Thursday, November 21

Council member’s emails show inconsistencies with stance against bike lanes

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz has taken a stance against a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard. (Daily Bruin file photo)

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz has taken a stance against a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Email correspondence between a city council member’s staffers and Westwood residents shows inconsistencies in his stance on the proposed Westwood Boulevard bike lane.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Westwood Village and surrounding areas, consistently told community leaders he did not support bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard. However, his staff members sent several emails to constituents over the past two years that said Koretz would be willing to discuss proposals for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard with more time and research.

The contested bike lane was introduced in accordance with Mobility Plan 2035, a citywide transportation plan that aims to decrease congestion and improve conditions for transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians. If the lane remains in the plan, it will run from Wellworth Avenue, which is south of Wilshire Boulevard, to Le Conte Avenue, which marks the southern border of UCLA.

After city planners announced the Mobility Plan in 2013, several Westside community leaders and residents who opposed the proposed bike lane emailed Koretz asking to meet with him. In his reply, Koretz said a meeting was unnecessary because he agreed with them.

“I usually like to have as much information as I can before making a decision,” Koretz said in his email response. “But since I can’t see any way that I wind up supporting the bike lane on Westwood anyway, I am just going to kill it now, rather than waiting for a study.”

Last August, Koretz proposed an amendment that would remove the bike lane from the mobility plan. He continued to advocate for the proposal at committee hearings and city council meetings, but it has not been brought to a vote.

Koretz said he opposes the proposed bike lane because he thinks it would decrease safety on the heavily-trafficked street and impede emergency vehicles.

Ryan Snyder, a transportation consultant and UCLA alumnus, created the “Remove Nothing Plan” in response to Koretz’s safety concerns. The plan would create bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard without removing any current vehicle lanes.

Jay Greenstein, Koretz’s transportation deputy, said in emails responding to residents who supported Snyder’s plan that Koretz’s office was willing to collaborate with Snyder and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition.

Koretz met with Snyder and other pro-bike lane community members, but Snyder said he never followed up with the groups.

Snyder said he thinks Koretz was never interested in making any compromises involving a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard, which was the premise behind his plan.

In email correspondence with neighborhood leaders and city engineers, Koretz’s office members said they thought Snyder’s plan was conceptual and unrealistic, and did not account for already-narrow medians and sidewalks that would have to be further slimmed.

However, in March 2015, Greenstein sent an email to the West L.A. Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, and said Koretz would discuss the proposal after more data became available.

“Councilmember Koretz and Mayor (Eric) Garcetti support the Department of Transportation moving forward with the preliminary engineering design for two bike lane options on this segment of Westwood Boulevard,” Greenstein said in the email.

In reply, the Sierra Club thanked Greenstein for informing them of Koretz’s support.

Koretz previously told Westwood community leaders he opposed any engineering studies that studied the effects of removing vehicle lanes and parking.

Dave Karwaski, senior associate director for UCLA Transportation, said UCLA supports all proposals for bike lanes in Westwood, but he thinks engineering studies should evaluate the proposed lane on Westwood Boulevard before city officials vote to eliminate it.

James Bickhart, a consultant in Koretz’s office, said he doesn’t think the proposed segment needs to be studied again, because the proposal was researched in the mobility plan’s Environmental Impact Report.

In 2015, city planners began to look for alternative locations for the bike lane. Bickhart said the city’s planning department will evaluate alternative routes in a report released later this year. The city council will vote in February whether to remove the proposed Westwood Boulevard bike lane from the city’s mobility plan.

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Catherine Liberty Feliciano was a news reporter and a staff representative on the Daily Bruin Editorial Board. She wrote stories about Westwood, research and student life. She dabbled in video journalism and frequently wrote #ThrowbackThursday blogs. Feliciano was an assistant Opinion editor in the 2015-2016 school year.

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  • Guest of a Guest

    Koretz has shown himself to be a councilman who panders to the homeowners. This issue has been simmering for some time and while this story is finally out, it may be too late. Homeowners in Westwood also seem to think their deed includes all of Westwood Village and therefore everyone is yet a scourge and nuisance to be squashed- renters, students, workers, and visitors be damned! There is a whole 80% of the population in Westwood that is continuously, and purposefully, ignored in all decision making.

    Let’s see the homeowners demonstrate that they use and can keep Westwood alive economically more than all the other groups who shop, eat, and use the area. This is not a personal playground for those who are able to buy and own residential property. It’s an urban neighborhood in a metropolitan city with one of the largest and best PUBLIC research universities in the world. UCLA has acknowledged and offered to support sustainable and alternative modes of transportation including the use and creation of bike lanes. Homeowners- and Mr. Koretz- know better but choose to make the choices which only serve themselves at expense of everyone else! It’s sad to see that a Councilman who claims to be a steward of the environment once again turn the streets over to cars and speak from both sides of his mouth.

  • Michael Cahn

    It is important to understand that the Sierra Club has in the past endorsed Koretz as a candidate for elections. Koretz is keen to display this green mantle, which he has first received it in 2008. Little wonder that the email to the Sierra Club pretends an interest in further studies, even though in his own mind Koretz had already “killed” (his word) the bikelane once and for all.

    If the city council adopts the same windshield perspective that Koretz and his rich homeowners peddle, then Koretz should loose the endorsement of the Sierra Club and similar environmental organisations. The Sierra Club chapter had supported the bike lane proposal at the March 2015 meeting of the Westwood Village BID (Resolution here)

    Westwood homeowners fighting against bikelanes is such a sad spectacle. It is a backwards, pathetic, stunning and irresponsible agenda. Conducting their campaign in the name of safety is outright perverse, and doing it in front of a world class university is an insult to all Bruins.

    • Sine Metu

      As a member of both the Sierra Club and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition I obviously support any efforts to replace Koretz with someone more sincere about protecting the environment and public safety over the convenience of homeowners. I do not live in Westwood but I do commute through it 5 days a week on my bike. I see multiple cyclists every time I cross Westwood Blvd. There is a need for safe infrastructure on this corridor and it will not go away or be forgotten about.

      The cyclists are not a fad. They are the future. Millenials are just not as interested in cars as we Boomers and Gen Xers. We older folks need to recognize this and help build a more eco-friendly, community-minded version of LA for the coming generations.

  • Jere Harrison

    It is unfortunate that Councilman Koretz values the convenience of one group of his constituents over the lives of another group of his constituents.

    Over the last 8 years, I have been involved in two bike vs. car accidents on Westwood Blvd. In the first, an elderly man threw his door open in front of the Bank of America building, boxing me in three ways between his car, his door, and a bus. Fortunately, I swerved and missed his arm, only to crash through his door and roll out of the way of the moving bus. A bike lane on Westwood between Wilshire and Le Conte would have prevented this accident that nearly took my life. The second accident was on Westwood just South of Wilshire at the intersection with the CVS, where I collided with a man turning into the intersection. There presently are no safe bike routes between Westwood and UCLA, especially after the route through the Los Angeles National Cemetery was closed post 9/11.

    I have lived and worked in Westwood longer than Koretz has been councilman here. He does not represent me, his actions show that he is not interested in representing me, and I see no reason to expect this to change while he holds the District 5 councilman position. I hope you will all join me in absolving him of those responsibilities in the May 26, 2017 municipal election.

  • Shady Hakim

    Shame on Koretz for such hypocrisy and for being a “politician” in the worst senses of the word. I regularly bike commute to campus on this route and his policies are not only causing safety issues for bicyclists and pedestrians, I would also argue that they are stifling the growth of businesses in the area by making it primarily a car thoroughfare rather than a commercial district.

    It’s time his backwards tenure ended. I only wish I were a resident so I could help vote him out. I’m willing to assist in this effort in any way. Also, as a Sierra Club member, I will do my best to make sure he doesn’t get the chapter’s endorsement in the future. If you don’t value the safety of cyclists, you are no friend of the environment. Shame on Koretz!