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$3 Billion Los Angeles Street Repair Bond Issue Proposed [Video]

The plan to fix thousands of miles of damaged city streets is called the "largest public infrastructure project in the country."

A pair of Los Angeles City Council members Friday proposed a $3 billion, 20-year bond to repair thousands of miles of damaged city streets.

City Councilmen Mitchell Englander and Joe Buscaino, who represent the far corners of the city, from the Northwest San Fernando Valley to San Pedro, introduced a motion to place the bond measure on the May 21 citywide general election ballot.

If approved, the owner of a $350,000 home would pay about $24 more in property taxes during the first year of the bond, according to Buscaino Chief of Staff Doane Liu. The property tax increase on such a home would peak at about $120 above current levels in 10 years before the city's rate of borrowing begins to decline, Liu said.

Buscaino billed the plan -- called the "Los Angeles Emergency Local Street Safety And Traffic Improvement Measure" -- as the "largest public infrastructure project in the country."

The council members say the bond measure is necessary, because the city cannot afford on its own the estimated $300 million annual cost to fix some 8,700 lane-miles of damaged streets. The city budget for the current fiscal year is running a deficit and legislators will be tasked with closing an estimated $216 million budget hole for the fiscal year that starts in July.

"A general obligation bond, approved by the voters, is the only option to secure sufficient funding to accomplish this work within a realistic, 10- year time frame," the motion states.

The council members are planning a major public roll-out of the plan over the next week, including press briefings and pitches to newspaper editorial boards.

"This is absolutely the biggest issue in infrastructure facing the city of Los Angeles," Englander said.

The motion instructs the city attorney to draft the resolution to place the bond measure before voters. The council must approve the instruction by Wednesday in order to get it on the May 21 ballot, according to the city clerk's website.

Jan. 30 is the final deadline for the council to approve placing the bond measure before voters in May.

The motion also instructs the City Administrative Officer and Bureau of Street Services to prepare analyses of the plan.

The poor condition of the city's streets affect "the environment, traffic, goods-movement, and public safety," Englander said. "There's more people that die in traffic accidents from the conditions of our streets than almost all other crimes committed."

Thirty-eight percent of the city's street system got failing grades of "D" or "F" in the most recent Bureau of Street Services 2011 State of the Streets Report. Repairing "D" and "F" streets costs about $325,000 and $630,000, respectively, Englander said.

Buscaino and Englander are also expected to pitch the plan as a job-creator. Buscaino predicted the work would create 30,000 private-sector jobs.

The measure would not pay for repairs to city sidewalks, which is estimated to cost more than $1 billion.

Despite the huge price tag for the work, Englander said the measure would be a net savings to city residents, who he said pay about $750 per year in maintenance for their cars because of the conditions of city streets. "We're the highest cost of  car ownership and maintenance of any large city in the country," he said.

The bond measure would pay for an inventory of every city street and would include comprehensive online displays of what streets are being fixed and when, the councilmen said.

Englander and Buscaino said they were influenced by the advice of UCLA Anderson School of Business Professor Edward Leamer, who called the measure "good borrowing." Leamer argues the low cost of borrowing -- interest rates for cities are at their lowest level in 40 years -- and the resulting street repairs would likely increase property values throughout the city by more than the total cost of the loan.

"In addition to the damage that is done to vehicles, the poor quality of the streets of the city sends a subtle, but clear message to our citizens, potential businesses and our visitors," Leamer said in a letter to city leaders last month. "Los Angeles is a city of the past and not of the future. The city of Los Angeles cannot afford to send this signal."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had not yet seen the proposal and was not prepared to comment until next week, a spokesman said.

Carol Hummel January 07, 2013 at 02:09 AM
I have been calling and writing letters for two years about the shameful condition of Mason Avenue between Nordhoff and Roscoe, heading toward Ventura Blvd. The potholes throw your car out of alignment, and when it rains, it just gets worse and worse. This is a main thoroughfare across the valley and there's no excuse for streets in this condition. We pay huge taxes in this city, give us some maintained streets, please!
Jo January 07, 2013 at 03:29 AM
We pay almost the highest taxes in the world and now Mitch Englander and the other council member are proposing to significantly raise our property taxes even more. This is outrageous when they full well the problem is SPENDING!!!! And, the problem area is pensions!!! LAPD, LAFD retire at 50 yrs old and get 90% of of the salary for life plus cost of living increases (COLA) to that already huge pension+ gold-plated medical, dental and vision for themselves and spouse for life. Who in the private sector gets COLA increases in their pensions? Who gets to retire at 50? The other City employees also get huge pensions. A City truck driver will get $85,000 per year pension if they hired in at 18 and work til 60. Outrageous! These City employees did not need to invest in a college education like most of us in private sector must do. Also, they are not subject to their job moving from Burbank to Palmdale after 20 yrs. ALL City employees get lavish pensions that are way higher than those of us that PAY for their lavish government pensions. And, the City Council claim to have reformed pensions - what a joke. the minor reduction only affects NEW employees and NOT fire or police. They would not want to affect the current employees because they need those union dues to go into their campaigns. When they negotiate with the unions, City Council and the Mayor are sitting on the same side of the table with the union and there is nobody on the Taxpayers' side of the negotiating table.
Jo January 07, 2013 at 03:51 AM
Pensions consume 1/3 of LA City budget, and two years from now pensions will consume HALF of LA's budget. LA budgeted ZERO dollars for sidewalk repairs and tree trimming. Street sweeping of "open routes" has been reduced from every 4 weeks to ev 27 weeks. Open routes are where they do not collect parking ticket fines. Over the past 5 years parking fines (taxation for the poorest of LA residents) have gone up 80%. Yes, the poorest are affected the most because most apartment locations have restricted parking. The weeds along Tampa, Devonshire, etc. are only 3 feet tall now; but just wait until they grow to be 5 feet tall. Is this Tijuana? a 3rd world country? It looks like it. Soon the weeds will get tall enough along Tampa to hide that huge white bucket that somebody discarded on the east side just south of Lassen. Speaking of weeds, that is the biggest problem with cracks in the streets; cracks get bigger allowing weeds to grow, the bigger the weeds grow, the bigger the cracks. LA stopped using weed killer so, on the rare occasion they do something about the tall weeds and shrubs growing from the street cracks, they come by with a scraping machine (after I screamed at them). Scrapping just encourages the weeds to grow even faster but that was their only solution along Lassen north side west of Tampa. Only 3 men to clean ALL storm drains for the entire SF Valley. LA put grates in the drains so dirt collects so drains become planters/litter receptacles. DISGRACEFUL!
David R January 07, 2013 at 04:42 PM
I see the same complaints over and over regarding the management of our once great city but the truth is YOU are to blame. you keep voting for the same incompetent candidates again and again. The citizens of Los Angeles need to accept some of the responsibility for the mess we are in. How many of you are going to vote for Garcetti,, Gruel or Perry to be our next mayor? Nothing will change if any one of them is our new mayor. I am so sick of seeing these people bankrupt our city and contributing to the decline of our quality of life. As of right now Kevin James has my vote since he is the only one running that has not contributed to bankrupting our city. You need to get your butt out and vote in the mayoral election and show them that WE are done putting up with incompetence from city hall and our elected leaders.
Jo January 07, 2013 at 07:16 PM
I agree David; we must vote for KEVIN JAMES. Otherwise, we deserve a declining city if we keep voting for the same old insider, incompetent politicians who are bankrupting our City. Gruehl, Garcetti and Perry are responsible for the decay; they created this mess by giving away the lavish pensions. Why would anyone vote for them. And, everyone should vote NO for any more tax increases including this stupid motion to raise our property taxes and the other one that will be on the ballot to raise our sales taxes to be the highest in the nation. We do not have a revenue problem, this City has plenty of revenue, just like the Feds, LA has a spending problem. I meet more Gov. employees living in very expensive homes.. How can they afford such homes? Lavish pay+pensions+benefits+job security that none of us in private sector get. My pension after 37 yrs in same company is 1/4 that of a City retiree, and WE in private sector are the ones paying for their lavish lifestyles. People in LA need to wake up. I will find a red state to move since the states with Republican governors & legislatures run efficiently and prosper while LA is going down the drain. LA Council vote for a boarding house ordinance this month because boarding houses are springing up all over. In Van Nuys they even rent out tents in backyards; how would you like to live next door to a boarding house? Greig Smith introduced legislation 6 yrs ago but these incompetents still have not passed it. Go Kevin James!

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