Decision ends road diet but leaves other safety measures in place

By Gary Walker

City transportation workers will soon reverse unpopular lane closures in Playa del Rey
Photo courtesy of Carol Kapp

After months of complaints about increased commute times, the filing of two lawsuits and the launch of a recall effort, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman Mike Bonin announced on Wednesday that they will reverse this summer’s decision to reduce traffic lanes on major roadways in Playa del Rey.

As part of a pilot project to improve traffic safety, the city reconfigured Culver and Jefferson boulevards and Pershing Drive by removing one lane of traffic in each direction and installing new bike lanes. The city simultaneously implemented similar safety-related lane closures on Vista Del Mar, but restored those lanes in July.

Although the effort has some supporters, wider public outrage over the lane closures erupted instantaneously and remains at the forefront of local discussion. Livid South Bay commuters joined forces with angry Westside residents to take legal action against the city and organize an effort to recall Bonin.

In a statement, Garcetti appears to concede that the lane closures — at least in Playa del Rey — had been unsuccessful.

“This pilot program has shown us that lane reductions are not the right approach in Playa del Rey, but we can and will find a way to ease congestion and improve traffic safety in this neighborhood,” Garcetti stated in a joint press release with Bonin. “We have the will and know-how to find smart, balanced, effective and flexible solutions — and I’m confident that the new safety measures we are putting in place will help us accomplish those goals.”

Those pending safety measures include flashing beacon crosswalks and speed feedback signs on Culver and Pershing, raised-pavement “speed tables” that prompt vehicles to reduce speed at intersections, and signal changes that will allow pedestrians to enter crosswalks before vehicles can make right turns.

Under fire over the lane closures in Playa del Rey, Bonin assembled a community task force in August to make recommendations to examine the roadway reconfigurations and make suggestions for improvements, one of which was to restore a traffic lane on Culver. The new crosswalks, speed tables and signal changes were developed in consultation with the task force and Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa, according to the statement.

“From the beginning of the Safe Streets for Playa del Rey initiative, community feedback has been a crucial component in creating a safe and inviting community,” Bonin said. “Reducing the frequency and severity of traffic collisions is one of the top public safety imperatives for the city of Los Angeles, and the community-supported safety improvements we are announcing today will help keep people in Playa del Rey safe.

“I am grateful that Mayor Garcetti and I were able to work with LADOT [the city Department of Transportation], neighbors and local businesses to find a way to implement safety measures that can keep people safe without disrupting traffic patterns.”

Read the complete joint statement by Bonin and Garcetti below:

MAYOR GARCETTI, COUNCILMEMBER BONIN ANNOUNCE LANE RESTORATIONS, NEW TRAFFIC SAFETY MEASURES IN PLAYA DEL REY
Lanes for automobile traffic will be restored as the City invests in new features that include flashing crosswalks, adjusted traffic signals, and pedestrian signals that prioritize safety for people traveling on foot

PLAYA DEL REY, CA — Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilmember Mike Bonin today announced a plan to restore traffic lanes on several roads in Playa del Rey, and deliver a series of new safety features to help protect the lives of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The move came at the request of Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Bonin, who asked the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) to immediately begin restoring lanes that had been removed on Culver Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard and Pershing Drive — and to install new, strong traffic safety measures to be completed over the next several months.

“This pilot program has shown us that lane reductions are not the right approach in Playa del Rey, but we can and will find a way to ease congestion and improve traffic safety in this neighborhood,” said Mayor Garcetti. “We have the will and know-how to find smart, balanced, effective, and flexible solutions — and I’m confident that the new safety measures we are putting in place will help us accomplish those goals.”

The new safety measures include new crosswalks with flashing beacons to better protect pedestrians; “speed tables” that prompt vehicles to reduce speed at intersections; speed feedback signs that notify drivers when they have exceeded posted limits; “pedestrian head start” signals that allow people on foot to enter crosswalks at intersections before vehicles are allowed to make turns; and traffic signals that will be adjusted to require drivers to slow down as they approach downtown Playa del Rey from Culver Boulevard.

“From the beginning of the Safe Streets for Playa del Rey initiative, community feedback has been a crucial component in creating a safe and inviting community,” said Councilmember Bonin. “Reducing the frequency and severity of traffic collisions is one of the top public safety imperatives for the City of Los Angeles, and the community-supported safety improvements we are announcing today will help keep people in Playa del Rey safe. I am grateful that Mayor Garcetti and I were able to work with LADOT, neighbors and local businesses to find a way to implement safety measures that can keep people safe without disrupting traffic patterns.”

The full list of new safety features includes:
Speed Feedback Signs – LADOT will place speed feedback signs on Culver Boulevard and Pershing Drive, notifying drivers when they have exceeded the speed limit.
Flashing Beacon Crosswalks – LADOT will add flashing beacons to the crosswalk at Culver Boulevard and Pershing Drive to better protect pedestrians as they cross the street.
New Crosswalks – LADOT will install new flashing beacon crosswalks at Culver Boulevard and Earldom Avenue and at Pershing Drive and Rees.
Speed Tables – LADOT will install speed tables at crosswalks to slow speeding traffic and protect pedestrians.
“Rest in Red” Signals – The traffic signal at Culver and Nicholson and Culver and Vista Del Mar will be adjusted to require drivers to slow their speed as they approach downtown Playa del Rey from Culver Boulevard. “Rest in red” settings will also be applied to signals at Pershing and Manitoba, Pershing and Westchester Parkway, Culver and Vista Del Mar and Culver and Nicholson.
Leading Pedestrian Intervals – Commonly referred to as “pedestrian head start” signals, crossing signals will be adjusted to allow pedestrians to enter crosswalks at intersections before vehicles are allowed to make their turns. This will occur at Pershing and Manchester, Pershing and Manitoba, and Pershing and Westchester Parkway.
The Mayor and Councilmember will work together to identify funding to expedite installation of new pedestrian-activated signals at intersections that include Culver and Earldom, Culver and Pershing, and Pershing and Rees. Mayor Garcetti said he would direct the LAPD to step up speed enforcement in the area, and City officials will work with state officials to explore ways to lower automobile speed through the Ballona Wetlands.

Prior to today’s announcement, LADOT had already restored lanes on Vista Del Mar and Culver Boulevard. Today’s action will restore lanes on Culver, Jefferson and Pershing, and expedite implementation of the new safety features — which were the subject of close talks between City officials and local residents, business owners, and members of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa Neighborhood Council and the Playa del Rey Safer Streets Task Force.

The announcement won praise and expressions of gratitude from local stakeholders:

“These safety measures will make Playa del Rey a safer community for the people who live here, work, and enjoy our community,” said Cyndi Hench, President of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa. “Our community is eager to move forward and I appreciate the work of Mayor Garcetti, Councilmember Bonin and the neighbors who have been passionately engaged on this topic. I think this is a great resolution to a complicated issue.”

Hench’s appreciation for the announcement was echoed by local businesses, including by Lisa Schwab, the owner of Cantalini’s Salerno Beach Restaurant.

“These safety measures strike the right balance between improving safety and keeping traffic moving,” said Schwab. “This has been a contentious topic of debate in our community and it shows a lot of leadership and commitment to the people they represent for Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Bonin to do the work they have done to make this announcement possible. As a business owner in Playa del Rey, I am happy with the lane restoration and safety improvements and I thank the Mayor and Councilmember for being willing to listen and adapt the pilot project based on the input they heard.”

“The LAX Area Chamber of Commerce fully supports the added safety measures and lane restoration,” added David Voss, Board Member with the LAX Area Chamber. “Reducing traffic congestion and keeping people safe are both important goals for the local businesses we represent and we are very fortunate to have responsive and collaborative local elected leaders like Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Bonin.”

The announcement also received praise from some of the neighbors who have been advocating for safer streets in Playa del Rey.

“I got involved with this issue a couple years ago because I wanted to feel safe walking around my neighborhood in Playa del Rey,” said Ryan Wewers, a Playa del Rey resident who has been a vocal supporter of the Safe Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative. “Back then, I couldn’t have even imagined the number of safety improvements Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember announced today. This goes a long way to make our streets safer for everyone.”

“While I’m disappointed that the first phase of this three phase pilot project was unable to move forward, I’m very pleased to see that the second and third phases of these long-overdue safety measures that the community asked for as part of the Safer Streets for Playa del Rey Initiative in 2015 will finally be implemented thanks to this action by Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Bonin,” added Playa del Rey neighborhood leader and safety advocate, Julie Ross.

Additionally, Bonin and Garcetti said they planned to work with the Playa del Rey small business community to create programs and projects to enhance the downtown area. Those measures include additional parking, wider sidewalks, art work, lighting and more.

Lane restoration work is scheduled to begin with Culver and Jefferson Boulevards on October 27, with work on Pershing beginning in November. Lane restoration work is scheduled to begin with Culver and Jefferson Boulevards on October 27, with work on Pershing beginning in November. A remaining stretch of Vista Del Mar, from Waterview to Culver Boulevard, will remain narrowed until after the Bureau of Engineering completes work in the area on the Dual Force Main project — a long-planned, multi-million dollar project to prevent an environmentally devastating sewage leak into the Santa Monica Bay.

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