Guest Opinion | Felicia Williams | My Commissioner Cold Case: Orange Grove

Published : Tuesday, March 20, 2018 | 4:27 AM

FeliciaWilliamsOne of the biggest challenges as a Commissioner is hearing public concerns and not being able to help. In 2008 when I was on the Transportation Advisory Commission we approved a 5 mph speed limit increase on Orange Grove to 40 mph. Only one other street in the City has a higher speed limit (and I’ll buy a latte for the first person at the public meeting who tells me that street’s name!).

Several residents voiced concerns about safety, noise, and quality of life. However, the City could not prevent the speed limit increase: the street’s design, including width, lane configuration, and signalization made it subject to State regulations on how speed limits are set. What was designed in the 1900’s as a beautiful promenade with elegant houses traversing the entire City had now become a freeway alternate and we could do nothing to help the residents: case closed.

In response, the City and then Assemblymember Anthony Portantino sponsored a bill to allow the City to designate a street like Orange Grove as “local” due to its residential nature and therefore allow a more appropriate speed limit to be set. The bill failed to move forward, in part due to heavy lobbying by the American Automobile Association.

After legislation like AB 1358 (Complete Streets, 2008), new City policies like the General Plan and Bike Transportation Plan, and State/Federal funding, we now have the tools to address the concerns residents have had on Orange Grove for decades: case re-opened!

So, Your Honor, let’s review the evidence:

  • Orange Grove is one of the oldest streets in the City and was designed for horses and carriages – hence its beautiful bends and curves

  • At up to 80 ft wide Orange Grove is one of the widest streets in Pasadena

  • At 40 mph Orange Grove has one of the highest speeds in the City and we could see those speed limits increase to 45 or 50 mph in the next few years using the State’s methodology

  • The width and configuration of Orange Grove make traffic enforcement a challenge, and it has not been effective at reducing speeds in the past

  • Currently proposed legislation to reduce speed limits would not apply to Orange Grove

Closing testimony: the unique circumstances of Orange Grove make re-configuration one of the only options to set speed limits that are appropriate, safe, and can be enforced more effectively. So, what will be the community’s verdict?

Public policy is an iterative process with the end goal of doing the most good. A case like Orange Grove never fully closes, as changes are made, the surrounding neighborhood and streets can be monitored to keep improving the process, but you have to start somewhere.

The best part of being a Commissioner is listening to the community to help find solutions to problems. I hope that we can listen to the concerns of the residents on Orange Grove, use the traffic data to implement the most beneficial project, and keep improving it for the common good. Thanks!

Felicia Williams is an appointed Commissioner in Pasadena and has a background in public policy and finance. She has provided consulting services to The Arroyo Group on mobility and land use projects but is not consulting on the Livable Orange Grove project since she resides in the project study area.

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