Lack of Due Process

Issues About the Lack of Due Process

No matter where one stands on the Jackson Maintenance Gate issue, the most dangerous and sad fact is that there has been a long history of lack of transparency on this issue, egregious lack of due process, and lack of democracy exhibited by most members of this council.


Instead of listening to us, instead of giving us research, studies, and facts, instead of answering our questions, instead of inclusion, we have been ignored.  Worse still is that supporters of opening this gate on social media and at past BPAC meetings – ironically – have used tactics right out of a Demagogue’s playbook: ignore, spin, cherry-pick, and use Ad Hominems. We get called NIMBY fearmongering old fogies etc., in order to denigrate, dismiss, and DEFLECT our perspectives and requests for studies, statistics, and facts.  Instead of providing evidentially non-biased studies and addressing the facts and real-world problems (i.e., BB gun shootings into residents’ yards that nearly miss hitting children and pets, late-night screams, fires started along the path behind residents homes, illegal bolt cutting of the gates locks, narrow street, mail theft from mailboxes) residents in this neighborhood already are experiencing, those voting to open this gate seem more interested using the Jackson Gate opening as the low hanging fruit to have the crowd-pleasing photo-op that makes for great pomp but poor policy.


Many of us ride bikes, support cycling infrastructure, and appreciate the efforts to reduce auto use and green up our city.  But we also live right up against the creek and best understand the nuances of this path’s degraded condition and inability to adequately monitor its misuse, the fragility of its ecosystem if overused, and how the disruption of this symbiotic relationship with this venue can result in unintended and very negative consequences to the local residents and community living closest to it.


We anticipate that the BPAC and most city staff and council will cry “foul” and state that there have been notices about THEIR discussion of the Jackson gate, with residents alerted via city emails sent out under the guise of “Traffic & Mobility” and the BPAC meetings.


But Holding virtual meetings and having people speak in 1-3 minute snippets is NOT the same thing as listening, taking concerns seriously, reaching out, and investigating what the people who know their neighborhood best are experiencing, nor have such exchanges resulted in the repeatedly requested studies and scientific method-based evidence being put forth. 

 

Lack of Transparency

In 2016, the city adopted a strategic plan to:

Of course, these are goals that we are all in favor of. But that is not what happened.

The Culver City Council hired the firm Alta Planning to do research for their new strategic plan. Although Alta and the City stated that they would specifically do outreach to closely collaborate with Creekside residents, minutes of subcommittee meetings indicate that there was an early emphasis on promoting opening the Jackson Gate and “branding” it in such a way as to gain support. This promotion ignored the fact that residents living there had for many years made it clear that they had safety concerns about opening this gate.

Previous councils listened, which is why the current General Plan made it clear that any change regarding the Jackson Gate required close collaboration with and consideration to those residing adjacent to the gate. Then, from 2017 through June 15, 2018, the city publicized their surveys as concerning “mobility, traffic, and parking,” and Ballona Creek Revitalization issues about bike path usage, beautification, and whether more “connectivity” and “access” to the bike path is desired.

The city and Alta entered into the record that they conducted outreach to all “stakeholders,” especially to those living closest to any “new” access points. Unfortunately, they claimed they forgot to talk with the Jackson residents who would be most affected. In the nearly two years of their assessments and outreach, no one at the city or Alta ever notified the Jackson residents about any plans related to opening the Jackson Gate.

Dear Neighbors,


No matter where one stands on the Jackson Maintenance Gate issue, the most dangerous and sad fact is that there has been a long history of lack of transparency on this issue, egregious lack of due process, and lack of democracy exhibited by most members of this council.

Instead of listening to us, instead of giving us research, studies, and facts, instead of answering our questions, instead of inclusion, we have been ignored.  Worse still is that supporters of opening this gate on social media and at past BPAC meetings – ironically – have used tactics right out of a Demagogue’s playbook: ignore, spin, cherry-pick, and use Ad Hominems. We get called NIMBY fearmongering old fogies etc., in order to denigrate, dismiss, and DEFLECT our perspectives and requests for studies, statistics, and facts.  Instead of providing evidentially non-biased studies and addressing the facts and real-world problems (i.e., BB gun shootings into residents’ yards that nearly miss hitting children and pets, late-night screams, fires started along the path behind residents homes, illegal bolt cutting of the gates locks, narrow street, mail theft from mailboxes) residents in this neighborhood already are experiencing, those voting to open this gate seem more interested using the Jackson Gate opening as the low hanging fruit to have the crowd-pleasing photo-op that makes for great pomp but poor policy.


Many of us ride bikes, support cycling infrastructure, and appreciate the efforts to reduce auto use and green up our city.  But we also live right up against the creek and best understand the nuances of this path’s degraded condition and inability to adequately monitor its misuse, the fragility of its ecosystem if overused, and how the disruption of this symbiotic relationship with this venue can result in unintended and very negative consequences to the local residents and community living closest to it.


We anticipate that the BPAC and most city staff and council will cry “foul” and state that there have been notices about THEIR discussion of the Jackson gate, with residents alerted via city emails sent out under the guise of “Traffic & Mobility” and the BPAC meetings.


But Holding virtual meetings and having people speak in 1-3 minute snippets is NOT the same thing as listening, taking concerns seriously, reaching out, and investigating what the people who know their neighborhood best are experiencing, nor have such exchanges resulted in the repeatedly requested studies and scientific method-based evidence being put forth.

In support of the assertion that there is a lack of transparency and due process, here are the facts:

  1. From 2016-2019 while this issue was being pushed by certain council members and their supporters, there was NO outreach–NONE–to those individuals/families actually living on Jackson Ave and the nearby neighboring Creekside streets despite the wording in the previous and then existing General Plan, that there should be no access to the creek bike path through residential areas and that residents living along the creek on Jackson Ave and neighboring streets, must be directly engaged and included in any discussion about the Jackson gate or any access to the creek.
  2. It was only in May of 2019 when those most affected accidentally heard about a meeting/gathering in Carlson Park where we were basically told by city staff and attending council members that this was a “done deal,” so get ready for it.  We were informed of a prior survey conducted without our knowledge or contact that supposedly supported opening the Gate. We asked to conduct our own surveyor, barring that, at least let us work with city staff to include questions concerning issues we felt relevant to such an impactful decision. Our request was ignored and not done. Instead, quite to the contrary, the city put out the same survey with exactly the same biased, leaning toward opening the maintenance gate questions and did not include any questions related to our concerns.  We invited several council members that year (2019) to come out to Jackson Ave to see the difficulties and dangers that opening the gate would cause on Jackson—but only one member came– after numerous requests—the rest ignored us. (Most recently, again in 2021, we asked new and returning members to visit Jackson, but only one member (Albert Vera) came, and the rest did not.)  We asked city staff in 2019 for research, safety studies, police input, etc.—and were again ignored and ignored until a letter from an attorney was sent in July of 2021 and met with a response from the city with just a few paltry documents sent only one day prior to a scheduled vote (on 8/9/21) that was rescheduled for 8/23/21 by the council on this matter. 
  3. After the May 2019 meeting in Carlson Park, we realized we needed to get our voices heard and so we wrote a petition, and within six weeks—despite the July 4th holiday and summer out-of-town vacations, we had 320+ signatures opposing the opening of the gate—yet we were and have still been described by proponents wanting the gate opened as just “a handful” of residents holding Culver City “hostage.”  How do 320+ residents in our neighborhood equal “a handful”?   How does such inflammatory language substitute for fact-based evidence, safety studies, due diligence, and meaningful debate?????

Misrepresentation

Finally, in May of 2019, the city posted a flyer on their website for Carlson Park/Jackson residents to join them in discussing the planned “reopening” of the Jackson Gate. This was a total misrepresentation as the gate has not been open to the public for decades. (They even went so far as to Photoshop the picture of the Jackson Gate on their flyer as open.)

It was only on short notice that Jackson Avenue and nearby residents found out about this Meeting. At this gathering, a survey was handed out to Carlson Park Neighborhood residents labeled “The Jackson Gate Survey,” in which they asked questions such as “How often do you think you would use the Jackson Gate?”

There were NO questions about how opening this gate might impact the safety and privacy of residents living on this small, narrow, quiet street and their neighborhood. That is NOT outreach.

Residents Voiced Concerns But Were Ignored

May 18th Meeting

At the May 18, 2019 gathering, residents from Jackson and nearby streets vociferously voiced their safety concerns to the council and staff. They also brought up the total lack of due process since no one from Alta or the city reached out to those “living most adjacent to the creek” as promised and as required by the city’s own current General Plan. At this gathering, city staff admitted that the bike and pedestrian access at Duquesne and Overland are adequate and not overcrowded but that we should be open to experimentation.

We pointed out that there are serious documented safety concerns to a narrow, quiet, residential street where children play during the day, and parking and overflow congestion are already very problematic. Plus, due to the placement of that gate, there are dangerous blind spots along several residential driveways that could lead to serious bodily injury to pedestrians and cyclists alike.

City staffers advised us that we all better have a “back-up” plan because opening the Jackson Gate is pretty much decided as a done deal and will most likely be brought to a vote by the City Council in late June or July, where it already has three “yes” votes.

 

So, we asked, “What about safety studies, traffic and parking studies, an EIR report, and CEQA requirements?” But with a wave of his hand, a council member inferred that such requirements could be avoided by stating, “Oh, we’ll just call it a trial…It’s an experiment.” And that is how due diligence is evaded: ignore residents and use semantics to push through an agenda even if it experiments with peoples’ lives and safety.

May 30th Meeting

On May 30th, the city held a “Traffic and Parking” subcommittee meeting at 4:00 PM at the city hall (which is a time that most working folk cannot attend). The Jackson Gate project was the second agenda item, but Jackson residents were not directly notified about this. Nonetheless, one person found out and alerted neighbors. Several of us managed to attend, and we voiced our concerns about safety, outreach, and lack of due process.

They basically said, “Sorry, we did not mean to exclude you,” and “Don’t worry as we are doing a new survey.” So, we clearly suggested and requested right then and there that before putting out any more surveys, that they talk with us to develop a new one, or at the very least, include questions that mention and bring to light our safety concerns.

They replied that they would “look into that.” But then, adding insult to injury, they totally ignored our request and instead moved quickly within one week. They went ahead and put the very same survey (minus anything we suggested) back online at the city website and even other websites such as Next Door, with a closing date of June 30, 2019. That is NOT due process. That is NOT outreach. And that certainly is NOT representation.

June 15th Meeting

We tried to reach the mayor for several weeks, and a group of us finally met with her on June 15th. She assured us that she would work to slow this process down so that we can get our concerns listened to and addressed and that there would not be a rush to do any voting on this.

Yet somehow, within less than 72 hours after that Meeting, a resident of Culver City, who is a member of a group that our mayor is also a founding member of, put out an email survey to their constituents and other cyclist groups. This email urged them to fill out the online survey with comments supporting opening the gate at Jackson Avenue and encouraging members to call on the city council to quickly pass a resolution to get the Jackson Gate open.

The First Adage in Being of Service

“FIRST, DO NO HARM.”    

Please DO NOT EXPERIMENT WITH OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, OUR RESIDENTS, AND OUR CHILDREN. We all support less pollution, equitable access and encourage those who are able to bike and walk to do so.  Keeping the Jackson Gate closed does not impede this path’s usage when Duquesne and Overland are wide, monitored, nearby, always open (except in extreme rainstorms or maintenance upkeep), and easily available. TO FURTHER IMPROVE SAFETY on local nearby and school adjacent streets for ALL in our community, the city would be better served by having more crossing guards, installing more crosswalks, PLUS adding blinking lights along with the crosswalks when in use—just as they have done successfully in Santa Monica—that both visually alerts drivers that someone is about to step or cycle off the curb and that drivers must slow down in order to provide cyclists and pedestrians of ANY age or ability, a meaningful degree of greater safety.

Representation and Due Process Are the Foundation of Government

No matter your political persuasion, your address, or your neighborhood, this type of lack of due process and lack of transparency sets a dangerous precedent. If officials can do this to us, they can do it to you.