By Gary Walker
A vote on a proposed infrastructure repair bond by the Mar Vista Community Council June 11 offered a dual interpretation to the authors of the bond initiative.
While a resolution from the community council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on its opposition to the proposal passed unanimously last month, the wording of the resolution suggests that the council is willing to consider how to assist Los Angeles Councilmen Mitchell Englander and Joseph Buscaino in crafting alternative solutions to alleviate the city’s glaring infrastructure needs.
The resolution pledges to “work with Councilmen Englander’s and Buscaino’s road repair bond measure” and lists five reasons why.
One crucial element that the committee wants to be examined is what it feels is an inherent unfairness in who ultimately would pay for a bond, as homeowners and property owners would be charged on their tax bills in order to create a revenue stream for infrastructure repairs.
“I believe in creating a nexus between those who pay and what they will be receiving in return, said Ken Alpern, a co-chair of the committee. “On a similar note, it is unfair to have a picked-on minority pay the bill for which everyone will receive the benefit.”
The community council did not offer ideas how those who are not homeowners would pay for a bond initiative.
Alpern proposed an alternative to a parcel tax or bond measure.
“I can argue that an extension of Measure R is a better bet than a bond measure because that way everybody pays something for which they will benefit,” said Alpern, the co-chair of Council District 11’s Transportation Advisory Committee.
Measure R is a county transportation measure passed in 2008 by the electorate to tax themselves a half-cent to fund transportation projects for 30 years. The measure is expected to raise approximately $40 billion.
The Mar Vista board also stated in its resolution its desire to create a citizens oversight committee comprised of members of neighborhood councils from the seven planning areas of the city and noted that Englander’s and Buscaino’s proposal lacks any accountability on the part of developers to pay for the increased wear and tear on city streets caused by their projects.
The city’s Board of Public Works spends at least $600 million a year on capital improvements and some of those are funded by special funds from the sewer fees account.
Public Works Commissioner Michael Nutter said during a spring Argonaut roundtable discussion on infrastructure that a bond or similar revenue-generating measure would likely be necessary in order to bring the city’s streets and sidewalks up to date.
“Currently, the sidewalks and the roads would have to be built with general fund money, which means that it’s money that isn’t earmarked for special use by one of the departments. We’re a number of years behind in fixing the sidewalks because we’ve not had the funds to do them,” explained Nutter, a Venice resident.
“So it will take some special revenue raising in order to be able to fix the sidewalks or it would require the obligation to be shifted back to the homeowner. It’s a bill that will be billions of dollars, whether it’s paid for by the city or the homeowner.”
A recent USC Price/Los Angeles Times poll found two-thirds of the city’s residents were dissatisfied with the city’s performance on street repair.
Along some of the Westside’s high-density thoroughfares, the state of disrepair is stark in comparison to less traveled streets. On Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester, portions of the sidewalk have buckled and are at such an angle that they have attracted the attention of adventurous skateboarders.
On March 28, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Westchester) joined former City Councilman Bill Rosendahl for a groundbreaking ceremony at the Westchester YMCA to announce an initiative that will repair 80th to 84th streets along Sepulveda. Waters secured $1 million in federal funding to replace the sidewalk and plant new trees for the project.
On Centinela Avenue in Mar Vista a similar situation exists near Charnock Road, and along Pacific Avenue in Venice there are several areas where the sidewalk has cracked, creating a potential hazard for pedestrians.
In an interview with The Argonaut June 15, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he is “open to a bond” but also feels that there are other approaches to raising revenue to rebuild infrastructure, such as public-private partnerships.
“I’d like us to think as creatively as possible, including looking for additional state assistance before asking people for more taxes,” Garcetti said. “But I’m going to be honest with people about how much it costs, how many decades on the making this is,” he added.
Infrastructure has become a sore point among some Mar Vista residents. While there are several communities throughout the city where the infrastructure needs are in a far greater state of disrepair than on the Westside, a small group of the South Mar Vista Homeowners Association last year floated the idea of seeking refuge in Culver City under the guise of annexation due to what they said was Los Angeles’ lack of attention to their own streets and curbs.
Although the majority of Mar Vista residents interviewed scoffed at the notion of a small group claiming that they wanted to effectively secede from Los Angeles due to lack of infrastructure maintenance in their neighborhood, the calls for secession, which died very quickly, underscored the frustration that Westsiders as well as other Angelenos feel about the state of their sewer systems, roads and alleys.
Nutter offered his thoughts on the direction that city officials could take that he believes could not only greatly improve the city’s streets, sidewalks, curbs and alleys but also give potential new job seekers a chance to join the local workforce.
“We have an opportunity to do two things: to build for the future and to provide economic opportunity with a local stimulus program for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and for people in targeted neighborhoods where the unemployment rate is very high,” the commissioner said.
“And the great thing about this is construction costs are down now and the cost to build things over time going forward is going to increase. So the time is right now for us to educate the public about the need to reinvest in our community.”
Alpern believes any new street and sidewalk repair projects along highly traveled commercial and residential boulevards should include the removal of ficus trees, which are in many cases the source of road problems due to their very long roots. In their place should be native and drought tolerant plants, he says.
In Marina del Rey, the county has removed all of the ficus trees from Admiralty Way and will soon be installing less destructive native plants.
Mar Vista: Community council outlines opposition to infrastructure repair bond
By Gary Walker