LAUSD Board Supports Street Safety Plan for March Ballot Initiative

This is a collaboration between The 74 and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The school board of Los Angeles Unified has given its approval to a proposal that would compel city officials to finish street improvements that have been put on hold, with the aim of keeping children safe on their way to school.

The board unanimously expressed its support for the Healthy Streets LA measure, which is a citizens’ initiative that will be on the ballot on March 5. It mandates that the city create more than 2,500 miles of street improvements.

The proposed enhancements are outlined in the city’s Mobility Plan, which sets specific guidelines for street and transit improvements to be completed by 2035. These include protected bike lanes, bus-only lanes, safer crosswalks, new street lighting, and wider sidewalks.

However, since the adoption of the Mobility Plan, only about 5% of the plan has been completed, which activists argue is not fast enough. The Healthy Streets LA measure aims to ensure that these improvements from the Mobility Plan are actually finished by 2035.

“Our children cannot afford to wait for years for the improvements that would make our streets safer and more walkable for them and their families,” said Kelly Gonez, a member of the LAUSD school board. “If the measure is approved by voters, we would make significant progress in achieving safer, greener, and more walkable streets that our children and families deserve.”

The measure proposes that various enhancements be constructed whenever the city repaves at least one-eighth of a mile of a street. It also requires the creation of a tracking webpage that allows residents to monitor the progress of the Mobility Plan and see where and when improvements are being made.

Michael Schneider, the founder of Streets for All, has spent years pushing for the implementation of the plan after witnessing the city’s failure to do so efficiently.

“It was supposed to be a 20-year plan, but at our current pace, it has turned into a 160-year plan,” Schneider said. “That is simply unacceptable, especially when the number of deaths keeps increasing each year.”

Schneider’s organization initiated the measure and collected over 100,000 signatures in 2022 to get it on the ballot this year.

Aside from enhancing safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers, Schneider, a father of three, also emphasized how it can protect children on their way to school.

“Accidents are bound to happen,” Schneider said. “But the problem arises when cars are traveling at speeds of around 20 or 25 miles per hour – that’s when they become deadly. If we can slow down vehicles through changes in the environment and make drivers more attentive, it would have a significant impact on road safety, including near schools.”

A bus drives down a busy road near Vermont Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District on Feb. 1. (Angelina Hicks)

Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin referred to incidents in which students were struck by vehicles while on their way to school, including one fatal crash that occurred last year.

“While our city faces many pressing issues, nothing is more crucial than the safety of our children,” Franklin said.

The measure will also grant LA residents the power to file lawsuits against the city if it fails to meet the requirements stated.

Schneider also emphasized that the measure comes at a time of increased risk and dangerous streets.

On January 24, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) published its end-of-year report on crime statistics, which revealed a significant rise in traffic fatalities, fatal hit-and-runs, and fatal collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists in 2023.

For the first time in nine years, traffic crashes resulted in more deaths than homicides in LA. In 2023, there were 336 fatal traffic crashes compared to 327 homicides, as announced by LAPD officials on Wednesday.

The quantity of felony hit-and-runs in LA increased by 23% from 2022 to 2023, while DUI crashes rose by 32%. Additionally, there was an almost 13% increase in fatal crashes involving pedestrians from 2022 to 2023.

“While collecting signatures, one of the common concerns raised by voters was, ‘I don’t understand. The city has already adopted this plan. Why is this necessary?'” Schneider said. “But they just aren’t getting the job done, and that’s why this measure is needed.”

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