Your guide to Los Angeles’ citizen ballot Measure HLA: Mobility plan

A cyclist riding a yellow bicycle across a bridge using the bike lane
Bike lanes and other street improvements called for in Los Angeles’ 2015 mobility plan would be mandated if citizen-sponsored Measure HLA passes.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The future of L.A.’s streets is on the ballot with Measure HLA, the City Mobility Plan Street Improvement Measures initiative.

The citizen-sponsored ballot measure calls on the city to implement its own ambitious Mobility Plan every time an eighth of a mile of street, or about 660 feet, is repaved.

That plan, approved in 2015, called for bike lanes, sidewalk widening, bus lanes and other transportation upgrades to be made on specific streets.


So far, few of those projects have been completed. City officials note the plan was meant to serve as a guide, not a requirement.

Under the measure, those mobility plan projects would be mandated.

Proponents say HLA is desperately needed to make the city’s deadly streets safer. Opponents say it will do the opposite, slowing down emergency responders while saddling city agencies with at least $3.1 billion in additional costs — a figure HLA backers say is exaggerated.


Mobility Plan 2035

The document — called Mobility Plan 2035 — touches almost every corner of the sprawling city. One of its top goals is to eliminate traffic deaths and ensure that 90% of Angelenos live within half a mile of a protected bicycle lane, path or streets that are otherwise “neighborhood enhanced” to be calm and safe, and within a mile of a public transit network.

Among the many projects the plan identifies are protected bike lanes that would run on Sunset and Venice boulevards, and a bus lane connecting Whittier Boulevard in Boyle Heights to 6th Street downtown, then to Wilshire Boulevard west of the 110 Freeway.

The plan also identifies about 80 miles of roads where efficient vehicle travel would be the priority.


When it was adopted, the mobility plan represented a departure from previous street planning, by focusing on ways to slow down cars in certain parts of the city and make safer the increasingly deadly Los Angeles streets — where a pedestrian was killed nearly every other day last year.

Measure HLA would mandate the installation of 200 miles of bus lanes — some operating 24 hours a day, others running only during rush hour — and more than 600 miles of bicycle lanes, including on Ventura Boulevard and along Soto Street on the Eastside.

If the ballot measure passes, residents could sue over instances when Los Angeles fails to implement the plan. And to make sure city officials are doing the task, the measure calls for a public portal where residents can check up on its progress.

Foes say the changes will clog traffic, making it more difficult for emergency vehicles to pass. Opponents also warn that, because the measure provides no new funding for transportation improvements, the city will likely need to shelve some projects while prioritizing the work mandated by HLA.

An analysis by City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo found the bicycle and pedestrian portions of the plan would cost the city $3.1 billion over a decade, complicating the city’s effort to repair its streets and sidewalks. The city already has 7,700 outstanding sidewalk repair requests, said Szabo, who has not taken a position on the measure itself.


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Street design in Los Angeles, such as adding bike paths, is often prioritized based on funding and political will. Measure HLA would prioritize the completion of projects in the Mobility Plan, according to Sharon Tso, the city’s chief legislative analyst.

Tso noted that the measure doesn’t deal with any environmental or public review process. And critics complain that it does not take into account community needs, relying instead on the mobility plan to determine which projects are done and when.


Who supports HLA?

The Yes on HLA campaign has assembled a broad range of backers, according to the campaign, including environmentalists, business groups, unions and community officials. Among those groups supporting it are the Sierra Club, the Valley Industry Commerce Assn., the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and SEIU Local 721, a union representing county and city employees across Southern California.

Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Eunisses Hernandez, Heather Hutt, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martínez and Katy Yaroslavsky also support it, along with City Controller Kenneth Mejia.

“Measure HLA holds us accountable for fulfilling a vision where traffic injuries and deaths are a thing of the past,” Hernandez said.


Supporters of the plan say they have been motivated, in part, by the alarming number of pedestrians killed by cars and the increase in traffic deaths on Los Angeles streets in recent years.

At least 330 people died in car crashes in the city last year, more than half of them pedestrians, according to figures compiled through Dec. 23. That’s the highest number since the city started recording such deaths in 2015 and up 36% from pre-pandemic levels.

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“It’s all about safety,” said Michael Schneider, one of the measure’s architects. “Would I like bike lanes? Sure. Would I like bus lanes? Sure. Would I like to reduce cut-through traffic? Yeah. But at the end of the day, I just don’t think kids should be dying walking to school. People shouldn’t be dying crossing the street.”

Schneider said the group expects to spend about $2 million on the campaign. By early in the year, it had begun placing billboards on some of the most deadly streets and had plans for television ads.

“We have one billboard on Vermont that says more people were killed on Vermont Avenue last year than in the entire state of Vermont,” he said.


Who opposes HLA?

The city’s firefighter union has emerged as the chief opponent of the measure, launching a campaign to defeat HLA less than a month before the election.

United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 argues the measure would result in new obstructions, such as bollards and raised medians, that would slow down emergency vehicles. The measure also would put new pressure on an already strained city budget, said union president Freddy Escobar.

“If we pass HLA, we’re going to see chaos all over the city,” Escobar said, appearing at a news conference near a protected bike lane on 7th Street in Skid Row. “That’s why we’re asking the residents to vote no.”

The union has been joined by other firefighter organizations and by KeepLAMoving, a group that fought in 2017 to remove “road diets,” or reductions in vehicle lanes, on the Westside.

The group contends the measure will also worsen traffic and lengthen commutes. They say the intention of HLA is to get Angelenos out of their cars permanently.

“It’s a poorly conceived, quick-fix, block-by-block approach that we believe will worsen confusion and distractions for all road users,” said Christopher LeGras, co-director of KeepLAMoving. He said that local businesses would likely lose parking and noted that the measure fails to include a component for community input.


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LeGras and his allies scored a notable victory in 2017 when officials removed bike lanes on the Westside, following an outcry from drivers.

Several council members — including Bob Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez — say they do not support the measure. Only one elected official, Councilmember Traci Park, has been actively campaigning against the measure, denouncing HLA as a “boondoggle” during an appearance with firefighters.

Park said she fears Measure HLA will lead to an influx of lawsuits against the city.


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