Firefighters launch campaign against Measure HLA, saying ‘road diets’ threaten safety

(Silvia Razgova/Silvia Razgova)

Firefighters launch campaign against Measure HLA, saying ‘road diets’ threaten safety

Elections 2024, LA Politics, Homepage News

David Zahniser
Rachel Uranga

February 14, 2024

The union representing Los Angeles city firefighters this week launched a campaign against Measure HLA,

to deliver

the first serious threat to a voting proposal intended to improve street safety.

United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 plans to spend ‘six figures’ at least $100,000 on a campaign against Measure HLA, which would require building hundreds of miles of new bike lanes, bus lanes and other transportation improvements on designated boulevards that are under pressure to stand. major repairs.

Union President Freddy Escobar said his organization, which represents about 3,400 firefighters, is concerned the measure will lead to slower firefighting.

emergency response times and put new pressure on a city budget already under financial strain. Fire trucks are already hampered by “road diets” that reduce the number of lanes due to the construction of bicycle or bus lanes, Escobar said in an interview.

“Every second counts. The road diets are slowing down our firefighters,” Escobar said. “And it will be so much worse with HLA.”

Supporters of Measure HLA denounced the union’s move, saying the ballot proposal is urgently needed to reduce the number of deaths on LA’s streets. Last year, 336 people died in traffic fatalities, more than half of them pedestrians, and these deaths now exceed the number of homicides.

If we’re really talking about public safety for everyone… then we need to address this as a public health crisis, said Eli Lipmen, executive director of Move LA, a transportation advocacy group that supports HLA.

HLA’s proponents argue that bike lanes and other improvements will reduce traffic speeds, reducing danger to pedestrians and cyclists. They have also tried to refute the union’s claims, saying the city’s own environmental review found that access for emergency vehicles would remain the same or improve if new street improvements were completed.


The union’s announcement comes at a time of growing debate over Measure HLA, the only legislation that appeared on the ballot in the March 5 municipal election. If passed, HLA would force city agencies to complete a list of transportation projects outlined in the 2035 Mobility Plan, a planning document approved by the City Council nine years ago.

City Manager Matt Szabo, the city’s top budget analyst, warned several months ago that the measure could cost more than $2.5 billion over the next decade.

or an average of $250 million per year

. In a financial impact statement to voters, Szabo said projects required under Measure HLA could reduce the number of streets repaved annually.

Streets for All, an interest group, originally conceived for HLA. Michael Schneider, who founded the organization and is leading the pro-HLA campaign, pushed back against the city’s financial assessment, calling Szabo’s cost estimates dramatically exaggerated.

Schneider said the HLA campaign came up with a very different cost estimate after obtaining data from the Department of Transportation and the city’s Bureau of Engineering. After reviewing documents on sidewalk and bike lane projects, the HLA campaign concluded that the ballot measure will cost approximately $28.6 million per year if all projects are completed within ten years.

“We don’t think so [city’s] “The estimate is a fair representation of the costs,” he said.

Szabo said Tuesday that he stands by his numbers, calling them “conservative estimates.”

While the firefighters union has formed a committee to fight HLA, Schneider’s campaign is getting a boost from another union: Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel and restaurant workers and has produced campaign materials in support of the measure.

Schneider said the HLA campaign has also received the support of six council members so far: Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Eunisses Hernandez, Heather Hutt, Nithya Raman, Hugo Soto-Martnez and Katy Yaroslavsky.

Raman doubted the arguments of the firefighters’ union in an interview. “The data shows time and time again that if you slow down the streets, there are fewer deaths on the streets,” she said.

Measure HLA would mandate the construction of 200 miles of bus lanes, some of which are open 24 hours a day, others only during rush hour, and more than 600 miles of bike lanes. If city crews are making repairs for more than one-eighth of a mile on a given street, any Mobility Plan project planned for that stretch would have to be included in the roadwork.

In the San Fernando Valley, HLA is calling for bike lanes on Ventura Boulevard from Woodland Hills east to North Hollywood. The vast majority of Ventura would also get bus lanes as part of the ballot proposal, Schneider said.

The city would do that on the east side


to create protected bike lanes on Soto Street from Huntington Drive to Whittier Boulevard and on Whittier Boulevard across Boyle Heights, according to supporters of the measure. In Hollywood, unprotected bike lanes would be added to Santa Monica Boulevard, they said.

24-hour or peak-hour only bus lanes would be built on Broadway from downtown to Imperial Highway in South Los Angeles, the HLA campaign said.

Schneider accused city officials of assuming the city would undertake the Rolls Royce versions of any HLA project if cheaper alternatives were available. He pointed to HLA’s plan for 300 miles of protected bike lanes, the kind that are separated from car traffic.

While city agencies could achieve that goal by building expensive concrete medians to keep cyclists out of traffic, they could also install bollards, a much cheaper alternative, he said.

The arguments of the HLA campaign have not been reassured by anyone in the council.

Councilwoman Traci Park, who opposes the measure, said she worries that the projects required under HLA will leave the city with fewer dollars for other public services, such as programs to address homelessness.

‘I’m convinced there is a way to build a system [of bike lanes] that meets our mobility and sustainability goals,” she said. “But this budgeting by vote is something that unfortunately takes away all discretionary power from the municipal office. It eliminates community involvement. It opens the floodgates to lawsuits.”

The firefighters union has also focused on other LA city races, pouring more than $300,000 into efforts to elect council candidate Ethan Weaver, who is running to unseat Raman.

The union also spent money to support the re-election campaigns of Harris-Dawson and council members John Lee, Imelda Padilla and Heather Hutt. The union also spent money to support the re-election campaigns of Harris-Dawson, Hutt and council members John Lee and Imelda Padilla.


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