Concerns About our Complete Streets Process

Here I present my letter to our Traffic and Parking Commission about the state of our complete streets planning process as I see it. There will have gone ten weeks between the last event (the walk audit) and the upcoming workshop on August 22nd without any substantive communication with the public. Has public input to date effectively informed the process? Has the participation component been just a check-the-box exercise that hews to the city’s request-for-proposal? The RFP wasn’t a particularly imaginative document and it seems like we have a singularly unimaginative complete streets process on our hands.

July 12, 2018

Chair Nooshin Meshkaty
Vice-Chair Jay Solnit
Members of the Traffic & Parking Commission

Dear Commissioners:

Thank you for your continuing attention to the complete streets plan process. I appreciate your participation in the workshops and walk audit. I hope this commission will continue to play an active role through the adoption of the final complete streets plan this fall.

The Traffic & Parking Commission appears to be an outlier among commissions, however. No other commission seems to have actively engaged in what should be a broad civic conversation about the future of mobility. The General Plan Circulation Element (2010) and the Sustainable City Plan (2009) recommend we encourage active modes of transportation but it seems like most of our commissions have yet to find the means to help us reach that goal.

At least as far as engaging in the complete streets process goes. These commissions are not discussing issues relevant to complete streets. Most commissions have dispatched no participant to the plan process events as far as I can tell. I suspect it is because ‘complete streets’ appears as an information item and not an action item.

I believe that our commissions should have been explicitly invited to join this civic conversation about the future of mobility. Perhaps our commissioners could have benefitted from some help to recognize the relevance of complete streets to their commission mission.

For example, the Health & Safety Commission could have been asked to suggest measures that would raise public awareness; or invited to recommend the continuation of city-sponsored bike-safety classes in partnership with the school district. Recreation & Parks, too, could have been asked to reconsider the ban on bicycles in city parks. The commissioners could have reprised their discussion a about whether larger parks should feature a separate bicycle path. (Unfortunately, just as the complete streets plan process was kicking-off the commissioners elected not to make bicycling issues a priority.)

Likewise I’m sure the Planning Commission was not invited to review the city’s Transportation Demand Management program. TDM has long mandated nonresidential developments larger than 15,000 sq. feet to include bicycle maps and related information. Developments over 25,000 sq. feet were required to provide bicycle racks and enclosed secure bicycle parking. Has TDM yielded any benefit in that regard? Should it be expanded to residential developments too? (The coming 9200 Wilshire Boulevard project – 54 condominium units – presents an opportunity to have that conversation.)

The City Council’s standing committees also could have had a role to play in the complete streets plan process. Consider the Green City and Autonomous Vehicles committees. Wouldn’t they have something to talk about? Our consultants are talking about connected vehicles, after all, and it may be time to revisit our green building standards too. The Next Beverly Hills committee should have received a formal invitation to participate too, in my view. Kory Klem and I talk-up complete streets to those relatively young committee members but I’m not sure many have even completed the online survey.

Your commission also has a role here. I wish I had suggested that you revisit the bicycle rack-on-request program. Inexplicably the program always focused on business needs; shouldn’t it have targeted end-users – the riders who use the racks? I also should have suggested the commission discuss a ‘bike valet’ program. Bike valets promote attendance at city events while encouraging attendees to leave the car at home. It is in your wheelhouse: your remit includes oversight of valet car parking of course.

All of this comes to mind when I ponder the gap between what our complete streets plan could be, and the limitations of the process that will ultimately generate it. Many weeks will have gone by between the walk audit and the presentation of the draft plan. And maybe our capable consultants have it in hand. But it feels like the process and purpose has receded from the collective consciousness. A recent email via the website about it wasn’t even acknowledged.

What I’m missing is a robust civic conversation about the inevitable transformation that personal mobility augurs. Scooters are only the latest sign that we are not yet prepared for the future.

As always I thank you for your time and effort you put in month-after month. It is appreciated!

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