UCLA Organizes Complete Streets Conference for Los Angeles

UCLA Organizes Complete Streets Conference for Los Angeles

Posted on

Wed, 04/06/2011 - 8:17pm

The Complete Streets for Los Angeles
conference, hosted by the UCLA Lewis Center, the UCLA Luskin Center for
Innovation, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health RENEW
Program on February 25th, 2011, brought together over 250
participants for a full day of presentations, discussion, and networking. UCLA
Professor J.R. DeShazo said the event, held at the Japanese American National
Museum in downtown Los Angeles, was an opportunity to discuss alternative
street designs to create better public spaces, craft a Complete Streets vision
for Los Angeles, and create a plan of action to guide future efforts.

Presenters discussed a host of topics
from streets as health and safety issues to effective design for vibrant,
multimodal streets to policy and funding strategies to making Complete Streets
a reality in Los Angeles.  Researchers,
advocates, practitioners, political officials, and community members attended,
representing the range of organizations and institutions that need to come
together to create an effective Complete Streets coalition.

The
conference highlighted physical, social, and aesthetic elements that work
together to create great streets. Speakers argued that the Complete Streets
vision should be a policy  priority
because of the significant issues it addresses, including:

Complete Streets can transform urban
design: Current
street design standards privilege the auto by focusing on vehicle movement.
Professor Elizabeth Macdonald and Professor Emeritus Allan B. Jacobs of UC
Berkeley urged participants to think of a Complete Streets design that creates
balance through different types of movement and modes, and includes narrower
lanes and decreased motor vehicle speeds, as well as a landscape that includes
ample greenery and trees. In other words, a Complete Streets approach strives
to make streets not just the realm of cars, but rather enjoyable, safe, and
functional built environments for all users.

Complete Street can improve public
health: UCLA
Professor Richard Jackson and Jonathan Fielding of the Los Angeles County
Department of Public Health outlined the ways in which land use and
transportation systems can encourage physical activity and improve people's
access to better food. Better and more integrated street design can encourage
active transportation modes, particularly biking and walking. This in turn can
improve overall health by promoting exercise, lowering obesity and chronic
disease rates, improving air quality, and creating safer and more livable
communities.

Complete
Streets can increase economic activity: Simon Pastucha of the Los Angeles
Department of City Planning described his efforts to rethink the city’s design
guidelines, particularly in downtown where street level design could foster
economic development through a mix of commercial and residential uses, ground
floor retail, and pedestrian activity. This transformation of street space
makes partnerships with businesses a crucial element of any Complete Streets
project.

Complete Streets can advance equity
and social justice: In
Los Angeles, many streets are vibrant spaces used for a number of different
purposes other than travel, such as street vending, labor activities,
socializing, and public art. Streets are places where the city's ethnic
diversity is apparent, and they are important sites for cultural expression,
explained urban planner James Rojas. The quality of streets varies, however,
with low-income communities of color disproportionately bearing the impacts of
poorly designed streets: higher levels of childhood obesity, less accessibility
to healthy and affordable food, and higher pedestrian accident rates. A
Complete Streets approach therefore has the potential to address these gaps in
resources and outcomes while also improving social cohesion through community
involvement.

Presenters
provided compelling evidence about the far-reaching benefits of great streets,
but they also noted that Los Angeles faces a number of challenges in developing
a plan to realize the Complete Streets vision. Panelists discussed traffic
engineering and street design standards as a major obstacle in implementing a
Complete Streets program. However, Professor Jennifer Dill of Portland State
University suggested that traffic engineers would work to solve problems of
street design if given the tools and opportunities to do so. Amir Sedadi of the
City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation urged participants to think
about Complete Streets as a collaborative process involving different agencies
and individuals, not just engineers.

Gail
Goldberg, Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and formerly with
the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, outlined obstacles to creating a
broad, citywide Complete Streets program: the sheer geographical size of the
metropolitan region, county, and city; the diversity of communities; and the culture
of planning in Los Angeles with its project-by-project approach rather than
long-range, comprehensive planning. To overcome these hurdles, Goldberg
believes that single-purpose advocates in Los Angeles need to come together to
create a coalition for Complete Streets.

Despite
the obstacles in pursuing a Complete Streets agenda, presenters pointed to an
array of Complete Streets models – in cities across the U.S. and abroad, but
also closer to home. Streets in Copenhagen, Paris, Toronto, and Portland and
projects in San Francisco and New York City demonstrate the potential of
Complete Streets to transform urban landscapes. A number of examples in Los
Angeles focus on the efforts of bicycling advocates. The Los Angeles County
Bicycle Coalition’s Alexis Lantz discussed the organization’s safety education,
enforcement, and evaluation activities, including the L.A. Bike Count. Joe
Linton of CicLAvia described the successful October 2010 event that opened 7.5
miles of streets in Los Angeles for thousands of cyclists and pedestrians.
Charles Gandy of the City of Long Beach encouraged participants to come and try
out the city’s new bike lanes, facilities, and boulevards.

Presenters
talked about other successful projects in Los Angeles. The environmental
justice nonprofit organization Pacoima Beautiful is working to improve urban
design and community participation through a program called “The People’s
Planning School.” Consultant Ryan Snyder gave an update on a model design
manual for living streets project, an effort funded by the LA County Department
of Public Health. Michael Manville from UCLA and the City of Ventura’s Rick
Cole pointed to the success of innovative parking policies – in places such as
Old Pasadena and downtown Los Angeles – and parking revenue as a way to fund
Complete Streets projects.

Is
the Complete Streets concept yet a social movement? Beatriz Solis of The
California Endowment suggested that it was not yet a robust campaign that
involves both policymakers and the community and one that can take ideas and
transform them into change. Presenters repeatedly stressed the need for
Complete Streets to be a collaborative effort involving many entities and
individuals working across organizational and institutional boundaries.

This
conference highlighted the tangible evidence of the many benefits of livable,
well-designed streets, defined a research agenda for Los Angeles, and spurred
the development of a Complete Streets blueprint in Los Angeles.

 

The Complete Streets for Los Angeles
conference, hosted by the UCLA Lewis Center, the UCLA Luskin Center for
Innovation, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health RENEW
Program on February 25th, 2011, brought together over 250
participants for a full day of presentations, discussion, and networking. UCLA
Professor J.R. DeShazo said the event, held at the Japanese American National
Museum in downtown Los Angeles, was an opportunity to discuss alternative
street designs to create better public spaces, craft a Complete Streets vision