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Supporters, opponents of Measure HLA discuss its focus on improving street safety

Midvale Avenue is pictured. The street is one of many that could be improved through the city of Los Angeles’ Mobility Plan if the Healthy Streets LA measure is passed this year. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Alexandra Crosnoe and Gabrielle Gillette

March 4, 2024 6:33 p.m.

This post was updated March 5 at 1:22 a.m

Angelenos have the opportunity to vote Tuesday on a measure that would require Los Angeles to redesign its streets, with the aim of making them safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The citizen-drafted Healthy Streets LA measure will appear on the ballot as the City Mobility Plan Implementation Initiative. If approved, it would force the city to fully execute its Mobility Plan, a project dedicated to stopping all LA traffic deaths by 2035 through pedestrian safety improvements and the creation of new bicycle and bus lanes.

Some proponents of the measure said the city has failed to adequately implement the Mobility Plan, which was officially adopted by the city council in 2015.

Michael Schneider – the founder and CEO of Streets for All, an organization advocating for improving mobility in LA – said he supports the measure because the city has implemented only 5% of its Mobility Plan so far, putting it on track to take 160 years to execute. He added that he believes the failure to implement the plan has led to even more unnecessary pedestrian deaths.

“Most of the injuries and deaths that are happening on our streets are happening on Mobility Plan streets, meaning streets that have intended safety upgrades on the plan that have just not happened,” Schneider said. “If the city implemented this Mobility Plan, it would save lives.”

Currently, the local LA City Council member decides if they want the Mobility Plan enforced in their area, said Juan Matute, the deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies. He added that Measure HLA would standardize the Mobility Plan throughout LA.

However, concerns have been raised about the price of the measure. According to ABC7 LA, Public Works Commissioner Matt Szabo estimated the plan would cost $3.1 billion over the next 10 years, with $2 billion spent on repairing sidewalks, $670 million on the bike lane network and $420 million on the enhanced bike network.

Jacob Wasserman, the secretary for the North Westwood Neighborhood Council, said he thought Szabo’s number was a significant overestimation because it included the price of sidewalk improvements, which are not a part of the Mobility Plan but rather a cost that LA already pays annually.

He added that the figures Szabo used for bicycle lanes were nine times higher than those of recent construction projects in LA.

“It’s simply just not a reflection of reality on the ground,” Wasserman said. “The costs are really overblown.”

Matthew Orihuela, the co-director of the Undergraduate Students Association Council’s Environmental Justice Now committee, said he has been working with his committee to raise student awareness of the measure.

Orihuela, who is also a fourth-year economics and political science student, added that other cities around the country, including Washington, D.C., have already implemented similar plans involving dedicated bike and bus lanes.

“This has been done in other cities successfully,” Orihuela said. “I don’t think LA has to be an exception. I think we can do it here, too.”

Schneider said he believes that there are also monetary costs if the city decides to not implement the plan, adding that the city currently spends tens of millions of dollars to settle wrongful death lawsuits and that the economy loses significant capital whenever many people are injured or killed in a traffic incident.

“That person is no longer working, they’re no longer paying their mortgage, … and that cost is estimated at about $4 billion a year to our economy,” Schneider said. “We have a very expensive status quo, not just in loss of life but also financially.”

Some also oppose Measure HLA because of a concern that it could lengthen emergency vehicle response time. The United Fire Fighters of LA City recently launched a campaign opposing Measure HLA, claiming that the addition of new bus and bicycle lanes could slow down fire trucks.

Raag Agrawal, an NWWNC councilmember, said he believes UFLAC and others who believe that Measure HLA will increase emergency response time are mistaken.

“Actually, implementing bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes improves response times by creating dedicated corridors for emergency vehicles,” he said. “They’re very wrong on that point.”

Measure HLA would also require streets in the Westwood area to be redesigned.

Wasserman said the Mobility Plan would improve safety on roads such as Hilgard, Veteran and Midvale Avenues by repainting crosswalks and providing clear lines of sight for pedestrians. He added that the plan would create bus lanes on Wilshire Boulevard for faster travel as well as a safer bicycle path from the UCLA campus to Westwood Village.

Orihuela said he and his co-director, Annamaria De La Torre, talked with Streets For All about creating a student coalition that would work on improving youth voter turnout on college campuses. He added that his group managed to secure participation from students at the University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount University and Santa Monica College.

Out of all Westwood residents, Agrawal said Measure HLA would impact UCLA students the most, adding that Bruins should go to the polls and vote on the initiative.

“(It’s) really important that this gets passed for students because most of them don’t have cars,” he said. “I’d encourage them to vote because it’s a really local, important political issue that impacts them the most of anyone.”

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Alexandra Crosnoe
Crosnoe is the 2024-2025 national news and higher education editor. She was previously a News reporter. Crosnoe is a second-year economics and public affairs student from Dallas.
Crosnoe is the 2024-2025 national news and higher education editor. She was previously a News reporter. Crosnoe is a second-year economics and public affairs student from Dallas.
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