¡Chale Con Cedillo! Protest Makes House Call

Chale Con Cedillo protestors hold a die-in in front of Cedillo's alleged residence in honor of constituents slain in traffic.

Chale Con Cedillo protestors hold a die-in in front of Cedillo’s alleged residence in honor of constituents slain in traffic. Image: Miguel Ramos

Lying on the cool asphalt in front of Canvas LA apartments, whistles and bike bells blasting at full volume all around me, looking up at the clear blue sky and screaming, “Chale con Cedillo!”, I couldn’t help but laugh. How had our lives taken this unexpected turn?

This past Sunday morning, on January 4, 2015, members of the community including some involved with Eastside Bike Club, Figueroa For All, NELA Alliance, and the Bike Oven gathered at the doors of the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop to ride to Councilman Gil Cedillo’s doorstep to say, “¡Chale Con Cedillo!”

The Eastside Bike Club always brings the jams and the fun! Image: Kevin Lynn

The Eastside Bike Club always brings the jams and the fun! Image: Kevin Lynn

The word “chale” is a slang term that is roughly equivalent to the English phrases “hell no” or “get out of here with that nonsense”. In the mid-1960’s Chicano activists organized a boycott of Coors beer; the phrase “Chale con Coors!” was used to rally support for the boycott.

In a recent city council meeting (see the YouTube video above), Councilman Cedillo called a group of constituents members of “the 1%” and “bullies” for speaking out against Cedillo’s proposal to install diagonal parking on 4 blocks of North Figueroa Street in downtown Highland Park. Cedillo’s co-opting the language of Occupy to portray his constituents as the spiteful global economic elite was outrageous. Calling the parents, business owners, residents, and NGO’s who’ve reached out to him “bullies” had a lot of normally level headed folks steaming with anger and frustration. Get rid of this diagonal parking plan? No, get rid of Cedillo! Chale con Cedillo! Organizing for Sundays protest began in earnest later that day.

After leaving the Flying Pigeon bike shop on Sunday morning, the ride made its way down to a quiet City Hall. Our ranks grew to a little over 40 people while the banner reading “WE ARE NOT BULLIES WE ARE YOUR CONSTITUENTS” was unfurled facing Grand Park.

Chale Con Cedillo protestors unfurl their banner on the steps of City Hall. Image: Miguel Ramos

Chale Con Cedillo protestors unfurl their banner on the steps of City Hall. Image: Miguel Ramos

People from many different backgrounds from within and around Cedillo's district gather on the steps of City Hall to say, "Chale con Cedillo!". Image: Miguel Ramos

People from many different backgrounds from within and around Cedillo’s district gather on the steps of City Hall to say, “Chale con Cedillo!”. Image: Miguel Ramos

Josef Bray-Ali from Figueroa For All and Carlos Morales of Eastside Bike Club give short speeches at the Chale Con Cedillo ride. Image: Miguel Ramos

Josef Bray-Ali from Figueroa For All and Carlos Morales of Eastside Bike Club give short speeches at the Chale Con Cedillo ride. Image: Miguel Ramos

Representatives from the NELA MOM RIDAZ braved the cold morning air to register their complaints with Gil Cedillo. Image: Miguel Ramos

Representatives from the NELA MOM RIDAZ braved the cold morning air to register their complaints with Gil Cedillo. Image: Miguel Ramos

Some speeches were made and photos were taken before the ride trundled through the 2nd Street tunnel; a bike pulling our PA system blasted Springsteen’s “Born to Run” as the ride howled like a pack of coyotes, looking for strength in our numbers as we emerged onto S. Figueroa. A quick right onto Beaudry and we were in front of the Canvas LA apartments, alleged home of one Gilbert Cedillo.

Chale Con Cedillo protest riders make their way from the frosty steps of City Hall to Gil Cedillo's apartment on Beaudry. Image: Miguel Ramos

Chale Con Cedillo protest riders make their way from the frosty steps of City Hall to Gil Cedillo’s apartment on Beaudry. Image: Miguel Ramos

Disregarding advice from insiders that the councilman merely paid the rent and collected mail at this address while living outside the district in a condo in Pasadena, we parked our bikes against the curb and raised hell. Our die-in was just about over when an LAPD cruiser pulled up and asked us just what, exactly, we were up to?

A few minutes later we were going our separate ways: a diner, back home, the train, more riding. I made my way into Chinatown and bought $40 in take-out dim sum (that is A LOT of food!) and caught up with those choosing to have some brunch after our excursion. It was all smiles, as is typical at bike rides, parties, and protests in Los Angeles – why let the creeps get you down?

Keep smiling in 2015 and don’t forget: Chale con Cedillo!

Two chilly "bullies" on the Chale Con Cedillo protest ride. Image Miguel Ramos

Two chilly “bullies” on the Chale Con Cedillo protest ride. Image Kevin Lynn

Let Us Commiserate Our First Year Of Just Trying To Make Figueroa Safe For All

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Join your fellow bullies* at The Greyhound Bar & Grill on Tuesday, December 30th, from 6pm-9pm, as we say goodbye to a year of community activism and celebrate our dedicated resolve to create a North Figueroa that is safer and more hospitable to all users in the coming year. Wear your sashes!

The Greyhound Bar & Grill
5570 N Figueroa St
Highland Park, CA 90042
(Corner of Avenue 56 and North Figueroa across from Gil Cedillo’s CD1 Field Office.)

Metered Parking in rear; Metro Gold Line, Lines 81, 83, 256; LADOT Highland Park/Eagle Rock DASH bus, adjacent. LADOT bike rack equipped, (Sorry, no bike lanes).

Happy Hour 4-7pm, 90042 Residents get 20% off with I.D., All Ages welcomed before 9pm.

 

*Bullies as defined by Gil Cedillo, are people who oppose his plan to add more car traffic to Highland Park’s Figueroa.

 

Eat, Drink, and Talk – Potluck on Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Figueroa For All is having a potluck at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065) on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 6 p.m.

A couple of growlers from Eagle Rock Brewery and a little something from everyone to eat and we’ll have a lovely evening talking about the upcoming street safety meetings scheduled by Gil Cedillo (our local anti-bike councilman). You can read more about those scheduled street safety meetings in a post published just this morning on the Flying Pigeon LA shop blog.

Figueroa For All’s “Eat, Drink, and Talk about Cedillo’s Street Safety Meetings”
Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 6 p.m. at Flying Pigeon LA bike shop (located at 3404 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90065). It’s a potluck and Flying Pigeon LA said they are going to fill a couple of growlers up at Eagle Rock Brewery before the meeting. Good times to be had.

There is a Facebook Event for this potluck.

From NELA to South Pasadena: Closing the Bike Gaps

“Close The Gap!”, they announce at the 710 freeway extension rallies. It is taken as gospel, by some, that connecting the 710 and the 210 freeways will create a magic nexus of “growth”, property value increases, and quality of life improvements – despite decades of evidence that urban freeways do exactly the opposite.

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA disconnected from South Pasadena.

This 528 foot gap between LA’s bike lanes and South Pasadena’s keeps our communities cut off to cyclists.

Let’s talk about another gap: a gap between bike lanes in North East Los Angeles and South Pasadena. Three South Pasadena Public Works Commissioners (Steven Ray Garcia, Alexander Main, and Mathew M. Pendo) voted on November 13, 2013 to keep freshly installed bike lanes on Los Angeles’ York Boulevard from connecting to bike lanes on South Pasadena’s Pasadena Avenue … by a measly 528 feet! The cost to close this gap, at the time the vote was taken, was in the range of $4,000 – about what it costs for two hours of a lobbyist’s time on the 710 freeway closure. This decision also cost both Los Angeles and South Pasadena by continuing to stifle business foot traffic that would inevitably flow across a bridge connected with bike lanes – as shoppers, commuters, and day-trippers borne on bicycles would finally have a direct route between Highland Park and downtown South Pasadena.

But hold on! We’re not finished yet with the gaps. Councilman Michael A. Cacciotti of South Pasadena has been working for years to connect the Arroyo Seco Bike Path (a short bike trail located in the Arroyo Seco’s riverbed) to a dirt foot path following the Arroyo Seco River up into Pasadena. To make this recreational bike riders dream happen the councilman required land, money, and the City of Los Angeles’ permission. He’s got the land to connect to Pasadena – from the driving range that leased their property alongside the Arroyo in South Pasadena. He’s got the money – from Assemblymember Chris Holden of the 41st district (who has gotten $410,000 of the $1 million South Pasadena has amassed).

What Councilman Cacciotti is missing is, funny enough, permission from the City of Los Angeles to run his bike trail across 528 feet of paved land under the York Boulevard bridge.

I don’t care for the 710 gap closure – I think it’s bad business for the cities in the area that would have to deal with the pollution and decreased property values from yet another urban freeway.

The South Pasadena to Highland Park Bike Gaps, however, are something many of us would like to see connected!

How do we get the bike lanes on the York Bridge connected to the bike lanes on Pasadena Avenue, just 528 feet away? How do we get the City of Los Angeles to allow the City of South Pasadena to connect a bike trail from Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco bike trail?

Tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 5, 2014, at 1424 Mission Street, South Pasadena, CA at 7:30 p.m., we can make public comments to the full South Pasadena City Council about closing the Bike Gaps. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

One more time:
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
7:30 p.m.
1424 Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA

Facebook Event for this get-together.

If you’d like to submit an email on the topic, here is a special link that will CC: everyone that ought to know about closing the Bike Gaps!

Cynical Cedillo puts politics over people

Cyclists ride past the crosswalk at Avenue 51 and N. Figueroa Street in April of 2014.

Councilman Gil Cedillo is working to divert $200,000 from the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department to install a traffic signal at the dangerous intersection of Avenue 51 and North Figueroa Street. The cost to make this one intersection safer is about the same as installing a bike lane and road diet along the entire length of the street – a project already designed and funded with transportation dollars (not housing dollars!). The added motorist delay is worse than installing a road diet. This is what the word “stupid” is meant to describe: spending more to get less. This is politics over prudence, and I’d encourage you to reach out to the mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department about this plan – to demand that no traffic signal be installed until the road diet and bike lanes go in with it.

Email the Mayor and HCID here!

It appears that cost is never an issue with Gil Cedillo. Motorist delay isn’t a big deal to him either – this traffic signal will easily add more delay on North Figueroa Street than a road diet would. What appears to be an issue with councilman Cedillo is grooming his public persona and making sure that bike riders in his district know they don’t matter.

That is not an acceptable method of local governance. Cedillo needs to stop playing games with our lives and making enemies out of neighbors. This traffic signal is a big expense that wouldn’t be needed if a proper road diet were installed and principals of placemaking were being used instead of highway-style engineering.

Email the Mayor and HCID here!

Big Market, Big Problems

One of former city councilman Mike Hernandez’s proudest achievements was bringing in a “Craftsman-style” Food 4 Less supermarket and a drive-thru McDonalds to the empty lot on North Figueroa Street in Highland Park between Avenue 50 and 51.

With the supermarket in place, however, another big problem popped up: people wanted to cross the street at Avenue 51 to get to the market. On auto-dominated North Figueroa, with cars rushing between red lights at Avenue 52 and Avenue 50, the increased pedestrian presence along with lots of cars making turns into and out of the Food 4 Less parking lot added up to a growing list of casualties at Avenue 51. Instead of calming traffic, or doing some placemaking, the City spent over $150,000 on a flashing crosswalk sign at Avenue 51.

The LADOT pioneered the use of this expensive piece of street furniture. The flashing overhead crosswalk lights, you see, killed many birds with one fell swoop: it shut down any debate about pedestrian access (“Hey, look, it is a flashing light!”) while doing nothing to slow down car drivers. The expense of the light set the bar for pedestrian safety rather high, but Avenue 51 handily leapt over that bar with a long list of injured people, damaged property, and even a few fatalities.

Politics Stopping #fig4all

Avenue 51 has continued to rack up a list of casualties and car crashes. The rest of North Figueroa hasn’t done much better, taking a life every year (at least) and tallying loads more crashes and injuries. Figueroa For All and other community stakeholders and groups had our plans for a safer street stopped dead by Councilman Gil Cedillo when he scared the LADOT into stopping a road diet and bike lane project running the length of North Figueroa Street.

The LADOT’s plan included bike lanes and a road diet – infrastructure that would have cost about $250,000 to implement. Analysis by the LADOT showed that the road diet would have added about 41 seconds of peak hour delay at the intersection of York and Figueroa. $250,000 in dedicated transportation dollars and 41 seconds of delay and the street would have been measurably safer along its entire length, from Colorado Boulevard to the north down to Avenue 26 in the south. A similar road diet along York Boulevard resulted in a 25%+ drop in reported collisions according to an LADOT analysis.

Gil Cedillo, in response to criticism about killing the road diet plan for no discernible reason, has realized that street safety is good local politics. Now in his 2nd year in local office, he has changed tactics and has followed the pattern of several council offices before him: waiting for neighbors to die and installing piecemeal signs and signals after the fact to gain maximum exposure.

The problem with this approach is that it is expensive and it doesn’t solve larger problems along a street. It is a stupid way of managing local transportation planning issues. It is politics over prudence.

Please, reach out to the mayor’s office and the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Departmentto demand that the bike lane and road diet on North Figueroa be implemented in addition to, or instead of, this traffic signal.

Email the Mayor and HCID here!

You can get in touch with mayor Eric Garcetti’s office here:

Mayor Eric Garcetti
200 N. Spring St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-978-0600
https://www.facebook.com/eric
Twitter: @ericgarcetti

You can get in touch with the LA Housing and Community Investment Department’s Planning and Procurement Unit here:

Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department
Planning and Procurement Unit
1200 W. 7th Street, 6th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Main Line: (213) 744-9078
https://www.facebook.com/HCIDLA

Whose law is it anyway?

November 4, 2009 LA Bike Plan Meeting – 1st Edit from Arthur Schlenger on Vimeo.

The people of North East Los Angeles have lined up in public comment queues for half a decade now to speak out in favor, or opposition, to bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. Most of us in favor of the bike lanes imagined that, if we could only share the lessons learned in other parts of Los Angeles (and the world) about the improved safety, human health, happiness, and business prospects that can come with a proper connected urban bike lane project that surely we would fare well in City Hall.

During the last term of Councilman Ed Reyes that seemed to have worked. Since the 2013 election of Gil Cedillo, our techniques to incite change have not worked. Is there a way to get the North Figueroa Street road diet going again?

The bike lane on North Figueroa Street was included in the 2010 Bike Plan. The project passed through the gates of a full Environmental Impact Report and emerged with a city council vote adopting the report. Money was moved from Measure R sales tax dollars into a special bike project fund for North Figueroa.

There is a cancer at the heart of Los Angeles’ bike plan, like there is a cancer at the heart of every plan that passes through the city council in Los Angeles.

The cancer I am talking about reminds me of the old improv comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” which always began with the phrase: “The show where everything’s made up, and the points don’t matter.”

The cancer in LA’s bike plan is this: it isn’t law. If an individual city councilmember, e.g. Gil Cedillo, doesn’t like a part of the plan that the full council approved, or doesn’t like the way a department is implementing a plan the full council approved, that individual councilmember can order all work on that portion of the plan to be stopped.

This flies in the face of the City of Los Angeles’ Charter, Section 242. Conduct of Business (b) which states:

"The Council, by ordinance or resolution, shall establish a sufficient number of committees to enable it to carry out its duties. The duty of the Council and its committees is to become fully informed of the business of the City so as to oversee all the functions of the City government, and to report to the Council any information or recommendations necessary to enable the Council to properly legislate. Committees shall have the power of investigation, but shall have no administrative control over the various functions of the City government. The administration of the City government shall be vested in the officials designated in the Charter to perform those functions[.]"

The full council has the power to pass ordinances "[u]pon any subject of municipal control, or to carry into effect any of the powers of the City." (Los Angeles Administrative Code, Section 2.14.)

How can one individual councilmember stop parts of a plan approved by the full city council? What are the powers of an individual councilmember in Los Angeles? As far as I can tell the full council is vested with all sorts of fancy powers and rights. Individual councilmembers, however, have no real power … and yet the road diet on North Figueroa Street appears to be cancelled.

The game is made up and the rules don’t matter.

Gil Cedillo has no statutory power to stop the LADOT from installing a road diet on North Figueroa Street. The LADOT doesn’t legally need to stop work at Cedillo’s request – so why have they stopped working on the North Figueroa Street road diet?

In Los Angeles, if a department messes with one council office they risk messing with the whole council. This city sprawled so far beyond its ability to maintain itself two generations ago that getting a sidewalk paved, water main fixed, trees trimmed, or street swept requires some sort of influence peddling at election time by those smart enough to get connected with a local councilman’s office. Elected in off-year, low-turnout, elections; councilmen face no serious electoral challenges (barring scandal) if they dole out the limited number of favors they can afford to their election year supporters.

In order to trade in favors in a chronically unmaintainable mess of a city, councilmembers allow each other to wave full council action in front of departments working on small enough projects contained mostly within their districts.

“Do what I want or we’re going to go after you in the budget next year.”

“Build that portion of your project in my district and the council is going to make your job, specifically, illegal within Los Angeles city limits.”

It never needs to gets to this level these days. The system is so formalized that city departments send their envoys to lie and cajole council offices, bribe them with give-aways to the recipients of the councilmembers choice, and come away with the informal approval of any project a city department wants to build. When things break down, like they have with the road diet on North Figueroa Street and Councilman Gil Cedillo, the department backs down and waits either for a groundswell of support (Ahem! Cough! Figueroa For All. Cough!) or simply lets the project die.

Notice how none of the legal and pseudo-legal hurdles most of us local politics junkies talk about matter here? We’re not even talking about legal powers of the council offices anymore – we’re talking about a game-theory of local governance in Los Angeles.

It is a game – except, unlike “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, our lives are at stake, our health and happiness is on the line. Unlike the improv TV show, the points do matter in local politics. Either we get a safer street or we keep a stupidly designed status quo stroad.

How do we win this game?

Gil Cedillo raised $2.1 million in his bid to become a city councilman. He spent, combined with so-called independent expenditures, about $200 per vote in the general election that saw him squeak by his opponent with a margin of less than 800 votes. There are nearly 82,000 registered voters in Council District 1 out of about 250,000 residents. Cedillo was elected by 10,152 voters. His opponent lost with 9,389 votes and only spent half the amount of money Cedillo did.

We can’t afford to buy ads on the size and scale Cedillo can. We can’t afford to use campaign cash and city council money, robocall machines, and staff time to advertise our point of view the way Cedillo has.

What we can do is come together, as we have for years now, and agitate for change within our community. Our bike rides, our parties, our parade entries, walking tours, secret stair climbs, protest marches, petition gathering surveys, tabling of large public events, attending community meetings, voting in Neighborhood Council election – it all adds up.

Combined with the efforts of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Figueroa For All has directly touched the lives thousands of real people in NELA. These are people who have participated in an event or signed a petition for the North Figueroa Street road diet (probably both!). We have done it with no campaign funds, no independent expenditures. Despite or $0 budget, the number of people signing the petition in favor of a Figueroa For All grows by the day. For example, on a normal business day I get 5 to 10 signatures on the petition I leave out on the counter of the Flying Pigeon LA shop.

Every cell phone number and email address is potentially another real person in the community who will walk, bike, and vote with us on street safety measures and candidates. It costs us $0 and our movement grows itself.

Councilman Cedillo stalked by Reverend Fig4All at a Latin Jazz Festival on August 23, 2014. The Rev.’s sign reads “REPENT CEDILLO”. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Cedillo, like most candidates who’ve won election in Council District 1 in recent history, ignored the most significant public safety issue facing his district: unsafe streets for walking and bicycling. He has nobody on his staff of 20+ who has passed even an introductory course in urban planning, civil engineering, or design. He is flying blind, pulling counter-arguments out of thin air.

He is scared. He picked a political fight with a group of people who, in fighting for a road diet don’t get burned out – we actually get stronger, feel better, and enjoy our lives more when we come together to celebrate our dreams for a safer, more humane, community.

Whose law is it anyway? It is the law of the American political jungle. Don’t let Cedillo’s spite and apprehension with the 21st century slow us down! Get together! Have fun!

We’re planning a big pedestrian and bicycling festival in November and December. Keep your eyes peeled for a 30-day, crowd-sourced, free, livable streets festival called Si Se Mueve. If you want to get involved in the Figueroa For All campaign leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our email list, join our Facebook group, or sign the LACBC’s change.org petition for a North Figueroa Street road diet.

LADOT compromises on North Figueroa Street bike lanes

Rendering of LADOT proposed N. Figueroa bike lane looking north towards Avenue 26 near the intersection of N. Figueroa Street and  Avenue 22. By Nathan Lucero.

It is easy to come away from a discussion about bike lanes on North Figueroa Street thinking that this is a “bikes vs. cars” issue. Heck, our local councilman, Gil Cedillo, had his entire office working on that tired narrative the past 3 months (prior to ignoring the issue after being elected in May of 2013).

When you look closer at the facts, this narrative breaks down completely.

The way the LADOT has designed the North Figueroa Street bike lanes will not have a noticeable impact on peak hour car travel times, and will have no impact whatsoever during off-peak hours.

Why is that?

Rendering of LADOT proposed N. Figueroa bike lane looking south towards Avenue 22 and the 5 Freeway from just past the Avenue 26 intersection with N. Figueroa Street. By: Nathan Lucero

The most car-congested intersection of North Figueroa is where it meets Avenue 26. It is common to see a clump of 40 to 60 cars waiting at Avenue 26 to enter either the 5 South or the 110 South in the morning on weekdays.

The LADOT’s planned bike lanes will keep all the existing car lanes on North Figueroa from Avenue 28 down to the intersection with the 110 South – which means that there will be no added car delay in this portion of North Figueroa when bike lanes are installed.

Is this what Figueroa For All wants? Not really. We would prefer a cycle track and much better intersection design running the length of North Figueroa.

Here is an example of what Figueroa For All would like to see:

You can read more about cycle tracks and protected intersections by clicking here.

Now that the LADOT has compromised on its original vision of a buffered bike lane running the length of North Figueroa Street, will those opposed to the lanes accept this compromise? Will Councilman Cedillo call off his staff on their crusade to scare people away from safer streets?

Figueroa For All members outside a community meeting called by Councilman Cedillo on June 12, 2014.

For the sake of quality of life and safety on North Figueroa let’s hope the LADOT’s compromise design and these renderings get a bike lane installed soon.