Ghost Bike memorial for Ruben Wharton Vanegas, 35, killed at the intersection of Vermont Avenue and 38th street in October of 2015. waltarrrrr / Flickr

On Tuesday, LA voters overwhelmingly voted for Measure HLA or “Healthy Streets LA,” a measure that requires the city to implement complete street improvements for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders every time it repaves 1/8 of a mile or more. If it fails to do so, any LA resident can sue the city.

The final election result remains uncertified, but as of Wednesday, the measure was up by more than 70,000 votes. The measure should be certified at the end of March and go into effect five weeks after certification.

“I hope that anyone inside the city that was sort of hesitant about implementing the city’s own plan now sees a clear mandate for change,” said Michael Schneider, founder of Streets For All. “I’m also frankly just really excited about the possibility of a more multimodal city, where you don’t have to drive if you don’t want to for every single trip.”

LA Public Press reached out to Los Angeles City Councilmember Traci Park and to United Firefighters of LA Local 112, two of the most vocal opponents, for comment.

Park told KNX that she was not surprised at the outcome considering how well-funded the HLA campaign was. (HLA received more than $4 million in contributions, whereas the opposition received less than $200,000). 

“At the end of the day, my constituents have a set of priorities and that is what is am going to continue focusing on,” said Park. 

Measure HLA is a searing indictment of city leaders who have failed to stem the tide of traffic deaths — especially for the most vulnerable road users — since Mayor Eric Garcetti first implemented Vision Zero in 2015 with the goal of ending all traffic fatalities by 2025. 

That year, LA City Council voted to approve Mobility Plan 2035, making complete streets — streets designed for everyone inside and outside of a vehicle — a city-wide policy. The plan includes hundreds of miles of bike and bus lanes, as well as pedestrian and transit improvements. But after nine years, the city has only implemented 5% of that plan as traffic deaths continue to soar. Last year, 336 people died on LA streets, including 179 pedestrians.

Advocates took matters into their own hands, collecting over 100,000 signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would force the city to implement its own mobility plan. The measure, spearheaded by Streets For All, garnered widespread support from labor, climate, and community organizations.

In 2022, the LA City Council had the opportunity to pass Healthy Streets LA instead of sending it to the ballot for voters to decide. Instead, councilmembers voted to create their own version of the ordinance. Those efforts stalled in committee in January with the majority of the transportation committee endorsing Measure HLA.

The opposition to the measure says that the ordinance will increase congestion and force the city to divert funds from city needs.

Last month, LA City Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo said the measure would come with a hefty price tag for Healthy Streets LA, estimating that implementation would cost a whopping $3.1 billion over 10 years. Streets For All has challenged the CAO’s projections, saying that the cost of bike lanes is overinflated and that Measure HLA does not require sidewalk repair

Park and LA’s local firefighters’ union also jointly launched a hail mary campaign to oppose the measure, claiming that adding bike and bus lanes would slow down emergency response times.

Despite passing by a wide margin, Healthy Streets LA could face challenges ahead. The department charged with maintaining LA streets, StreetsLA, has raised concerns that implementing the mobility plan during repaving would slow down the repaving process, making streets more dangerous and costly to repair. LADOT and StreetsLA have collaborated to implement bike lanes during repaving, so far with mixed results

Measure HLA would add a layer of transparency to the repaving process by requiring a public dashboard showing how and when the mobility plan is implemented. It could also prevent individual councilmembers from delaying or blocking bike and bus projects in their district.

“I feel like with plans like this it’s important to have people in the city staff and on the city council who actually want to see it carried out and I think that most people in our government are going to be supportive of it,” said Olga Lexell of Healthy Streets LA. “I’m feeling optimistic, but obviously only time will be able to tell how the implementation actually goes.”

Maylin Tu is a freelance writer covering transportation, mobility and equity in Los Angeles.