2017 Los Angeles CD13 Endorsement: Mitch O’Farrell
The race to represent Council District 13 has become consumed with conversations regarding the regressive housing ban, Measure S, which Bike The Vote L.A. opposes. However, this highly diverse district, which stretches from Atwater Village to Hollywood, is also at the center of some of Los Angeles’ most important discussions around mobility and safe streets.
We received thoughtful responses to our questionnaire from incumbent Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and challenger Jessica Salans along with an uneven response from community advocate David de la Torre. As vocal opponents of Measure S, both O’Farrell and Salans share our vision for a livable, urban, and welcoming city. Not coincidentally, both have also expressed support for protected bike lanes and better pedestrian and bike infrastructure.
We were impressed with Salans’ enthusiastic call to prioritize safety and to break down cultural barriers that make travel on foot and by bike substandard. We look forward to seeing Salans continue to develop her platform on transportation as her political career continues over the next few years. But we believe that O’Farrell’s experience, embrace of an urban Los Angeles, and continued support for safety improvement projects merits a second term to represent the 13th District.
In his response to a 2013 questionnaire from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, then-candidate O’Farrell explained that, “We need to dream big” in order for “LA to become known for biking the way Berlin, Germany is.” We have appreciated O’Farrell’s leadership – both as a Councilmember and, prior to 2013, a staffer for then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti – in getting Mobility Plan 2035 adopted and implementing bike lanes in Virgil Village and on Fletcher Drive in Glassell Park, in addition to an all-directions scramble crosswalk at Hollywood and Highland. Nevertheless, if we are to dream big, we would like to see more from him over the next 5½ years to prioritize safety and promote active transportation.
Thus far, O’Farrell’s commitment to active transportation has not been complete: he failed to stand up for a reimagining of the Hyperion Bridge to prioritize walking and biking over driving speeds. Bike infrastructure remains unrealized on east/west corridors called out in the 2010 Bicycle Plan to connect jobs and residences in Hollywood with Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Los Feliz.
The 13th District has some exciting and ambitious ideas on the board, but to become a reality, they need support from the Council Office to initiate a positive community dialogue and ground decision making in a concern for the safety of the most vulnerable street users. Mobility Plan 2035 offers a vision of much-needed east/west connections in the bicycle network, including protected bike lanes on Hollywood Blvd and Melrose Ave, as well as bike lanes on Sunset Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, and Beverly Blvd. Many livable streets advocates have also highlighted the opportunity to create a vibrant and retail-friendly pedestrian plaza at Hollywood and Highland in the vein of New York City’s famous reworking of Times Square.
As a candidate who has demonstrated an understanding of the benefits of a more walkable and bikeable City, Bike The Vote L.A. continues to see great potential in O’Farrell. With the hope that he will foster an atmosphere over the next council term in which safety drives decision making, Bike The Vote L.A. endorses Mitch O’Farrell for City Council District 13.
(See below for Mitch O’Farrell’s response to Bike The Vote L.A.)
1. What future do you see for active mobility, and public transit in the daily lives of Angelenos?
I see an expanding future of alternative (to motorized vehicles) mobility and public transit options for Angelenos. With the advent of Measure M and the local return component, we stand to create additional city DASH lines, Street cars, and complete streets. Alternate and accessible modes of transit are really the only alternative to combat congestion on our streets.
2. In 2015, Los Angeles approved Mobility Plan 2035, the first update to the Transportation Element of its General Plan since 1999. Mobility Plan 2035 puts “safety first” in transportation decisions, and a presents a plan for a sorely lacking East/West quality bike routes through the 13th District. Do you support Mobility 2035’s recommendations of protected bike lanes on key connecting streets traversing CD13?
I support protected bike lanes where ever we can place them. It will require trade-offs that the neighborhoods will need to accept, especially when considering “road diets” to accomplish greater safety and encouragement for more people to travel on bikes.
3. Prevalent speeding on Los Angeles streets takes a deadly toll on people who walk and bike to get around, predominantly children and low-income residents. To address this danger, Los Angeles adopted ‘Vision Zero,’ with the goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths within 20 years. Do you support Vision Zero’s prioritization of safety for Los Angeles’ most vulnerable commuters, even when there may be trade-offs in terms vehicular travel times or available on-street parking?
I do, and my leadership on installing the scramble crosswalk at Hollywood and Highland is representative of this mindset. Collisions with motorists and pedestrians at this intersection went from 16 to zero since the scramble was installed. As we evolve and deal with transit issues, trade-offs will be required.
4. Angelenos recently approved Metro’s transportation funding plan, Measure M, with an impressive mandate of support from over 71% of voters. What opportunities do you see for Measure M to improve the options for Angelenos get around in CD13 and elsewhere? Given that Measure M will return millions of dollars directly to the City of Los Angeles each year, do you support increased funding to make biking and walking in the city easier and safer for Angelenos?
As I referenced above; yes but remember, I have fought successfully for additional funding for pedestrian safety since being on the LA City Council. This has resulted in 12 approved and/or already installed pedestrian activated signalized crosswalks in my District, and this summer, we will begin my 4th and 5th Streetscape project.
5. In 2009, New York City initiated a major transformation of its central tourist hub, Times Square, resulting in a 40% drop in traffic injuries and significantly increased retail values. Some have called for Hollywood Blvd to be enhanced as a tourist destination with a similar pedestrian plaza between Highland Ave and Orange Dr. Do you support developing the central hub of Hollywood Blvd into a people-oriented public square in the next council term?
Lot’s of work has to go in to making this a reality for Hollywood Boulevard with directly affected businesses and residents. There are also implications for surrounding neighborhoods that would be impacted by redirecting traffic permanently onto alternate streets. I can see this happening some day but more people who are directly impacted (businesses and residents) need to be supportive of the idea and it will require good traffic studies, a traffic management plan, funding, and robust outreach.
6. Los Angeles is beginning to employ bike share as a new transportation option, but many barriers to access remain, particularly the cost of riding and the fact that a credit card is needed to use the system. Some cities have offered subsidies to low-income riders and cash payment options to address these issues. What can the City of Los Angeles do to help as many residents as possible enjoy the benefits that bike share will bring?
There should be cash payment options and incentives in the form of subsidies.