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L.A.’s Streets Are No La La Land

In fall 2011, leaders and community members celebrated the new green bike lanes on Spring Street in Downtown L.A. (left, photo by Andrew Wong, WYTe Studios). After a compromise with the film industry in 2013, the Spring Street bike lane was re-painted a more muted emerald green only along the edges of the lane and in conflict zones (right).

On Christmas Day, an L.A. Times article entitled “’La La Land’ looks beautiful, but gentrification makes it harder for old Hollywood to play itself” was posted. In the article, film location managers share how it has become more difficult to film in places like Downtown L.A. or Hollywood because they need to take more steps to get the shots they want. Because more people now live, work, and play in the places often used for filming, the permitting process requires more permissions to obtain, and the addition of new buildings and new infrastructure means that these modern signifiers must be filmed around or digitally altered in post-production now.

What’s irresponsible in this article is how the reporter and some film location managers blame “gentrification” as the cause. Gentrification is not a vague concept that is simply important because it’s a thorn in Hollywood’s side. Rather, it is a serious reality for many L.A. County residents as increasing income disparities, soaring housing prices, and lack of available housing results in displacement, often of the lowest income residents and residents of color. While there are characteristics associated with gentrification, the article does not address the displacement that defines it. Instead what the article actually refers to is new development, or in more simple terms: changes.

Well, Los Angeles is not a static city, and it is changing. As populations rise, the economy shifts, and new concerns arise, cities constantly integrate the new with the old or else they’ll only stagnate. This means more than just changing buildings themselves, but also the spaces in between. The article states: “Film crews also have chafed at the proliferation in downtown of Metro Bike Share stands and green bike lanes, which they say spoil the distinct look of the area.”

Newer infrastructure, such as bike share and green bike lanes, exist to help people get around more easily, encourage people to ride bikes, and keep people safer. In the case of green bike lanes, a compromise was already made back in 2013 on Spring Street in Downtown L.A. when concerns about filming near the highly visible bright green lanes led the City to re-paint them with more muted emerald green paint along only the edges of the lane and in conflict zones.

In 2013, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the L.A. Great Streets Initiative to serve, support, and strengthen our most vibrant corridors. Selected Great Streets have received treatments like parking-protected bike lanes and zebras-striped crosswalks to make walking and biking safer. In 2015, Mobility Plan 2035 passed, and Mayor Garcetti signed an executive order making Los Angeles a Vision Zero city that strives to achieve zero traffic deaths by the year 2025. Creating safer streets requires engineering and design changes, and that might include facilities that look different from what we’re used to such as parklets, protected bike lanes, scramble crosswalks, and so on.

We need our elected officials to go beyond just making plans that change if the film industry pushes against them. Rather, we need and want commitment to making our streets safe that is shown through action and implementation.

Each year, more than 200 people die in traffic collisions in L.A., and roughly half are people walking and biking. Traffic violence is the leading killer of school-age children in Los Angeles. Where do the film industry and elected officials draw the line in making film shoots more convenient and removing safety measures that protect people on our streets?

We recognize the film industry’s economic and cultural contributions to this city and want to work with filmmakers on solutions that work for everyone. This same article includes a statement from a film location manager that it’s both easy and cheap to remove contemporary markings with improved digital technology, and we encourage filmmakers to continue to do this.

We call on elected officials to be bold and fight for Angelenos, fight for safer streets, and fight for the infrastructure that will make streets safer for Angelenos, even if might not seem popular at first. L.A. has a Bicycle Plan, a Mobility Plan, a Vision Zero Action Plan, but our leaders cannot let these plans just sit on a shelf while people are dying on our streets. As a city, we need to push beyond our idealistic plans and start implementing. We need to push back if an industry tells us we should or should not. We need to make these plans a reality and make sure that no one’s safety is compromised.

This week, Angelenos voted for half of the city council seats, and we need leaders that will lead L.A. into the future. Elected officials have a responsibility to keep Angelenos safe, and adding some green paint on our bike lanes is only the beginning.

Join Us for Green on the Ground Week and a Lunchtime Bike Ride

Join LACBC next week for Green on the Ground Week (March 13-17), as we celebrate green bike infrastructure around L.A. County. Adding color to streetscape is an efficient way to help delineate the space reserved for people biking. Use the hashtag #greenbikeLAnes to post photos of your favorite green bike lanes and share your stories.

Also, join us for a casual lunchtime bike ride on St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, March 17th, as we’ll ride ride on the Spring Street green bike lane for a lunchtime picnic.

Green on the Ground Lunchtime Ride

When: Friday, March 17, Meet at 12:00 p.m., ride at 12:10 p.m.

Where: Meet at Pershing Square (corner of 5th and Olive) by the Metro Bike Share kiosk

Wear green and bring your brown bag lunch with you we take a short lunchtime ride to Grand Hope Park. We’ll follow the green bike lane down to the pot of gold at the end of the ride. RSVP here.

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