Hagekhalil Addresses Community Council
“We’re going to transform our streets to world-class streets,” said the new Bureau of Street Services Executive Director Adel Hagekhalil at the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on February 28. In the past, he admitted, “We have not invested in our streets.”
Hagekhalil said that in rainy February, his department filled 7,700 potholes, compared to 1,400 a year ago.
“We would like to do advanced planning to make our sidewalks and streets better,” he said, noting that last year the City paid out $55 million on claims from accidents caused by City streets and sidewalks in need of repair.
“We started budget discussions last Thursday,” said Hagekhalil, who hopes for increased revenue to use on street improvements rather than street damage restitution.
He introduced his staff, which included members of the street forestry division, which is another area where the City has been fiscally negligent in terms of maintenance (e.g., tree trimming, removing dead trees, watering).
Earlier in the meeting, Palisades Beautiful President Michael Terry had said that 59 percent of the designated street trees in the Palisades are no longer approved by the City. Hagekhalil promised that his department would work with Palisades Beautiful.
He mentioned street furniture and how the City needs to bring in more revenue from bus stop advertising, but when told the Palisades doesn’t back that approach, he said “No problem.”
PRIDE President John Padden said that a $20 million campaign is in the planning stages to beautify the streetscape in Pacific Palisades (notably along Sunset) and wanted to know if money would be available. Hagekhalil said he could work with Padden.
The veteran City administrator was asked when Chautauqua would be paved and he responded, “most likely April 27 and 28” (though this might be delayed until June). The new paving will extend from Sunset to PCH.
Hagekhalil was asked where the money for street repairs will come from and he responded, “Measure M, Measure R.” (Measure R was a 2008 ballot measure that added a half-cent sales tax on each dollar of taxable sales to finance new transportation projects and improvements. Measure M passed in 2016 and added an additional half-cent sales tax to improve traffic flow/safety; repair potholes/sidewalks.)
Circling the News asked Hagekhalil if the money budgeted for Street Services was going to stay in the department this year. In an April 2017 L.A. city budget hearing, Nazario Sauceda, who was director of the Bureau of Street Services, said his department had given back $19 million to the City, including $17.1 billion for pavement preservation.
Councilman Mitch Englander asked why it was returned to the General Fund and not spent on roads.
Sauceda told the Councilman that was a question that he should ask Mayor Eric Garcetti. “As a team working together with the Mayor’s office, we understand there is a need to balance the budget,” Sauceda said.
The city controller did an audit of Street Services and found a July 31, 2014 report noting that $21 million was returned between 2010-2013, which had been earmarked for street repairs.
Sauceda’s retirement was announced six months later by the Mayor.
At the Community Council meeting, CTN was told that only $1 million was given back to the City last year.
Board members asked Hagekhalil to have his people look at various pavement problems on Temescal Canyon Road and he promised his team would address any problems.