At the September 11, 2023 City Council meeting, MOVE Culver City was once again on the agenda. This time the council was set to decide which parts of the project, if any, would be exempt from environmental review.
One part of the project, which adds bus and bike lanes east of La Cienega, is clearly exempt from environmental review under state regulations favoring transit infrastructure that doesn’t add new car lanes. The part of the project west of La Cienega, which instead replaces existing pedestrian and bike infrastructure with new lanes of car traffic, will result in environmental impacts that must be studied and mitigated.
The city received multiple letters written by environmental lawyers describing why new lanes of car traffic are not exempt from environmental review, apparently chomping at the bit to sue the city over this.
And public commenters were nearly unanimous in urging the city to study the environmental impact of adding new lanes of car traffic, with several commenters asking for the new bus and bike lanes to be prioritized for construction while the rest of the project is studied and mitigated.
The council majority ignored both the litigation threat and the overwhelming weight of public comment. They declared the entire project exempt from environmental review, relying on the curious rationale that adding new car lanes would not result in more cars on the road. And they deprioritized the new bus and bike lanes in the eastern segment in favor of the more legally dubious new car lanes in the western segment.
Why risk litigation here? Why even take the chance when litigation could be avoided by simply studying the environmental impacts and mitigating them? Don’t we want to know the environmental impact of changing pedestrian and cyclist space into lanes of gridlock?
Mayor Albert Vera and Councilmembers Göran Eriksson and Dan O’Brien, what does it say about your values if you’d rather not know, if you’d rather not mitigate the environmental impacts? What could be more important than that?
At the meeting, O’Brien said very clearly why they’re risking litigation, ignoring environmental impact, and disregarding the residents who show up for public comment: “Because we’ve had virtually every small business owner in our downtown begging us to hurry up and do this.”