I like watching Mikie Friedman in action. Mikie Friedman is a disabled resident with only one arm. But she is a fierce advocate for the residents in this town. Sadly, it appears that we have a current council majority more interested in appearances than reality. By that – I mean appearing to be “progressive politicians” rather than being community stewards. Mikie asked me to sign her petition opposing extending the Scooters program and I said yes. She is right on so many points and I agree with her point of view. I initially voted for and supported the pilot project. But it’s done. Over.
One of the benefits of being a lifelong Angeleno – is that I have over 6 decades of being stuck in traffic patterns around greater Los Angeles. LA County is the most populous county in the Nation with 10 million people. It has 88 separate cities making it an unmanageable and unwieldy conglomeration of suburbs, desert, hills, and beach communities along with dense urban life. Part of the beauty is you can choose to live in the serene woods of Laurel Canyon, the open desert of Lancaster, the sea breeze of the Palisades or the high urban energy of Weho, Hollywood or Koreatown. If you look at cluster density, the Huntington Park/Bell/Lynwood area is extremely dense. And so is the Koreatown/Hollywood/West Hollywood area. The key to figuring all of these mobility issues out is knowing where you sit in the county and what’s realistic.
Young idealogues (usually from other places) think they can waltz into Weho and dictate transportation policies that the public will learn to love and adore. Our current city council has zero So. Cal natives. Fortunately, both John Heilman and Lauren Meister have lived here In Weho for decades. So while not native Angelenos – they have lived here longer than anywhere else and know and understand what I am saying here. The other 3 are young and idealistic from other places. Mayor Sepi Shyne did her BS degree in San Jose and law school in the Bay Area. Councilmember Jon Erickson has been here for 13 years coming from Wisconsin. And Councilmember Chelsea Byers just moved here from Arizona about 2 years ago. All bright-eyed idealists straight out of universities with campus-taught ideas about what the world could/should be and look like.
But then there is reality.
Here’s the deal. West Hollywood is 1.9 square miles from La Brea to Doheny. But it is highly linear like a long rectangle. On the East end of town at La Brea, the city runs North to South roughly from Fountain to Santa Monica Blvd. In the Mid City near Crescent Heights, it runs from Sunset down to one block south of Santa Monica Blvd. And the West end runs from Sunset down to Beverly.
In essence, it has a long X-axis from East to West and a short Y-axis from North to South. Keep that in mind. Because all mobility planning depends on this geography. West Hollywood Council does not have the ability to directly impact the Los Angeles area all around us or neighboring Beverly Hills. So, in essence, ALL of your great ideas need to exist within this East to West and West to East reality. North to South is not wide enough to consider. At 35 miles per hour, you can travel across West Hollywood in 30-45 seconds if you didn’t have to navigate around others. Ahhh. But you do. And that’s the rub.
Scooters! What fun! Flitting around town with the sun in your face and hair in the breeze looking cool as you zip in and out of automobiles and those slow lumbering senior citizens in the way. Walkable city? Why bother while I can scoot across town. So what is the current council solution to the speeding scooters? To avoid mishaps, we will mandate that they can go no faster than 10 mph. Makes sense? Yeah. Except what fun-loving scooter user wants to go 10 miles per hour. I would rather walk. Good! Then walk! Even better. Except here’s the main problem.
When I am done with the scooter – I am going to “dump it” right here where I finished. Go find a storage or parking area for my scooter? Ha! No thanks. I am done with it. I don’t own it. It’s not mine. Could care less once I am finished with it. And what about points of origin? Well, the Scooter companies will solve that. Let’s just leave them at every imaginable corner city-wide so they can be easily accessed by anyone who wants one. Clutter? Chaos? It shouldn’t matter! We are about getting people out of their cars! Don’t you see? We are saving the planet by destroying the city ambiance, charm, and sidewalks with scooters scattered everywhere. It’s a bit unsightly but that’s the price you pay for efficiency (?).
I think what is best for this village we love called Weho is to call it out – a failure. No one riding a scooter wants to be mandated to 10 mph. No scooter company wants to limit themselves to scooter docking stations. And those of us who DO use the sidewalks for walking, congregating, and getting about – don’t need the additional clutter of unused scooters on every corner.
A possible great idea for a big city where you can control lots of space and mobility. A terrible idea for a town that can be traversed quickly by car, walking, or even bicycle. Which leads to the terrible council idea about narrowing Fountain Avenue down to one lane to make room for bike lanes…. But I will save that for another Op Ed.
Thanks for being so strong for all of us Mikie. New council members! Acceptance. Not ideology. Consider reality. It’s a great place to start.