Hansen: Controversy clogs Complete Streets

No one can ever say that Les Miklosy didn't try.

The veteran bicycle advocate and former leader of the Complete Streets Task Force is no longer on the task force after two years of road burn.

The details of his departure remain murky as Miklosy claims he was fired, but Mayor Jane Egly denies it. The fact is, it doesn't really matter.

Miklosy admits he is done.

"It's OK with me, I'm done with it," he said. "The experts are now in charge, and let's see what they do with it."

Miklosy doesn't believe there is enough wherewithal within the Laguna Beach city government to implement Complete Streets, which is trying ensure the city's mobility plan meets the needs of all street users including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit users, motorists, children, the elderly and the disabled.

There were 23 recommendations developed by the group. Only two recently made it on the city's agenda.

"Who cares?" Miklosy asked. "No, I'm serious, who does care?

"You need audience participation. The city needs to get involved in this. The city has yet to put anything on their website regarding Complete Streets. They haven't done anything. I had to start my own blog in order to get the word out there. And then they don't recognize that either."

Egly acknowledged that Miklosy put a lot of effort into his two-year stint in the Complete Streets project, but she was hesitant to discuss the past.

"Bless his heart. I mean, he has a great deal of passion," she said. "He put in a great deal of energy. He did a lot of work. What we were trying to do ... is to take some steps where people can see the progress.

"He so much wanted it to all work, but it was so frustrating to try and get a system to work it. I'm really sorry that he was unhappy."

Chris Prelitz, who helped start the group, has volunteered to take over for Miklosy.

The fact remains that Complete Streets Task Force has not been successful, which according to Miklosy is not the group's fault.

"Three years ago our mission was to come up with a short list of very low-hanging fruit; we were going to accomplish very easy things," he said. "So the committee put together a list of what we should do, and we proposed that list, those 23 items. Two of them that they proposed in the agenda bill were in our top 10, and the others weren't even familiar to us."

Instead, Miklosy said the city is wasting money on studies.

"They are going to spend $15,000 just to study bicycle racks," he said. "Well, I can go down and buy one made in China. It doesn't cost $15,000 to study bicycle racks. They are going to spend $100,000 to study sidewalks. That never came from us.

"They are paying themselves to do more studies. So where's the problem? It's not with us; it's with the city."

Egly countered that it's not so simple. Public projects require proper evaluation. In the case of the proposed trail connecting the Top of the World to Moulton Meadows, where they are spending $300,000, there are rights-of-way issues, property ownership disputes and related work that needs to get done.

The same due diligence applies to any project where there are infrastructure changes, Egly said. And that process takes time.

"I don't begin to know how to bring out my magic wand and have everybody in town go, 'oh good, let's do Complete Streets,' and then get rid of parking and add bike lanes and put sidewalks in," she said. "I mean, it is a process."

For Miklosy, it's more of the same and too little too late.

"They talk a lot, but they sure don't act," he said. "Look at their record on this stuff. They've been studying the Village Entrance for 25 years. They haven't built anything.

"When the city has their own agenda and they are more responsive to themselves than their own constituents, there's something wrong. That's the way they do business in this town."

For Egly, she said she will continue pursuing the goals of Complete Streets and encourages citizens to get involved.

"I'm very serious about Complete Streets, and there a lot of people I know who are very serious about Complete Streets. The challenge is to get the whole community behind the concept."

But Complete Streets will have to be an issue with one less person: Les Miklosy.

The machine of government can be a slow, mind-numbing grind. One can argue that the person who wins is just the one who has the most perseverance.

That doesn't mean the result is the best solution — just the most palatable one.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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