Residents Speak Out on VDM Lane Closures
Jun 19, 2017 08:19AM ● Published by Jeanne Fratello
The unannounced lane closures, implemented by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation three weeks ago, have caused bewilderment and anger among many local residents as commute times in and out of the Beach Cities have increased by an average of 20 to 30 minutes each way.
"None of us got any advance notice about it," said Lesser, who said he wanted to provide a forum to hear residents' concerns and offer information about what residents could do (Note: see suggested action steps listed below). "At a minimum, there is typically some form of notice."
The lane closures are part of Los Angeles District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin’s “Safe Streets for Playa Del Rey” plan. As the first stage in the plan, both sides of the Vista del Mar thoroughfare have been reduced from two lanes down to one in a "road diet" aimed at increasing safety for motorists, cyclists, and beach-going pedestrians who park along Vista del Mar. L.A. DOT is in the process of narrowing three other arterial roadways north of Manhattan Beach -- Culver Blvd., Jefferson Blvd., and Pershing Drive -- from two lanes to one lane in each direction.
According to Bonin, the narrowing of Vista Del Mar is in direct response to a recent lawsuit over a fatal traffic collision and is intended to “make the street safer, create more parking inventory, reduce speeding, and curb the use of Playa del Rey streets as a short-cut from the South Bay to points north.”
Manhattan Beach residents expressed frustration at increased commute times both in and out of Manhattan Beach, as well as concern about the ability of first responders to travel from Manhattan Beach to the nearest emergency room at Marina Del Rey Hospital. Others noted the increased environmental impact of commuter cars idling in traffic and increased trash along the roadway where beach parking spots have been added.
"A lot of solutions could have been considered," said Manhattan Beach resident Karla Mendelson, who along with her husband has been outspoken on the Vista Del Mar issue. "We need to try to find a better solution that serves the whole South Bay region."
Manhattan Beach resident David Pedersen - who has 23 years' experience in local government with 10 years working on roads, highways and bridges for the County of Los Angeles - spoke out about the lack of notice and public outreach for the project as well as the absence of a proper environmental document for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
"I've never seen a more egregious and broken disregard for process," said Pedersen. "The days of providing no notice on projects ended twenty years ago."
Council Member Steve Napolitano noted that Bonin's team had rejected an offer to meet and would not allow his staff to meet with their staff. "We're going to have to find other solutions," he said.
Not all attendees were opposed to the changes, however. Manhattan Beach resident Peter Flax said that he appreciated Manhattan Beach for how safe and walkable it is for his children, and he believed that Playa del Rey residents deserved the same.
"Elected officials in Los Angeles are trying to bring those same qualities to Playa del Rey, and I would hope that people in Manhattan Beach would appreciate that," said Flax after the meeting.
Flax added: "The reality is that hundreds of similar projects have been carried out all over the country, and though they all encounter public outrage at first, they almost all wind up being accepted because they work," he said. "Road diets reduce the number of collisions without disrupting traffic long-term like everyone fears."
Currently, residents who want to log complaints can take the following steps:
1. Weigh in on the Manhattan Beach Open City Hall online forum on the traffic changes. The city will use the information it collects in upcoming meetings with the L.A. Department of Transportation and other regional partners. (City Manager Mark Danaj reported at Saturday's meeting that with the site open for less than 24 hours, there had already been 300 visits and 120 responses submitted.)
2. Write to Bonin and Jessie Holzer with the 11th City Council District: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; as well as Supervisor Janice Hahn and Mark Woronek with LA's 4th Supervisorial District: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com; and to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti: firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Visit the Keep Vista del Mar Open web page at https://keepvdmopen.com/ and follow on Twitter and Facebook.
4. Weigh in on Councilmember Mike Bonin's "Playa Del Rey Safety Improvements - Initial Feedback" page.
5. Visit the Keep VDM Open GoFundMe page to fund legal challenges, Freedom of Information Act requests, and advocacy efforts. The campaign has raised more than $13,000 toward its $25,000 goal in five days.
6. Visit the Change.org petition to express opposition to the plan.