The future of L.A. streets is on the March ballot


Good morning, and welcome to L.A. on the Record — our City Hall newsletter. It’s Rachel Uranga, the Times’ transportation reporter, with an assist from reporters David Zahniser and Dakota Smith.

Shortly into the new year, a bright-orange billboard went up at Olympic and Crenshaw boulevards, delivering a dire message about hazards on L.A. streets.

“Car crashes are the #1 killer of children in L.A.,” the sign said in black capital letters.

That message, and similar ones, will likely be part of the campaign to pass the City Mobility Plan Improvement Measures initiative ordinance, or Measure HLA, in the March 5 election.

The measure’s proponents call it Healthy Streets LA. It would require city agencies to carry out improvements, such as protected bicycles lanes, on streets and boulevards.


The campaign will almost certainly focus on the fact that at least 330 people died in L.A. car crashes last year, more than half of them pedestrians, according to figures compiled through Dec. 23.

“The way we have designed our city and our streets are killing us,” said Michael Schneider, who is spearheading the campaign and is the founder of Streets for All, an advocacy group.

Backers of the measure say they plan to spend more than $2 million on the campaign, showing the need to redesign streets in ways that slow down drivers and protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

In previous election years, Streets for All has raised tens of thousands of dollars to support the campaigns of Councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martínez and Nithya Raman. The group, which has become a force on transportation policy, has also staged a number of candidate forums in recent years. If voters approve HLA, it will deliver the biggest political success yet for Schneider.

Opponents of the measure — chiefly the group KeepLAMoving — do not appear to have raised much money. But they have a history of pushing back on such proposals. In 2017, they pressured city leaders to reverse “road diets” — reductions in traffic lanes — that had been installed on the Westside. In recent weeks, they have warned that proponents of HLA want to force residents out of their cars and onto buses and bikes forever.

Christopher LeGras, co-director of KeepLAMoving, argues that the measure will make traffic worse, lengthening the commutes of Angelenos and slowing down emergency response times.


HLA is a pretty simple idea.

Each time city agencies pave or improve one-eighth of a mile (660 feet) of street, they must install elements of its Mobility Plan. That 184-page document, approved in 2015, outlines the locations where bike lanes, bus lanes and pedestrian enhancements such as wider sidewalks should be installed. If the city doesn’t comply, residents can sue.

Only a fraction of the plan has been implemented so far. Schneider, a former startup founder, said he was so frustrated with the city’s slow pace of progress that he went for the “nuclear option” — a ballot measure making the planned roadwork mandatory. In 2022, he and his allies gathered enough signatures to get their plan on the ballot this year.

Polling carried out last summer has shown wide support for the measure, said Jeff Millman, a political consultant working on the Healthy Streets LA campaign. Millman said the campaign is installing billboards on some of the most dangerous roads.

“Every street we chose were selected because of the pedestrian fatalities,” he said.

LeGras, the leader of the opposition, said he has no plans for billboard advertising yet, opting instead to spread his group’s message through social media and other means. Foes portray HLA as a radical set of changes.

“The ‘move fast and break things’ [approach] is one thing if you’re developing an app for a smartphone,” he said. “It’s something entirely different when you’re radically changing the streets that millions of people rely on.”

State of play

— SEVEN RAISES IN FIVE YEARS: Mayor Karen Bass has struck a deal to give workers with the Coalition of L.A. City Unions raises of more than 24% by July 2028. The salary proposal is similar to one approved in 2007 by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — one he later called the biggest mistake of his administration.

— MOORE TO GO: Police Chief Michel Moore announced Friday that he will step down as head of the LAPD at the end of February, a move that will trigger a nationwide search for one of the most challenging jobs in law enforcement. Bass said Moore will continue for an unspecified time as a consultant to the department, with an interim chief taking over until the new hire is made.


— FUNDRAISING FRENZY: The fundraising numbers are out for the candidates running in the March 5 election for seats on the City Council. Among the highlights: Councilmember Kevin de León, running for reelection in an Eastside district, collected more than $257,000 in campaign donations by the Dec. 31 deadline, putting him second in that category behind Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). Santiago has raised more than $460,000 in contributions in the race to represent Council District 14, per the Ethics Commission summary page.

— MATCH GAME: Two other candidates in the CD14 race — Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and tenant rights attorney Ysabel Jurado — showed their prowess in securing public matching funds for their campaigns. Carrillo has raked in about $330,000, more than a third of it from matching funds, while Jurado has collected about $317,000, nearly half of it from matching funds. Neither Santiago nor De León had received matching funds by Dec. 31, the most recent reporting period, per the Ethics website.

— FIGHT FOR THE 4TH: Over in L.A.’s 4th District, which straddles the Hollywood Hills, Councilmember Nithya Raman and Deputy City Atty. Ethan Weaver continued their fundraising blitzes. Raman, running for a second term, pulled in about $332,000 in donations and nearly $160,000 in matching funds. Weaver brought in about $228,000 in contributions and $174,000 in matching funds. Software engineer Levon “Lev” Baronian has raised just over $23,000.

— POWER MOVES: Political appointee Cynthia McClain-Hill resigned from the Board of Water and Power Commissioners this week, days after The Times reported on criticism leveled against her over a private phone call she and another commissioner had with two cybersecurity executives who sought a DWP contract in 2019.

Former DWP commissioner Aura Vasquez, who previously served on the commission and is now running for council, said the call was “completely unacceptable,” arguing that it damaged the public’s trust in city government. McClain-Hill and another DWP commissioner said the conversation was proper and helped ensure the utility continued to receive cybersecurity protections.

— YIMBYS GO TO COURT: A group of businesses and pro-housing advocates sued the city this week over the council’s refusal to allow a developer to use Bass’ fast-track approval process for a 100% affordable housing project in the San Fernando Valley, the Daily News reports. The case represents the latest chapter in the debate over whether such projects should be allowed to use the accelerated process in single-family neighborhoods.

— MERCURY HIRING: Former City Council President Herb Wesson, who left office in 2020, has joined Mercury Public Affairs, a firm with lobbying clients at City Hall. Wesson will co-chair the firm’s office in L.A. The firm is registered to lobby city officials on behalf of such businesses as Phillips 66, autonomous vehicle company Cruise LLC, billboard company Outfront Media and Fox Corp., which is seeking approval for its studio master plan, according to Ethics Commission filings. (h/t Politico)


— BAD BURGER: A burger chain manager accused of using “straw donors” to contribute to former county Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s 2018 campaign — having them make contributions and then reimbursing them — has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine, under an agreement with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. The watchdog agency said it found no evidence Villanueva knew about the money-laundering scheme. Villanueva, his campaign and his former campaign treasurer did agree to pay a $7,500 in penalties for campaign reporting violations and failing to return some of the money.

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Quick hits

  • Where is Inside Safe? The mayor’s program to combat homelessness went to parts of Hollywood near Poinsettia Park — streets represented by Councilmembers Katy Yaroslavsky and Hugo Soto-Martínez. That operation moved more than 35 people indoors, according to the mayor’s office.
  • On the docket for next week: The Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. will hold a candidate forum Wednesday for two of the three candidates running in the 4th District: Councilmember Raman and Deputy City Atty. Weaver.

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