Fatal crash in Venice casts a bitter shadow as Bonin’s opponents pull recall papers

By Gary Walker

Despite the end of the polarizing Playa del Rey road diet that sparked lingering political backlash against Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, organizers of the campaign to oust Bonin from public office are moving full-speed ahead with plans to trigger a recall election.

Following a fatal vehicle-pedestrian crash last week in a Venice crosswalk where city officials had delayed implementing safety upgrades, recall proponents who oppose Bonin’s ongoing traffic lane closures on Venice Boulevard — like the Playa road diet, part of a larger citywide traffic safety initiative — are now seeking to at least partially blame the tragedy on Bonin.

On Monday, the Committee to Support the Recall of Mike Bonin filed paperwork with the Los Angeles Ethics Commission at L.A. City Hall, allowing them to begin collecting voter signatures on recall petitions this month. They’ll need 27,000 valid signatures from voters in Bonin’s district to trigger a recall election in the summer or fall of 2018.

“Bonin has prioritized his political advancement and personal agenda over the well-being and quality of life of his constituents,” states the recall petition.

On the morning of Oct. 25, a car struck and killed 40-year-old Damon Shear as he made his way through a crosswalk at Pacific and Sunset avenues in Venice, with traffic investigators telling the Los Angeles Times that the car that killed Shear appears to have maneuvered around a vehicle that had stopped at the crosswalk to let Shear pass.

That crosswalk was marked with white paint and a reflective sign, but in 2015 the L.A. Department of Transportation had recommended the addition of flashing beacons in response to safety complaints by residents. Installation of the beacons, however, remained tied up in delays related to disbursement of federal funding for the project.

At a Wednesday vigil for Shear at Pacific and Sunset, members of the recall campaign read a statement from the Shear family that cast blame on Bonin.

“The real concern here is the seemingly negligent acts of an elected official, Councilman Mike Bonin, who allowed this intersection, which had been deemed dangerous by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in 2014, to claim the life of a father, son, brother, and friend. Damon’s family holds accountable the driver of the vehicle and pray justice is appropriately served. However, the true criminals are the ones who have deliberately failed to correct the problems at these dangerous intersections,” the letter states.

“To those involved in the blatant disregard for the lives of the citizens and visitors to your state and town we say this: the blood of the father of 18-year-old Tyler, 16-year-old Alexandria and 12-year-old Tanner is now and forever on your hands.”

Bonin’s office accused the recall campaign of politicizing Shear’s death.

“Shame on the people behind the recall for trying to link their personal political ambitions to this tragedy. Shame on the people behind the recall for ignoring the fact that Damon Shear perished because an impatient driver broke the law and sped around another car in the crosswalk,” reads Bonin’s statement.

“The people behind this recall are demanding the defunding of pedestrian safety programs — including crosswalks and traffic signals — and those using a grieving family for their political gain should be ashamed.”

Southern California Families for Safe Streets, which advocates for relatives of people killed in traffic collisions, rejected the notion that Bonin is at fault for Shear’s death.

“No family should ever have to suffer such a sudden, senseless loss. Better street design could have prevented this tragedy, and can prevent so many others. But any anger directed at Councilman Bonin is misguided and tied to a troubling recall campaign that actually aims to unseat the most vocal, persistent and passionate champion for safe streets in Los Angeles,” the group wrote. “Councilman Bonin led the charge to fully fund and implement safe streets projects throughout Los Angeles. With so much work ahead of us, we must not lose sight of who our true allies are.”

Recall campaign co-organizer Alexis Edelstein said the group is calling for an investigation of why the crosswalk where Shear was killed did not have flashing beacons like others on Pacific.