to tackle.

The next step is a settlement conference conducted by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. We'll keep you posted on what happens.

In the meantime, here is the press coverage we received at the beginning of March:



Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Venice Blvd. CEQA Appeal Lawsuit Press Release



      
LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL VOTES TOMORROW (MARCH 5, 2019) ON CEQA APPEAL REGARDING VENICE BOULEVARD ROAD DIET BROUGHT BY THE WESTSIDE LOS ANGELES NEIGHBORS NETWORK 

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) filed a second exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for Venice Boulevard on December 21, 2018, one day after Councilman Mike Bonin released a social media post declaring the pilot road diet project a “success.” 

WESTSIDE LOS ANGELES – March 4, 2018 – Over the objections of residents on the Westside and without an environmental impact study, Councilman Mike Bonin and Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds have unilaterally decided to make the so-called “Great Streets” pilot project on Venice Boulevard permanent. The decision was announced by Councilman Bonin via a video posted to Facebook on December 20, 2019.

A day later LADOT filed a second CEQA Notice of Exemption (NOE) for the project. This second Notice was filed despite a statement from LADOT in March 2018 that said: “This is a pilot demonstration, therefore it is exempt from an environmental process. If it is made permanent, there will be an environmental assessment and accompanying public process.”

Community members had relied on LADOT to stand behind its word and allow a public process to review the one-year pilot project data compiled and analyzed by LADOT contractor Fehr & Peers and to prepare an environmental assessment. When they filed the NOE instead, the Westside Los Angeles Neighbors Network filed a CEQA appeal in January contending that the project has significant environmental impacts that were not studied or evaluated.

Selena Inouye, Board President of the Westside Los Angeles Neighbors Network, explains, “Once again, the City of Los Angeles is using CEQA to deny neighbors their say about Venice Boulevard. There was substantial evidence during the pilot project to support a fair argument that the road diet was having significant impacts on the environment. But once again, the City will attempt to make these changes without transparency, accountability or community input.”

The Westside Neighbors Network lawsuit contends that the City erred in not conducting any environmental review because:
  • This project is a MAJOR alteration of an existing highway, reducing the carrying capacity by 33% on an arterial highway designated as a tsunami evacuation route and a LA County disaster route, creating gridlock for all drivers, including emergency vehicles, and increasing pollution from idling cars. 
  • With 43 driveways and 10 non-signalized intersections along the length of the project, the relocation of the bike lane and parking created foreseeable adverse traffic and public safety impacts. 
  • The Project does not conform to the guidelines set forth in the Road Diet Informational Guide - Safety on the Federal Highway Administration website. Venice Blvd was an arterial highway with 7 lanes and annual average daily traffic between 46,500 to 52,000 cars in 2016 per CalTrans. Such a non-standard implementation of the road diet concept should have been subject to CEQA review. 
  • The impacts of extensive tree removal on the over 200 species of migratory birds or monarch butterflies that travel through the area, or on the visiting birds from the State-owned Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve approximately 3 miles away, are unknown. 
  • A substantial increase in vehicles cutting through residential neighborhoods has caused accidents, disturbs plants, trees and wildlife living and growing there, as well as created dangerous conditions for children playing and riding bicycles.

“No one is happy with the state of Venice Boulevard. And now the City is wasting more taxpayer money making this failed project permanent,” Inouye goes on to say.

For more information, visit WLAneighbors.org.

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Download a copy of this press release here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

LADOT Files Another CEQA Exemption for Venice Blvd.

Back in February 2017, the City filed it's first CEQA exemption for Venice Blvd. Because Great Streets Venice Blvd. was a "pilot project", the City took the position that this project wasn't subject to an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Filing the Notice of Exemption was their way of making this official.

When an EIR is required, the City must give public notice and hold public hearings. Community input and feedback is a big part of the EIR process. The "pop-up" outreach that was conducted in 2015 by Councilman Bonin's office and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) fell short of the outreach activities required during the EIR process.

The stakeholders of Mar Vista weren't looking for a CEQA exemption in 2017 because they simply had no idea what was in store for them. The City didn't disclose they were putting a road diet on Venice Blvd.

When Councilman Mike Bonin released a video on Facebook on December 20, 2018, stating that the pilot project was a success and the changes on Venice Blvd. were staying, two questions crossed our minds.

1) Will LADOT keep their promise made at the March 2018 Venice Blvd. Great Street Open House?


Page 6 of the six-month evaluation Venice Boards at veniceblvdmarvista.org

2) Will they file another CEQA exemption? (CEQA exemptions can now be found online at https://apps.lavote.net/ceqa)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ga_ojLRePg4waUmSHGS4kGOarNr6NXVB/view?usp=sharing
Click the image to view the entire document on Google Drive



The answers are: 1) no and 2) December 21, 2018.



Please help us meet our 10k donation matching challenge. All donations go towards our two lawsuits. Learn more here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lawsuit Press Release





LA CITY COUNCIL EXPEDITES THE ADOPTION OF A NEW “LIVABLE BOULEVARDS” STREETSCAPES PLAN TO BRING MORE ROAD DIETS AND TRAFFIC CONGESTION TO THE WESTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES
 
  • From Venice to Pico Boulevards, Centinela to Motor Avenues, more road diets are coming to the Westside. A lawsuit filed June 21, 2018 aims to stop this plan and reverse the previous road diet on Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. 

WESTSIDE LOS ANGELES – June 27, 2018 – Members of the newly formed nonprofit Westside Los Angeles Neighbors Network have sued the City of Los Angeles for adopting the misleading “Livable Boulevards” Streetscape Plan, challenging the City’s position that they are exempt from studying the plan’s environmental impacts. The group filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) appeal lawsuit on Thursday, June 21, 2018, Selena Inouye of Mar Vista announced today.

The Los Angeles City Council expedited adoption of the “Livable Boulevards” Streetscape Plan during special meetings of the Transportation Committee on June 14, 2018 and City Council on June 19, 2018. This streetscapes plan was attached to an update of the Coastal Transit Corridor and West Los Angeles Transportation Improvement and Mitigation Specific Plan. A California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption was filed by the Los Angeles City Planning Department in conjunction with this streetscapes plan on May 22, 2018.

Members of the grassroots community group Restore Venice Boulevard discovered this streetscapes plan in April 2018 on the Westside Mobility Plan’s website. The plan, developed by the LA City Planning Department and contractor Fehr & Peers, extends the failed Great Streets- Venice Boulevard road diet all the way to Lincoln Boulevard in East Venice, and brings this same failed road diet concept to Pico Boulevard, Centinela Avenue and Motor Ave.

“During the past year, traffic on Venice Boulevard has been gridlocked, creating delays for emergency vehicles. Sixty-five accidents have occurred (and counting) and the decreased street capacity sends up to 21,000 cars a day into our neighborhoods. Small businesses report revenues down, up to 30%, and 12 small businesses have closed since this road diet began on May 20, 2017,” says Ms. Inouye, a grassroots organizer with Restore Venice Boulevard and the new Board President of the Westside LA Neighbors Network.

 “The pilot project, promised as a one-year experiment, should have ended May 20, 2018. But Mayor Garcetti, Councilman Bonin, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation have chosen to ignore the data showing the project’s failure and instead plan to expand it to additional streets across the Westside,” Ms. Inouye goes on to explain.

Both Bonin and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation have refused requests from the Mar Vista Community Council and Venice Neighborhood Council to hold Town Hall meetings with the public to discuss the serious concerns raised by this pilot project.

In their lawsuit, the Westside LA Neighbors Network alleges that the City will use this California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption to deny neighbors across the Westside their say. An exemption from an environmental impact report means there will be no public notice or public hearings. Once again, this sets the stage for the City to install road diets without transparency, accountability or a requirement for engaging the public in this process.

“Neighbors want to be involved in the planning of City transportation projects. And they have a right to know the details of what is being planned, as well as a right to obtain project data. I submitted a California Public Records Act request back on August 8, 2017 for the Great Streets – Venice Boulevard pilot project data and I am still waiting for a response from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation,” reports Ms. Inouye.

“These streetscapes projects affect everyone. Let’s not waste more taxpayer money bringing inappropriate road diets to the communities of Del Rey, Playa Vista, Palms, Cheviot Hills, Rancho Park, Venice, WLA Sawtelle and the Westside,” concludes Ms. Inouye.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

LIVABLE BOULEVARDS STREETSCAPE PLAN

Mar Vistans are concerned about the Livable Boulevards Streetscape Plan. We've already experienced Great Streets and Vision Zero. This is how the City will continue to bring inappropriate road diets and improperly installed protected bike lanes to the communities of Palms, Del Rey, Playa Vista, West LA Sawtelle, the Westside, Venice and Mar Vista. Great Streets was presented as a streetscapes plan too, but what we got was a road diet.

Livable Boulevards is an attachment to the West LA Transportation Improvement and Mitigation Specific Plan (TIMP)and Coastal Transportation Corridor Specific Plan Update which were approved by the LA City Council on June 19, 2018. Outreach in 2016 focused mainly on Transportation Impact Assessment (TIA) fee changes. It contains numerous iterations for the streets mentioned below. We don’t believe these plans have been presented to the communities they impact, nor is it clear which City Department(s) are making the decisions.

The Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) filed a Community Impact Statement (CIS) to Council File 08-0229 regard this plan, asking for more public hearings and community engagement prior to implementation, which was ignored.

The LA City Planning Department filed a CEQA Exemption for this plan on May 22, 2018. We filed a CEQA appeal on June 21, 2018 to exercise our administrative remedies in regard this new streetscapes plan.

WHAT LA CITY PLANNING SAYS LIVABLE BOULEVARDS” IS (page 2-1): 


1) “MULTI-MODAL MOBILITY & ACCESSIBILITY” “Expand the function of the street to be more inclusive of active travel modes by promoting bicycle and pedestrianoriented streetscape amenities. Improve connections to nearby transit and local businesses by promoting streetscape amenities, pedestrian infrastructure, and bicycle facilities.

2) “SAFETY” “Reduce the likelihood of collisions between people and vehicles by supporting bicycle and ADA-accessible pedestrianoriented features such as access ramps, curb extensions, continental crosswalks, and protected bikeways.” “Increase pedestrian activity by creating a safe and inviting environment for shopping, leisure, and community events”

WHAT THIS REALLY IS: 


Mobility Plan 2035, Vision Zero (p. 1-1), “roadway restriping or street reconfiguration” (p. 3-5), “parklets” and “pedestrian plazas” (p. B-2), “protected bicycle lanes” (p. B-3) and dedicated bus lanes (p. 5-17).

WHERE WILL IT BE IMPLEMENTED (page 1-1):

Pico Green Pico Blvd from Centinela Avenue to the I-405 Freeway (pp. 5-2 to 5-9)
Pico Patricia Pico Blvd from the 405 Freeway to Patricia Ave (pp. 5-10 to 5-19)
Motor Ave from the I-10 Freeway to Venice Blvd (pp. 5-20 to 5-29)
Centinela Ave from Washington Blvd to Jefferson Blvd (pp. 5-30 to 5-41)
Venice Blvd from Lincoln Blvd to Inglewood Boulevard (pp. 5-42 to 5-51)

WHY YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED: 

• During a recent conversation with Steven Katigbak and Renata Ooms, Planning Associates with the LA City Planning Department, they insisted that this is a “living document” and “nothing is set in stone.”

• What they didn’t say: 1) who is making these decisions, and 2) why public outreach in 2016 didn't specifically address and solicit feedback on the proposed streets changes in the Livable Boulevards Streetscape plan.

• There is no planned implementation date, so why are they filing for a CEQA exemption right now?

• This plan also implies that the Great Streets “pilot project” on Venice Blvd is in fact a permanent installation.

Contact: Selena Inouye with Restore Venice Blvd, restoreveniceblvd@gmail.com or (424) 326-3666