Lit­i­ga­tion over lane re­duc­tions

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Laura J. Nel­son laura.nel­son@la­times.com

When Los An­ge­les of­fi­cials re­moved traf­fic lanes on four streets in Playa del Rey this sum­mer, a wave of out­rage swept through the West­side and the South Bay.

Driv­ers frus­trated by long de­lays on their usual routes f looded City Hall with calls. A condo as­so­ci­a­tion sued. And some irate com­muters launched a fundraiser to re­call West­side Coun­cil­man Mike Bonin.

Now, the newly nar­row streets are fac­ing their sec­ond le­gal chal­lenge.

A group of Playa del Rey and Man­hat­tan Beach res­i­dents sued the city of Los An­ge­les on Thurs­day, al­leg­ing that trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials broke state law by re­mov­ing traf­fic lanes on Vista del Mar, Per­sh­ing Drive and Cul­ver and Jef­fer­son boule­vards with­out con­duct­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view.

Re­duc­ing the num­ber of driv­ing lanes with­out con­duct­ing pub­lic out­reach and ex­am­in­ing po­ten­tial ad­verse ef­fects on con­ges­tion and pub­lic safety is a “gross abuse of dis­cre­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint filed in Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court.

The suit seeks to re­store all travel lanes that were re­moved over the sum­mer and to re­quire an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view for each project.

Elected of­fi­cials “need to dis­cuss th­ese plans with their con­stituents, and cer­tainly fol­low the law, which I don’t think is too much to ask,” said Ed McPher­son, an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing Keep L.A. Mov­ing, the ad­vo­cacy group that filed the law­suit.

A sec­ond law­suit, filed by a condo as­so­ci­a­tion along Vista del Mar, is also pend­ing. The suit sim­i­larly ac­cuses city of­fi­cials of cir­cum­vent­ing state en­vi­ron­men­tal laws.

Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment Bruce Gill­man and Bonin spokesman David Gra­ham-Caso said they could not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

Though back­lash over “road di­ets” is com­mon, the level of out­rage over the Playa del Rey street makeovers has emerged as a flash­point in L.A.’s bold plans to elim­i­nate traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties and shift driv­ers to other trans­porta­tion op­tions by adding hun­dreds of miles of bi­cy­cle and bus-only lanes.

Those plans, called Mo­bil­ity Plan 2035 and Vi­sion Zero, will both re­quire elim­i­nat­ing some ve­hi­cle lanes in an ef­fort to re­duce driver speeds. The lane re­duc­tions on Per­sh­ing, Cul­ver and Jef­fer­son were part of a long­planned ef­fort to re­duce fa­tal­i­ties there, city of­fi­cials said.

Vista del Mar, which car­ries about 24,000 au­to­mo­biles a day, was nar­rowed to one lane in each di­rec­tion in an ef­fort to re­duce the city’s li­a­bil­ity be­fore sum­mer crowds be­gan de­scend­ing on Dock­weiler Beach, city of­fi­cials said.

The changes fol­lowed the City Coun­cil’s ap­proval of a $9.5-mil­lion set­tle­ment with the fam­ily of a teenage girl who was killed by a driver there, and were made as an­other law­suit loomed.

The lane re­duc­tions sparked an out­pour­ing of com­plaints from driv­ers, who said the changes were made with no warn­ing.

Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials later apol­o­gized for how the roll­out was han­dled. And two weeks ago, af­ter weeks of com­plaints, Bonin backpedaled, say­ing the lanes on Vista del Mar would be fully re­stored. The work should be com­pleted Aug. 21, city of­fi­cials said.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

TRAN­SIT of­fi­cials will re­store traf­fic lanes on Vista del Mar in Playa del Rey af­ter weeks of com­plaints.

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