L.A. Faces Another Lawsuit For Playa Del Rey 'Road Diet'
A group of Manhattan Beach and Playa del Rey residents are suing the City of Los Angeles for allegedly breaking the law when implementing a "road diet" in Playa del Rey this summer, which removed traffic lanes on several major thoroughfares and increased commute times twofold.
The L.A. Times reports that the residents claim the city broke state law by removing the lanes without conducting a thorough environmental review. This is the second lawsuit filed against the city in response to the lane reduction; the first, filed early in July, which made the same case, and came from a group of homeowners whose condominium development is only accessible via the roads that underwent the "diet."
The "road diet," an attempt to reduce traffic deaths and accidents, came as response to a wrongful death lawsuit prompted by a 16-year-old's death while crossing the busy street to reach her parked car. It also falls into Mayor Garcetti's "Vision Zero" plan, which is a city-wide effort to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2025 (a plan that, in its first year, saw deaths rise 43%). Immediately after implementation, the "diet" faced intense community backlash. Opponents claim traffic becomes more dangerous because the diet leads drivers onto residential streets to avoid congestion. Despite Councilman Mike Bonin's support for the project in his Westside district, he reversed opinion and announced he would restore the lanes by the end of the summer. Since his announcement, city officials confirmed the lanes would be open by August 21, according to the L.A. Times.
The lawsuit claims the decision to remove the lanes without public input and without conducting a review of potential effects on congestion is a "gross abuse of discretion." It demands the lanes be restored (a demand which, as Bonin announced, is already underway) and that future projects include environmental reviews. The lawsuit was filed by the recently-formed non-profit Keep L.A. Moving. The group released a statement following the announcement of the lawsuit, arguing the road diet worsened traffic accidents and lowered revenue for many local businesses (Streetsblog says that several of the group's claims are inaccurate). The residents called the road diet "an egregious misappropriation of public funds," citing Councilman Mike Bonin's plan to devote 60% of Measure M funds to Vision Zero projects. Streetsblog mentions that the Measure M sales tax increase didn't go into effect until July 1st, while the road diet was implemented in late May.
The lawsuit also claims support for the project came from "outside, paid supporters to make it appear that local residents were overwhelmingly supporting the projects."
The community backlash to the "road diet" paints a rocky portrait for implementation of future Vision Zero projects. Vision Zero's future was in danger back in May, when the L.A. City Council almost didn't include it in the year's budget, but funding pulled through in the final hour. Councilman Bonin was one of the most prominent supporters of keeping the initiative funded.