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L.A. has been sued again over traffic lane reductions in Playa del Rey

When Los Angeles officials removed traffic lanes on four streets in Playa del Rey earlier this summer, a wave of outrage swept through the Westside and the South Bay.

Drivers frustrated by long delays on their usual routes flooded City Hall with calls. A condo association sued. And some irate commuters launched a fundraiser to recall Westside Councilman Mike Bonin.

Now, the newly narrow streets are facing their second legal challenge.

A group of Playa del Rey and Manhattan Beach residents sued the city of Los Angeles on Thursday, alleging that transportation officials broke state law by removing traffic lanes on Vista del Mar, Pershing Drive and Culver and Jefferson boulevards without conducting a thorough environmental review.

Reducing the number of driving lanes without conducting public outreach and examining potential adverse effects on congestion and public safety is a “gross abuse of discretion,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit seeks to restore all travel lanes that were removed over the summer and to require an environmental review for each project.

Elected officials “need to discuss these plans with their constituents, and certainly follow the law, which I don’t think is too much to ask,” said Ed McPherson, an attorney representing Keep L.A. Moving, the advocacy organization that filed the lawsuit.

He added: “They should also make sure that this is what their constituents want, instead of just patting people on the head and saying, ‘We know what’s best for you.’”

A second lawsuit, filed by a condo association along Vista del Mar, is also pending. The lawsuit similarly accuses city officials of circumventing state environmental laws.

Transportation Department Bruce Gillman and Bonin spokesman David Graham-Caso said they could not comment on pending litigation.

Though backlash over “road diets” is common, the level of outrage over the Playa del Rey street makeovers has emerged as a flashpoint in L.A.’s bold plans to eliminate traffic fatalities and shift drivers to other transportation options by adding hundreds of miles of bicycle and bus-only lanes.

Those plans, called Mobility Plan 2035 and Vision Zero, will both require eliminating some vehicle lanes in an effort to reduce driver speeds.

The lane reductions on Pershing, Culver and Jefferson were part of a long-planned effort to reduce fatalities there, city officials said.

Vista del Mar, which carries about 24,000 automobiles per day, was narrowed to one lane in each direction in an effort to reduce the city’s liability before summer crowds began descending on Dockweiler Beach, city officials said.

The changes followed the City Council’s approval of a $9.5-million settlement agreement with the family of a teenage girl who was killed by a driver there, and were made as another lawsuit loomed.

The lane reductions sparked an outpouring of complaints from drivers, who said the changes were made with no warning.

Transportation officials later apologized for how the rollout was handled. And two weeks ago, after weeks of complaints, Bonin backpedaled, saying the lanes on Vista del Mar would be fully restored. The work will start Aug. 21, city officials said.

laura.nelson@latimes.com

Twitter: @laura_nelson

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A previous version of this article said work to restore the lanes should be completed Aug. 21. The work will begin on that date.
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