Monday, February 16, 2009

Los Angeles Times Election Coverage: David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg


From Los Angeles Times

David 'Zuma Dogg' Saltsburg: L.A. mayoral candidate

Transportation and development Q & A
February 16, 2009

With the March 3 primary election drawing near, The Times asked candidates for Los Angeles mayor to respond to questions about key issues facing the nation's second-largest city. Here are the responses from candidate David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg:

1) What concrete proposals would you pursue to reduce traffic congestion in Los Angeles?

First of all, it must be noted that traffic is caused by density, and I feel Villaraigosa's City Hall has irreparably changed the character of the city with irresponsible density projects that are a massive contribution to the traffic problem. So by proposing a slowdown on the high-density projects around the low-density infrastructure (the roads don't get any wider with all the added high-density housing projects), that will help prevent further congestion. And I would beg Jane Usher to return as director of the planning department.

Secondly, I have mentioned my 14-point plan to improve efficiency in all departments, citywide, and this management philosophy is the only method in which to achieve the actual goal of "traffic congestion reduction." For example, Villaraigosa had left-turn "auto sensors" installed underneath the streets to help "reduce traffic congestion" at busy intersections. However, the auto sensor system is not working, in reality, because there's usually one, two or even three cars that will proceed against the red light in the other direction, forcing the first car with the green left arrow to wait until those final cars (traveling against the red light) make it through the intersection. By the time that happens, the auto sensor says, "No cars are moving across the sensor . . . no cars are here," and the green left arrow turns red, before the first car even has a chance to make it through. Defenders of this broken system say the problem is not with the sensors or the system. The problem is with the drivers who proceed against the red light, and that needs to be enforced.

What [W. Edwards] Deming's 14-point management philosophy has taught me is that it doesn't matter why the system is broken and not working . . . just fix the system. As mayor, the second I found out these left-turn auto sensors were not working in the real world because of the opposing traffic "real world" scenario, the answer isn't, "It's the other people's fault, we installed the auto sensors, don't crash the red light" when we already know two to three cars will always crash the red light and only one car will make it through before the light turns red again.

So Zuma Dogg as mayor would make sure the timing system accounts for the real-world conditions that once the left arrow turns green, you may have a five- to 12-second delay before you detect motion.

This happened because departments do not work together in a collaborate effort under Villaraigosa's city hall. So the problem was not foreseen. And now, all this time and money was spent to help reduce traffic congestion, but the city has just made the problem even worse and even more unsafe (especially since a pedestrian does not have nearly enough time to make it to the other side in time). And it will cost all that money to fix the problem as traffic gets worse, not better.

Another way to reduce traffic is to make the city livable and affordable for people who work in the city. Villaraigosa has gone "luxury upscale" with his housing plan. There was a massive condo conversion where renters were kicked out and the units were replaced with half-a-million and million-dollar-plus condos. Meanwhile, there isn't any affordable, moderate-priced housing for the people who work in the city, so they are pushed out into the outskirts and have to commute back in. This is a huge factor.

Something I would propose is getting the big trucks off the roads in the metro area during the peak rush hours of 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Truckers can realign their hours, or they can pay a big tax if they want to operate during those hours and the money can be used for infrastructure projects.

The bus system is not good enough, either, if the city expects more people to hop out of their cars and into buses. More buses and better buses need to be added, and I would be talking about lowering bus fares, not raising them, to entice more riders.

2) Do you favor building a Subway to the Sea? What would be your preferred route?

Here's another one of those ideas that sounds great conceptually, and who would say no to a magic "Subway to the Sea?" As someone who spends time traveling between Venice and downtown, I would love it. However, let's be realistic. There isn't money for get this project done. And it doesn't do any good to have it partially completed. Secondly, there is no plan to move ahead with this besides a bunch of talk and optimism. So at this point, I don't think even the supporters of "Subway to the Sea" say we are talking 25 years before we see this thing. And it always takes longer, so let's just say 25-30 years for a project that has not even gotten started and there is no real and tangible way to fund it. So that's a lot of money, time and hope tied up for something that may or may not even happen for 30 years.

But yes, as mayor, I would continue to move ahead with the project, as it is able to move ahead, because people want the project to happen and if it's ever completed, all those people not even born yet will love it.

But as mayor, I will be pushing for all the other more practical and realistic traffic congestion solutions.

And here is something that top traffic consulting experts told me at a Southern California regional government meeting: The No. 1 way to prevent traffic gridlock on the freeway is to . . . (drumroll please) . . . stay in your lane. Yes, the No. 1 cause of traffic slowdown on the freeways is people switching lanes when their lane slows down.

These are traffic geeks who explained it all to me, and it makes sense. But again, you are never going to get people to go against their human nature on this issue of switching out of your lane as it slows down. But as mayor, I will try and educate people to everything they can do as individuals to help, as well.

3) Do you favor making more Los Angeles streets flow one way? Do you favor putting toll lanes in place of freeway lanes?

I like the idea of more one-way streets from a "traffic reduction" perspective because with traffic so congested (and getting worse), if someone going to work could hop on a bus in Marina Del Rey and take an express bus route all the way downtown, it would help get people out of their car and onto the bus to a certain percent. I call it "Poor Man's 'Subway to the Sea.' " And in general, one-ways would help. However, and it's a big "however": The business owners along these potential one-way corridors are very much against the idea because it will hurt their local business economy because they fear the one-way traffic makes it a harder for people who are trying to drive to their specific location.

I know it will be tough to add more one-ways in this city, anyway, because it was already challenged and defeated by business when the mayor tried it, last year. But as traffic gets worse and worse, there may be more and more of a demand from the people for more one-way corridors.

4) What approach would you use to evaluate real estate development projects in the city? Is there any project that should not have been approved over the past decade?

Is there any project that should not have been approved over the past decade? Are you kidding me? The question is, "how many" projects should not have been approved over the past decade! Oh my goodness, if I have learned anything over the past few years studying the agenda and attending City Council meetings, it's that the city will try to get away with any project against the community plan and spirit, in violation of zoning ordinances and vacancy rates and try to weasel out of EIR (environmental impact reports) that condemn projects.

The approach I would use to evaluate real estate development projects would be to first ask, is this of real benefit to the community, or just a reason to let a developer make some money on the backs of the community?

But I am not against development. There are plenty of the areas in the city that need redevelopment. But the areas that need it most are ignored, and the redevelopment money that is supposed to be used for these community redevelopment projects ends up going to billionaire projects instead like Grand Avenue project, while many communities across the city are falling into further disrepair.

If there is one distinction between myself and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when it comes to our approach on development, he favors the high-end, expensive, luxury projects that are the complete wrong thing for the city in this economy. I want to focus on the mom-and-pop, local community businesses and make sure CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) money that is earmarked to redevelop "blight in the community" is used for blight and not some billionaire's pet fantasy project that no one really needs.

5) Would you favor tougher restrictions against billboard advertising like those in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills?

Absolutely. I can tell you, as someone who was out gathering signatures for my mayoral petitions recently, the issue of these digital Clear Channel billboards is a very big issue for residents.

First of all, there are concerns of traffic safety issues because these giant flashing UFO billboards hypnotize and distract drivers. Secondly, there may be a time, place and manner for these billboards, but clearly they have been allowed to pop up in places where they were never intended. You are not supposed to have a backyard view of these billboards from your home. You are not supposed to have to wear sunglasses in your bedroom at night.

And here's how I will address the situation as mayor. The city and now even state is passing a freeze on more of these billboards. But the problem is, we already had rules and regulations on these billboards. However, the mayor and city attorney's office turned a blind eye and allowed them to go up all over town in violation of the law.

Now the city has lost count and doesn't even know where or how many of these billboards there are around town.

If I am elected mayor, I will personally tear down all the illegally constructed billboards throughout the city along with whoever wants to join me on my first day in office!

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