Last week, two citywide proposals with roots in the Hancock Park and Windsor Square neighborhoods took big steps toward implementation.
Citywide Street Tree Inventory
The first was a proposal, initiated by a February report from City Controller Ron Galperin, to create a citywide street tree inventory to help collect data about, schedule maintenance for and plan replacement of the city’s street trees. It’s an idea that City Council Member David Ryu also advocated as part of a trio of tree motions he co-sponsored last fall. And even before that, two of our local neighborhoods – Windsor Square and Hancock Park – pioneered and completed completed their own street tree inventories…which were used by Ryu and others of examples of programs that could be adopted citywide.
So the vote last Wednesday, the day after Arbor Day and just a few days before Earth Day, was an especially sweet victory locally, as the full city council voted to authorize the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) to pursue a grant to fund a citywide street tree inventory and, in a separate motion (on Council File 19-0188), to instruct the BSS to create a plan for a street tree inventory and a centralized system to manage the city’s street trees and maintenance efforts, and to review city policies and procedures for tree trimming and maintenance.
Hancock Park Homeowners Association President Cindy Chvatal said she was “delighted” at the news about the tree inventory proposal. The HPHOA’s impetus for doing its own street tree inventory, she said, was the recession a few years ago, during which the city’s already minimal budgets for tree maintenance and replacement were all but wiped out by budget cuts. Chvatal said that at that time, HPHOA members took on the costs of cataloging and maintaining the neighborhood trees themselves, and she’s thrilled that the neighbors’ efforts have helped to inspire wider action now that the city is working to revive its Department of Urban Forestry.
Concrete Street Repairs
The second citywide effort with local inspiration moving forward last week was a report from the Bureau of Street Services on concrete street repair in the City of Los Angeles, which the City Council’s Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee advanced to the full City Council.
The document includes a preliminary analysis of the 1,184 miles of concrete streets in the City, including those in many of our local neighborhoods, and shows that 82 percent of those streets are in poor condition. The report also requests that the Bureau of Street Services and the City Administrative Officer create a work plan and funding estimates for small, medium, and large-scale repairs of our concrete streets.
“Fixing our concrete streets has been a priority of mine since I entered office,” said City Council Member David Ryu in a statement after the vote. As part of that effort, Ryu conducted a pilot concrete street pair project in Hancock Park a couple of years ago, and he has been lobbying the city ever since to report on the results of the trial and expand its concrete street repair efforts. “Today, after decades of neglect,,” Ryu said in the statement, “our City’s concrete streets are one step closer to the repair plan they deserve.”
As various officials have explained to local homeowners over the years, the reason concrete streets have never been repaired by the city, in many cases since they were first installed 80-90 years ago, is that city officials have long contended that that while concrete is a more durable street surface than asphalt, it’s also much more expensive to install and repair. But Ryu said in his statement that, “Despite budget limitations, I have long believed that we can find a way to fix our concrete streets in a timely and cost-effective way. Just a few weeks ago, we began targeted concrete street repair in Hancock Park, and with this report, I look forward to many more.”
HPHOA president Chvatal echoed Ryu’s sentiments, crediting Ryu and the new Bureau of Street Services director, Adel Hagekhalil, with getting the ball rolling. “They’ve been amazing,” Chvatal said. Chvatal noted, too, that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has put $7 million in funding for concrete street repairs in his city budget this year, for the first time, which could be used to pay for full-time concrete repair crews. (In the past, Chvatal said, concrete repair crews were hired only very occasionally, as “special projects.”)
Mark Pampanin, Ryu’s Communications Deputy, told the Buzz yesterday that the next stop for the concrete street repair plan will be a final vote at the full City Council, “which we expect before the Summer recess (starting July 4).” Pampanin said that if that vote is successful, “we expect a report, work plan, and cost estimates to come from the Bureau of Street Services in early Fall.” Pampanin said Council Member Ryu will continue to fight to maintain the budget funding for concrete repairs as the budget goes through its discussion and approval process over the next month or so.
[This story was updated after publication to correct the amount budgeted for concrete street repairs by the city from $2 million to $7 million.]