DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — UPDATED INFO (4:12 p.m.) below.
The MyFigueroa Project, which would transform the Figueroa Corridor by making room for cyclists and pedestrians while trimming automobile lanes, has garnered the support of many cycling advocates and has cleared the city's environmental review process. Proponents hope to start construction on the $20 million effort by January.
The effort may have hit a hurdle, as Darryl Holter, CEO of the Shammas Automotive Group, which owns seven car dealerships along the Figueroa Corridor, has filed a formal protest. He is part of a group of stakeholders who charge that the project will negatively impact business along the corridor.
Holter filed an appeal to the City Planning Department dated Sept. 10.
Currently, the Figueroa Corridor is an 82-foot-wide roadway with seven lanes: Four are dedicated to north/south vehicular traffic, a fifth southbound lane is used for traffic or parking, a sixth lane serves as a turn lane or median, and the seventh serves as parking or a peak-hour bus lane.
The new proposal offers four lanes of north/south vehicular traffic and a fifth lane for turning, with the rest of the space on either side dedicated to parking, bus platforms and protected “cycle tracks.”
In keeping with earlier complaints, Holter's appeal charges that the “economic impact of the project has not been adequately considered” and that businesses along Figueroa “will be subject to substantial traffic delays” that will “discourage business activity in the project area.”
That is contrary to the Department of City Planning’s findings that the project will not significantly impact businesses in the area despite the density of traffic on the corridor. Other studies, including a recent survey of York Boulevard in Highland Park, suggest in general that “road diets” do not hurt business as much as some believe. But the project's final environmental impact report suggests an expected slowing of traffic on Figueroa — this is an intended effect of the road diet, as the project aims to spur more bicycle and pedestrian traffic as a remedy.
UPDATE: Holter says that he has "no intention" of stopping the project, and has no issue with it proceeding as scheduled. "I hope everything works out well, and I don't oppose the project, just question it — I was the one who helped fund the original project in the first place," he said in a phone call with DT News.
But he does wants the city and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to seriously review the streetscape project's efficacy at a future point to see if it makes sense to keep it.
"I am asking that, since no one knows exactly how this plan will work, if we decide to go forward we should take a look after one year," he added in a written statement to DT News, which goes on to suggest examining factors such as waiting times at intersections and fluctuations in sales from nearby businesses.
Part of his hesitation with the project is that the original streetscape proposal, drafted by a coalition of business and community groups, offered a bike lane couplet that would feature a southbound lane on Flower Street and a northbound lane on Figueroa Street. That plan, he said, was eventually rejected by LADOT.
"Look, they can put protected bike lanes all over the city if they want," he said. "But if this experiment goes badly, it could hurt chances of similar efforts in other areas of L.A. I thought the couplet would work better with less risk."
Holter is not alone in questioning the project. The Auto Club of Southern California has been protesting the project for the same reasons as Holter. His strongest ally may be Ninth District City Councilman Curren Price, whose district covers the project area, and who last month authored a motion requesting more study of its traffic impacts.
Holter’s appeal is slated to be taken up the City Council at a future, though uncertain, date.
Delays could prove problematic, considering that funding for the project comes from a Proposition 1C grant, which requires construction to be completed by December 2014.
Copyright 2013 Los Angeles Downtown News