Westside Coalition Filing Suite to Stop Mayor's Plan
By David Lowell
LA’s Mayor is fond of saying that he was elected to make the tough calls and that he’s up to the task. Seldom, however, have his decisions been as in-your-face as his order Thursday to start implementation of his Pico East-Olympic West traffic plan in spite of heavy opposition from hundreds of businesses, community organizations and even City Council members.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who had asked that the plan be delayed until the Planning Department could become involved, said he might remove his district from the plan. He called the Mayor’s action “disrespectful to my constituents and an insult.” Rosendahl’s response was the tip of the iceberg. Jay Handal, Chair of the Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has announced that “a coalition of businesses and residents will file suit to stop the Mayor’s ill-conceived plan.”
“The actions of Villaraigosa and (Jack) Weiss have made a mockery of the neighborhood council process and even the democratic process.” Handal said, “Every neighborhood council along the route has opposed the plan until key issues have been addressed. The two other City council members whose districts will be impacted have opposed the plan. The Beverly Hills City Council hasn’t even been given the respect of discussing the matter prior to its implementation – even though Olympic passes through their city.”
The Mayor’s response to all of this, through spokesman Matt Szabo, “The Department of Transportation reports to the mayor.”
“Of course,” noted Hancock Park’s Keith Bright, “the Mayor is supposed to report to the people. It would appear that he didn’t get the memo.”
The Mayor’s Pico/Olympic Plan calls for increased parking restrictions to begin on March 8; traffic signals timed to favor Pico east and Olympic West traffic by April 28 and after a test period of six months or so, restriped streets providing four lanes going east on Pico and four lanes going west on Olympic.
Bright also reminded that just because the Mayor is willing to make tough decisions in the face of serious opposition doesn’t make his decision. “Villaraigosa’s decision to bypass the public and try to get his great education plan by playing the Sacramento card,” Bright said, “is an example of one of those so called tough decisions gone awry.”
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Businesses and Residential Communities to Fight Back with Lawsuit
Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jack Weiss have short-circuited the democratic process and plan to force the Pico/Olympic plan on the City over the objections of just about everyone – including other City Council members.
Jay Handal, Chair of the Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce announced today that a coalition of businesses and residents will file suit to stop the Mayor’s ill-conceived plan.
Handal stated “The actions of Villaraigosa and Weiss have made a mockery of the Neighborhood Council process and even the democratic process. Every neighborhood council along the route has opposed the plan until key issues have been addressed. The two other City council members whose districts will be impacted have opposed the plan. The Beverly Hills City Council hasn’t even been given the respect of discussing the matter prior to its implementation – even though Olympic passes through their city.”
Jon Liberman, Chair of the South Robertson Neighborhood Council Safety Committee said “We are supposed to have a system of representative democracy. Unfortunately, Mayor Villaraigosa and Jack Weiss seemed to have missed that civics class. Instead, the Mayor seems to believe that the City Council is unnecessary and doesn’t need to be involved.”
The Mayor’s action came after dozens of business owners and residents alike attended a transportation meeting this last Wednesday to discuss the proposed plan. The committee heard the testimony and voted to table the matter until critical questions could be addressed. The issues raised at the hearing? Little ones like:
• How does the City pay for the mitigations they have been promising given the City’s money problems?
• Why do the Mayor and Jack Weiss believe they are above the law and can avoid a legally-mandated environmental review?
• How will small businesses and the tax revenue they generate be impacted by increased traffic and a loss of parking?
• How will the plan impact kids who cross Pico and Olympic to get to school?
• How will fire trucks and police cars navigate through the north/south congestion that will be created by the plan?
After hearing of the Mayor’s actions, Scott McNeely of FixTheCity.Org stated “Apparently, the members of that committee and the dozens of community members were simply wasting their time. Hearings don’t matter. Democratic processes don’t matter. Representation doesn’t matter. Only the Mayor’s dictatorial tendencies and Weiss’ ambitions to be the Mayor’s City Attorney matter. Only their downtown lobbyist and developer friends matter. What a slap in the face to the members of the Transportation Committee.”
In response to that slap in the face, Councilman Rosendahl stated: “You just don't bowl over the community like that. You have to appreciate who's there. It's disrespectful to my constituents, and it's an insult to my constituents."
Marilyn Cohen, a board member of the Westwood South of Santa Monica HOA echoed that sentiment at the Transportation Committee hearing calling Weiss’ constituents “CD5 Orphans,” and asked Councilman Rosendahl to annex the district away from Weiss so that there could be actual representation.
Judy Bowen, VP of the South Carthay Neighborhood Association commented on the Mayor’s actions. She said: ”The Mayor and Jack Weiss negotiated in bad faith with the Neighborhood Councils, businesses and residents. The Mayor’s actions prove that he was never interested in anything other than pushing this dangerous plan through. He never had any intention of listening to the people.”
Albert Olson, Mar Vista Community Council member, summed it up by saying :”When it comes right down to the bare facts, the Mayor doesn’t seem to care about the democratic process and Jack Weiss doesn’t seem to mind carrying the Mayor’s water – even if he does so over the objections of just about everyone else. The City of Los Angeles is getting a taste of what happens when an executive branch starts believing it is all-powerful and starts abusing its power. We can only hope the City Council has the nerve to stand up to this raw grab for power and abuse of process.”
James O’Sullivan of the Miracle Mile Residential Association had a word of warning for the rest of the City who may not be paying attention: “Pay close attention. The Mayor has stated that he wants to bring this plan to you – whether you want it or not. He has stated that he is going to model other streets on this ill-conceived Pico/Olympic plan. If you think you will have input, that your opinions will matter or even that your councilperson will matter, think again. The Villaraigosa/Weiss team will walk over you just as they have done to our area.”
Story re-printed from www.citywatchla.com