Bonin’s Boulevard of Broken Promises
This OpEd was submitted to The Argonaut along with supporting documentation to verify all claims made. In fact many of the false statements made by Mike Bonin were first printed in the pages of the Argonaut. The Argonaut declined to print this.
As 2018 came to a close, Councilman Mike Bonin quietly announced that Venice Boulevard’s ‘Pilot Project’ was over, and that the Road Diet was now permanent feature of the 0.8 mile stretch of road through Mar Vista. And just like that, the concerns of the tens of thousands of people who drive Venice every day, — the thousands of residents who are dealing with the spillover effects of cut thru traffic, the hundreds of impacted mom and pop businesses and the objections of the Mar Vista Community Council — were swept away. Swept away by a councilman who has decided that he no longer represents District 11, he rules it. Mike Bonin has become a tin pot dictator of the Westside.
From the start of this fiasco, in May of 2017, Bonin has been dishonest with the community. He said Venice Blvd. was one of the most dangerous streets in the city, especially the stretch between Beethoven and Inglewood. He claimed, “five people have lost their lives here in the past 10 years,” and that speeding drivers were making the street unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians. These blatantly false statements were a callous effort to create a sense of emergency to justify Bonin’s personal agenda: to make traffic so miserable that people would give up cars for bikes, buses and light rail.
In fact this part of Venice Blvd doesn’t even rank in the top 817 most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. According to CHP data there have been two fatalities on this stretch of Venice Blvd in the past 10 years, not five. There haven’t been five fatalities in the past 15 years, let alone the last five. That same data shows speeding not only isn’t a problem on Venice Blvd., it wasn’t even a factor in any pedestrian or cyclist injury involving a car. In other words, Bonin just made up “facts” that supported his narrative, truth be damned.
Last July, Bonin told a room packed with angry constituents that calls, emails, and comments, he’d received were weighted in favor of the road diet. Yet his office communication log, acquired through a California Public Records Act request, shows the opposite was true. Out of 1,736 communications received, 1,545 — fully 89% — were from people who opposed the road diet. A mere 191 of logged communications expressed support for the road diet, nowhere near the majority Bonin had claimed. Those results were echoed in two Change.org petitions and as well as in an informal poll on NextDoor, where out of thousands of respondents over 75% voted for restoration of the lanes.
At that same July meeting, Bonin repeated his pledge to employ a data driven, transparent process and evolve the project with community input. He called the road diet a “pilot project” and guaranteed public reviews at 30, 60 and 90 days. He promised that after a year of data had been collected he and the LADOT would meet with the community to share their findings, and we’d “keep what we like, fix what isn’t working and remove what we don’t like.”
Instead, residents and merchants expressing their concerns were rebuffed by Mike Bonin and his staff. On his official government Facebook page Bonin touted the supposed success of the project while constituents' posts condemning the road diet were deleted. Additionally, several business owners report being harassed by text message and in person by Bonin’s staff for posting anti-road diet signs in their shop’s windows.
Fast forward to the last weeks of 2018, when Bonin and the LADOT released a 40 page report proclaiming the Venice Blvd. “Great Street” an unqualified success. They claimed accidents are down, business is up, traffic volume is the same, and that the community loves the road diet.
Closer examination of the data proves otherwise. In order to say accidents dropped 14%, Bonin’s team omitted eight accidents that occurred after the implementation of the road diet. To claim business is booming, they only analyzed financial data from the first six months of the road diet, before mounting losses started forcing multiple businesses to close. (And because the survey didn’t involve the same businesses year over year, the “data” is statistically meaningless anyway.) The claim that traffic volume has returned to normal is similarly specious. LADOT’s data shows that traffic volume on Venice plummeted immediately following the road diet and remains down by 13% while traffic on adjacent residential streets has skyrocketed. While Bonin claims the project has been a “multimodal transit success” LADOT’s report shows that rather encouraging more people to cycle down Venice Blvd the number of cyclists has fallen by 16% from pre-road diet levels.
As he has done from the start, Bonin has played fast and loose with the facts. In actuality, accidents are up, fewer people are biking than before, business is down (by the end of 2018, 21 businesses were forced to relocate or closed altogether). In short, the Venice Blvd Road Diet has been an abysmal failure. This isn’t Mar Vista’s “Great Street” this is Bonin’s Boulevard of Broken Promises.
For sources and a detailed analysis of the data mentioned above go to KeepLAMoving.com/Venice