ACCORDING TO LIZ - Over the past months I’ve talked to plenty of people opposed to the so-called Rock the Boulevard plan scheme on Eagle Rock Boulevard.
Blow up the Boulevard is more like it, as the Kevin De Léon (KDL) cohort of road diet advocates and the aggressive activists of the LA Bicycle Coalition and TERA (aka “the community”) try to put a stranglehold on the only north-south thoroughfare in northeast Los Angeles between the 2 Freeway and Figueroa.
And that’s after an attempt to do the same to the northern portion of Figueroa over ten years ago lost out when the residents erupted in opposition at a time when open meetings were really open. Although that didn’t stop supporters from trying to push people around.
And after KDL and Metro appeared to deliberately restrict input about the drawbacks of putting the BRT (Rapid Transit Buses) along Colorado Boulevard which would reduce the only remaining east-west route in Northeast L.A. to one lane. One lane for all other buses, commuters, delivery trucks and garbage trucks.
The needs of businesses along the route were conspicuously ignored as was the area’s fire station, residents and commuters, creating congestion and ramping up pollution in an area where there are schools and parks just blocks away. One lane, either direction, a road diet. Something that has proved disastrous for York Boulevard, one of the first thoroughfares to suffer such a fate, and one clearly in the making for Colorado Boulevard.
Like this Beautiful Boulevard plan, on paper Rock the Boulevard sounds good – protected bicycle lane and shady sidewalks along what is now a somewhat grey commercial stretch of divided boulevard running south from Colorado Boulevard to York Boulevard. And it portrays what everybody wants: less traffic.
A meeting late last month focused entirely on the placement of bicycle lanes and did not address the valid and serious complaints of businesses and residents worried about what this project would bring.
A survey at the meeting and circulated by KDL’s office last week seems to have been a deceptive ploy to gain support for the plan while deliberately excluding the concerns of anyone who might object to Rock the Boulevard rolling right along.
The options given do not allow any choice except one between very bad, worse and worst. No “None of the above,” no “Do nothing at all,” no way to point out flaws or add helpful suggestions. Yes, it’s about the bicycle lanes but how they are imposed will have significant impacts on the community.
Using a similar technique last spring, representatives of the now missing-in-action Kevin De Léon, refused to talk to or ignored comments of many business-owners and residents opposed to the project and then claimed to Metro and the County that the entire community was in support of the pretty, ridiculous sacrifice of an existing Beautiful Boulevard to the “Refined F1 – one lane option” that would narrow what had been six lanes ten years ago to a single lane either direction.
On the north end of Eagle Rock Boulevard, to put in trees and bicycle lanes and add street furniture to “Rock” it, the space has to come from somewhere.
When you reduce lanes, cars don’t magically disappear: you create traffic jams, generating frustration and pollution from the revving of cars. You remove parking for the businesses. You create problems for deliveries to the stores and businesses. You create longer and longer commutes for people. You increase traffic on residential streets as they try and bypass the jams.
But that serves the major purpose of that very vocal but small minority of the community who want to get cars off the roads entirely. An aspirational goal for the long term, yes, but extremely difficult to implement in the present when there is still inadequate public transportation in a city built around the car culture.
Having learned from the demise ten years ago of a plan to halve the lanes for cars on the north end of Figueroa to add bike lanes, and the strong if often strongly stifled opposition to the Colorado BRT nightmare-in-the-making, advocates for Rock the Boulevard just aren’t allowing those opposed to have a voice.
They show pretty pictures of shady sidewalks and busy bike lanes but don’t talk about the lanes taken away from commuters and shoppers, don’t release the significant majority in numbers of people using cars as opposed to bicyclists, and don’t talk about the economic impact, an issue they strove to bury completely during the Colorado Boulevard debates.
During those supposedly open community meetings, KDL’s acolytes steadfastly refused to include residents and businesses opposed to the Beautiful Boulevard disaster while listening only to a woke coterie of bicycle advocates. Then, as now, he and his office touted full community support based on surveys that did not allow any vestige of disagreement, with the only options again being between very bad, worse and worst.
Calls to the Councilmember’s offices downtown and in Eagle Rock last Thursday and Friday elicited commitments to fix the current survey, purportedly to allow people to give specific input like the need for parking, just a minor consideration for storeowners, and to extend the survey from Friday March 10th until the end of the month.
As of this Thursday morning, March 9th, the survey was still out as above – three abysmal options and no way to communicate dissatisfaction. More calls to the Councilmember’s offices resulted in the pulling of the end date.
But no other changes. Although the message is supposed to be passed along for the survey to allow for specific input.
Rock the Boulevard is being funded out of L.A.’s portion of the money saved from the cancelled 710 Freeway extension through South Pasadena.
What politician doesn’t want to spend money? But wouldn’t it be better spent on upgrading and strengthening existing infrastructure or providing better services for constituents?
Why can our tax dollars be wasted by a man in hiding from his own District? Where is he now? He is supposed to live in the district but, last folks heard, he’d moved to Glendale after protests outside his Eagle Rock house upset him.
This past summer, KDL’s staff couldn’t or wouldn’t return calls on the Colorado Boulevard BRT debacle before the come-to-Jesus moment when the City Council stripped the Councilmember of his committees then censured him in October, and has shown up in one City Council meeting since which devolved into a shouting match with his fellow Councilmembers and heckling from angry protesters. His staff is solicitous when reached, if reached, but little appears to get done.
Tarred by the recording of the conversation he had over a year ago on the need to increase Hispanic representation. KDL is certainly and forever unwelcome at City Hall although he is supposed to be attending all meetings.
The exchange between him and City Council President (now resigned) Nury Martinez, CD1 Councilmember (booted out by neophyte challenger Eunisses Hernandez in the primaries) Gil Cedillo, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera (also resigned), went beyond racist and beyond the pale when they attacked a child, three-year old son of CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin.
That KDL did not make the most inflammatory statements is immaterial; that he did not speak up in defense of a child is unacceptable.
CD14 residents don’t need to relive the nightmare of being unrepresented under the headed- for-the-slammer José Huizar, affectionately remembered as Sleazy Huizy. But, at least, after Huizar was barred from Council Chambers, he left excellent staffers to help the community.
Why KDL is even receiving a City salary, with a half million still to come, is a good question. Because he can refuse to resign, and the process of removal is both complicated and costly, the taxpayers of LA are on the hook to support his lifestyle for the next two years.
The real people suffering are his constituents in CD14, where he continues to cause problems unremorsefully and clearly immersed in the tone-deaf poor-me bubble he’s been in recent months
A lawsuit has been filed because of KDL’s failures to respond to California Public Records Act requests with regards to dereliction of duty to constituents on the Colorado Boulevard BRT proposal as well as ones addressing the use of the Councilmember’s discretionary funds.
If the City Council can’t force him to resign, at least they should put a stop to the waste of taxpayer dollars being spent to increase traffic congestion and decrease livability in our neighborhoods.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)