2017 Los Angeles CD5 Endorsement: Jesse Creed

Primary Election day: Tuesday, March 7, 7am-8pm
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Los Angeles’ 5th Council District, which takes in Westside neighborhoods east of the 405 freeway, is an area of enormous but mostly untapped potential for active transportation. As the home to UCLA and its dynamic student population, a thriving office district in Century City, three brand new Expo Line stations with a planned Purple Line extension in the works, and residents yearning for alternatives to soul-crushing traffic; the district is well positioned and in desperate need to chart a bold new course toward better and more sustainable mobility options.

Unfortunately, under incumbent Councilmember Paul Koretz, residents have seen a string of missed opportunities to create safer streets, from a sidewalk never added near an Expo Line stop to a gap in the Expo bike path that remains unfilled. One welcome exception to this trend has been the road diet and bike lanes along Motor Avenue in Palms, which have helped to revitalize an emerging community hub. And Koretz’ role in overseeing the construction of the Expo Line itself, now a rousing success, should be acknowledged – even if he seeks to distance himself from the failure to grade-separate the crossing at Overland Avenue.

But there is one particular missed opportunity that overshadows the rest. When presented with a chance to address a long history of crashes and injuries along a crucial cycling route to UCLA, Koretz abandoned all pretense of working toward consensus on bike safety improvements for Westwood Boulevard. Not content to stop there, Koretz poured considerable energy into denying future generations the mere possibility of those improvements by getting even a broad vision of bike lanes on Westwood removed from Mobility Plan 2035, short-circuiting more than four years of public input. Koretz consistently expresses support for environmental issues, but he fails to connect that commitment to urban policies, and to prioritizing active transportation as an alternative to driving.

Jesse Creed, on the other hand, has been a breath of fresh air, having articulated a strong vision for making it safe for Angelenos of all ages, abilities, and travel modes to get around, recently expanded on in a December 2016 op-ed for the L.A. Daily News. In his response to our questionnaire, Creed showed an impressive commitment to the safety of the most vulnerable users of L.A.’s streets, calling attention specifically to the challenges facing seniors and youth.

Creed also voiced support for completing the promised, but never-finished, study of Westwood traffic safety, and for bringing all stakeholders back to the table to arrive at a workable solution. He also emphasized that in order to lead, one must eventually move from listening and consensus-building to action, and “make decisions based on facts.” We think the facts support a decision to install the bike lanes, and after his recent press conference in which he reiterated his commitment to improving safety on Westwood, we are heartened to see that Creed is willing to consider those facts.

The rest of Creed’s questionnaire response is impressive for its breadth and depth of knowledge, touching on the need for thoughtful expansion of L.A.’s nascent bike share system, the opportunity presented by Measure M local return to expand the City’s investment in livable streets, and a note of urgency on L.A.’s Vision Zero initiative, which holds a great deal of potential but has suffered from a lack of visible progress so far.

For these reasons, we are excited to see Creed emerge as a prominent challenger in the Council District 5 race, and we look forward to seeing him provide the leadership needed to work toward safer and more sustainable transportation alternatives for all of the district’s residents. We endorse Jesse Creed as an outstanding leader who will help Council District 5 to realize its full potential.

(See below for Jesse Creed’s response to Bike The Vote L.A.)

1. What role do you see for walking, biking, and transit in improving the lives of Angelenos?

While Los Angeles has come a long way in just the past decade, we still don’t have a transportation system that provides great options to get around safely, regardless of their age, ability, or the way they travel. People feel trapped on the Westside with no good way to get in and out of their neighborhoods for several hours each day. Meetings get scheduled to avoid traffic and parents lose precious time with their children while idling in gridlock.  We need to make District 5, and the whole city, more transit-oriented with mobility options that are safe, widely accessible, reliable, and affordable to everyone. Implicit in that vision is the need to protect our most vulnerable community members: older adults aging-in-place in our wonderful neighborhoods, children walking and biking to school, and students traveling to UCLA. If we prioritize walking, biking, and public transit, we can help make Los Angeles a place that’s easier to get around, while reducing the number of people stuck in our notorious traffic.

I encourage you to read my op ed in the Daily News to get a sense of my thinking on transportation issues through the lens of one part of the network.  You can read it here

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 provides a vision for a transportation system composed of safe and quality transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and automotive options. Do you support the goals of this plan, and how would you like to see the plan implemented in CD5?

Yes.  Council District 5 has some of the best neighborhoods in terms of quality of life, but we also have huge job centers that generate an incredible amount of traffic on our major streets: Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sepulveda, Overland, Westwood/National, and Ventura—not to mention the 405. These streets can’t handle the demand if everyone drives, so it’s important that we build streets that support other modes. Mobility Plan 2035 is a smart approach: it recognizes that not every street can prioritize every mode, but that every mode needs a complete network. That allows the City to focus on bus and bike lanes where they will have the most benefit to the system.

Mobility Plan 2035 also revolutionizes the City’s approach to neighborhood traffic management by establishing a clear set of standards to keep cut-through traffic off neighborhood streets and prioritize walking and biking on the neighborhood network. This is another win-win—residents desperately want traffic calming, and it can be implemented in a way that creates a family-friendly bike network that connects schools, parks, and other local destinations.

3. Mobility Plan 2035 enacted a ‘Vision Zero’ for Los Angeles, with the goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths within 20 years. In order to meet this goal, LADOT identified a “High Injury Network” to prioritize safety improvements on L.A.’s most dangerous streets. However, after a year and a half, we still haven’t seen much action to reduce transportation-related deaths on City streets. What do you see as the hold-ups for improving safety on Los Angeles streets, and how would you work to address these impediments in reducing speeding to save lives?

LADOT has a mandate to reduce fatalities and serious injuries 20% by 2017. Well, it’s already 2017 and we’re not on track – not even close. We need to act faster and to treat traffic deaths like the public health crisis they are. In District 5, we’re fortunate to have relatively little violent crime (though that is changing). Instead, our residents are more likely to be killed or seriously injured while crossing the street, riding their bike, or driving their car. As the LADOT statistics show, older adults and young children are at the greatest risk, so safe routes to schools and improvements near senior centers – including our sidewalks – are particularly important.

Intransigence from some members of the Council has been a significant factor. Council members have a responsibility to listen to and respect their constituents, but in the face of a crisis, a true leader shouldn’t be paralyzed just because they don’t have 100% consensus. The focus should be on safety first and to listen to a greater cross-section of the community and work to build consensus, be open and honest, and make decisions based on facts

The High Injury Network identifies multiple streets in District 5, including Westwood, Santa Monica, Pico, 3rd, Beverly, Fairfax, and Ventura.  Based on community feedback, I would add Overland Ave. near the Expo line as a dangerous street as well, where an organized group of nearby residents is publicly protesting the speed of vehicles on the now six-lane highway.  If elected, I would sit down as soon as possible with LADOT to understand what projects are planned along these streets and get to work engaging stakeholders along each corridor.

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 how Angelenos get around? Given that Measure M will return millions of dollars directly to the City of Los Angeles each year, do you support increasing the funding the City allocates to making it easier and safer for Angelenos to walk and bike?

Measure M is an important statement that Angelenos are willing to invest in improving their own mobility. It is a mandate to redouble our efforts to build transit, walking, and biking infrastructure so that we can have the more balanced transportation system that voters are demanding. The transit projects promised by Measure M—including the Purple Line extension to Westwood and the Sepulveda Pass transit project— will be the most exciting things to happen in the next term of the CD5 councilmember.  But the projects will only achieve their potential if the City makes the streets around each station more accessible for walking, biking, and buses, which are how over 90% of Metro customers access transit. I am aware of the great planning for first and last-mile that is starting to happen at Metro and support it wholeheartedly.  But I’m equally aware that the wrong leadership in a particular district can thwart Metro’s efforts, as I described in my Daily News op ed.

Mobility Plan 2035 calls for 20% of local return to be dedicated for walking and biking. The City currently only dedicates 10% of Measure R. I support Mobility Plan 2035’s dedication of funding. I also would make sure that all projects funded through local return are compliant with complete streets, which will require greater coordination between LADOT and BSS.

5. There is universal agreement that Westwood Boulevard is a dangerous street for people walking and bicycling. Westwood Boulevard is identified as a corridor on LADOT’s High Injury Network, bike lanes were considered a priority in the 2010 Bike Plan, and the project has wide community support, including from UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association. However, implementation of continuous bicycle infrastructure on Westwood has stalled for years. Prioritization of safety improvements for the street was removed from the Mobility Plan 2035 by an amendment co-authored by Councilmember Koretz. Will you commit to implementing quality bicycle infrastructure on Westwood Boulevard during the next Council term? (If not, what specific alternative do you support to improve the safety of people walking and bicycling in the area, and to address the high rate of crashes related to speeding on Westwood Boulevard?)

Absolutely, the current situation is incredibly dangerous for people walking and biking—and driving too. Councilmember Koretz’s flip-flopping on this issue is a complete failure of leadership. It is not ok to say that a street on the High Injury Network is too dangerous to be improved, which is essentially Koretz’s position. The City’s job is to make it not dangerous. We need to complete the LADOT study, evaluate what makes sense in partnership with all community stakeholders, and commit to moving forward with safety improvements on Westwood. We might not get to 100% consensus, but I believe we can come up with a solution that satisfies the reasonable majority that wants to make things better.

6. Bike share systems have started to be installed across Los Angeles, but as systems expand to different areas of Los Angeles and neighboring cities, experts foresee two major obstacles: stations that are discontinuous/too far apart and stations with unsafe walking conditions that limit access. How would you envision the growth of bike share in the City of Los Angeles and regionally?

It is incredibly exciting that Los Angeles finally has bike share, and I support the expansion of the bike share system.  In the short term, I’d like to see the bike share program built along the Expo Line in my district, specifically near the Palms station.  That said, I recognize that bike share works best when there is a minimum station density that makes the system useful and when it is installed in walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. Downtown certainly fits that mold.  While I want CD5 to get a bikeshare program, it might make more sense for the City to expand out from Downtown more methodically, even if that means taking longer to get to other parts of Los Angeles. I want to see the program set up for success more than anything.