Shaking Up the City Council?

Congratulations to David Ryu, winner of yesterday’s run-off election in Los Angeles Council District 4.

CD4 has long been saddled with retrograde gladhander Tom LaBonge, an expert schmoozer who never met a photo op he didn’t like, nor a bikeway he couldn’t block. He would talk with wide-eyed enthusiasm about cycling in LA whenever crowds gathered—even if, as at the opening of CD1’s Seventh Street road diet a copule of years ago, he had nothing to do with the project being celebrated. He jumped and pirouetted like a cheerleader at meetings for the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway—but then, despite the pep talks, shut the project down when a small knot of five or six Hancock Park homeowners started to feel nervous and called in complaints.

LaBonge also opposed—still opposes, as a lame duck—the Lankershim Boulevard road diet, the Sixth Street road diet (along one of LA’s more crashworthy corridors), the green bike lanes on Spring Street (still in place but no longer green, at the behest of Hollywood movie brats), and the most livable proposal for the Glendale/Hyperion bridge refit, Option 3, supported by thousands of residents, dozens of local businesses, and most of the involved neighborhood councils. LaBonge also can take credit for removing thirty-three sidewalk bike racks along Larchmont Boulevard; they had been retrofitted to the poles of decommissioned parking meters when LADOT installed paystations along that charming little shopping street, but some rich folks huffed and puffed that thirty feet was too far a walk from their cars to swipe their Amex cards for parking, and Tom gleefully ripped out the bike racks and put back the old-fashioned meters-on-a-stick.

Ryu’s opponent, Carolyn Ramsay, was LaBonge’s anointed successor, and while she came to all the right meetings, and said all the right things (mostly), so did her mentor LaBonge. Ramsay also had some off-base ideas about bikeways proposed for Hillhurst in Los Feliz and for Hollywood Boulevard in the heart of Tinseltown; apparently she believes that cyclists should be shunted off to secondary roads, out of the way of motorheads and out of sight of the destinations they might be wanting to pedal to.

Let us hope that Ryu, who often refused to elucidate his positions in any precise manner, saying that he “had to study the issue further,” will take a clear-minded look at what the future must look like if LA is to become more than just a traffic sump. Ryu has, in fact, not attended many meetings with bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and the City Council has a bad record in traffic management generally, favoring anything that makes more room for cars, and apparently ignorant of induced demand and the inability of driving to transport people effectively in densely-populated, built-out cities. Honest traffic engineers have known for decades that the more roads you build, the more lanes you provide, the more traffic jams you gain for your efforts. Cities that prioritize walking, cycling, and transit are the ones that will grow not only wealthier but healthier in coming years. Constantly building infrastructure that makes active transportation unpleasant, difficult, dangerous, and often impossible is a superhighway to the dead and decaying past. LA has built itself into the poster-child of jammed roads and crusted lungs; we will not escape that fate by endlessly repeating the mistakes that created this mess.

A Wal-Mart economy based on poverty and sprawl will not lift LA into the ranks of the world’s most desirable cities.

Ryu (like Ramsay) supported Option 3 for the Glendale/Hyperion bridge, and this has been a litmus test for neighborhood activists throughout the city. The Board of Public works last week ramrodded through approval of car-centric Option 1. Maybe Ryu can do a reverse Cedillo once he’s sworn in, and blockade a project that would be truly harmful to the community, to offset Roadkill Gil’s suppression of Fig4All.

Or did he support Option 3 knowing that the decision would be a fait accompli before he took office, and that he could gain support without risking controversy?

Guess we’ll know soon enough….

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2 Comments

  1. patrick
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    While I am unsure of how Ryu will now come down on bicycle/pedestrian issues now that he has been elected, I never believed Ramsey would honor any of her promises. After 16 years of LaBonge, I would rather take my chances with a newcomer than trust his annointed deputy.

  2. stvr
    Posted May 22, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I think CD4 got hosed. There was a choice between Ramsay — a sycophant who represented continuity with the past — and Ryu — a vapid unknown who stood for nothing but not-Ramsay-ism (which was powerful enough to carry the day). Too bad there was no heft in the race.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles on May 22, 2015 at 8:52 am

    […] How Much Better Will CM Ryu Be Than Retrograde Gladhander LaBonge? (Flying Pigeon) […]

  2. […] Risemberg hopes newly elected CD4 Councilmember David Ryu meant it when he said he supported bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. […]