• GUEST OPINION

      spikes on a side of a street

      Grand and Hermosa in South Pasadena (Photo – Marina Khubesria)

      Do South Pasadena residents have a say about what happens to their streets?

      By Marina Khubesrian

      The residents of Grand Avenue are very unhappy with the street markings and pylons that the city has placed on their street with no advance notice, and 95% of those surveyed who have an opinion want their streets returned to how they were before the program.

      In early August 2023, bike lanes appeared on several streets in South Pasadena, including the four blocks of Grand Ave south of its journey from the City of Pasadena and ending at Mission St. In addition to the sudden and unexpected reflective solid white stripes, a week later more white striping appeared at several curbs on Grand Ave and on seemingly random sections of adjacent Hermosa Ave. The curb striping is marked off by multiple protruding white plastic poles with reflective tape creating street narrowing bulb-outs.

      As you drive south on Grand Ave from the Pasadena border, an area that is continuously lined with a lush, mature Oak tree canopy, you will see the jarring transition in the appearance of the street as you enter South Pasadena.

      Residents on Grand Ave were shocked and dismayed at the appearance of bike lane stripes, especially given that they had mobilized and testified twice in the past, in 1998 and 2011. Both times the City Council sided with Grand Ave residents and voted against the striping. Understandably dismayed residents were advised that the City Council had directed staff to implement bike lanes and curb striping with “plastic delineators” to satisfy a $45,000 “Slow Streets” demonstration program grant requirement.

      The City has stated that Grand Ave was chosen for the project based on a self-selection survey taken by residents. Only 7 surveys were returned from the 104 properties in the affected area, with those 7 residents asking that Grand Ave be considered for the Safe Streets Project. Based on this paltry support and without a traffic survey, collision data, or notification of the residents, the City went ahead with the project.

      Although it was pitched as a “temporary demonstration project”, bike lanes were painted with permanent paint and metal “Bike Lanes” signs were permanently installed at the north and south ends of the bike lanes.

      Only after the City Council voted to approve the project were the residents notified.

      a cross street with spikes near a median

      Grand and Hermosa (Photo – Marina Khubesria)

      A group of residents on the affected streets quickly organized and canvassed the neighborhood, knocking on doors and talking to residents. Over the next several weeks a petition was signed by over 130 residents from 90 homes directly affected by the project. The petition calls for the street to be immediately returned to the way it was back in July. Only 4 residences of the 90 that were surveyed support the project.

      Special interest groups such as the Pasadena Cycling Association have encouraged their membership to support bike lane efforts. They undertook an email campaign to influence South Pasadena’s decision makers with a flood of letters of support for the project. It’s not clear where those cycling association members reside, some mention that they are from other cities like LA, Eagle Rock and Pasadena – most don’t say at all – they could be from anywhere. In the absence of address verification, it is very likely that outside groups also influenced the city’s online petition about the project, which is a petition that can be taken multiple times by the same respondent, further invalidating its results.

      Implementation of the Slow Streets Project has been plagued by mis-steps from the start, including the completely inadequate initial survey of residents. At the July 19th City Council Meeting, where the Slow Streets Project was approved, the project was item 30 on the night’s agenda, buried nearly at the back and starting on page 738. At least one Council Member has stated they didn’t know what they were voting on at that late hour (10:00 pm). No before-and-after street data exists, making it impossible to determine if the project achieved any of its goals. The City has stated that determining the success of the project is “subjective”.

      South Pasadena has always been concerned with neighborhood preservation and local values. It is part of the character of our small city. We are responsive to the local needs and concerns of our neighborhoods. The only reason to move forward with a project that is so disliked by the affected residents is the perception of regional interests outweighing the needs of the neighborhood. But if we believe that regional causes should rule the day then we should never have fought the 710 freeway.

      The Slow Streets Project on Grand and Hermosa Avenues is an unwanted and unnecessary project. Residents are not opposed to cyclists, joggers and pedestrians using the streets. We have coexisted safely for decades, but we are strongly opposed to the changes made to our streets as a result of the Slow Streets Program.

      Marina Khubesrian M.D. is a Grand Avenue resident and a former South Pasadena Mayor.

       

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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Bill dherman says:

        The pylons are gone, and the bike lanes will be gone by this summer. This was done by the city consul on March 20. The reason the city remove them was because this was a bad idea and a solution to a problem that did not exist.
        This project was stopped by people living on the street and activist much like the 710 freeway and tunnel were stopped. We can still determine our own fate in the city, and the consul recognized what the people needed and wanted.

      2. Marina K says:

        When did it become ok for the City of South Pas to ignore its own passed motion, and literally do the opposite of a decision that was arrived at through due process, where the item was clearly stated on the city council agenda, discussed, and voted on?

        When did it become ok for a councilmember to not recuse themselves from a vote when a family member stood to gain financially from their vote ?

        When did it become okay for the city council of South Pas to outsource its outreach to a nonprofit advocacy group on something as important as changes to traffic patterns and street markings without talking to their constituents and impacted stakeholders?

      3. John says:

        I get the need to protect your property and investment, and that one would like to preserve their neighborhood to look the same as when they bought it. It makes sense, and we all feel a little that way.
        Unfortunately, times do change and our neighborhood isn’t what it was 35 years ago. 35 years ago, we would spontaneous close off the street for some stickball, or make a ramp out of a cinder block and leftover plywood to jump off – all in the middle of the street. My kids can’t do that today. Society tells them on one hand to get off their phones and go outside, and on the other chastises them for being kids when outside and offers no place for them to congregate and be themselves that isn’t highly organized.
        Don’t you want it to go back to when you bought your house 35 years ago when kids could do that? Why block proven actions that make both kids and parents feel safe to go outside and use the street – whether that’s biking, walking or even playing stickball?
        We place too much emphasis on our property, instead of our community at large. When your community feels safe to use the built environment around them, trust me, it will benefit you personally on many levels, even increasing your property value.

      4. Rachel says:

        I’m sorry what is the problem–the safety protocols don’t “look pretty”? Saving lives and ensuring safety should take precedent over making the neighborhood look the same way as it always has. Times have changed it has become increasingly more dangerous to walk, bike, or drive anywhere–these safety measures will help return to normalcy.
        I wish we could have these in our neighborhood–you are so lucky!

      5. josh says:

        Everyone here seems *incredibly* worked up over some paint and plastic bollards on one segment of a residential street. What are these painted lines and bollards doing to your brains when you peer out nervously from behind your living room curtains? Are you hearing voices emanate from the small strip of white paint? Is a ghost haunting this curb and planting hexes on the neighborhood? What’s in the water out there guys — is everyone ok?

        What exactly are you trying to “save” here — one, two, three parking spaces? Oh wait — I see the curb is already painted red. So…why exactly are these changes so bad that you need a “neighborhood organization” to save a street corner? Bike lanes can’t solve increased traffic, but if street changes make bikers and other neighbors near you feel safe biking, it will eventually lead to a reduction in traffic, protecting your safe, quiet, 25 MPH street.

        Change is inevitable. We as a society have a better understanding of how to now build streets not just for cars, but for bikers, pedestrians, children and everyone else. Change like this is incremental. Soon, with the passage of Measure HLA, every street in Los Angeles will (eventually) have these small, meaningful and impactful reforms.

        Sorry to the residents and commentators here (including the former mayor) who shamefully back away from any change that *they* didn’t improve. I’d recommend new hobbies, maybe check in on your grand kids — how are they doing? Slowly back away from the keyboards, the city council microphones, and imagine — not everything is about you 🙂

      6. Steve Koch says:

        The Caltrans Highway Design Manual states that the most important use for bike lanes should be, “to better accommodate bicyclists through corridors where insufficient room exists for safe bicycling.” Grand Avenue doesn’t meet that definition. It’s a wide, straight street with an excellent safety record.

        But the city’s Transportation Commissioners can’t seem to leave Grand Ave alone. They’re considering recommending even further changes to the street, including cement bulb-outs, a yellow center line and even removing parking from the street. And is it appropriate that 2 of the 5 Transportation Commissioners live on Grand or Hermosa!?

        As this is going on, numerous other traffic issues in the city go unsolved, everything from no Fair Oaks hook ramp to the 110 Fwy, to the lack of street markings on one of the city’s busiest streets, Freemont Ave, where painted street marking have been completely worn away for over a year.

        Less activism and more practical solutions for the city’s transportation issues would be greatly appreciated.

        • Casey says:

          In the last decade, more people have died in South Pasadena due to traffic violence than homicide. Over 1000 people have been injured in car collisions in that time. 25% of them were pedestrians and cyclists. Doing nothing is not the answer.
          The solutions are not even under debate, as other cities have already made changes like adding bulb-outs and bike lanes and seen the benefit. The only question is whether our community will continue to stick its head in the sand as people live in fear when using car-centered street designs.

      7. W sherman says:

        The city put out a questionnaire asking who would like safer streets for cars, pedestrians bikers, and joggers. That’s like asking who wants world peace. The answer is everybody does. The city tells us this will not cost anything because we get the money from Metro. The City hired consultants to tell us what to do with that money. This is money looking for a project not a project looking for money.

      8. L. Roa says:

        We bought our home here on Grand Ave. 15 years ago. Bikers and joggers have never been an issue for us residents however, in recent years traffic has become a safety issue. Grand Ave. speed limit is 25 mph but recently traffic flow travels well beyond the limit. Bike lanes do not address the issue of speeding cars. SPPD presence on Grand in evenings would be an effective alternative to bike lanes keeping Grand Ave. bikers, pedestrians, and travelers safe.

        • Marcotico A. says:

          I’m always so confused by people who argue for increased police presence over safer roads. First, you’re wrong, bicycle lanes, and more importantly narrower vehicle lanes have much more impact than traffic signs and enforcement. Do you think all the people who speed down this street will talk to their neighbors and some how everyone will say “Ooooh I really don’t want a ticket (the first one of which you can get dismissed by taking online traffic school), I will definitely change my ways.” Second how much do you think it would cost the city to have a police car and office out there every evening? How do you think that compares with the cost of paint, installed once and maintained as part of regular street maintenance.

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