The news is hard to see at this City Hall news conference
When someone calls to alert me to a “news conference,” the term implies that news will be part of the deal. But these days in City Hall, news is kind of an extra -- like a side salad instead of the main course.
Take the events of Wednesday morning, when Los Angeles City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel called a “news conference” to deliver this: She had a plan to develop a plan to strategically manage transportation in the city.
Greuel and three of her council colleagues talked for 18 minutes and, quite remarkably, said nothing about what might actually be done to improve traffic. Would roads be widened? Narrowed? Paved with gold?
Wish we could tell you, but news wasn’t on the menu.
So what did they say?
Greuel: “I would rather be spending time with my family or here with my council family than be in traffic. . . . The status quo in the city changes today.”
Councilman Tom LaBonge: “Wendy, thank you for your leadership. . . . You got to have a plan, just like right now both coaches from USC and UCLA are devising a plan to win on Saturday. We want both teams to be successful. I’m pulling for USC.”
Councilman Bill Rosendahl: “First, I want to thank Councilwoman Wendy Greuel for her leadership. . . . The leadership she is providing with the mayor is gratifying to me. All 20 million of us have had it with the gridlock. The people have reached a tipping point.”
Councilman Richard Alarcon: “Without a vision, we can’t be ready when the funds do make themselves available to California. . . . I commend Councilwoman Greuel; I commend the mayor’s office for their leadership in understanding the legislative process, and the council for stepping forward now and fighting to move this visionary statement forward.”
And what does this visionary statement say?
The No. 1 goal is “to increase Mobility and Accessibility in Los Angeles.” Another goal is to “ensure that the City’s transportation system is safe and reliable.”
Hard-hitting stuff, eh?
Who knows, maybe the plan will be good. Maybe it won’t replicate work being done by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. To know that, we’ll have to wait until May 2009, when Greuel’s plan is supposed to be completed.
Who’s the greenest guy in California?
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has worked hard this year to sell his vision for making L.A. the “greenest big city in America.” So it must have been annoying to receive a letter recently from state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown recommending that more be done to address pollution at a terminal project at the Port of Los Angeles.
Villaraigosa’s appointees on the Harbor Commission are scheduled to vote this week on the port’s first major terminal expansion in four years. Brown, who is viewed as a possible opponent if Villaraigosa seeks to become governor in 2010, had one of his attorneys send six pages of criticism about that project’s environmental impact report.
The port responded by firing off 13 pages saying it had made improvements to the project plan.
So, when’s Dodger Stadium moving to downtown?
Not for 50 years.
Team owner Frank McCourt announced this fall that he was making another round of improvements to the stadium that will make it viable for another half-century.
Interestingly, that didn’t elicit a peep from city officials, who seem to be happy with Dodger Stadium’s current locale -- atop a hill, removed from downtown proper and surrounded by parking lots.
“It’s a local icon and it still works, and Frank has done a good job of keeping it up,” Deputy Mayor Bud Ovrum said. “If anything, we would like to improve access to it.”
Fair enough. Still, keeping Dodger Stadium in place -- and possibly adding an NFL stadium there one day -- goes against the national trend of building true downtown ballparks.
Both San Diego and San Francisco have moved their ballparks downtown from the suburbs. Light rail stations are next to both stadiums and both seemingly have helped revive parts of their cities, in the same way Staples Center gave L.A. a development jolt.
Here are some fascinating statistics: Dodger Stadium has more than 16,000 parking spaces. By comparison, the Giants’ new park has about 3,000, with hundreds more available nearby in private lots. Nonetheless, the Giants have drawn more than 3.1 million fans in each of the team’s eight years in the new park -- with roughly 50% coming by way of mass transit. The most the team ever drew in a year in its old Candlestick Park stadium was 2.6 million.
Which is the latest catchy song targeting a local pol?
First came “Hit the Road, Jack,” the theme song for the defunct effort to recall L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss.
Now critics of Long Beach Councilman Gary DeLong have turned the old pop tune “Wendy” into a Beach Boys-esque song on their website www.solongdelong.com. DeLong is being targeted for supporting a Home Depot store and other projects near the Los Cerritos wetlands.
“Oh, Ga-ry, Ga-ry, you’ve let us down, let us down,” croons the unnamed band.
DeLong, who represents Belmont Shore, calls himself a moderate and reports that he has been receiving many comments of support from constituents. “I represent the silent majority out there, not the extremists with the loud voices,” he said.
Still, the faceless surfer voices are winning fans. “A dead-on impersonation,” wrote The District, the local weekly that first reported the story. “Perfect harmony, deft phraseology.”
How are residents digesting that plan by Los Angeles to speed up traffic on Olympic and Pico boulevards?
Not so well in some quarters.
The plan, announced last week by Villaraigosa, is to rig traffic signals on both streets so that traffic on westbound Olympic and eastbound Pico moves more quickly. If it works, both streets might be re-striped so that the majority of lanes on Olympic would be westbound and the majority on Pico eastbound.
Two interesting complaints have emerged: one, that more green lights on Pico and Olympic would terminally screw up traffic on north-south streets. Two, getting rid of the parking lane on Pico during rush hour would make it difficult to access businesses and Jewish synagogues because parking on side streets is limited or restricted.
“I spent half a million dollars trying to turn this neighborhood into something better,” said Arnaud Palatan, owner of the Bloom Cafe on Pico. “And now some people want to turn that part of Pico into a highway.”
Opponents of the project have called for a news conference outside City Hall today, when the council’s transportation committee is to take up the matter.
The city is saying that the plan is a work in progress and there’s still time for people to suggest changes. And Villaraigosa isn’t backing down: “Let me be clear about this. I’m responsible to address traffic in this city -- the whole city. The one thing I understand is we’ve got gridlock because of failed leadership in the past. There were people unwilling to take on the five or six people who would speak very loudly against almost every proposal.
“At the end of the day, you are all here today because you want to see action. And that’s what we’re going to see.”
Let the fun begin.
Next week: Congestion pricing strikes back.
Times staff writers Deborah Schoch and David Zahniser contributed to this report.
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