It seems that every time I go to a meeting focused on the Pico/Olympic Boulevard controversy the meeting gets a) more crowded and b) more confrontational. Last night, literally hundreds of residents and business owners packed a forum held by the Westside Neighborhood Council to hear about LADOT’s plan and loudly voice their objection. The plan would increase capacity on Pico and Olympic Boulevards by re-timing traffic signals, limiting left-hand turns and imposing restrictions on peak hour parking.
The format of the event was designed to limit direct interaction between LADOT and the audience to prevent an angry back-and-forth from dominating the meeting. Questions were written on cards and read by a moderator.
The crowd’s anger wasn’t just directed at DOT. The crowd jeered one of the plan’s chief proponents, and their local Councilman. Jack Weiss. Weiss was again conspicuous by his absence. The councilman’s representative did not speak to the crowd or attempt to answer any questions directed towards elected officials.
Also up for a verbal berating was Westside Neighborhood Council Chair and event moderator Terri Tippit, an opponent of the plan, who was under constant pressure to either read more questions, read less questions, explain what the question meant, or "shut up and let him (DOT representative John Fisher) answer the question.
I mention the crowd’s passion not as an condemnation of the event, which was as well moderated as could be expected, or the attendees; but to illustrate how heated this issue is for the people along the corridor.
If most of the emotion at last week’s meeting was over the issue of lost parking and its impact to the community, this meeting was dominated by fears of cut through traffic racing through local side streets. Fisher, repeatedly claimed that the plan was designed to reduce cut through traffic by increasing capacity on Pico/Olympic during rush hour so there would be no need to cut east/west through the community. Also, by limiting the left hand turns on intersections with smaller roads, north/south traffic will stay on larger roads such as Beverly Glen Blvd.
(ed: note: An original version of this article said "Motor Ave" instead of Beverly Glen Blvd. Motor Avenue will actually be seeing a decrease in cut through traffic because of signalization limiting left hand turns.)
The crowd was unimpressed, repeatedly questioning the proposal and wondering how bringing more traffic to the area (greater capacity=more traffic) will somehow help their current issues. Several times there were questions asking why traffic calming wasn’t used to keep cars off the local streets instead of this more complicated plan. The answer: traffic calming can help, but this plan will help more.
Business owners were similarly unimpressed with claims that the parking restrictions wouldn’t effect them in the long-term. Fisher pointed to dry cleaners along Pico Boulevard that currently thrive even with peak hour restrictions on parking. Locals noted that those cleaners have adequate off street parking, and that in a neighborhood that is mostly Jewish it’s pretty insulting to imply that they should pick up their laundry on weekends (when they can’t drive).
DOT couldn’t promise that the community would have a chance to do a full review of the plan before the City Council voted on it, after all the Council doesn’t report to LADOT; but did promise that they were not yet done their community outreach or tweaking the plan to meet the community’s approval. If "community approval" is the goal, they have a long way to go.
(editor's note: The above picture is of a "straw poll" that was done at the end of the meeting. For the majority of the event, there were no empty seats and the standing room extended into the lobby.)