A proposed Los Angeles city ordinance designed to improve traffic in the coastal communities between Venice and El Segundo actually will create more traffic congestion, according to a coalition of Westside and South Bay community and homeowner groups.
The Venice Town Council and the Coalition of Concerned Communities, a group of 13 South Bay homeowner and condominium associations, have joined to fight the ordinance, scheduled to be heard by the city Planning Commission on Thursday.
The ordinance, developed by the city planning staff and backed by City Council President Pat Russell, would charge developers of coastal property in Los Angeles as much as $235 million over the next 25 years for traffic improvements.
Developers of large projects also would be required to devise and operate programs that would reduce employee reliance on automobiles, such as car pools and subsidized bus travel.
Supporters of the ordinance said the proposal will encourage developers to get cars off the streets and to improve traffic circulation on heavily congested roadways.
Opponents said the ordinance will have the opposite effect by allowing much more development than area streets and highways can accommodate, even with the planned traffic improvements.
"As we see it," said Patrick McCartney, secretary of the Venice council, "the ordinance basically gives developers what they want: the ability to develop huge projects in areas already nearing traffic saturation.
"We are particularly concerned about adding more lanes to major streets like Lincoln and Sepulveda boulevards, turning them into superhighways and inviting even more motorists to use them when the city's goal should be to lessen traffic on those streets."
Removing Street Parking
He mentioned city plans to increase the number of lanes to six from four on Lincoln Boulevard north of Venice Boulevard to the Santa Monica border. "Lincoln already is a mess," McCartney said. "To add more lanes will have the effect of dumping traffic problems into the City of Santa Monica and penalizing businesses by removing parking from the street."
Ray Luccini, chairman of the Coalition of Concerned Communities, argued that the ordinance is part of a city effort to allow new development regardless of the traffic capacity of Westside and South Bay streets.
City planners, he said, have failed to deal with the existing zoning allowances that would permit the building of 30 million square feet of new commercial and industrial developments north of the airport to Venice.
"That is the equivalent of five Century Cities," Luccini said. "The impact of such development would be monstrous in the area, where free-flowing traffic is virtually non-existent now in peak traffic hours."
He said his group wants a cap on development in areas where traffic congestion is intense to give governments time to devise improvements to accommodate additional traffic.
"We are not a no-growth organization," Luccini said. "But we do not believe that new development should be allowed in areas where traffic congestion will be intensified. As it is now written, the ordinance puts the city in the position of doing everything possible to accommodate growth rather than curb development."
David Gay, Los Angeles city planner, said that opponents of the ordinance simply do not understand its potential impact on development. "Our approach will have a direct impact on development," Gay said. "Where there is traffic congestion, prospective developers will have to make traffic improvements to lessen congestion."
Gay said that developers, because of the high costs imposed by the ordinance in congested areas, will be encouraged to develop in less congested areas.
Other methods to solve traffic problems, such as moratoriums on building, zoning rollbacks and attempts to change commercial zoning to residential, have failed, Gay said.
"We believe the proposed ordinance is the best approach," he said, "because if we do nothing, then the city will not be in a position to solve any traffic problems. With the current zoning, developers basically can build. What this ordinance says is a developer can build as long as the traffic circulation is adequate."
Known as the Coastal Transportation Corridor Specific Plan, the ordinance covers Los Angeles city land west of the Santa Diego Freeway between Santa Monica and El Segundo. The territory includes the massive Summa Corp. development near Marina del Rey, which may be annexed to the city, and large tracts of open land north of Los Angeles International Airport.
A developer would pay a one-time fee of $2,010 for each afternoon rush-hour trip generated by the new development. The fee is based on the cost of public improvements to accommodate a single automobile over a 25-year period.
Residential property, churches, temples, schools below college level and commercial parking lots would be exempt from the ordinance.