A strange day at City Council ends in a stalemate for the Wilshire BOL
by Sunyoung Yang on Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Transportation Committee of the City Council took up the question of the Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes project, and what a strange day it was. On the one side, the broad coalition of bus riders, transit advocates, veterans, bicyclists, environmentalist and others came out in force to support the Bus-Only Lanes project.
On the other side, wealthy residents of Westwood and Brentwood tried once again to throw around their political weight to exempt the West Side from the project. With the battle lines drawn, the 5-member committee could not agree on any option and ended the meeting taking no action at all.
What is our view?
While we continue to believe that the 8.7 mile alternative for this project - running from Macarthur Park clear west to the Santa Monica/LA border -- is the best of the three options on the table right now and there is no legitimate basis for the Condo Canyon exemption, we entered yesterday's meeting encouraging the Committee to recommend the MTA-approved 7.7 mile alternative out of concern that a disagreement between the two bodies could delay the decision to the point of jeopardizing the project.
What happened at the meeting?
A wild debate unfolded among the five Transportation Committee members, touching on everything from the seconds in traffic delay for cars by the Westwood entrance to the 405 to the intricacies of the federal funding process and, importantly, the underlying race and class dynamics of the three options for this project.
Councilmembers Alarcon and Parks called out the West Side forces for their disregard for low income bus riders traveling to jobs on the West Side from their homes in Pico Union and South LA. Both held firm for the 8.7 mile project with no exemptions. Councilmember Koretz wavered between the version cutting out Condo Canyon - where his rich constituents live - and the option cutting out all of the West Side.
Councilmember LaBonge was full of ideas about how to change the project, but when it was clear he could only choose between the options currently on the table, he landed on the middle-ground 7.7 mile option.
Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl stood firm for the worst-case scenario 5.4 mile option even after admitting he had flip flopped - he supporting the full project until the Condo Canyon exemption was allowed and his Brentwood constituents put the heat on him.
What will happen next?
With political stalemate prevailing, the issue will move to the full City Council - likely next week - and the BRU will be there.