In addition to her role as a former L.A. Department of Water and Power Commissioner, Aura Vásquez has extensive experience in community organizing and environmental advocacy including work at the Sierra Club, and has been endorsed by Sunrise Movement Los Angeles. Vásquez has engaged proactively with the safe streets community and mobility justice activists, including attending a Vision Zero action organized at City Hall and joining bike advocates at the Kingdom Day Parade on her (impressively decorated) bike. Her response to Bike The Vote makes it clear that she recognizes the mobility and environmental benefits that bicycling brings to CD10. Vásquez also recognizes that mobility infrastructure and accessibility are issues of equity and safety for those who don’t have access to cars. Vásquez shared her story of being hospitalized after being hit by a car on her bike commute — an experience that shaped her strong interest in improving L.A.’s mobility infrastructure and safety education.
When our interview team met with Vásquez, she described how her experience as an immigrant from Colombia developed her understanding of how car-free mobility and city parks contribute to a people-centric community. She shared with us that she, her family, and community in Cali, Colombia biked every Sunday at one of Colombia’s now-famous Ciclovias. Vásquez pointed to the reality that bike lanes, active transportation and law enforcement practices are hot button topics in communities of color. She pledged to use her organizing skills and work with community advocates and organizations in the district to bring about change, because all CD10 constituents should be able to safely access bicycling, walking and public transit.
Vásquez isn’t wrong about the controversial nature of complete streets projects in some parts of Los Angeles. Moving forward, we are interested in seeing how Vásquez chooses to navigate the opposition of resistant community members, and we encourage her to stand up for safer streets and better infrastructure, especially in the disenfranchised areas of the district. We see great potential in Vásquez to be a catalyst for equity-based policies that can help CD10 develop into a more just, sustainable, and people-centric community.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: B+
(See below for full candidate questionnaire response)
1. Transportation remains the largest source of greenhouse gases in California, and neighborhood oil extraction has been shown to pose significant health and safety risks to residents. Heavy spending by oil and gas companies in local elections casts doubt on whether voters can trust their elected leaders to protect them from these and other impacts. Will you pledge to refuse any donations, whether to your campaign or officeholder account, from the fossil fuel lobby?
I took the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. I have a fundraising team that does due diligence on potential donors’ backgrounds to make sure we keep our word, and that my campaign funding is aligned with my values.
2. A longstanding lack of trust between law enforcement and the community has made passage through public space and on city streets rather fraught for many, especially teens and young men of color. What will you do to repair this relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve such that law enforcement can become a broadly trusted partner for CD10 residents?
The community in CD 10 has a tortured past with law enforcement and for many of our residents those wounds are not healed. I want to see our police officers reflect the community they are engaging with, including cultural diversity and gender. I want our officers to be trained on implicit bias and cultural competency, and to be taught de-escalation tactics. I also support more neighborhood policing practices that will bring the community together and help us with safety.
3. Many residents in South and Central Los Angeles lack access to cars. Of these, a large percentage, especially immigrants, depend on bikes as a way to get to work and school, but lack safe options to commute thanks to a host of factors, including prevalent speeding and inadequate infrastructure (lack of safe crossings, streets right-sized to deter speeding, school zoning signage) to instill safe routes to school on city streets in historically underserved communities. Mobility Plan 2035 established “safety first” as the City’s top priority in transportation decisions. Do you support prioritizing the safety of Los Angeles’ most vulnerable commuters in implementing Mobility Plan 2035, both in CD10 and throughout Los Angeles?
Yes. I support mobility lanes in our community and all of Los Angeles.
4. 242 Angelenos were killed in car crashes in 2018, a 32% increase from 2015. Clearly, L.A. has failed to make significant progress towards Vision Zero, the concept that we can greatly reduce roadway deaths by building a transportation system in which the inevitable mistakes that people make are not deadly. Will you commit to setting aggressive goals for achieving significant reductions in traffic deaths in CD10 during your term and expand resources for implementation of and engagement of community based organizations on safety infrastructure?
Absolutely. I will fight for CD10’s fair share of Los Angeles municipal infrastructure funding to increase pedestrian and cyclist safety in collaboration with agencies and community partners—as they know best what will be most helpful. It is time to push Vision Zero from a vision to a reality. With your help, I am committed to do that.
5. Los Angeles’ traffic woes are compounded by the reality that many parents and students don’t feel safe allowing their children to walk or bike to school. In October, a 4 year old in Council District 10 was killed by a turning driver on her way to school with her mother. What would you do as a councilmember to prioritize student safety and active transportation options around schools?
When I’ve spoken with residents, they say they want their sidewalks fixed, better lighting and signaling so they can walk in their community without risking injury. I will work with the schools in CD10 to determine what is needed to increase safety for our children (such as fixing the sidewalks, getting crossing guards, evaluating transportation options, installing signage, etc.) and then I’ll fight for them.
6. Please respond to the following questions regarding specific CD10 issues and projects:
6A. In 2013-2014, local non-profit Community Health Councils led a community discussion around making Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd safer by implementing bike lanes on the street. Despite widespread community support for the project from Empowerment Congress West (ECWA), North Area Neighborhood Development Council, the Cherrywood-Leimert Block Club, the McClung/Bronson Block Club, and Crenshaw WALKS!; the current CD10 office delayed and eventually quietly shelved the project. Would you support implementing bike lanes or protected bike lanes on King Blvd?
6B. Venice Boulevard is identified by the Department of Transportation as a vital East/West bike route, but has no bike safety infrastructure between Arlington Ave. and Downtown Los Angeles. Do you support implementation of bike lanes or protected bike lanes on Venice Boulevard to provide safer and more equitable access between CD10 and Downtown?
Yes. It’s very important to provide a better way to commute by bicycle for anyone who needs it. For some, a bicycle is the only way they can get to work. For others, it’s a green choice. We need to make it a safe option.
6C. The installation of a new fence around Leimert Park Plaza in 2018 has initiated difficult and divisive conversations about the role of public space and who gets to use it, particularly in a neighborhood that is facing rapid gentrification. What role do you see for Leimert Park Plaza? Do you see the fence as a necessary element or something that should be removed?
The fence should be removed. Public spaces should be public and accessible.
6D. Streets like Adams, Jefferson, and Washington Boulevards around West Adams area schools are among the most dangerous streets in the City. Requests from parents and local groups to improve the safety of students on neighborhood streets have gone unanswered by the current office (e.g. Washington Blvd. and Burnside Ave. near New L.A. Charter Middle School). What would you commit to do to improve the safety of students getting to school on foot, by transit, and by bike?
I will work with parental and local groups to get to the bottom of why these requests have gone unanswered, and then I will fight for them. I’m a fearless advocate who does not back down. I will be relentless.