City of Beverly Hills has been talking about updating its Bicycle Master Plan (1977) since 2010. And for nearly a decade the outdated and moribund plan was left for dead by city officials. With Metro grant money hanging in the balance, city council revived the planning effort by folding it into a larger complete streets plan in 2017. But after a couple of public workshops in 2018 it has again languished. This time it was done-in by a few NIMBY scarecrows. They derailed a two-year planing process despite hundreds of supportive public comments. Let’s take a look at how a perfectly good draft complete streets plan has remained bottled-up ever since.
The complete streets planning process kicked-off in 2017 with a $200,000 budget and three transportation consultants. After 18 months of community outreach, public workshops and numerous Traffic & Parking Commission meetings, the draft plan was posted to the city’s complete streets pop-up website.
The highlights of the draft complete streets plan:
- Priority bike routes to connect schools, parks, business districts and neighborhoods;
- A bus-priority lane for Wilshire;
- Street design guidelines informed by NACTO to minimize conflict among modes at intersections;
- A bike-parking ordinance and new requirements for bike parking at major employers and community destinations;
- Metrics and benchmarks to measure progress in mode-shift; and,
- Enforcement of traffic violations (and benchmarks) because unlawful driving behavior threatens all other road users.
There is much more to like, including traffic calming treatments, bicycle-friendly business districts, bus shelters, and pilot program for shared-use mobility devices. The draft plan is an effective roadmap for the future of mobility in Beverly Hills.
Since 2009 state law has encouraged localities like Beverly Hills to plan for safe and inclusive mobility regardless of travel mode. The following year the Beverly Hills General Plan was revised to include policy recommendations to encourage people to choose a mode other than the automobile. The goal was to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The city even made complete streets a city council policy priority back in 2017.
So why did mobility planning take a holiday? The usual suspect: not-in-my-backyard resistance to change. NIMBYs said complete streets was cooked-up to make driving impossible; they said city officials were conniving to take away curb parking; and they accused city staff of conspiring to gin-up the complete streets plan in secret despite the extensive public outreach and numerous complete streets public events. It happened at a December 3rd 2019 Traffic & Parking Commission ‘open house’ to present the draft plan.
It may sound preposterous, but in Beverly Hills just three or four NIMBYs can put a stop to a $150,000 mobility plan process which has been underway for two years. It is less preposterous considering that city transportation officials like department director Susan Healey Keene and deputy director Aaron Kunz have never supported multimodal mobility.
In the year since NIMBYs tanked the process, we-the-people have received substance-free ‘updates’ on the dead complete streets plan. To put this failed process into a larger context, here is our timeline of mobility planning in Beverly Hills. Over ten years, the key tangible outcome is bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Beyond that there are a few streets partially-designated as ‘bike routes’ (characterized by bicycle lanes and/or sharrows) and still the city has no updated bike plan.