Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

Transportation and Mobility

Will LA Follow Through On Its Mobility Plan? Voters Could Decide That In 2024

Children in masks cross a busy Koreatown intersection in a crosswalk. Plastic bollards shown on the left are meant to compel drivers to take slower, safer left turns.
Children cross the busy intersection of Normandie and Olympic in Koreatown. The plastic yellow bollards are meant to compel drivers to take slower, safer left turns.
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)
Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

Los Angeles’ elected leaders had two options: Adopt a community-drafted ordinance right now that would compel the city to follow through on its existing mobility plan, or let L.A. voters decide by placing it on the ballot in 2024.

After nearly two hours of public comment and council discussion Wednesday, the city council unanimously chose the second option. But several councilmembers voiced their commitment to work with mobility advocates and community groups to refine the ordinance and adopt a new version before then.

How’d We Get Here?

Earlier this year, a coalition of safety advocates and community groups formed Healthy Streets LA. It gathered signatures on petitions over the summer for its proposed ordinance to force the city to follow its own plan, known as Mobility Plan 2035.

Support for LAist comes from

Initially adopted in 2015, the city’s plan calls for a dynamic shift in how L.A. manages its streets. Basically, the goal is to start prioritizing safe space for people walking, biking and taking transit, which would break from decades of catering to car traffic. The plan identifies thousands of miles of streets where the city should expand and connect its bike lane network, improve public transit infrastructure and add more pedestrian protections — especially near schools, parks and other public spaces.

There's one major problem, though: the city has so far failed to implement the plan.

L.A. leaders acknowledge that in seven years, roughly 3% of the street miles identified for improvements have been upgraded. At that pace, less than 10% of the plan would be done by its 2035 target (follow that rate to 100% and you’d be very much dead by the time L.A. completed the plan).

"In 2015, the city passed its visionary mobility plan,” City Council President Nury Martinez said Wednesday. “But we never put a strategy [in place] to ensure that the multiple city departments that work on the public right-of-way were actually going to implement it."

What The Ordinance Would Require

The Healthy Streets LA ordinance, called the Los Angeles Safe Streets for All Initiative, would require the city to add upgrades to the street sections identified in its Mobility Plan 2035 when it repaves or modifies 1/8 of a mile or more of those roadways (certain work like fixing potholes or emergency repairs are exempt).

Michael Schneider, one of the petition organizers and the founder of mobility advocacy group Streets For All, said the process has been “grueling,” but he hopes the pressure from community groups and safety advocates will be enough to bring meaningful change to L.A. streets.

“It's frustrating that we live in a city where citizens have to raise over $1 million and gather 100,000 signatures and make all sorts of noise in the press just to try to get the city to follow what they already said they wanted to do: their own plan,” he said.

Schneider was recently reminded of how dangerous L.A. streets are. Earlier this week, he was crossing Beverly Boulevard on his bike, with the right-of-way, when a driver turned left from the opposite side of the street and hit him.

Support for LAist comes from

Schneider said the incident was “scary as hell,” but he was fortunate to not be seriously injured. He had actually been on a phone call with someone reluctant to support the Healthy Streets LA ordinance when he was struck.

Concerns About Equity

While the many mobility advocates who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting are in agreement that the city has failed miserably to deliver safer streets, some opposed the option to adopt Healthy Streets LA’s ordinance outright. Instead, they want to work with the city council on a competing ordinance currently in the works.

Back in June, the City Council passed a motion directing the City Attorney to create an ordinance to “ensure that the city installs improvements listed in the Mobility Plan 2035 when performing street resurfacing and slurry seal projects.” It uses the Healthy Streets LA ordinance as a framework, but includes its own provisions to address concerns about equitable rollout and funding.

It highlights a division within L.A.’s growing ranks of mobility advocates.

On one side are those who feel it’s clear the city won’t follow through on its plan without an immediate and binding mandate. On the other side are those who want to take more time to ensure new street features are added equitably, prioritizing historically neglected communities where residents are disproportionately killed in crashes.

Traffic violence can affect everyone, but it doesn’t affect Angelenos equally. City data show that the largest share of severe and fatal crashes are happening in neighborhoods in South L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. Those regions are home to a large percentage of L.A.’s Black and Latino residents and have historically lacked the level of street safety investments seen in the city’s richer, whiter neighborhoods.

A 2020 UCLA study found Black Angelenos represented 16% of all traffic fatalities between 2013 and 2017, nearly double their share of the city's population. Data compiled in the study also showed that one in every four people killed in a crash over those five years was either a Black or Latino pedestrian.

A white car turns into the street where a pedestrian wearing a backpack is still in the roadway. A red hand can be seen on the walk signal.
A pedestrian crosses Olympic Boulevard as a driver turns left from Normandie Avenue.
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

John Yi, executive director for the pedestrian safety nonprofit Los Angeles Walks, said he supports the work Healthy Streets LA is doing, but “cannot support this manufactured rush to adopt a policy that still needs much more love and work.”

He called on the council to put it on the 2024 ballot, adding:

“While the measure requires a plan implementation, it doubles down on the city's resurfacing program, which is failing working-class Angelenos and transit riders. Adopting as-is is how we further entrench unjust and inequitable systems ... We can get what we want. Let us do the hard work [and] build a policy that includes equity from the start.”

District 8 Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents South L.A. communities including Baldwin Hills, Hyde Park and Chesterfield Square, called on the council to act urgently, especially given the historic and ongoing inequities on L.A. streets.

“We push for equity, we talk about equity, it's in the plans, it's on the paper, but it just doesn't seem to make it to the streets,” he said. “It doesn't seem to make it in real life.”

Schneider said Healthy Streets LA is fully behind equity-based implementation. He contends that the Mobility Plan emphasizes the need for upgrades in South L.A., central L.A. and the Valley.

“By definition, if the plan was just fully implemented, you would go a long way to addressing equity,” he told LAist. “In terms of where to start, our ordinance doesn't tell the city how to prioritize repaving, it just keys off the repaving schedule. So if the city were to prioritize repaving in South L.A. (or) East L.A. … communities of need, we would be all for it.”

Questions Of Accountability

Stock: Pedestrian Vision Zero
(Al Kamalizad for LAist)

There’s one key difference between the Healthy Streets LA ordinance and the city’s TBD version. Should it be approved by voters in roughly 19 months, the Healthy Streets LA ordinance offers more protection than a council-passed ordinance.

“The council can't water it down or reverse it with eight votes in the future,” Schneider explained.

He and some fellow advocates view that as a strength, though some on the council see it as a concern.

Councilmember Bob Blumenfield (CD3), who represents the West San Fernando Valley, voiced his support for following through on the mobility plan, but noted his “aversion to measures that handcuff future councils based on policies that we want today.” Councilmember Monica Rodriguez (CD7), who represents the northern San Fernando Valley, agreed that the council should not “handcuff ourselves to a potential circumstance or outcome.”

Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD11), who represents Westside neighborhoods, felt differently.

“There's a lot of people, myself included, who feel the city needs to be handcuffed to its plans to make them do it, or it won't happen,” he said, pointing to a pervasive lack of cohesion and accountability.

“We're the only major city in the country that doesn't have a multi-year capital infrastructure plan,” Bonin said. “No one is responsible for ensuring compliance with our adopted plans, the mobility plan and policies, so often there's no one who's held accountable when the city gets it wrong.”

Harris-Dawson also said it’s important that city leaders hold themselves to the same standards they impose on their constituents.

“We're quick to put accountability on other people: businesses that don't pay the right wage; poor people or homeless people who sleep in places that block the public right-of-way; people who have too many bikes in the middle of the street. We're quick to pass a law that says we're going to hold those people accountable. Where's our accountability?”
Stock: Pedestrian Vision Zero
(Al Kamalizad for LAist)

What Happens Now?

Council President Martinez, who represents the central San Fernando Valley, and several other councilmembers vowed to keep meeting with Healthy Streets LA and mobility advocates who opposed their ordinance to hopefully reach a compromise that pleases everyone before the decision is made by voters in roughly 19 months.

“You have my commitment to see the motion through and my commitment to continue to meet with both sides, because I don't think either side is wrong,” she said. “We just need to do it in an equitable way and make sure that the city is held accountable to implementing 100% of the mobility plan.”

Schneider told LAist he believes Martinez is sincere, but he isn’t too encouraged given the unpredictability of L.A.’s bureaucratic “machine,” which is why Healthy Streets LA is preparing to launch a ballot campaign for 2024.

“The only way we would not do that is if we had an agreement with the city [and] language that we were happy with, and they agreed to send that to the ballot,” he said.

“We're going to go into those conversations in good faith and see what comes out the other end.”

What questions do you have about getting around L.A.?
Ryan Fonseca explores the challenges communities face getting from point a to point b and the potential solutions down the road, sidewalk, track and bike path. 🚴🏽‍♀️ 👨🏿‍🦽 🚶‍♂️ 🚇 🚙 🛴 🚌