Monday, January 30, 2023

Keeping Our House in Order: What LA Has Done, and What’s Next

In this post we explore why Los Angeles needs a Capital Infrastructure Plan for its public space and what such a plan should include. Then we present a detailed timeline of what City leaders and agencies have done since 2005 to achieve these goals, and we share why those actions represent progress but are still not enough to get us what we need. 


Think about the 60%+ of Angelenos who rent their homes. Statistically, you are likely one of them. Now, imagine that home – house, apartment, condo, ADU – needs repairs. The roof might leak after that last big storm, the paint is chipping a bit around the door frames, the driveway is crumbling because of tree roots, and the toilets keep running unless you jiggle the handle just the right way. You’re worried your aging parent who lives with you might not be able to climb the three front steps in a few years. Your concerns are not about vanity: they are about the quality of life for you and the people you love.

The reality: you have to depend on someone else, your landlord, to make a plan. They likely share your desire to improve the property, but they don’t know it like you do – especially if they don’t live nearby. After all, they don’t use the toilet. How will they know the state of the property, the living conditions, where to begin, and how to allocate their resources if they don’t ask you what you need and if they don’t keep track of everything? 

Should they just start working on things with no plan and without an assessment of the current state of the various needs? What should they do first? You don’t want to paint the exterior before fixing the catawampus door frames. And, what’s your vision for how you want your home to look when all is done? If your landlord doesn’t answer those questions first and get some input from you, the person who calls it home, how can they possibly make good decisions about what to do to make your home truly livable and to prioritize needs? 

A city is MUCH more complicated than our homes, but we still need those same things to manage and maintain our public right-of-way in Los Angeles.  

Investing in Place is calling for a Capital Infrastructure Plan (CIP) for the City of Los Angeles, to make sure we can provide the basics to make the city truly livable. We have defined a CIP in previous blog posts and reports as:

A long-term, unified direction for investment in our city’s infrastructure, working toward a vision for the city defined by those who live here. A CIP serves as the city’s plan for its major assets: it lists specific projects and programs along with expected costs and timelines. It encompasses all sources of funding. 

We often hear from people who say this type of plan already exists. 

It doesn’t.

That said, we understand the confusion. Over the past 10 years there has been a growing list of efforts to improve capital planning, interdepartmental coordination, and equity in the City of LA’s public right of way – and that’s great. 

But are they getting the job done?

How could we possibly know? There is no basis on which to judge progress.

  • There’s no overarching vision to compare it to. 
  • There is no inventory to know what we started with and where we are now. 
  • There’s no inclusive process to know how progress compares with what people want and need.. 
  • There’s no unified definition of how to measure equity to help determine the value of our investments. 
  • There is no one comprehensive place to see ALL THE MONEY (local, regional, state, federal), all the programs, and all the projects. 

In this post, we offer a history of what has been done toward these efforts – and a summary of why they are not yet getting us what we need.


State of Street Infrastructure Programs in Los Angeles  

In the fall of 2017, FUSE research fellow Laila Alequresh, working in the Chief Administrative Office (CAO), released a report titled: Evaluation of the State of Street Infrastructure Programs in Los Angeles

To research and compile this detailed assessment of Los Angeles, Alequresh worked with “the entire Department of Public Works (all Bureaus and the Board), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Water and Power, this Office, the City Council, and the Mayor’s Office. Over 400 one-on-one interviews were conducted, numerous field observations were performed and the operations of both the City of Los Angeles and other municipal jurisdictions were studied to learn from their experience.”

This comprehensive report provides a deep analysis of how the City of Los Angeles can improve its management of the public right-of-way. When this report was released in 2017, Investing in Place reviewed, analyzed and tracked the committee meetings where the report was presented. 

We wrote several blog posts about the report: 

To quote ourselves from that last blog post: “The FUSE report recommendation we are most excited about is the reinstitution of a citywide Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Rec 2.5. Los Angeles is the only major City in the country that currently lacks a citywide capital plan. While a capital plan for all City assets could include other public facilities, including parks, libraries, or City-owned vacant lots, we can start with a multi-year plan and budget for our public right-of-way.

One of the key issues that is a central theme through the entire FUSE report is “fragmentation in decision making for street related programs.”  

“Unlike the majority of the cities in California, or the country, programs relating to the surface of the street and activities over the street sit with two departments, DPW and DOT. By having these functions reside in multiple areas, the City takes a tactical, rather than strategic approach to managing the movement of goods and people across the City,”  FUSE Report page 64.

As it is set up now, the City of Los Angeles has divided and decentralized responsibility for the right-of-way and programs that operate on the surface of the right-of-way among multiple departments and policymakers. 

The 2017 report is one of the reasons Investing in Place has developed a laser focus on supporting efforts toward a comprehensive Capital Infrastructure Plan for the City’s public right-of-way.

We need to set aside agency structural issues and focus on developing and adopting a long-term, comprehensive, budgeted plan (including local, regional, state and federal formula funds and grants) that encompasses the entire public right-of-way, based on an articulated vision for the future of Los Angeles: a 10-year Capital Infrastructure Plan.  

How We Got Here: A Timeline

To provide context and background, we’ve compiled a history of what has been happening since 2005 in the City of Los Angeles around capital infrastructure planning, interdepartmental coordination, and addressing equity in infrastructure. 

2005: Council adopts an annual investment target of 1% of General Fund revenues for capital and infrastructure improvements. This 1% investment target is implemented through the City’s annual Capital Improvement Expenditure Program (CIEP) budget that encompasses the acquisition, renovation or construction of new and existing Municipal Facilities and Physical Plant infrastructure. (C.F. 04-1822-S3).

From the 2017 FUSE report: “The City already has a policy that aims to allocate 1% of the budget to infrastructure, although this is not always met given other city priorities and macro-economic factors.” page 110

2008:  The Chief Administrative Office (CAO) stopped publishing two documents related to capital improvement:  that CIEP mentioned in the previous item, and also what’s known as the Capital and Technology Improvement Policy (CTIP). 

Why? So far we haven’t been able to understand that. Our best guess is the recession. 

What did do: “It (the CTIP) consisted of large investment projects underway by departments, largely around public facilities and public works. This data is not captured in the budget system so departments were requested to submit a list of projects for the CIP book. The book served as a central source for a list of capital projects, but came short of including all city departments. Furthermore, it served as a repository of projects, but it did not serve as a true capital expenditure plan which typically outlays capital investments according to city policy. Many projects included in the CIP book were bond or special funded.” FUSE Report, page 105.

2011: Street and Transportation Projects Oversight Committee (STPOC) was established by the Council and Mayor during adoption of the 2011-12 Budget. Its stated purpose was to:

  1. Ensure that street and transportation projects are delivered in a timely manner

a) Unify management and provide accountability to those Departments involved in delivering street and transportation projects; and

b) Develop solutions for issues that delay the delivery of these projects.

Critique on STPOC in 2017 FUSE report page 73:  

“While this committee brings together employees to share progress and challenges to projects, there is no equivalent planning meeting from which the project list originates. During the meeting, Bureaus and DOT present a status of current projects and challenges as appropriate. Each department and group brings their own version of a status report that includes different information.”

“Currently decisions on proposed projects are made on an ad-hoc basis without consideration of larger city priorities. This is particularly intensified by the many offices seeking grant opportunities on top of existing work plans. This fragmentation in decision making renders a proactive planning function more vital.”

October 2013:  C.F. 13-1384 Councilmembers Paul Krekorian and Bob Blumenfield introduced a motion “that the Council instruct the CAO, with the assistance of any other relevant City Departments, to create a comprehensive Capital Infrastructure Strategic Plan .” 

August 2015: City Council approves the planning department’s Mobility Plan 2035, “the policy foundation for achieving a transportation system that balances the needs of all road users. As an update to the City’s General Plan Transportation Element (last adopted in 1999).” From page 13 of the Mobility Plan.  Currently the Mobility Plan 2035 does not identify funding, projects, or a prioritization plan. It relies on detailed maps that identify high level priorities for key streets. For more background see our June 2022 post: Under the Surface: The Roots of LA’s Lack of Progress Toward Safer Streets.

Fall 2017: FUSE research fellow, Laila Alequresh, working in the Chief Administrative Office (CAO), released the report mentioned earlier: Evaluation of the State of Street Infrastructure Programs in Los Angeles. Top recommendations include moving the Department of Transportation into the Department of Public Works as a Bureau, similar to the existing five bureaus. The report recommends this as a way to centralize the City’s transportation and street infrastructure agencies, which often rely on each other’s separated work plans to deliver projects. This recommendation, and many others in the report are not adopted. 

The report also documents the need for an asset inventory and for a comprehensive plan:

  •  “Address lack of asset data, timing of maintenance activities, selection of appropriate preventative and deferred maintenance lifecycle activities and scheduling for asset upgrades by prioritizing strategic asset management activities across asset classes.” (Recommendation 2.2)
  •  “Establish guidelines for large, critical infrastructure investments by reinstituting a Citywide Capital Expenditure Plan.” (Recommendation 2.5)

November 2019: City Council approves the LADOT Mobility Investment Program (MIP). The MIP aims to establish project delivery best practices, and identify  projects that would align well with funding eligibility criteria and are based on their 2018-2021 Strategic Plan pillars – equity, safety, accessibility, sustainability. (This effort is tied to Measure M subregional program funding, which allocated funding to each of the 9 Los Angeles County Council of Governments, one of which is Central Los Angeles City.) 

February 2020: Mayor Garcetti issues Executive Directive 25: L.A.’s Green New Deal: Leading By Example. This includes a directive for City departments to prepare the “Public Right-of-Way Protocols” to ensure all departmental decisions regarding the use and design of the public right-of-way support goals like a reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and transportation emissions.

May 2020: With the formulation of the 2020-2021 City Budget, the Mayor’s Office designated social equity as a funding priority. At the same time, the City Council and Mayor adopted a revised Capital and Technology Improvement Policy (CTIP), which includes an updated Capital and Technology Improvement Expenditure Program (CTIEP),* and puts this in motion for the first time since 2008. This included increasing the minimum investment target of General Fund revenues for capital and infrastructure improvements from 1% to 1.5% — with a goal of increasing to 2% of General Fund revenue for capital and technology improvements starting in Fiscal Year 202122. 

Who decides what gets on the CTIEP list? Ultimately, the decision is made by the City Council when the annual budget is considered. For what goes into the recommended CTIEP, that is a combination of CAO and Mayor’s Office leadership based on each department’s budget submittal.

*Our understanding of the difference between these frustratingly similar acronyms: CTIP (Capital and Technology Improvement Program) is the term CAO uses for the overall capital program, while CTIEP (Capital and Technology Improvement Expenditure Program) is how CAO describes the CTIP’s budget.

November 2020: The Controller’s Equity Index is released. Controller’s Equity Index was released in November 2020 based on the 2010 Census Tract; Cal Enviro 3.0; and 2018 American Community Survey.

January 2021: Council motion submitted to develop a plan for a City Capital Infrastructure Program to address equity. (C.F. 21-0039)

From the motion: “The City’s infrastructure investment is done on an ad-hoc basis and often the critical infrastructure needs in low income communities are ignored. The city must take a more unified and holistic approach to planning for infrastructure improvements to ensure equity for all neighborhoods. This includes assessing deficits in neighborhoods and creating a plan and prioritization list for addressing them.”

This motion elevated the continued call to take a unified approach to addressing infrastructure through an equitable investment strategy, which starts with assessing deficits and acknowledging historic disinvestment. This motion recognized that all neighborhoods in Los Angeles are not starting from the same place.

May 2021: The Board of Public Works approves the Public Right-of-Way Protocols, which formally establish safety, climate action, and equity as the three guiding principles for departments’ work in the public right-of-way. It is signed by the general managers of LADOT, Public Works Bureaus – Street Services (aka StreetsLA), Engineering, Sanitation, Street Lighting, Contract Administration) – and the Department of City Planning. 

November 2021: Resulting from the council actions in May 2020, the City restarts the Capital and Technology Expenditure Plan (CTIEP) and publishes its first expenditure plan since 2008. Projects that were included in the City’s annual FY22 budget book are folded into the CTIEP. 

  • We have demonstrated that the City’s annual budgeting process is limited and not getting outcomes the city’s infrastructure needs. So, if the CTIEP is pulling from that, it’s not a comprehensive needs-based document. 
  • Because the annual city budget books do not include all grants and state and federal funding, the CTIEP is a limited, incomplete scope of projects.
  • And from the FUSE 2017 Report page 105: “a true capital expenditure plan which typically outlays capital investments according to city policy” Evaluation of the State of Street Infrastructure Programs in Los Angeles.  Based on our research, the CTIEP (expenditure plan) does not address this. 

December 2021: Based on the January 2021 Council motion submitted to develop a plan for a City Capital Infrastructure Program to address equity* (C.F. 21-0039), the Office of Chief Administrative Office (CAO) recommends creating a new division: Equity, Performance Management and Innovation Division. 

*Important to note, the CAO’s office leads on multiple initiatives around racial justice and equity in the City.

January 2022: Effort being led by the Bureau of Engineering (BOE) to develop guidelines for equity in infrastructure.

“The Infrastructure Equity Scorecard Pilot Project launched with the City’s Bureau of Engineering as a tool to guide investment in infrastructure with an understanding of equity, increasing access, system quality and long-term livability for communities that need it most. Following an environmental scan of related efforts, critical social, environmental and built environment criteria were identified for determining priority neighborhoods for investment. The work will result in an Infrastructure Equity Scorecard to test future projects against strategic equity-focused priorities of the City.” From the Mayor’s Fund for LA

January 2022: To build on the Public Right-of-Way Protocols approved in May 2021, the Board of Public Works approves a new plan to improve coordination among City departments that do work in the public right-of-way: the “Interdepartmental Memorandum of Understanding: Improving Project Planning and Delivery in the Public Right of Way.”  

August 2022:  The Healthy Streets L.A. Ballot Initiative is certified by the City Clerk, and City Council unanimously votes to put it to voters in a special election on March 5, 2024. 

October 2022: Report back from the Chief Legislative Analyst (CLA) on the “Mobility Plan (MP 2035) Implementation and City Mobility Plan Street Improvement Measures.

The CLA was directed by City Council to provide a response to:

  • MP2035 Status and Implementation 
  • Departmental Coordination and Project Oversight
  • Capital Planning Activities
  • Community Engagement and Outreach 

Key Recommendations from the CLA that the Council include:

  • Incorporate MP2035 implementation in the Annual City Budget Process 
  • Request the Mayor incorporate above funding requests in FY24 budget 
  • Instruct LADOT, Department of Public Works with assistance from CAO to report back on work being done by existing working groups (attachment 5) 

Attachment 5: Interdepartmental Working Groups 

  • Streets Working Groups 
  • Streets and Transportation Projects Oversight Committee) 
  • Street Reconstruction/Vision Zero Program (Complete Streets Executive Steering Committee)
  • Sidewalk Repair Program (Executive Steering Committee)
  • Mayor’s Interdepartmental Memorandum of Understanding Oversight Committee
  • Bus Speed and Reliability Working Group
  • Street Renewal Management Group
  • Other Coordination Efforts 
  • STAP
  • City partnering with Metro on First/Last Mile
  • City partnering with Metro on Bike Share

October 2022: Responding to Social Equity Motion (C.F. 21-0039): The staff from the division of Equity in the Chief Administrative Office presented to the Budget and Finance Committee) on Equity Prioritization within City’s Capital and Technology Improvement Expenditure Program. (Link to meeting video

Council Committee members: Bob Blumenfield, Monica Rodriguez and Paul Krekorian raised multiple questions.  For example, Blumenfield pointed out that qualitative data for investments is important in gauging project effectiveness, and also that geography isn’t the only parameter of equity, raising the example of how bus shelter infrastructure is inherently an equity project regardless of geography. Rodriguez brought up  harped on the fact that there was no policy determination instructing the CAO to utilize the Controller’s equity index, suggesting this decision was somewhat arbitrary.

Council Committee members seemed to arrive at consensus that the CAO still has a lot of work to do before they will produce something that City Council will approve of. Almost all Councilmembers acknowledged that the CAO has a tall task before them, but also that measuring equity in public infrastructure projects is crucial to correcting historical disinvestment

Time:14:22 Council President Krekorian pushes back on CAO’s equity analysis: “We’ve given them very little guidance in what we want to see come out of this. And the other part of that, we’re just talking about CTIEP here, when there are many different sources of city investments in physical infrastructure. There are all sorts of other things that may or may not be included in the CTIEP,” …… “I’m not very satisfied with where we are now, but I put the blame on us rather than the CAO’s office.  

We have more policymaking to do to determine what we want our outcomes to be. What we want the direction of our investments to be.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

As noted in the intro, it’s impossible to assess where we are, when:  

  • There’s no overarching vision to compare it to. 
  • There is no inventory to know what we started with and where we are now. 
  • There’s no inclusive process to know how progress compares with what people want. 
  • There’s no unified definition of how to measure equity to help determine the value of our investments. 
  • There is no one comprehensive place to see ALL THE MONEY (local, regional, state, federal), all the programs, and all the projects

Investing in Place is currently working in creating the inventory, and ultimately creating a model Capital Infrastructure Plan for the public right of way that is based on a vision, informed by the inventory, inspired through an inclusive process, prioritized based on equity, and comprehensive enough to see all funding, all projects, all timelines in one place – made publicly available. 

We hope you’ll join us. 

To learn more: 

Access resources here

Reach out to us here 

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