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'Road Diet' In Playa Del Rey Reversed After Pushback From Community

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L.A. officials have reversed the controversial "road diet" implemented in Playa Del Rey near Dockweiler Beach after facing intense opposition from the community due to soaring traffic times and congestion. The "diet" removed one lane of traffic from either direction in response to the 2015 death of a 16-year-old girl, who died after getting struck by a car while crossing traffic.

In late May, the area re-painted the roads virtually overnight, eliminating one lane in either direction in an attempt to reduce speeding and traffic collisions. It also added extra U-Turn pockets and a buffer between the sidewalk and traffic. City Councilmember Mike Bonin announced late Wednesday night that he will reverse the changes and re-open the lanes next month.

The 16-year-old's family sued the city for wrongful death. L.A. paid the family $9.5 million in a settlement, and was compelled to make immediate changes to boost safety and accessibility of the Playa Del Rey area. The desire to get ahead of the busy summer beach season led the city to make the changes without the usual amount of public input, according to KPCC, contributing to the backlash against the project.

The city decided to move all parking to the west side of Vista del Mar, reducing the need for pedestrians to cross the busy thoroughfare in order to reach the beach. State law requires parking access for public beaches, so the city couldn't eliminate the parking spaces.

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Now that the changes will be reversed, the new plan is to offer free and discounted parking at the public lot for Dockweiler State Beach, which will allow the city to re-open the lanes on Vista del Mar while maintaining the required coastal accessibility.

The vitriol against the "road diet"—which virtually doubled the already one-hour-long commute from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica—escalated to the point where locals were threatening to recall Bonin.

Bonin worked with L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn to implement the new approach, which he outlined in a video on his Facebook page late Wednesday evening. In it, he says, "“If you are one of the many people who were inconvenienced, who were late to work, or who missed a bedtime story with your toddler, I am truly sorry."

Bonin reiterates how, despite the back-pedaling on this attempt to reduce traffic fatalities, his communities must work to fall in line with Mayor Eric Garcetti's Vision Zero initiative, which is the city-wide plan to eliminate traffic deaths by 2035. A big focus of the plan is to reduce car lanes, according to the L.A. Times, in order to make more room for bus lanes and bike lanes. The huge backlash against the Playa del Rey lane reduction demonstrates the difficulty of garnering support for pedestrian safety when it impedes on the daily life of car commuters. Bonin points out, however, that most of the anger came from citizens of the South Bay, as noted in The Daily Breeze. Residents of Hermosa, Redondo, and Manhattan Beaches drive through Playa del Rey often to commute further north because it provides an alternative to the 405 Freeway. Those cities are not Los Angeles districts, and Bonin does not represent them in the Los Angeles City Council.

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For future plans to improve pedestrian safety, Bonin claims "the rest of the projects are going to be dictated by expertise, community input, and done judiciously," according to CBS 2.

A similar road diet is in the works for Temple Street near Echo Park. The project is officially affiliated with Vision Zero, but City Councilmember Gil Cedillo (who represents District 1, which includes Echo Park and most of Northeast Los Angeles) has been a staunch opponent to road diets and bike lanes. He prevented a 2014 measure to add bike lanes to North Figueroa Street in Cypress Park and Highland Park, which factored into a tense race for his City Council seat this past election cycle. The diet is still in its planning stages, but Cedillo does not support the project, according to the L.A. Times.