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Here’s What You Missed at the Los Angeles CD 13 Transportation Debate

Candidates discussed policies that affect how we walk, bike, and ride transit.

Councilmember Mitch OFarrell gives a statement outside Echo Park Lake on March 25, 2021. At that time, multiple outlets were invited.

On November 16, Streets For All (SFA) held an election debate on transportation between candidates running for Los Angeles City Council in District 13 (CD 13). In attendance were current incumbent Mitch O’Farrell, as well as Albert Corado, Steve Johnson, Dylan Kendall, Kate Pynoos, Rachael Rose Luckey, and Hugo Soto-Martinez, who was recently endorsed by Ground Game LA, the parent organization of Knock LA.

SFA began by giving some background. Traffic in LA costs $19 billion in lost productivity. A driver kills a pedestrian about every three days. LA’s air quality is so bad that just breathing in the city is equivalent to smoking four cigarettes a day.

SFA asked about specific policies the candidates would support to improve transportation and public safety in CD 13. Luckey, Soto-Martinez, and Corado mentioned bus lanes and protected bike lanes. Soto-Martinez committed to implementing all the bus lanes and protected bike lanes in the city’s Mobility Plan. He also said he will use a new state law, AB 43, to reset speed limits based on safety, rather than the speeds of the fastest drivers.

By contrast, O’Farrell blamed the Metro board for his district’s transportation issues, rather than taking responsibility as the councilmember who controls traffic lanes in CD 13. O’Farrell also demanded definite answers to parking loss before approving protected bike lanes. Luckey worried about the potential gentrification that could result from adding these protected lanes. Pynoos said that we need a systems change, and that unsafe streets in CD13 are a reflection of O’Farrell’s time in office. Kendall mentioned a few projects that are in the works before saying that we need more political will to make things happen. Johnson supports bike lanes, but claimed that people under 35 don’t want to ride their bikes — although he expects a shift towards more bike usage.

Before the audience questions began, SFA played a short video about their 25×25 Plan, which would convert 25% of LA’s streets into non-car spaces by 2025. Corado, Kendall, Pynoos, and Soto-Martinez had already signed on. Luckey mentioned a bit later that she would sign on as well.

Audience Questions

The first audience question asked if the candidates support fare-free transit. Everyone except Johnson and O’Farrell said yes.

Another question was how to handle traffic laws, given the disproportionate targeting of people of color. Pynoos, Corado, and Luckey all support removing armed officers from traffic enforcement. Kendall stated that we might need different people doing different parts of the enforcement. Kendall distinguished between expired license plate tags, which don’t hurt anyone, and street racing, which is dangerous.

O’Farrell and Johnson said that traffic stops are the most dangerous part of law enforcement, a claim that has been debunked. Johnson mainly blamed racial disparities on the demographics of certain neighborhoods. O’Farrell stated racism is real and recommended that enforcement be eased on bicycle riders. Soto-Martinez opposed the use of transit money to subsidize law enforcement on public transit; he wants unarmed people to handle nonviolent issues, rather than spending $200 million on police.

The audience also asked if the candidates support parking minimums. Parking minimums are a requirement for developers to include a certain amount of parking spaces in their developments. Johnson and Pynoos said they want to reduce them, but would not completely do away with them. Kendall stated that she wanted to consider this issue on a case by case basis. O’Farrell claimed that parking minimums helped create affordable housing. Corado and Luckey both recommended parking maximums rather than minimums. Soto-Martinez said he wants to get rid of parking minimums. Because parking minimums save developers money, he said he wants developers to give something in return to the community, such as affordable housing.

SFA plans to hold transportation debates for other Los Angeles City Council districts in 2022.

This article was not coordinated with any candidate or campaign committee.

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of candidate Rachael Rose Luckey. We regret the error.