Stop STAP Now: Here’s Why

The City Council Public Works & Finance Committees Meet Wednesday, August 24, at 2:15 PM. SPEAK OUT NOW TO STOP STAP.

Angelenos who have given their support to the City’s proposed new street furniture program, STAP, should be most disappointed to learn that while being publicly touted as a transportation program, it is, in fact, an advertising program after all, and one that seeks to turn our PUBLIC right-of-way (our sidewalks, parkways, and streets) over to commercial advertisers.

In the hidden language in the STAP program’s Mitigated Negative Declaration Document (MND) that is scheduled to be considered at a special joint City Council Finance and Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 2:15, as part of the Council’s review of the proposed STAP contract with Tranzito-Vector, is a new L. A. Municipal Code (LAMC) that will allow advertising structures to be placed on the PUBLIC right-of-way.  That measure is not needed for the STAP program and its transit shelters as there already is a specific LAMC to allow ad structures for transit shelters.  Other than for transit shelters, advertising structures are currently prohibited on the PUBLIC right-of-way.

When the revised contract was reviewed by the Board of Public Works last Wednesday, not one word was said or question asked about the Trojan Horse LAMC that lies within the proposed project – likely because the Mayor’s office stands in support of Metro’s desire to place digital billboards on streets across the City and of the Tourism and Convention Bureau’s desire to place digital advertising kiosks on our parkways… hundreds of them!  Project documentation notes that the revised LAMC would “potentially authorize the consideration of other (unspecified) activities in the future.”  In other words, the proposed revision would in effect allow advertising displays of undetermined numbers, type, and size, in undetermined locations, throughout the City’s PUBLIC right-of-way.

Furthermore, the proposed language and revision of LAMC Sec. 67.02(b) is inconsistent with the Mobility Element of the General Plan and should be rejected.  The proposed LAMC is essentially a zoning ordinance and goes beyond the duties of the Public Works Dept. and conflicts with policymaking that belongs in the Dept. of City Planning that oversees sign regulation and its related policies. 

STAP is a front for the effort to commercialize our PUBLIC right-of-way and a desire to generate revenues by bombarding the public with advertisements as we go about our daily routines.  The language in the new proposed LAMC is broad and places no limits on what could appear on our streets or where they might be placed.  There is no mechanism for public input, for a council member to object.  All authority will lie with a subcommittee of the Board of Public Works – a politically appointed body. 

This deceitful LAMC measure appears to be the driving force behind the City’s interest to promote the STAP program and provide much-needed shade and shelter to our City’s transit riders.  The STAP program is an embarrassment as opposed to an enforceable commitment to address the needs of transit riders.  It is a proposal without the funds for implementation.   It is a program with unachievable revenue projections.  Program elements promoted to the public have suddenly become “secondary” optional components rather than “required elements.”  Costs previously absorbed by the program vendor are to be assumed by the City, yet it is uncertain as to whether or not funds will be available for capital purchases as needed or even to prepare shelter locations for shelter installations as the City’s budget deficits grow over the contract period.

The CAO’s report on the STAP program was issued after the Board of Public Works voted to approve the revised contract.  Additionally, they, and the public, have yet to see a comparison of the major elements and differences between the programs offered by the final STAP bidders.  Did the City make any effort to diminish the number of ad panels on our streets while maximizing potential revenues?

Angelenos have waited 20 years for the opportunity to fashion a new street furniture program and it is tragic to find that the program presented to the public in public outreach meetings is not the program that will be implemented.  The planned 3,000 new transit shelters are now a vague goal. Without identification of funding sources and dependent upon Council/Mayoral allocations, how many will actually be placed?  (This is an extremely important question as the City’s budget is not a healthy one looking to the near future.)  The shade structures for locations with lower numbers of riders or smaller sidewalk areas are part of the program goals but not required.  The various elements presented to the public such as hydration stations, scooter decks, wi-fi, etc. are now optional with no process for determining who (vendor or City?) or when they might be implemented.  The City and its transit riders deserve better – far better.  The fact that there has been disappointment in the current contract should not serve to suggest that a new contract and program should be adopted quickly when it is clearly not the best that the City can do. 

Instead of supporting STAP, we should be fighting for better!  We should be urging the City Council to reject the proposed contract, to reject the environment MND document, and to charge the Street Services Division of the Public Works Dept. to start the process anew…. with outreach to transit advocacy groups, environmental and public health organizations, neighborhood councils, transit riders, etc. 

The current contract is a direct reflection of the failure of the Public Works Dept. to do community outreach at the outset of the program when designing the RFP.  Instead, they relied upon the input from outdoor advertising industry representatives in planned focus groups.  Further, under the new LAMC and STAP, communities will have no voice or mechanism to have input on the placement of shelters or ad structures with a subcommittee of the Board of Public Works having full authority.  What will happen when a restaurant wishes to have sidewalk dining and an ad structure makes it impossible to do so? 

The public wants our PUBLIC right-of-way to remain free of intrusive advertising messaging — whether digital or static ads.  Instead of minimizing ad faces, the proposed STAP contract would bring over 6,600 ad panels to our streets and communities with over 1,900 of them digital.  What consideration was given to minimizing the number of ad panels while maximizing revenues?  The thought of having STAP’s ad panels, IKE’s digital kiosks, and Metro’s digital billboards all invading our public right-of-way with advertisements is an assault to our right to enjoy safe and peaceful passage on our streets.  Turning our streets into commercial screens for corporate messaging diminishes our neighborhoods; it does not enrich them.

The Council’s review process is quickly moving forward. The LA City Council will hold a joint meeting of the Public Works and Finance Committees THIS WEEK on Wednesday, August 24, at 2:15 pm, to approve the contract and environmental documents. It will then move forward for full Council approval.                   

The Board of Public Works approved the contract without addressing serious flaws in the contract, many of which are called out in a recent CAO report.

  • The proposed STAP contract does not do its intended job. The proposed program fails to provide transit riders with adequate shade and shelter.  The distribution of shelters does not reflect the needs of riders in areas subject to the most heat.  The number of shelters proposed do not even cover half of today’s existing transit stops.  Riders need shade, shelter, and timely transit updates.  How many more shelters could be provided with less expensive/sophisticated models, with the contract vendor paying for the purchase of the shelters? 
  • Funding to purchase many of the program’s elements presented to the public as part of the program are now not classified as “essential” parts of the program.  Funding for them has not been identified and may never materialize.  What then?  City budget projections moving forward foretell coming deficit budgets…   Shade structures for less busy transit stops or those for which there is limited sidewalk space are NOT included as an essential program component.  
  • Who decided (and who should decide) that our public streets, sidewalks, and parkways should carry commercial advertising messages that we cannot escape from?
  • What happened to the inclusion of a public automated toilet program that will now no longer be part of the street furniture program but instead will have to be paid for by taxpayers and will compete for funding with libraries, public safety, etc…..
  • With the proposed funding model, of the over $236 million needed to purchase needed shelters, only 2% of the funding has been identified and is available today.  At the Public Works Board meeting, $6 million was tentatively identified.  That leaves a gigantic gap in funding.  In addition, there is no budget for the replacement of damaged shelters due to vandalism, etc.
  • The program and associated documentation do not address questions or impacts related to the new Los Angeles Municipal Code and advertising in the public right of way.
  • The program does not address issues related to privacy, the failure to incorporate an “opt-in” or “opt-out” option for Angelenos (as requested in public sessions), and does not answer concerns about the security and use of data gathered from those going past the digital panels that capture data.
  • The CAO’s office and the Board of Public Works have not released a redlined version of the contract. The public needs to be able to see how it was changed prior to its approval. The Board of Public Works never released promised comparisons of the major attributes of the final bids and criteria related to scoring.
  • The City Attorney’s office has not been consulted to weigh in on the impact the new proposed LAMC will have on the City’s ability to defend its right to regulate off-site signage in the future as it adopts the proposed new LAMC and associated new additional advertising programs.  The City’s expanded use of its public right-of-way for commercial advertising will likely bring about challenges to the City’s Sign Ordinance and may undermine the City’s regulatory rights.    (Their review was limited to approval as to “form.”)
  • Concerns about distracted driving, traffic safety, and significant environmental impacts have not been addressed.  DOT and the Transportation Committee have not been involved. 
  • A complete EIR (environmental impact report) should be done instead of a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). 

The City and all Angelenos, and especially our City’s transit users, deserve better than STAP, and we need to put a stop to it before it’s too late.  We have waited 20 years to have the opportunity to create a new street furniture program that supports transit users.  We should not have to wait for another ten to twenty years (the proposed contract’s length) to finally get it right.  We should not settle for a bad contract and a disappointing program that will, once again, see the rollout of new shelters in areas that reflect the highest advertising revenues.  This is a program whose financial projections are unrealistic and that will not generate the funds projected — which means that it will never provide the numbers of shelters (as few as they are) being presented to the public. Less than half of our current transit stops will have bus shelters if and when the full contract is implemented.

TAKE ACTION NOW:

  • Tell the LA City Council to reject the contract as presented.  It doesn’t meet the City’s needs.  It raises equity, environmental, and safety concerns.  Angelenos deserve better. 
  • Tell the City Council that the project’s MND does not meet CEQA requirements and does not mitigate the issues raised by the proposed program.  A full EIR should be done.  Better yet start again using the input of neighborhood councils, transit users, and other concerned Angelenos!
  • Tell Mayor Garcetti that the contract can’t move forward without addressing the public demands for more transparency and more consideration of the impact. 
  • Tell them all that the insertion of a new LAMC fronting for other advertising programs already in the pipeline is wrong.  Each advertising program should be evaluated on its individual merits.
  • Tell them all that we do not want our PUBLIC space to be used for more and more intrusive commercial messaging.  Opening up the public right-of-way to advertising structures is selling off a public asset without the public’s consent.  No amount of ad revenues can address the potential damage of countless junk food ads, images from violent movies, and the loss of peace of mind as commuters, students, runners, bicyclists and Angelenos go about their daily routines. 

Make plans to zoom in and attend the Council meeting on Wednesday, August 24, at 2:15 pm.  The agenda can be found at:  https://lacity.primegov.com/Portal/Meeting?meetingTemplateId=106840

You can speak!  Members of the public who would like to offer public comment on the items listed on the agenda should call 1 669 254 5252 and use Meeting ID No. 160 073 2397 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak when prompted.

Enter a written comment in the Council File:

For agenda Item #1`- Council File 20-1536-S2: to oppose the STAP program environmental documents, proposed Tranzito-Vector contract, and additional details listed on the agenda, use the form at:  https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/?cfnumber=20-1536-S2

For agenda item #2  – Council File CF 20-1536 to oppose the new proposed LAMC, use the form at:  https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/?cfnumber=20-1536

You can also use our forms to submit comments:

For agenda item #1

For agenda item #2