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December 19, 2013     Beverly Hills Weekly
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December 19, 2013
 

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coverstory RUNNING THE ROADS An interview with incoming Traffic and Parking Commission Chair Andy Licht By Nicole Battaglia What are your goals as Chair? My goals are on two levels. One is that we as the city have some major decisions to make for the upcoming year as far as Santa Monica Boulevard, and the council has asked the Commission to oversee the mitigation of the traffic for the Santa Monica Boulevard construction. As chair I'll be leading the meetings for that, so that's probably my biggest issue: to make sure it's done well and goes smoothly. Then there are more mundane tasks-- mundane is probably not the right word-- of dealing with various parts of the com- munity that want permit parking, or the amount of time people can park on their street changed. We deal with special events like Halloween and the Golden Globes. There always seems to be some- thing every month. You're involved with Little League and basketball coaching, as well as teaching graduate students at the USC film school. Tell us what it's like juggling all these roles. I think everybody wants to try to leave the world a little bit better than it was when they got to it. Traffic and Parking has been a commission that's always interested me. It's the only commission I ever want- ed to be a part of, and the first two times I wasn't chosen. The third time was a charm. I grew up in Beverly Hills and spent my whole life here and kind of feel like I know every nook and cranny--and pothole. I have a very good understanding of how the city works as far as traffic and parking. I'm a father of three children and I wanted to be a part of their lives as much as possible. It's a small, great community and coaching is a really fun way to be a part of- and a little com- petitive. I even coached base- ball while I was [a student] at Beverly High because in those days parents didn't coach, kids did, so I probably have more Little League years than anyone else. Then 11 years ago I was asked to teach a course at USC at the Peter Stark Producing Program. l like to work with young people--from five year olds in soccer to 25 year olds in graduate school--and if somebody thinks that I can be helpful, I really enjoy help- ing. I consider it a privilege to live in Beverly Hills. I love this city and I enjoy being able to contribute. You're also a film producer. Tell us about that. I went to UC Berkeley for undergrad, and when I graduated I wanted to go into the film business, but I didn't know how. I found out about a graduate program at USC, the Peter Stark program, and I applied to that and got in. I met a guy in the program and we became producing partners and we were lucky enough to be asked to be lot produc- ers at Warner Brothers when we gradu- ated. From there our career sort of blos- somed and we ended up producing nine films together. What's going on with your film career now? Producing films for me and most pro- Andy, Joey, Lucy, Danny, and Lisa Licht ducers is about finding the right project and gathering the right materials, then finding a studio to fund the project. I have a number of projects in development that I'm trying to find the right combina- tion of screenplay, actor, and whatever elements are needed to convince these studios to finance the production. I don't have any in production at the moment but hopefully that will change very soon. What are your biggest concerns regarding the Santa Monica Blvd. reconstruction project? I happen to be on the Blue Ribbon Committee, and our task is to determine what best plan is for Santa Monica. That really doesn't have a lot to do with being Chair of Traffic and Parking. I mean, I imagine one of the reasons I was chosen for the committee is because I'm Chair but it's not part of Traffic and Parking per se. The Blue Ribbon Committee is 15 citizens chosen by the City Council to determine what the project goals are for the reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard--as we call it, 'Big Santa Monica.' We've had a couple meetings so far, and one sort of field trip where we went out and were shown by the experts what the issues were. We have at least one more meeting where we will deter- mine and make our recommendations to the City Council as to how the project should be handled. There are certain giv- ens with the project, such as the physical infrastructure of the street: pavement, drainage, sewer, waterlines, lighting. Everyone's pretty much in agreement about that. The big questions seem to be whether or not there will be bike lanes, and if there are bike lanes, will there be one in each direction, and will there be a median on the boulevard. We've had a lot of input from residents and from the expert, and now, in our next meeting, we will discuss it publicly and give our recommenda- tions. At the Public Works Commission meeting last Thursday, Aaron Koonz of the Blue Ribbon Committee said that the Committee's first two meetings were "contentious and difficult." Could you elaborate on that? I think there are just different factions of people that have very clear goals for how they see how the Boulevard should be rehabilitated. And most of the discussion revolved around whether there should be bike lanes or bike paths. That was really the only area where there seems to be dis- agreement, and the disagreement really is that we have to infringe upon the green parkway and even certain parts of the Boulevard to make Santa Monica wide enough to accommodate bike lanes. And what are you concerns about the project as Traffic and Parking Commission Chair? The city council really divided the Committee and the Commission to have two separate goals. The goal of the com- mittee was to determine the look and the purpose and the ultimate visual outcome of the Boulevard, and Traffic and Parking was commissioned to determine the miti- gation; in other words, when is this going to start, whether it will be during daytime or night time hours, and whether it will be done one stretch at a time. There are a number of different ways this can be handled, and Traffic and Parking will be working with the experts to determine which is the least impactful. If we do it at night, we have longer hours, but people will be impacted by the noise. If we do it during the day, we have less time to do it, and people will be less impacted by the noise, but the traffic will be worse. In our interview with former Chair Alan Grushcow last year [Issue 695], he mentioned a bike lane pilot program that would go into effect in the spring of 2013. What's the status of this program? Well the bike lanes have been implemented on Burton Way, Crescent Drive, and they're wait- ing for some studies to show about usage, which we've not gotten yet. How the city proceeds will be based somewhat on how we feel the usage is going. A lot of this also depends on the Santa Monica Boulevard decisions--whether that gets a bike lane or bike path. Page 8. Beverly Hills Weekly