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LAUSD board backs street safety plan to appear on March ballot

Angelina Hicks | February 8, 2024

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A sign warns drivers they’re approaching a school zone near John W. Mack Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District on Feb. 1. (Angelina Hicks/LA School Report)

Los Angeles Unified’s school board has endorsed a plan that would force city officials to complete stalled street improvements and help keep kids safe on the way to school. 

The board unanimously voiced support for the Healthy Streets LA measure, a citizen-led initiative that will appear on the ballot March 5 requiring the city to create over 2,500 miles of street improvements. 

The updates are outlined in the city’s Mobility Plan, laying out specific guidelines for street and transit improvements to be completed by 2035 — including protected bike lanes, bus-only lanes, safer crosswalks, new street lighting and wider sidewalks. 

But since the Mobility Plan was adopted, the initiative is only about 5% complete, which activists say is not fast enough. The Healthy Streets LA measure would make sure these improvements outlined in the Mobility Plan — actually get completed by 2035. 

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

The measure calls for the construction of various enhancements each time the city repaves at least one-eighth of a mile of a street. It would also require the city to create a tracking webpage that allows residents to view the progress of the Mobility Plan and see where and when improvements are being made.

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

Michael Schneider, the founder of Streets for All, has been working for years to get the enforcement plan in place after seeing the city fail to efficiently implement the Mobility Plan.

“It’s supposed to be a 20-year plan, and they’ve turned it into a 160-year plan at our current pace,” Schneider said. “That’s just not acceptable, especially when more and more people are dying every year.”

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

Among improvements that would increase safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, Schneider, a father of three, also explained how it can keep children safe on their way to school.

“Crashes are going to happen,” Schneider said. “But the problem is when the cars are going about 20 or 25 miles an hour — that’s when they start to turn deadly. If we slow cars down through changes in the environment and make them pay more attention when they’re driving, it would make a huge impact on road safety, including around schools.” 

Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin referenced students who have been struck by vehicles on their way to school, including one fatal crash involving a student from last year.

“While we have a lot of urgent issues in this city, nothing is more important than the safety of our children,” Franklin.  

The measure will also give LA residents the power to sue the city if it fails to comply with the requirements.

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

On Jan. 24, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released the end-of-the-year report on crime statistics, which shows a significant increase in traffic fatalities, fatal hit-and-runs and fatal pedestrian and bicyclist collisions in 2023.

For the first time in nine years, LA saw more deaths from traffic crashes than homicides. There were 336 fatal traffic crashes and 327 homicides in 2023, LAPD officials announced Wednesday.

From 2022 to 2023, felony hit-and-runs in LA increased 23% while DUI crashes increased 32%. Additionally, fatal crashes involving pedestrians increased by nearly 13% from 2022 to 2023.

“When I was collecting signatures, one of the biggest questions we would get from voters is: ‘I don’t understand. The city already adopted this plan. Why is this needed?’” Schneider said. “But they’re just not getting it done. That’s why this is needed.”

Angelina Hicks is a reporting fellow for Voice of OC, a nonprofit news outlet in Orange County, CA. She’s currently a master’s student at USC Annenberg and managing editor at Annenberg Media.

This article is part of a collaboration between LA School Report’s parent company, The 74, and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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