Council Passes Controversial Plan to Ease Future Traffic Congestion

Times Staff Writer

Despite protests from neighborhood groups, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in favor of a far-reaching transportation plan that will require developers to finance traffic-easing measures before their projects can be built.

While the Coastal Transportation Corridor Plan will directly affect new industrial and commercial development in only the Venice, Westchester and Los Angeles Airport areas, both supporters and critics of the plan say that it will set a pattern for the entire city.

Critics assail the plan as an end run that would permit more development than otherwise would be allowed by city law. Supporters defend it, saying that it is a way to promote growth but avoid congestion.


Rate of Development

Debates over similar transportation plans are expected to center on the question of just how much development should be allowed in such heavily congested areas as the Westside and the San Fernando Valley.

The coastal plan was approved after council members rejected claims that the plan will promote “intensive, high-rise commercial development” in an area already burdened with heavy traffic.

The Coalition of Concerned Communities, representing 19 organizations in the coastal area, urged the council to delay a vote, contending that the plan would worsen rather than alleviate traffic congestion.

But Council President Pat Russell, who represents the coastal district and pushed for the ordinance, defended it as a model for the entire city.

“For the first time in the history of the city, we will have the mechanism to require transportation mitigation before we do get development,” she said.

Under the plan, developers would be required to pay for such traffic-easing steps as stop lights and freeway on-ramps to help curb added congestion. Those steps would have to be taken before city building permits can be issued.

Developers also would be required to pay fees into a transportation trust fund. The size of the fee would be based on the number of vehicular trips their enterprises generate.

A 100,000-square-foot office building, for example, would be assessed about $562,800 in fees--a total that could be reduced if the developer instituted some traffic reduction measures of his own.

To Raise $9.5 Million

The trust fund is expected to generate $9.5 million annually, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. It could be used to pay for widening intersections, financing shuttle buses or making other transportation improvements.

In opposing the plan, Patrick McCartney of the Venice Town Council said the ordinance includes “a great giveaway” provision. He said the largest developers would be exempted from future increases in the fee rate if they build their project in phases. The initial fee rates would always apply.

“This loophole will save a few developers between $20 million and $80 million, by my estimation,” McCartney said.

Marilyn Coles, representing a Westchester homeowners group, said local residents are already experiencing gridlock and are fearful of what will happen to neighborhood streets if the plan is enacted.

But Russell insisted that there are strict standards in the ordinance that “will protect residential communities and local businesses” and denied that the plan favors major developers.