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Streetsblog LA Grades the Mayor

8:38 AM PDT on August 17, 2015

Last week the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial evaluating Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at two years into his initial term of office. The article includes a report card, with various letter grades, including Leadership: C-, Vision: B+, and an overall grade of C.

The Times' report card does not focus on livability and transportation, but mentions them only in passing. Early on, the article states "[Garcetti's] vision of Los Angeles as a more livable, transit-oriented, environmentally- and technologically-friendly city" and then barely mentions transportation and livability. The Times only touches on a lack of funding for resurfacing streets and fixing sidewalks, and credits Garcetti for negotiating the under-construction Metro Crenshaw Line connection to LAX.

Readers - how would you grade L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Livable Streets issues? Photo: Roger Rudick
Readers - how would you grade L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Livable Streets issues? Photo: Roger Rudick

So, we figured we'd do our own livable streets report card.

And, frankly, the Streetsblog Los Angeles team is a bit split on Mayor Garcetti's record.

We're enthusiastic about his appointing Seleta Reynolds as the Transportation Department (LADOT) General Manager, and leading the team to bring Phil Washington to Metro. His Great Streets initiative is mostly underwhelming, yet, but has resulted in L.A.'s excellent first ever parking-protected bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard, and more coming very soon on Venice Blvd. Garcetti has laid the groundwork for some great things to come, including bike-share and Metro's LAX connection. Garcetti has continued and expanded important work underway on Mobility Plan 2035, MyFigueroa, People St, CicLAvias, L.A. River revitalization, and continued expansion of Metro rail. Lastly, Garcetti can be credited with some pretty visionary documents, including LADOT's Strategic Plan, pLAn, and inclusion of Vision Zero in Mobility Plan 2035, but those are not worth much unless they are implemented.

But then there are disappointments, too.

We're frustrated that during Garcetti's term, a lot of wrong-headed projects haven't been curbed. The fault for these may be blamed on recalcitrant city councilmembers, but there's no indication that Garcetti has taken the initiative to wield his significant power on these. Here are city projects that have gone the wrong way under Garcetti: the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge, the North Figueroa Street road diet, Westwood Blvd bike lanes, and central L.A. pedestrian stings. Transit fares are up, ridership down. Bikeway implementation has slowed; of 40 miles of "Year Two" arterial projects studied and worked on, zero miles have been implemented. Meager sidewalk repair budgets went unspent. It took a lawsuit to force the city to really grapple with, um, planning to repair more sidewalks, someday, somehow.

Here's our basic report card:

Mayor Eric Garcetti Livable Streets Report Card - August 2015
Equity: C+
The mayor's push for a greater Metro role in transit-oriented affordable housing is commendable. Garcetti's Metro Board of Directors appointee Jacqueline Dupont-Walker has been a strong watchdog pushing Metro to take under-served communities seriously. Some programs, including Great Streets, struggle to listen to and serve local communities.
Safety: B-
Garcetti's appointment of his LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds has brought a new safety focus to Los Angeles. Reynolds made Vision Zero an LADOT priority, leading to its adoption in Mobility Plan 2035, and maybe someday it will reach the streets of Los Angeles.
Planning: B
Mayor Garcetti inherited Mobility Plan 2035 already underway. The mayor gave it some heft, including Vision Zero, and got it approved. Largely, though, even under the new Mobility Plan, parking and cars remain too enmeshed in the Department of City Planning's core functions, at the expense of fostering great places. If there's any kind of shake-up at Planning, could DCP's Seleta Reynolds be on the horizon?
Transit: B+
SBLA commends the mayor for bringing Phil Washington to Metro, securing federal funds for rail expansion, connecting to LAX, and supporting expanded Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and affordable housing in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD.) Garcetti's Metro board appointees, Dupont-Walker and L.A. City Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian have played constructive roles there. A bit more commitment to keeping fares low and improving bus systems (neither is easy) would have earned an A.
Walking: D+
The tab for sidewalk repair continues to mount, letting Angelenos on foot know that we are, at best, an afterthought. The Mayor should do better on LAPD pedestrian stings. Seleta Reynolds, People St, and Pedestrian Enhanced Districts (PEDs) in the Mobility Plan lifted what was nearly a failing grade.
Bicycling: C+
The pace of bike facility implementation is slowing, especially on critical and significant streets and bridges. Bike-share, CicLAvias, and protected bike lanes are commendable, and should be expanded.
Overall: B-
The mayor failed to entirely turn around a car-focused city in his first two years. No surprise there. Many Garcetti actions show great promise for L.A.'s future, but the mayor appears to have mostly spent time setting the table and now needs to follow through and serve a healthy meal. And some dessert.

Lastly, it is worth noting that some of these mid-term grades can rise (or fall) dramatically when we look at an entire term in office. At this point in Mayor Villaraigosa's term, he would have gotten high marks for talking the talk and pushing back against fare hikes and that's about all. Probably some F's and D's otherwise. Remember LADOT General Managers Gloria Jeff's and Rita Robinson's livability leadership? No, we don't either. By the end of Villaraigosa's tenure, with Measure R, Expo Phase 1, the 2010 Bike Plan including its implementation directive, and CicLAvia, Villaraigosa probably achieved in the B+, A- range. So we don't present this report card as final pronouncement, but as work very much in progress.

What do you think, readers? How would you grade Mayor Garcetti's first two years on the job?

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