There seems to be a positive shift occurring in our local government. For the first time in years, the city is listening and collaborating with the public.
Take for example the recent decision to install bike racks around town. Members of the community joined the Complete Streets Task Force to highlight a shortage of bike racks. They even drew a map of suggested locations. Jane Egly and Verna Rollinger invited John Pietig to a meeting, where he admitted to “learning a lot.” This set in motion a staff recommendation to fund the 32 racks. The council unanimously approved it. Bam.
This is but one small step to creating a true bike friendly culture where artistic bike racks and bike-share systems are at beach heads, parks, hotels and stores. Discussions are now afoot to re-stripe Glenneyre with a dedicated bike lane.
What a difference to live in a place with scores of people saying hello on their daily bike commutes, staying healthy and parking-trauma free in the process.
The city is now re-writing their General Plan. Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman is soliciting public ideas on the Mobility Element and Downtown Specific Plan. Everything is on the table: taking over Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road from Caltrans, as other cities have done; eliminating a parking lane from both to make room for bikers; putting a parking garage at the village entrance; and again for the umpteenth time, that crown jewel of an idea, turning the parking lot known as lower Forest Avenue into a beautiful pedestrian plaza.
Only a few dissenters still exist – those clinging to the notion that convenience is everything and without it people won’t come. More cities are subordinating the automobile to the human experience and eliminating parking along the way without deleterious effect.
In the past it was always easy for council or staff to shrug off ideas that took some shoe leather. The scapegoat was invariably Caltrans, the Coastal Commission or liability concerns. But council seems to understand calming traffic, restoring multi-modal transportation, and strengthening community is through action, not fear. At this year’s Venice Architecture Biennele, the U.S. pavilion housed 124 public initiated urban improvements such as bike lanes, guerilla gardens, pop-up parks and art intersections. It’s a movement that is accelerating because it makes towns more livable.
Don’t we want to be one? With the prevailing winds at City Hall, we just might.
Billy Fried, Laguna Beach