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Getting to Know Candidates for Westside City Council Seat

Yesterday, advocacy group Streets For All hosted a virtual candidate’s forum for Los Angeles City Council District 11 (CD11) in the Westside. Four of the five candidates invited attended, with Traci Park skipping the debate. (If you’re interested, you can read Streets for All’s thread and Park’s response.)

However, voters got to hear from Erin Darling, Greg Good, Mike Newhouse, and Allison Polhill any one of whom could be the person to replace Mike Bonin.

Bonin decided not to seek re-election. From the moment he was elected, Bonin has been a central figure in the transportation scene chairing the Council’s Transportation Committee while serving on the boards of Metro, SCAG, the Expo Construction Authority and other regional boards. He is also an outspoken progressive leader on a wide-range of issues including police reform, homeless solutions and the city’s budget.

I want to encourage anyone to take the hour and a half to listen to the full debate. For the most part, the candidates agreed on broad issues such as the “need to get people out of their cars” or the need to support transit, bicycling and walking. The disagreement would be in the details with candidates disagreeing on how much parking should be limited or how much community support and outreach should be mandatory before changing a road’s design. Darling and Polhill both enthusiastically boosted the Healthy Streets L.A. ballot initiative while Mike Newhouse was equally excited about United to House L.A.

And if you want to read more on the candidate’s positions on transportation reform or other issues, visit the position pages for Darling, Good, Newhouse, or Polhill.

Personally, I think the following question (starting at the 20:10 mark) and answer about the fate of the Vista Del Mar road diet best summed up the differences between the candidates. I’m including a transcript of the question and answers for those reading without the ability or desire to listen in on the debate.

Mike Schneider (moderator):

I want to talk about Vista Del Mar.

In 2017, a 16 year old was killed trying to cross the street in Vista del Mar; the city paid out $9.5 million in a wrongful death claim.

In response, LADOT removed two traffic lanes, and put in crosswalks and bike lanes. There was a huge outcry as some of you might remember, the Mayor ordered LADOT to reverse the changes.

Six months ago, another woman was killed trying to cross the same street with her son.

If elected, will you reinstate the safety improvements in Vista del Mar that the city removed? Where will you draw the line between safety for those outside cars and driver convenience?

For this one we’re going to start with Erin.

Darling (center) with members of "Gen Z for Darling" at Mar Vista Park.
Darling (center) with members of "Gen Z for Darling" at Mar Vista Park.

Erin Darling :

Yes, the answer is yes as far as putting in putting those safety improvements back.

At the end of the day, this cannot be about pedestrians versus cars. It needs to be about what kind of city do we want to have. The status quo is not working as it relates to commute times. The status quo is not working when it comes to pedestrian and bicycle riders' deaths.

These things are about convenience and safety. What does that look like? It’s protected bike lanes. It’s safety improvements at walkways and crossing streets. The city has a plan, it’s about implementing it.

Yes, there’s pushback often times, but that’s because people don’t see an alternative. So it’s not just about taking away things but creating alternatives to that when safety is implemented people see that there are alternatives: such as bicycle lanes or interconnected shuttle lanes to get people to Metro lines and ways to beautify the street and not just slow down traffic.

Greg Good

Greg Good:

Anytime you have a tragedy that is awful. We have to reassess and bring folks together to evaluate what has changed and what is possible to rectify that situation and make it safer.

We have to commit to the premise that, as Erin said, that it’s not an either-or proposition. We can actually get to safety and do the things that are necessary while also working with all the stakeholders in terms of who lives with the day-to-day elements on the streets.

You really have to bring folks together on this and do an assessment on what is necessary to make it safe and come up with a shared action plan to get there.

Mike Newhouse

Mike Newhouse:

I don’t think the solution to avoiding similar tragedies is simply to go-back to what we did last time which was in the end roundly rejected by the community. What the solution is is to implement the solution as designed.

As those who followed this closely, and I was one of them, one of the biggest problems with that plan and why it was doomed to be reversed once the political pressure was put on Mike Bonin and the Mayor was because the proper outlets to reroute people to freeways and other larger corridors as opposed to through people’s neighborhoods; that part of the plan wasn’t implemented.

You had a partial implementation of a plan which rendered it ineffective and turned what would have been a useful change into a traffic nightmare.

So what we need to make sure we are doing is revisiting the issue, talking to community stakeholders about it and when you come up with a plan actually implement the entire plan, and not just parts of it.

Alison Polhil

Allison Polhill:

I just want to say that it’s an absolute tragedy that a young woman lost her life and then six months after the safety precautions were taken down another individual lost their life.

That said, I do agree that we need to look at this through a fresh set of eyes because the community did backlash - because it occurred suddenly and it caused gridlock. So we need to ensure that the plan is fully implemented and that those outlets are there so that there isn’t the same exact uprising as there was before.

I believe that’s critical.

This is something that is in my wheelhouse that I’ve done working with L.A. Unified. I’ve had to deal with homeowners organizations constantly with improvements we did at our schools. Whether it’s the tennis courts at Mark Twain that the community was up-in-arms about but now is happy with. We were able to expedite that by sitting down and hearing what the concerns were and accommodating.

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