“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.