Sometimes I feel like I am speaking up for the forgotten people of WeHo. 84% of us voted for Measure R in 2008, more than anywhere else in Los Angeles County. People here want more and better transit and cycling options. Yet nearly all the City Council candidates when they talk about transportation issues, if at all, they talk about making parking easier and cheaper, which will only attract even more cars here, making it even harder to get in and out of WeHo, under streets still designed for the 1970's, not the 21st Century.
Since I am not running for any office, I can be honest and tell some hard truths about traffic and the future that need telling, that yesteryear-looking NIMBYs do not want to hear.
Here is the cold hard reality. Traffic is only going to worsen in WeHo in the future as we are a small island surrounded by Los Angeles, regardless of what West Hollywood plans for itself. Think of us as like Luxembourg in the European Union. We are a desirable part of it, but have very little influence over the economics and politics of the whole of it. West Hollywood can make changes to its transportation planning in order to ride the wave of the future, and retool WeHo's streets for the future, with bus lanes, bike lanes, and possibly even streetcars or light-rail, and a subway in the future. Hey, throw in synchronized lights if you want.
But ANY candidate for City Council promising a return to a 1970's era low-density, low-traffic, suburbanesqe lifestyle for West Hollywood (and this goes for Hollywood, Mid-City and its environs as well) is just being dishonest and/or delusional and/or pandering to voters who only see, "gee it is getting harder to park in Boystown without paying".
Such populism may be politically effective and it may even work for this election cycle. We will see on Tuesday. But the reality is that the glory days of personal ownership and operation of a single-occupancy automobile in Southern California are behind us even if WeHo doesn't develop another thing, and we need to think of a transportation vision that includes not only cars, but multi-modes of transportation to/from and within West Hollywood.
In no way am I arguing against trying to preserve WeHo's character by rejecting oversized developments. That is important. I am instead advocating an acceptance of what we can and cannot change -- and talking about how we plan for a future that isn't even being discussed this city election.
I've been in a place in my personal and career life where I have not been able to keep up this blog as much as in the past, but I wish I had done more this election to bring public transit, bike lanes and Metrorail front and center into the campaign. It is utterly disheartening to see candidates talk about traffic and parking as if it is still 1987, and as if the future won't happen. But the squeaky wheel is what gets the grease, and parking advocates squeaked the loudest. I wish I had done more, perhaps formed a local organization which could have squeaked a little louder to bring transportation alternatives to the forefront of the election.
In any event, West Hollywood is an amazing city -- beautiful, creative, fun, fiscally healthy -- and I am glad I live here... no matter who wins on Tuesday.
P.S. Let me again recommend the books "Human Transit" by my friend Jarrett Walker, who also writes a great blog about transportation planning. I also recommend Don Shoup's "The High Cost of Free Parking".