When an angry mob of westside business owners descends on city hall it can mean just one thing...it's time for another hearing of the Mayor's Pico/Olympic Plan.
Yesterday, the City Council's Transportation Committee picked up where they left off last December to listen to LADOT and the local business owners tell two different stories of the beleaguered plan to eliminate parking, modernize traffic signals and give "preferential directional flow" to the Pico and Olympic Boulevard corridors.
But first, the Council Members registered their own anger and opposition to the project. Councilmember Bernard Parks read a letter from Councilmember Herb Wesson promising an amendment to the plan exempting his district to the applause of the audience.
Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes the northern end of the process, didn't go as far as Wesson but did promise a similar resolution for his district if the LADOT didn't work with the city's planning office and the community to rethink the plan in his area. "If we're every going to move beyond the rhetoric of transportation and planning being joined at the hip, it's now."
LADOT representative John Fisher reported on the 13 public meetings the DOT held with community and business groups along the corridor. Based on community response, the new Pico/Olympic plan has fewer parking restrictions than the previous plan. Restrictions are no longer planned for the areas of Pico Boulevard between Centinella and Gateway, and the area between Fairfax and La Brea. DOT has also shortened the hours for restrictions in both the morning and evening. The DOT distributed maps of the new restricted areas to the committee, but not the general audience. Fortunately, Councilmember Tom LaBonge shared his with the audience and community activists huddled around the map as the DOT continued its presentation.
The community was unimpressed with the new plan. The cruxes of the arguments were one's we've heard before at other public hearings. Some new twists were added as two groups promised legal action to stop the project.
Jay Handal, Chairman of the West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, claimed that 5th District Councilman Jack Weiss, a vocal supporter of the plan, is telling people the plan is a "done deal." Despite not yet receiving funding from the Council, Weiss is allegedly giving specific dates that the project’s phases will begin. Handal claims that such deal making is a violation of the Brown Act (mandating open public meetings in California) and the WLACC will contact the Attorney General's office later today. Weiss was again conspicuous by his absence.
Zariah Washington, representing the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, announced a lawsuit against the DOT claiming that the informal community process is a violation of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The committee ultimately tabled the report, meaning it will have to hold another hearing before either sending the report to the full council or rejecting it. Based on the strength of the opposition and the multiple avenues it is pursuing to fight, this project isn't a "Done Deal" quite yet.
Photo from LA Times