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When Traffic Plans Aren't Kosher

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Earlier this year, Mayor Villaraigosa introduced his 2008 Traffic Relief Initiatives, which outlines ten proposals for improving driving conditions throughout the city (full document downloadable here). One of the initiatives is called "Pico East Olympic West" (or, alternatively "Olympic West Pico East") which was labeled a "Priority Express Corridor." The three-phase project will see a "seven-mile stretch of both streets between La Brea Boulevard and Centinela Avenue" have more "consistent rush hour parking restrictions" first, followed by a change in signal timing to promote traffic flow, then lastly a re-striping of the streets that will see more lanes going West on Olympic and East on Pico.

But the plan, which is slated to go into effect May 1, is something area merchants are not in favor of, particularly members of the Jewish community whose lives center around the businesses in the area. An article this week in The Forward looks at the impact the traffic changes are going to have on the way of life for the Jewish business owners and customers--the say " their livelihood may be jeopardized" and that "the plan’s parking restrictions during peak shopping hours would make it all but impossible for their patrons to shop in the area."

Shoppers looking for Judaica merchandise and food who arrive from all over the city would be scrambling to find parking for large portions of the day; the restrictions would prohibit parking on Pico Boulevard between 7:00 am - 9:00 am and on Olympic Boulevard between 7:00 am - 10:00 am and 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm. In fact, "businesses on Pico and Olympic Boulevards could see their revenues drop by about 25% to 30% if the mayor's traffic plan is implemented," claims Jay Handal who serves as chairman of the board of The Greater West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

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Some of the residents and business owners have filed a lawsuit against the plan, but not everyone is on board, citing faith in Councilmember Jack Weiss, who is one of the plan's major supporters and also "a stalwart friend to the Orthodox Jewish community." Many see the car-traffic congestion relief as a step towards improving movement across the city's Westside, and hope that plans for a subway line to serve the area will go through. Some who oppose the plan would prefer to work with Weiss' office and other involved officials to make the plan more suitable to area residents and merchants, saying that legal action is out of character, and that the Orthodox community "don't just file lawsuits like other groups."

Hearings in response to the plan and the suit are scheduled to take place, and stalls in the launch of the phases of the plan have already occurred. Incidentally, the shifts in traffic flow have a determined time-saving amount: Seven minutes. For some, the means to the end just isn't kosher.

View the LA DOT's summary report on Pico & Olympic here.

Photo of traffic clogging up a major LA street by randomduck via Flickr