Road diet was a disaster of his own creation

Friday morning traffic congestion on Vista Del Mar
Photo by Carol Kapp

“Saturday Night Live” soap opera spoof “The Californians” skewered Angelenos as comically vain and traffic obsessed. The intense public fury about the Playa del Rey road diet pretty much proves the latter.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin correctly asserts that calming traffic can save lives, but his hasty and unilateral implementation of vehicle lane reductions on Culver and Jefferson boulevards, Pershing Drive and Vista Del Mar hurt the cause — and his reputation as a consensus-builder.

When the deed went down in May, Bonin took full ownership of the roadway reconfigurations. In a letter to constituents (link to a version of which also appeared in The Argonaut), Bonin defended the road diet as a public safety imperative in the wake of multiple traffic fatalities. As for angry South Bay commuters, “I refuse to solve their 405 Freeway traffic problem on the backs of the people I represent,” he wrote.

On July 26, Bonin released a videotaped announcement that Vista Del Mar will soon return
to two traffic lanes in each direction, thanks to a deal with L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn that moves public parking to the beach below the roadway.

In that video, Bonin goes on to apologize for the debacle on Vista Del Mar, then promptly walks back his role in it. Turns out it wasn’t him but the city Department of Transportation that made the changes on Vista Del Mar “suddenly and without community input because they were told the city faced immediate and serious liability concerns,” Bonin says.

The liability argument makes sense: The city did pay out a $9.5-million legal settlement in April for the death of a teenage pedestrian on Vista Del Mar.

Funny that Bonin didn’t make this clear from the get-go, before he got clobbered for eight weeks on social media and in letters to the editor. But that’s his story now, and he’s sticking to it.

“The rationale for the Safe Streets Playa del Rey initiative was about safety, and the rationale behind Vista Del Mar was the liability issue that the city was facing,” Bonin told us this week in a news story published online.

Meanwhile, what happens with Culver, Jefferson and Pershing will depend on input from a new stakeholder task force that Bonin is forming to address community concerns through face-to-face dialogue.

Now that’s more like the Bonin we know: inclusive of public participation, almost to a fault. Everyone makes mistakes, and Bonin has otherwise done a lot of good in our community — usually by helping stakeholders find common ground. Moving forward, we hope that’s the road he’ll choose to take.