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The NoHo Neighborhood Council would like to acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional land of the Tongva people, past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself, and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations.

NoHo Neighborhood Council

Letter to LA City Officials Regarding Burbank Blvd Street Widening Project

Posted on 07/25/21

City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works
Bureau of Engineering, EMG
1149 S. Broadway, Ste 600
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Attn: Gary Lee Moore, City Engineer
 
Dear Mr. Moore,
 
On June 14, 2021 the NoHo Neighborhood Council (NoHo NC) voted to oppose the Burbank Blvd Street Widening Project as described in detail in the Public Presentation available at https://eng.lacity.org/burbank-e1906869.
 
            NoHo NC would like to first thank the Bureau for its presentation, and for the much-needed infrastructure upgrades included in that presentation, including sidewalk repairs, curb bump outs, striped bike lanes, drywells, and ADA compliant ramps at street crossings. NoHo NC appreciates that this neglected corridor is receiving some consideration for these necessary improvements.
 
            It is with sincere regret that we do not believe the suggested upgrades are enough for the project to continue. While we are not blind to the financial reality of this project’s funding – it was made clear that the project requires an additional car lane in each direction to receive the funding package – we do not believe we should be forced to accept a flawed project that will inevitably, have decades of impact on our community, simply to have the city live up to its responsibility to maintain the sidewalks and follow the law regarding ADA compliance. Below, we highlight several areas of concern about the project and respectfully ask that they be substantively addressed before BOE and the City proceed.
 
Our first concern is the that the project prioritizes Vehicle Traffic (more appropriately, Automobile Traffic), and concerns from the neighborhood have been largely dismissed. The project is promoted as a way to ease congestion; however, research and real-life experience suggest this will not be the case. Research shows that adding more lanes causes more traffic – this concept of Induced Demand[1] suggests that for every 1% of lane capacity increase, there will be a corresponding increase in automobile traffic. Another lane will add congestion to our community, not solve it. As a real-world example, I will point to the recent widening of the 405 through Sepulveda Pass – after billions of dollars and two new lanes, traffic and travel times only increased.[2] This “One More Lane” mentality ignores the data at the expense of our community.
 
The focus on expanding travel lanes also sacrifices safety for drivers. A 2016 UCLA Study shows that on roads where lanes are reduced, there is a 32% decrease in collisions and a 36% decline in traffic related injuries.[3] While not directly on point to adding lanes, it certainly suggests that adding lanes will have the opposite impact and increase the rates of collisions and injuries along Magnolia Blvd.
 
            The focus on automobile traffic also sacrifices safety for other road users. While the project does add striped bike lanes to Burbank Blvd, bringing it up to the city’s own Mobility 2035 plan, at a public outreach meeting, LADOT acknowledged that in order to provide a buffer for cyclists, the city would either need to narrow the sidewalks further or eliminate parking on the street. Striped Bike Lanes are a substantial upgrade to the existing street, which has no marked bike lanes. But we urge the Bureau to reconsider this and offer more protection to cyclists.
 
All of this is completely counter to Vision Zero, which is official policy for ALL streets in the City of Los Angeles.[4] We should be working toward making our roads safer and our sidewalks more walkable. Instead, we continue to see traffic violence claim lives on our city streets: despite record low traffic volumes during the Covid-19 Lockdowns, the city saw 238 people die in traffic collisions.[5] In our community, though outside the NoHo NC boundaries, we have seen a traffic guard killed while she was helping children cross the street by a school[6] and a Sheriff’s deputy who was killed by a driver while helping a distressed person cross the street.[7] Both these incidents took place on roads that were “two travel lanes in each direction with a center turn lane.” While we acknowledge that this project includes multiple crosswalks with Rapid Flashing Beacons (RFBs) and pedestrian bump outs, we do not believe that these alone will mitigate the danger to pedestrians based on our own experiences with existing RFBs in our own community along Tujunga Ave, Burbank Blvd, and Lankershim Blvd.
 
Of peculiar local interest is the iconic neon sign located at 5600 Vineland Ave. This sign, colloquially referred to as the “Circus Liquor Clown,” is internationally known and has appeared in movies, TV shows, and is popularly considered a symbol of our community. The sign currently sits approximately 20 feet away from a power pole located on Burbank Blvd; the existing power pole also features a support cable that is bolted into the ground that extends at least 10 feet toward the sign. Members of NoHo NC have personally reviewed the BOE’s proposed location for the new power pole and have substantial concerns, as it will be no more than 8 feet from the existing sign, raising several preservation issues such as 1) will the existing support cable be necessary and if so will it require the sign’s removal or relocation and 2) even if the pole is able to be moved, will the agency that owns the pole require the removal or relocation of the sign due its own easements necessary to maintain the lines? These are questions that nobody has been able to answer – in fact NoHo NC still hasn’t been able to get a solid answer as to which agency owns the power line – which could have long-lasting impacts on this important piece of neighborhood architecture.
 
NoHo is a community that is scaling itself around density and walkability. In his capacity as a Metro Board Member, Paul Krekorian said that freeway widening is an outmoded transportation concept; we believe that this logic similarly applies to street widening projects. [8] It is with no irony that we are now discussing a project that was first envisioned in 2001 – literally a prior time – that is a relic of outmoded transportation planning. We ask that the Bureau of Engineering find a way to create a project that addresses the substantial infrastructure needs of Burbank Blvd without forcing us to accept two extra lanes of automobile traffic.[9]
 
NoHo NC opposes the widening of Burbank Blvd between Lankershim Blvd and Cleon Ave as currently proposed. We look forward to collaborating with BOE and other agencies to create a Burbank Blvd that serves the needs of all our community members.   

 
[1] Ronald Milam, available at http://trrjournalonline.trb.org/doi/abs/10.3141/2653-02?journalCode=trr
[2] See, e.g. “Traffic on 405 Freeway Got Worse Since Expansion Project, Study Shows,” available at https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/traffic-on-405-freeway-got-worse-since-expansion-project-study-shows/81493/
[3] Severin Martinez, “Who Wins When Streets Lose Lanes?” available upon request
[4] See e.g. “FAQ: What is Vision Zero? Understanding LA's plan to eliminate traffic fatalities,” available at https://www.scpr.org/news/2018/04/19/82394/faq-what-is-vision-zero-understanding-la-s-plan-to/ (“Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an executive directive in 2015 launching Vision Zero with a goal of eliminating traffic fatalities in the city over 10 years.”)
[5] See Ryan Fonesca, “Traffic Was Historically Low In 2020. The Death Toll On LA's Streets Was Not“ https://laist.com/news/transportation/2020-traffic-deaths-los-angeles-pandemic
[6] See e.g. “Crossing Guard Dies in Valley Glen Crash That Also Injured 16-Year-Old Girl: LAPD,” available at https://ktla.com/2019/09/17/crossing-guard-dies-in-valley-glen-crash-that-also-injured-16-year-old-girl-lapd/
[7] See e.g., “Video captures deadly collision involving off-duty LA County sheriff's detective in Valley Village,” available at https://abc7.com/5845512/
[8] “[C]apacity expansion is a direction I think that we should consider to be a relic of a prior time” Joe Linton, “Busting Some Metro Highway Program FY22 Budget Myths” https://la.streetsblog.org/2021/05/25/busting-some-metro-highway-program-fy22-budget-myths/
[9] We encourage the designers of this project to review the changes made to the Magnolia Blvd Widening Project, available at available at https://eng.lacity.org/magnolia, for inspiration on how to better serve our community’s needs.
 

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