Oped by Carleton Cronin, West Hollywood, California
After years of fielding suggestions and complaints the city has moved like an octopus – seemingly in several directions at once.
Residents are being invited to offer their advice about such elements of modern city life as Traffic, Streetscape Design, and Building Codes for single family homes in the West Hollywood West section of our town.
While the inclusion into process is a wonderful move, the number and scope of the projects is somewhat overwhelming.
That is because we are being asked to be the experts who decide how to fix things when, in reality, we are the experts who know only what’s wrong.
The toolbox belongs to others.
The workshop on traffic calming was hurried and those attending were asked to provide a great deal of information in too short a time. Each person had his own ideas of the problems faced in contending with the ever-increasing influx of traffic in the city.
Living with the frustration for so many years made it difficult to first hear all the voices and, secondly, to agree on just where the problems lay then, thirdly, to decide which type of mechanism would alter the situation.
The last element should not be the job of the residents. The experts who proctored the meeting and the city staff know what works and what doesn’t. The crux of the decision process lay with the fact that any form of calming device will have to be presented to the Planning Commission and then to the City Council in the form of a petition which the residents will have to press.
The process is exact and takes time and effort for the residents to receive some effect. What they want is action within a reasonable period of time. I fail to see why a traffic engineer, well-versed in the available methods and mechanisms cannot make his surveys and suggest his remedies directly to the Council – where the money lies. I fail to see the rationale in having residents choose the remedies when they are best at relating the problems.
At best, the suggestions of the residents cannot be the best way to get things done. Reading this, I have no doubt that the Council is scratching its collective head wondering why we are not thankful for its concern and offerings.
Two major elements of people movement in the city were overlooked entirely in the workshop: Pedestrians and bicycles. To omit any discussion of these is to have people not consider the whole picture.
Here’s a quotation used in an pertinent op-ed in the LA Times for June 22: “Making the streets safer for people rather than faster for cars is not simply a public health measure; it is also an important step in helping cities to grow.” *
The op-ed’s principal theme was pedestrian and bike safety – but, it also zeroed in on some means of slowing and re-directing traffic which did not come up in the workshop.
Bike lanes should be much more evident and pedestrian crossings more visible and drivers must learn to give way.
So many of our ordinances regarding vehicular traffic are ignored and some in particular make our narrow, crowded streets ultimately unsafe. Numbers of cars and the speed at which they negotiate the streets are the primary concerns of most residents.
“Cut-through” traffic is a daily fact of life as commuters diligently work to avoid pinch-points in the movement of vehicles. Curious to know why cars were tearing down my block, I spent a couple of afternoons watching them to see where they were headed in such a hurry.
At least 95 percent of the cars turned right on San Vicente and either headed to a left turn at Rosewood or went south toward Beverly. When I saw the numbers of cars which ran along Rosewood each workday, I was astounded.
Thus, it came to me then, as in the past, that the real effort must be to keep the traffic on major streets and out of neighborhoods. (The smog level on the side streets would very likely drop if that were done.)
So – the city by now knows our concerns and it should be the one to address them with solutions which work, not suggestions from residents. However, let me throw in a sour note.
West Hollywood is no different than most communities in that measures taken to fix problems are not accepted by everybody and there is always a core group who complain about everything. The political process of Democracy is always messy but there are times when an edict overrides.
Even if we all become traffic engineers in an attempt to fix the problem, the Council, not the residents, has the ultimate responsibility to provide the remedies.
*(“A road map to safer streets” by Nicole Gelinas -Los Angeles Times, Sunday, June 22)