For years, activists have complained of the haphazard, and often nonsensical way in which Los Angeles widens its streets. Heck, there's even a novelty Twitter account dedicated to the practice. Finally, local elected officials seem to have taken notice.
In a motion introduced on November 21, Councilmembers Nithya Raman, Mike Bonin, and Bob Blumenfield note that Los Angeles widens its streets to match the standards through the highway dedication process, in which developers are required to dedicate a strip of land along the front lines of their properties to the city for the expansion of the public right-of-way. However, as the simultaneous redevelopment of all parcels along a city block rarely occurs, the end result of this practice is often disjointed, meandering roadways and sidewalks - or "spot road widening."
While the city has implemented a waiver process that can may offer developers an exemption from dedication requirements, the existing process does not go far enough, according to the motion.
"By its nature, the waiver process assumes that widening is appropriate unless an exception is warranted," reads the motion. "Given the potential harms of roadway widening and the limited benefits, the onus of this process should be reversed, with no roadway widening unless under exceptional circumstances."
Raman, Bonin, and Blumenfield write that new state housing legislation leads amplify the need for reform. Combined with updating zoning regulations at the local level, increased emphasis on infill developments in established neighborhoods will likely to lead to more spot widening in the years to come.
The motion concludes by directing the Planning Department, the Department of Transportation, and the Bureau of Engineering to report back within 60 days on recommendations to reform the waiver of dedication process, with the goal of preserving consistent roadway widths and curb lines. The recommendations would also account for pedestrian safety and the preservation of existing street trees.
Likewise, the motion instructs city staff to generate a new list of requirements that must be met to permit a roadway widening, such as the elimination of a bike lane gap.
The motion has been referred to the Council's Planning and Land Use Management and Public Works Committees for consideration.