Jackson Gate Will Open More Access to the Ballona Creek Bike Path

“We can’t sit in ‘analysis paralysis’ and wait for another 15 studies of what may or may not happen … we ignore the systemic risk that comes from not taking action.” Mayor Alex Fisch’s comments in the midst of  long discussion on Monday August 23, 2021 focused on opening the gate to the Ballona Creek bike path on Jackson Avenue. 

The seemingly simple issued has been mired in inter-city politics (Los Angeles and Culver City share ownership of the Ballona Creek Bike Path) for years, and had also become the focus of a neighborhood push to keep the gate closed. People using the bike path have made formal requests to open the gate for the past five years. 

Since 2017, the request to open the gate for public issue has been in front of the council multiple times. Council member Goran Eriksson gave a brief narrative of the issue coming up under then-Mayor Jeff Cooper, and noted that Culver City’s request to open the gate to the creek on Sawtelle was met by Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Bonin’s challenge for Culver City to find another gate to open. Jackson Avenue, originally designed as an access way for maintenance vehicles, became a possible part of the solution. 

As noted in the staff presentation, an August 15, 2019 meeting in regard to opening the gate drew three comments in favor and three against. The community sentiment has stayed at an almost half and half ratio throughout the legislative process. 

At the August 23 meeting, Culver City Police Chief Manny Cid offered that “The creek, all in all, has generally over the last handful of years, been a safe place, but also obviously not without crime.” He noted that “most of the crime on the creek was vandalism, [graffiti, etc.] and that there are a fair amount of unhoused people living there as well.” 

With 46 people signed in to address the matter, the time limit was cut to 90 seconds so that all speakers could be heard in less than two hours. 

As with previous meetings, comments were divided among both points of view, with the active bicycle riders in favor, and those who felt that the street could not or should not accommodate more use. 

Council member Eriksson, who had been the council member with the longest involvement in the process, seemed to pivot completely away from his previous position as highlighted by his recollection of the situation under the previous city council, and insisted that opening the gate was an insult to the residents of the street. 

Council member Yasmine Imani McMorrin reflected the comments made by Kristen Torrez-Pawling in regard to women being able to feel safe when biking on the creek. The amount of time and distance needed to get to safety if there was a threat on the bike path was a vital reason as to why the gate should be unlocked. McMorrin noted that she would support the motion to open the gate. 

While some speakers held that democracy was not being respected in the process, it took five years, untold hundreds of hours of work by the city staff and two different city councils listening to more than a hundred residents of the city at multiple public meetings to come to the decision. 

The council voted three to two to open the gate, with Mayor Fisch, Vice Mayor Daniel Lee and Council member McMorrin all in favor. 

Judith Martin-Straw

Ting Internet is in Culver City!

7 Comments

  1. Got Democracy? Not so sure in Culver City today!
    AUGUST 25, 2021

    This is more than a Trifecta of times where I have felt ignored and marginalized in my dealings with Culver City City Council regarding major issues affecting my neighborhood and city!

    Mayor Fisch was quoted in the Culver City Crossroads (August 25th) as saying the following: “We can’t sit in ‘analysis paralysis’ and wait for another 15 studies of what may or may not happen … we ignore the systemic risk that comes from not taking action.”

    Does Mayor Fisch not get the Democratic process? Has he grown too impatient to even bother giving the community a say on issues that directly affect the peace and safety of neighborhoods such as Jackson Gate? Studies and analysis are vital and necessary, but they must also be conducted by impartial groups and not steered by an agenda either. Nor are these easy issues and they will never be resolved by giving constituents only 90 seconds to say their piece in a Council meeting. Whether it takes five minutes or five years of debate, then that’s what it takes and Council should let the process continue!

    Fisch appears to be operating more as an Autocrat with his two willing ‘henchmen’ falling in league on most every issue blindly. Starting as far back as the advent of Rent Control Measures and before Fisch became king, he has ‘listened’ sparingly to the thoughtful objections given by the public at the Council meetings on many important issues.

    Having watched the reckless handling of his matters on the elimination of R1 Zoning issue, it has become evident to me that it is almost futile to express your opinion properly in these meetings. And no matter whether the opposing group was in the majority in most all of these sessions, as far as Fisch was concerned, when the end of the time limit he set comes, whether the debate had been completed or not, Fisch has tended to overlook the questions and discount the detailed, careful and often expert advice provided to him on these measures. He appears callous and/or unconcerned with how little he has noticed his ideas are not the majority of the residents and decides, in the interest of time, to just continue with his plans to call a vote, which will generally end up with the Majority 3 voting with Fisch, without acknowledging that the conversation is not over.

    Council members are laymen, not city planners, architects, or infrastructure experts who can wield their professional wands and make the perfect balance of community harmony and/or resolution for housing planning. But all things must and do require a proper dialogue and analysis from professionals who don’t just agree with their limited point of view!

    It is my opinion that any major issues that involve changes in zoning, planning and community restructuring must be decided by the people, by referendum and the DETAIL must properly be worked out to protect residents, renters and homeowners from the irresponsible destruction of communities. Developers, small and large, must be held financially responsible for the infrastructure needs in any area they apply to build as well as be required to provide the proper level of housing for all income levels in every proposed development.

    Please bring back interactive democracy of the people in Culver City.

    Sincerely,
    Kimberly Ferguson
    Culver City Concerned Resident

  2. The city council’s internal political squabbles blew this rather small, insignificant issue of opening a long-time, closed access gate to the bike path into some grand, political Solomon-like decision.
    I fault ALL five members for turning this simple issue of opening a bicycle path gate into a long, drawn out political struggle. They could have easily decided this issue quite simply by putting aside their internal bickering and their personal animosities towards each other and seen this issue for what it is:
    An Open and Shut Case.
    Basically, for each council member it should have come down to if opening the access gate made the local home owners in the cul-de-sac feel safer, then open it. If not, then, keep it closed.
    The safety and security of local citizens should be the prime concern of any council decision.
    George Laase

  3. 5 years isn’t enough democracy for you? You weren’t ignored, you were disagreed with. Big difference. I am immediately suspicious of anyone who is a “concerned citizen” anyways. It’s code for “nothing will ever change if I have my way”.

  4. George Lasse,
    One’s subjective feelings of “safety and security” do not always correspond to statistical reality, and in our polarized political environment, fear and insecurity over imagined threats seem to be increasingly prominent. The bike path is a piece of infrastructure that crosses multiple jurisdictions and neighborhoods. As such, its stakeholders are many more than just the residents that happen to live near the gate. At this point, we need region-wide solutions to our transportation problems, and the collective good should not be held hostage to individual fears of change.

  5. Erick, I’m pretty sure the neighbors living in the Jackson Ave area are not trying to keep bicycle riders from going through their neighborhood during day-light hours. It’s probably because if the gate remains open 24-hours a day, anyone would have an unfiltered access-point into their neighborhood. They’re not worried about the law-biding biking through, just the transgressors that are not law-biding.
    Try this for a couple of months and see how you feel afterwards: Leave the back gate to your property wide-open or your back door to your place unlocked every night and see if you get a better night’s sleep.

  6. 40 pro speakers. 6 against. It’s easy to sign a petition but so few actually showed up. That tells you a lot about how critical the situation really was… for the bikers. 🙂

    Keep up the good work Judith.

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