LABP: ****WIN!!**** Comment period reinstated, extended (14/100)

By Alex Thompson

WIN!  Jane Blumenfeld, who I recently criticized, wrote activists today to tell us the public comment period has been reinstated and extended to January 8th:

City staff will take comments on the draft Bicycle Plan (which can be read on line at labikeplan.org) until January 8th, 2010.

YEEEHAWWW!  Thank you Jane for doing the right thing by protecting the need of the public to work with the city to discuss our concerns.

When the Bike Plan was released, I read the release memo and saw that we were only given 42 days for public input.  Rather than opening the plan, and ripping through the plan in a panic to produce my comments, I immediately blogged about the unreasonable public comment deadlineBike Girl wrote a great post about it simultaneously.  Soon the whole Bike Writers Collective was enjoined in fighting for a lengthy and fair public comment period.

We did that because process counts.  Ultimately, negotiating content and commitment for the Bike Plan will determine how it impacts cyclists, and more broadly, citizens.  But the process determines how it is negotiated, and therefore sets the limit on changes.  With an extension of the public comment period, we now have the opportunity to give a more intelligent and solution oriented critique of the proposed plan.

Blumenfeld did more than extend the deadline.  In her email she outlined and explained the process for consideration of the proposed bike plan, something that no one has done till now:

After January 8th, staff will begin to prepare a revised Plan (including the maps) based on all of the input that has been received through the website, at workshops, in letters, e-mails, and on comment cards.  We anticipate releasing a staff report and a revised Draft Bicycle Plan in February 2010 and giving all interested parties two months to review the revised plan.  We will then hold 2 public hearings on behalf of the City Planning Commission (one in the Valley and one near downtown) to hear your comments on the revised Plan.

Following the 2 hearings, the City Planning Commission will hold a public meeting in the spring to act on the revised plan.  Staff will provide the Commission with information about the comments made at the two public hearings and any additional proposed modifications based on input received.

Following the City Planning Commission’s action, two City Council committees will act on the City Planning Commission’s recommendation for the Bicycle Plan:  the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) and the Transportation Committee.  Their recommendations will then be considered by the full City Council.

To summarize:

  1. Comments will be received until January 8th
  2. Final draft released in February
  3. Two months of review
  4. Two public hearings at the City Planning Commission
  5. PLUM Committee and Transportation Committee consider the plan

This summary by Blumenfeld is greatly appreciated.  Till now I hadn’t met anyone who had a clear idea of how the process would work once the final draft was finished.  Now we understand it.

How did the deadline get extended after it had passed?  Well, I don’t really know yet.  I do know that collectively the bike community brought a ton of heat on this issue, with a lot of help from our friends.  I blogged about it – [1][2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7] – and Stephen wrote about it – [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], and just now, [7] – Bike Girl [CRUSH], BikingInLA [SWOOP] [BLAM], Josef Bray Ali [WiN], Mikey Wally [SMASH], Matt Ruscigno [BOOM], Jeremy Grant [!!!], and many others.  The Mar Vista CC, Bicycle Advisory Committee, Silver Lake NC, Mid City West NC, Valley Alliance of NCs, NC Action Summitt, CD11 Transportation Committee, Palm NC, East Hollywood NC weighed in demanding an extension, and the LACBC even threw in some emails.  Glenn Bailey, Joe Linton, and a few friends in City Hall, among others had tremendous impact behind the scenes.  (sorry if I missed anybody.)

Which is to say, a lot of heat was brought, and somewhere a crack was found, and the bike community was heard and respected.

We’ve got time to work on this now.  Let’s Make It HAPPEN!

(Photo by moi)

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6 Responses to “LABP: ****WIN!!**** Comment period reinstated, extended (14/100)”

  1. It’s a great win… and the demand for an extension all started here at Westside Bikeside. Congrats! I am curious about any speculation as to what finally pushed the city past the tipping point on this… My guess: in addition to the push from all of us, city staff are actually starting to read the plan and seeing what a mess it is… so many typos, errors and inconsistencies… and they realized that there’s so much work for them to get it into basic presentable shape… so they cut themselves some slack.

    Thanks for acknowledging my contribution as an individual – though I don’t feel like my work was “behind the scenes” – it’s my intent to be up front, present, public, open, transparent. I am glad that you’ve helped to amplify some of critiques that I’ve been putting out.

    Credit where credit due: I think you might also want to acknowledge the work of C.I.C.L.E. on this effort. C.I.C.L.E. pays me to crunch the numbers, write the blogs, attend meetings with the Bike Working Group and with city staff, and more. C.I.C.L.E. has covered the bike plan quite a bit on our blog and in our e-newsletters. We have submitted letters to high-level city staff voicing the alarm over the inadequacies of the current draft plan. C.I.C.L.E. has invested quite a bit of time, money, and political pressure in trying to get a bike plan that can better serve L.A.’s communities. We’re certainly not alone – but glad to play our part in a broad coalition that’s bringing pressure to bear on this. We’re happy to join forces with the Bike Writers Collective, Streetsblog, Bike Oven, Bicycle Advisory Commitee, LA County Bicycle Coalition, various Neighborhood Councils, and others to keep the pressure on!

  2. I thought I heard from reputable sources that there was a brief comment period, yet all I could find was a mention of Nov. 6th in the draft plan release memo.

    So I contacted both Jordann Turner and Michelle Mowery, who each told me that comments were still being accepted, and they suggested that there was no such limit on the comment period. Ms. Mowery, Bicycle Project Coordinator for the LA DOT, wrote, “Until the Plan is adopted by City Council, the public will still have an opportunity for input.”

    Mr. Turner, from the Planning Department and in charge of receiving comments (so he should know) said in a telephone message that there was no such limitation. I followed up with an email saying, “There was some confusion in my mind because the city’s memo identified a November 6 close date for comments. So I’ll assume that comments after that date will also be incorporated (and responded to) as the draft becomes finalized.”
    I didn’t hear back.

    So now I’m informed that yes, there was a limit, but yes, now it’s being lifted?

    I’ll contact both Mr. Mowery and Mr. Turner and report back.

  3. @Mark

    There is a limit and it is meaningful. California law requires public agencies to seek the public’s opinion. Before such laws were passed, it was common for agencies to not seek or even notify the public that plans were being passed.

    In this city we have the next best thing – agencies which don’t want to notify the public, agencies that don’t want to seek public input, but are required to do by law. Given that they are required to seek public opinion by law, they do the next best thing, and give a minimal period for the public to give that input. In this case they offered the public only 42 days, not enough for most neighborhood councils to even consider the matter.

    You can always comment on these things at City Council and Commission hearings. However, the question is whether this will be enough? You only have a few seconds to derail a draft which has gathered momentum over months. What the period of public input guarantees is that, in the process of producing a final draft, the agency has to at least consider your opinion, even if they reject it. As with voting, it’s better to get on the record early and often.

    As I said in this post:

    http://www.westsidebikeside.com/labp-planning-department-misleading-people-and-on-vacation-12100/

    I think Turner and Mowery are misleading when they say this. If you ever want to talk about these issues in more depth, comeby the Bikeside Salon at Bikerowave – I have it every few weeknights and we can talk these things over. Next two are 12/3 and 12/10, from 630pm to 10pm.

    @Joe

    I was offering credit to those people and orgs that engaged specifically on the comment deadline extension. I know you voiced your opinion on the deadline in multiple contexts so I tried to give you credit for that. I thought that CICLE had chimed in on the comment deadline, but when I went to the blog, I couldn’t find a post on it, so I assumed I was wrong. If I wasn’t I apologize. I certainly recognize that CICLE, primarily as Joe as CICLE, is doing a ton of work on the Bike Plan in general.

    That was one thing that really struck me when I was trying to produce a complete list of people who had weighed in on the comment deadline – there were so many blogs that could have easily written a short post that didn’t. I found that disheartening. I mean, what has this effort bought us in terms of more time? The additional 2 months, plus Blumenfeld laid out a very deliberative process after the comment deadline ends. Before my impression was (from City Hall types) that things would move through Planning Commission very quickly . . . and now it looks like they’ll be reasonable. So we may have gotten 3 or 4 months total out of this, which seems like something people could have gotten behind more. And yet, so many didn’t. Next time I’ll be more proactive about asking people to pitch in.

    I have some hunches about what made this finally happen, but nothing firm. The main thing in my opinion is that we just brought sooo much heat on it . . . and we made it clear that it would continue to be a liability in the future even though the deadline has passed.

  4. Thanks for clarifying. The only place where I had weighed in on the comment deadline was a streetsblog article. I should’ve also mentioned it in some of the bike plan critiques I’ve beeb writing for C.I.C.L.E. I think that the overall critiques that we’ve been doing – how sloppy the plan, how its numbers don’t add up, and how it keeps changing – do contribute to making a case for a longer comment period… but we should have explicitly weighed in to strengthen the campaign you initiated.

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