Kevin de León is the former President pro tempore of the California Senate. Under his leadership, the Senate regularly passed important and progressive transportation legislation, including the Three Feet For Safety Act as well as SB 1, which generated important funding for transit, bikeway, and pedestrian improvements.
De León’s response to Bike The Vote was strong, stressing the importance of working aggressively to implement Vision Zero and building out a safe, comfortable, useful network of bike lanes. We also applaud de León’s statement in favor of a dense network of bike and bus lanes in Downtown. De León’s response that he is undecided regarding on-street bus rapid transit in Eagle Rock is disappointing. Moving forward, we would like to hear that he sets transit-rider experience as a top priority, but do appreciate that he is framing his position on the project around the experience of those on foot and on bikes.
Past experience has shown that progressive State electeds who become local councilmembers don’t always carry over their progressive values as they face local opposition and struggle to navigate city politics. In developing his campaign platform, de León appears to have engaged some former CD14 staff members who are familiar allies to the safe streets advocacy community. This on-the-ground experience and understanding of how to navigate political challenges is invaluable, and makes us hopeful that de León would continue or even ramp up the district’s recent progress on complete streets.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2019 Primary Grade: A-
(See below for full candidate questionnaire response)
1. Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gases in California, and neighborhood oil extraction has been shown to pose significant health and safety risks to residents. Heavy spending by oil and gas companies in local elections casts doubt on whether voters can trust their elected leaders to protect them from these and other impacts. Will you pledge to refuse any donations, whether to your campaign or officeholder account, from the fossil fuel lobby?
Los Angeles is currently facing a major crisis in air pollution and the effects of climate change. We have seen first hand that more traffic creates more pollution. CD14 is choked by 8 freeways, the most of any Council District. From Eagle Rock to Downtown, every neighborhood is affected by this pollution. That is why I passed historic legislation that put CA on the road to 100% renewable energy, the largest economy in the world to do so, because this is an environmental justice issue that disproportionately affects low income communities of color. Communities that I have represented for the last 12 years through my legislation and through my values.
Currently I am working on the issue of statewide air pollution and tailpipe emissions reduction as a senior fellow at USC’s Schwarzenegger Institute.
When it comes to rejecting contributions from fossil fuels, I have signed the Climate Hawks pledge in the past, and will continue to pledge to not accept any fossil fuel money.
2. 242 Angelenos were killed in car crashes in 2018, a 32% increase from 2015. Clearly, L.A. has failed to make significant progress towards Vision Zero. Despite proven success in reducing the severity of crashes, road diets have been removed from Vision Zero projects on the high-injury network across LA. Why do LA’s streets remain so deadly by design? Would you commit to implementing road diets across the high-injury network to reach Vision Zero’s goals?
The lack of progress towards Vision Zero can be attributed to many factors but I feel that we need real leadership and vision on this issue that can cut through the challenges. I think we start by shifting the conversation from bikes vs no bikes to advocating for holistic traffic improvements for pedestrians, bikes, vehicles, and public transit. Complete streets should leverage resources to create green infrastructure, safe crossings, art, speed controls, sidewalks, and other improvements to create streets that everyone can enjoy and use safely.
Another major crisis is the amount of fatalities caused by collisions. Fundamentally, people are driving too fast and we need to have the ability to reduce speeds. This requires state legislation similar to what Assemblymember Friedman’s AB2363 originally proposed. It was amended and will instead be a report back to the legislature in 2020. I will use my relationships with Sacramento to push for lowering speed limits so that we can provide local governments the flexibility they need to address the issue of speeding.
Secondly, our streets remain deadly because we have designed them for vehicles to move faster. When you have more lanes, wider lanes, and large curb radii, it allows traffic to move faster. For whatever reason, in LA, getting somewhere 5 minutes faster has become more important than someone’s life. We have not created that connection for the general public and educated them as to why this issue is so important. It is easy to get stuck in our transportation planning world, but not everyone sees it like that. We need a better campaign to educate people as to why this is so important.
As for road diets, they work – look at Colorado and the other streets throughout CD14. The problem is, they can’t be installed in isolation. They need to come with safer crosswalks for pedestrians, better sidewalks, and lighting. People need to see it as a holistic approach to transportation and not as a single mode issue. Education and getting buy-in is important. Road diets should always be an option, but we need to think about all modes such as bikes and buses. Each street needs to be analyzed closely, but a sense of urgency needs to be maintained so we’re not waiting years for improvements.
3. Los Angeles’ traffic woes are compounded by the reality that roads around schools are frequently unsafe. This discourages parents from allowing their children to walk or bike to school, and makes the health benefits of active transportation inaccessible for most Angeleno youth. If elected councilmember, how would you prioritize student safety and active transportation options around schools?
DOT has already done a lot of work to identify the most dangerous schools. I would prioritize those first. State funded ATP projects like the Breed Street and Sheridan Street Elementary School Safe Routes to School is a perfect example. I would work with DOT to develop a comprehensive community engagement strategy and identify improvements that can be made. Then, we work together with DOT to seek funding. Whether it be through local dollars or Metro and state funding, I will push DOT to secure the funding.
4. In 2016, over 70% of Los Angeles County voters supported Measure M, a ½ cent tax to improve mobility options for Angelenos, including a number of bus rapid transit (BRT) lines such as the North Hollywood-Pasadena Transit Corridor. The project sees widespread support from transit users, Northeast Los Angeles residents, students, and environmentally-focused non-profits. What are your views on Metro’s proposal to have dedicated bus lanes on Colorado Boulevard through Eagle Rock?
Fossil fuels are a threat to our existence as humanity and when I see Clean Natural Gas buses – I think we can do better, I think we can have all electric buses. As for the BRT, my biggest concern is ensuring we maintain good bicycle and pedestrian access. In 2016, I supported the successful Colorado Blvd ATP application, and I want to make sure that work doesn’t go to the wayside. I want Metro to show multiple design options for how we can make Colorado multimodal. Until I see good street cross sections that show we can maintain or enhance these improvements, I am reserving judgement. Hopefully the EIR will provide us some good alternatives. This could include relocating parking, a cycle track, or many other creative options, – but I need to see it.
5. Over the past year, we have seen increased use of privately owned electric bikes and scooters throughout Los Angeles, particularly in Downtown. Unfortunately, without a network of bike lanes or on-street storage space for these vehicles, vital pedestrian space is sometimes negatively impacted by sidewalk riding and storage for dockless e-scooters and bikes. Would you direct LADOT to reallocate curbside car parking for dockless scooter and bike corrals? In order to reduce conflicts between scooter/bike users and pedestrians, would you implement a cohesive network of bike lanes on all streets Downtown?
I am happy to see people using non-fossil fuel vehicles for transportation, but the current system has created a nightmare for pedestrians and people with disabilities. We definitely need dedicated areas for parking them, but we need to find a solution to people leaving them in the middle of the sidewalks as well.
As for a bike network in Downtown, this is a no brainer. Look at how successful Spring Street has been. But, a network is key. Downtown traffic is not going to get better. We should be prioritizing bikes, pedestrians, electric buses, and commercial/passenger loading. The Mobility Plan identified many streets we can install bike lanes. I want DOT and Metro to look at installing both bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes in Downtown to ensure we have a functioning transportation system. I will work closely with Downtown stakeholders as well and ensure they are part of the selection process and that there is good buy-in for these Improvements.
6. The previous CD14 administration made some important progress towards providing safer streets through projects like Spring and Main Forward as well as York Blvd. and First Street bike lanes. But much work is still required to provide safe streets for all road users. Please respond to the following questions regarding specific CD14 issues and projects:
6A. My Figueroa opened in 2018, providing dedicated bus lanes and protected bike lanes between Expo Park/USC and Downtown. Will you direct LADOT to secure funding to extend these bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian improvements up to Cesar Chavez/Sunset Blvd during your term?
MyFig taught us many lessons and was a good pilot. Extending lanes farther north makes sense, but I want to really look at the corridor to make sure the improvements are well thought out and comprehensive. This means closely evaluating bus stop locations, signal timing for bikes, etc. Let’s learn from what we did and improve on it. I also believe that this is a prime example of a corridor where the bike infrastructure will complement the new growth and housing planned for the area. It can show that we can have density and alternative transportation options in the heart of the city and that it works well.
6B. With the construction of the Wilshire Grand project, $9.175 million was set aside to improve transportation along 7th Street. What is your vision for use of these funds?
Downtown needs an east west bike spine. 7th Street is our best option. Most other east-west streets are one way, so making improvements on 7th Street, especially if we already have funding, makes sense. But, it needs to go all the way to the river, the Arts District, and the new 6th Street Bridge and Park. I will work with the BIDs, businesses, residents, and the departments to identify the best improvements and then find funding for them. I will also push for a new Red/Purple line Metro Station under the 6th Street Bridge, something the community has been asking for awhile. With the new Arts District ATP improvements that connect the 6th Street Bridge and Park to 7th Street, you can have an interconnected network that allows you to go from Staples Center to the LA River on a bike.
6C. In response to recent collisions harming area students, The Eagle Rock Association (TERA) has initiated “Slow Yosemite,” a project aimed at providing a safer Yosemite Dr. serving Eagle Rock High School and Rockdale Elementary School. Will you commit to continue support for this project in collaboration with TERA?
Absolutely. One of the things I love about Eagle Rock is the initiative groups like TERA take. Thanks to them, we have $28M is Improvements coming to Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevards. The 710 funding allocated some funding for Northeast LA, so I’m hoping we can use some of it for Yosemite and other Northeast corridors in CD14.
6D. The stretch of North Figueroa in CD14 between York Blvd. and Colorado Blvd. is a treacherous one, taking the lives of Ervin Garcia and Manuel Alonzo in 2017. Do you think a road diet is possible on North Figueroa? As councilmember, would you dedicate staff resources towards getting community support to reduce speeding and provide a safer street for drivers, people on bikes, and pedestrians?
As I said before, the fatalities due to collisions is a crisis. For Figueroa, it needs to be comprehensive improvements and we need a robust community outreach process. We need workshops, design charrettes, and graphics for people to look at and comment on. We need to look at all users and devise a solution that works for all. I think this can be done, but we need DOT to really provide some good solutions that address all users.
I would ensure that my staff frame the issues to make sure they are working towards the goals of Vision Zero. It is crucial to have a coherent vision and I will work with staff to make sure that they communicate that vision effectively.
6E. TERA, in collaboration with CD14, recently secured $16.3 million in Metro funding to implement “Rock The Boulevard,” a remaking of Eagle Rock Blvd. oriented towards the people, with protected bike lanes, curb extensions, and increased trees and green space along the boulevard. Will you commit to help making this community vision for a people-oriented street a reality?
Yes, absolutely. We have the funds, let’s implement it. We need to continue the good community engagement and partnership with TERA so that the improvements are well designed and meet the goals of the community.
As I mentioned before, in 2016, I supported TERA’s Take Back the Boulevard ATP application because I saw that grass-roots community driven change is the most successful and impactful. Rock the Boulevard is an example of this, and it must be done right and with community input and direction.