Protected bike lanes in Downtown Culver City may not be changed after all.
The Culver City Council discussed litigation against the city meant to maintain the current Move Culver City project configuration in a closed session Monday. It was the first meeting in which a discussion was agendized following the submission of a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit against the city on October 17. The plaintiff in the suit (Case 23STCP03833) is identified as “Friends and Families for Move Culver City.”
Move Culver City is a pilot project that installed a protected bike lane and bus lane on Culver Boulevard in the Downtown area and on Washington Boulevard. Data presented by city staff indicated that the project was successful in increasing participation in alternative transportation methods in the area.
A mid and post-pilot report demonstrated increased bus and bike ridership in the Move Culver City corridor, with CityBus ridership increasing by 38 percent and cycling activity by 57 percent. Survey results regarding the project showed some discontent from other residents for reasons mostly regarding traffic in the area.
While most were in favor of smaller additions the project brought like improved pedestrian walkways (77 percent approval), bus stop improvements (71 percent), and protected dedicated bike lanes in both directions (66 percent), there was notable opposition to having traffic lanes reduced (68 percent oppose), decreasing on-street parking (64 percent), or having a dedicated bus lane at all (59 percent).
The reaction to the project from the public prompted the city council to update the parameters of Move Culver City by combining the bus and bike lanes to add a lane of traffic that was removed when the lanes were first implemented.
Advocates of keeping Move Culver City in its current configuration kept their promise to pursue litigation should the decision to revert the lanes be made. A GoFundMe was set up soon after the motion passed on September 11 with a 3-2 vote, and by September 19 it had raised over $10,000 to support the lawsuit.
The filing submitted on October 17 argues that the removal of the protected bike lane to add another lane of traffic would bring negative environmental impacts with it, which would require a CEQA review of the project under current law.
CEQA was originally passed in 1970 and signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan to “Create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony to fulfill the social and economic requirements of present and future generations.” The crux of the bill requires local and state agencies to evaluate significant environmental impacts in projects and adopt all feasible measures to mitigate those impacts.
However, proponents on the other side have argued that reverting the street’s configuration to what it was prior to the project should not warrant a review because it would go against the nature of a pilot project to be forced to undergo a CEQA analysis to revert the project. Representatives of businesses in Downtown Culver City — where the lanes have been installed — have complained that the lanes have made it more difficult for customers to reach their businesses.
The current council majority — Mayor Albert Vera and Councilmembers Göran Eriksson and Dan O’Brien — agreed with these proponents, claiming a CEQA exemption for the remodification of the project in September. The city is claiming an exemption under CEQA Guidelines section 15301(c), which grants exemptions to projects related to the “Operation, repair, maintenance, permitting, leasing, licensing, or minor alteration of existing public or private structures, facilities, mechanical equipment, or topographical features, involving negligible or no expansion of existing or former use.”
There are currently no future hearings listed for the case.
Photo by laser1987 from iStockphoto.com