By Christian Leonard
and Wes Woods II
La Cañada Flintridge City Council members expressed doubts this week about the current need for the regulation of motorized scooters, electric bikes and other shared mobility devices, leaving the matter to the state.
Carl Alameda, LCF’s director of administrative services, raised the subject during Tuesday night’s council meeting at City Hall. He explained that the city staff had found a potential option to address concerns, raised in a February council meeting, that the devices could present safety hazards to the public or that some areas could be oversaturated with them.
The potential solution was the management platform Digital Unity. According to company representative Scott Frankel, who spoke during the meeting, the platform’s services include allowing cities to monitor where the devices are located and to enforce ordinances with automated citations. Users are also able to locate devices from any of the providers with a single app.
“From our standpoint, [Digital Unity] allows us to better enforce the ordinance, because we can audit it through the system,” Alameda said.
However, the conversation soon steered toward questions of whether residents wanted the shared mobility devices. Brown said that though the city has placed no regulations on them, aside from those listed in the California Vehicle Code, companies offering the use of the devices have not shown a strong presence in LCF.
“Right now, this is a solution in search of a problem for La Cañada. It’s just not a problem and it’s not even anything that we’re seeing truly being demanded,” he said.
Alameda said that the city would be “ahead of the game,” as the state code does not offer many regulations of the devices the city had sought. But Councilwoman Terry Walker echoed part of her colleague’s concerns, saying that though she believed an ordinance was necessary, she didn’t see a current need for the Digital Unity service.
Interim City Attorney Adrian Guerra noted that there is some uncertainty about the amount of authority cities have under California law to regulate the devices. As an example, he explained that state law allows motorized scooters to be parked on sidewalks as long as they do not obstruct pedestrian traffic. He also noted after the meeting that after Beverly Hills banned electric scooters in 2018, device provider Bird sued the city.
However, Guerra also said that a bill that passed the state Assembly in May offers more authority to cities seeking to regulate the devices.
“[We could] take the wait-and-see approach, because we’re not having that many issues at this point, see what happens in this legislation, and then maybe we revisit it later in the year,” he suggested.
With the council members quickly agreeing to allow state law to handle regulation of the devices, Councilman Jonathan Curtis suggested that the economic development study the city is undergoing consider the viability of the devices. Frankel had also confirmed that the devices could be used as an economic development tool by allowing riders to travel efficiently to commercial areas.
City Manager Mark Alexander agreed to check with the consultants for the study to see if the devices were already being considered, and if not, whether it was possible to include them without incurring a heavy additional cost.
At the end of the session, Brown announced that representatives from the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project would give a presentation at the next meeting, in August.
REVAMPING OF WEBSITE
Before Tuesday’s meeting, an update for the city’s website was detailed and council members heard a presentation on LCF’s social media management and response practices.
The discussion was held at a study session before the regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall.
Alexander said a revamping of the website should be finished sometime in August.
In March, the council unanimously OKd a contract with Tripepi Smith for the design and implementation of a new website. Officials have said the current site, developed in 2009, has become obsolete.
Ryder Todd Smith of the marketing, technology and public affairs firm said at the time the website could be completed in six months. (Tripepi Smith oversees the city’s website and Twitter and Facebook accounts, and also compiles a periodic newsletter.)
The council budgeted $25,685 in design and implementation costs with an additional $2,000 contingency cost and a $560 annual website hosting cost.
Bids ranged from a high of $111,238 to $171,000 from 360Civic to a low of $20,850 from Workingarts.
At the study session, LCF Division Manager Arabo Parseghian said some of the priorities for the website included a modern look, a focus on being user friendly and its integration with emergency operations during a disaster.
Parseghian showed off the new site, which features “hot keys,” or areas where users can quickly find topics; a section for events; a better search capability; and an area to report issues.
“We want to make it as user friendly as possible,” Parseghian said.
POOL PARTY’S AFTERMATH
After Parseghian’s presentation, Smith spoke about managing the city’s social media presence.
The council discussed social media management in the wake of what was billed as the “Aquaholic Summer Mansion Pool Party” on June 15. The party was held at a residence on Gould Avenue without the property owner’s permission.
An estimated 300 people attended the event, which a flyer said would run from 3-9 p.m., and partygoers were picked up on Foothill Boulevard near T.J. Maxx. Young adults in revealing swimwear were shown in photos and videos at the residence or standing near the store. Upset neighbors posted hundreds of negative comments on social media about the party and detailed their feelings at a June 18 council meeting.
A similar party that had been scheduled for July 6 in the area was canceled, Alexander said previously.
Smith said his firm received information about the mansion party on Monday, June 17, after it had occurred.
The firm created a statement for council members after getting information from the original party invitation, which was found online, Smith said. Tripepi Smith continued to monitor different groups afterward and check in with the city, he added.
When someone posts a message on the city’s Facebook page, Alexander asked Smith, how long does it usually take before a staff member sees it?
“Unless we’re asleep, we would see it come through in probably 10 minutes,” Smith said. “Generally, we are responding to those things on average within an hour.”
In one case, someone reported a downed power line and the company called the Sheriff’s Department first and responded to the resident on Facebook, saying, “Someone will take care of it.” Tripepi Smith representative Katherine Griffiths said she followed up with Alameda.
“If there would be an event like a fire or some other kind emergency in the community, then we would be in touch more frequently and through other channels so that we can stay on top of it,” Griffiths said.
Smith said he has noticed that some people are more willing to write a message to the city on its Facebook site than to call the city.
“It’s kind of weird but it’s where we’re evolving to,” said Smith, who noted he also uses phone companies’ Facebook sites to contact them.