Road Diets and High-Speed Rail: Doubling Down On Stupid

ALPERN AT LARGE--The controversies swirling around the Venice Blvd. Road Diet, the California High-Speed Rail, and the elimination of city/county/local planning and zoning isn't about me and isn't about thee. The question to be answered is whether "leadership" in the guise of tyranny is acceptable in a democratic society. 

Top-down governmental imposition of transportation/planning policy, and in particular when it's fought by citizen advocates who've otherwise sought to pursue scientific and balanced measures, isn't something that's really being FOR something. 

The same Los Angeles City Councilmembers who support the Venice Blvd. Road Diet are terrified to pursue similar road diets in their own districts--they know it's downright dangerous (especially and including to bicyclists), hurtful to mobility of all modalities and to the environment, and are much more focused on being "unified behind one of their own" rather than in doing the right thing. 

And it's to be remembered that the late Bill Rosendahl, who was truly a grassroots representative to his constituents, would NEVER have rammed such a heavy-handed and harmful reconfiguration against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Mar Vista residents against their will.  

Similarly, the apparent death of the California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) project isn't a mere NIMBY effort by anti-train zealots--it's a concerted effort by PRO-rail advocates to make sure that money and resources are prioritized more appropriately...and transparently! 

Because the same City Councilmember and Mayor of Los Angeles who are too terrified to project more transparent data on why the Venice Blvd. Road Diet is supposedly helpful for ANYONE have the same thought processes as did former Governor Jerry Brown who refused to right-size and re-prioritize regional rail efforts on real winners such as Metrolink and Caltrain and Amtrak. 

To suggest that those opposing the Venice Blvd. Road Diet are "anti-bicyclist" or "anti-transit", or to suggest that those opposing the CAHSR are "anti-train" is akin to promoting concepts like the anti-vaxxers do--it's based on false narratives that are libelous, hurtful, and untrue.  

Those wanting MORE bicycle paths, and MORE trains and alternative modalities to transportation, have been and always will be FOR efforts that make sense...and are NOT done behind closed doors to please a few special interests and science-deniers. 

If the Venice Blvd. Road Diet is so safe and wonderful, why is it so legally fragile? If the CAHSR as envisioned by former Governor Brown is so sustainable and wonderful, why was it so easily stopped by his predecessor? 

And are those opposing this, much to the chagrin of the Groupthink/indoctrinated and "woke" Planners, all a bunch of conservative troglodytes? Is California such a hotbed of conservative, anti-environmental whackadoodles? 

Well, enter Senate Bill 50 (SB 50), which could also be called the "son of SB 827" that was shredded by all groups of horrified citizen groups and city/county governments, and which is being pushed along with a cadre of bills from Sacramento that would, in effect, eliminate all local control of planning/transportation efforts.  

SB 50 is exactly the type of effort that, as with the Venice Blvd. Road Diet and the CAHSR as envisioned by Governor Brown, that makes otherwise pro-transit-oriented development, pro-affordable housing advocates, and pro-rail advocates despise and fear those promoting projects that obviously makes the mobility, affordability, and quality of life WORSE for most ... 

... but perhaps with the exception of a few powerful, money-laden interest who will crush the middle-class and "own" the California Coast in a way that no one could have foreseen.  

And in Orwellian manner, those proclaiming that "the emperor has no clothes" are the ones to be demonized and belittled simply because they're brave and principled enough to state the obvious. 

If Mayor Garcetti, the LA City Council, and Senator Wiener want to infuriate and intimidate the overwhelmingly-liberal and open-minded citizenry of California, that is their right. 

But it is OUR right to acknowledge that they're doubling down on stupid, which is hardly a virtue. 

Again, let it be repeated: top-down leadership to benefit a few and harm the majority, and which is scientifically, environmentally, and morally bankrupt isn't "leadership". 

It's tyranny.


(CityWatch Columnist, Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D, is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud husband and father 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 Outreach Committee, and currently is Co-Chair of both its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure and Planning Committees. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)