Ryu Restricts “Rogue” Tour Buses

Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu introduced two motions intended to mitigate noise pollution, traffic violations and safety hazards created by sightseeing tour buses. Photo: Susan Jane Golding / Flickr Creative Commons.

HOLLYWOOD HILLS—Tour bus operators may soon see tighter restrictions in Los Angeles if the city passes two September motions filed by Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu in response to growing complaints from residents about noise pollution, traffic violations and safety hazards created by the vehicles.

Tour buses, which the councilmember has called “rogue,” have been a priority for Ryu since day one of taking office, said his spokesperson Estevan Montemayor.

As such, Ryu took on the issue shortly after he was elected in 2015 with an ordinance that required open-air tour bus operators to apply for permits to use amplified sound, which it also stipulated could not be audible from more than 50 feet away.

But as an incentive, operators who provided riders with headphones were exempt from the permit requirement.

Ryu’s first motion changes that, and if approved, will make it mandatory for all tour bus operators to use non-amplified sound and provide headphones to riders.

Ryu’s second motion would allow the council to restrict tour buses from driving on certain streets and instructs the Dept. of Transportation to determine which streets are unsafe for tour traffic.

Ryu’s action came on the heels of AB25, a state law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown allowing cities to write and enforce their own tour bus laws for the first time, giving local lawmakers like Ryu more teeth to regulate tour operators than they had when Ryu authored the 2015 motion.

The two motions were approved by the council’s transportation committee October 25th, and will next be brought to the general council for a vote.

Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council president Anastasia Mann has worked closely with state and city lawmakers on the issue for several years.

“Basically this has been a four-year endeavor for [us],” Mann said in an email. “The out of control tour bus issue has become a true nightmare for residents and commuters alike. It finally has become life threatening to many, including the tourists taking the rides.”

An NBC4 news investigation in 2016 revealed a widespread practice among some tour bus operators of giving false celebrity information, violating traffic laws and driving unsafe vehicles.

According to Mann, state law AB25, recently pushed through by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian of District 46, along with Ryu’s motions are major steps for her community safety-wise.

But “[h]ow we stop them from lying to tourists about who lives where is another matter,” Mann said.

While Hollywood Hills residents have been most vocal in support of tour bus regulation, Orrin Feldman, vice president of the area’s neighborhood council, said it is a widespread problem that stretches from Beverly Hills to Beachwood Canyon and Griffith Park and is getting worse.

“I just wind up getting stuck behind them. They come to a complete stop on Mulholland. It’s amazing. It is just amazing,” said Feldman.

Feldman said he does not feel recent legislation at the local and state level are attacks on tour buses, but instead believes they are good for the Los Angeles tourism industry in general.

“Really it’s about making everything better and safer for everybody,” he said.

However, some residents said they are skeptical.

Hollywood Hills resident Richard Klug said tour bus operators routinely ignore weight limits and other restrictions that currently exist and wonders how new restrictions will be enforced any more effectively.

“It’s completely ridiculous. [Buses come to my street] every four or five minutes. They don’t obey any laws and it’s just out of control,” he said. “I’d like to see if we could get all of this worked out before 17 or 18 people get killed. That’d be nice.”

Klug said if a police officer is known to be writing citations in his neighborhood, he has noticed that the tour buses “wait an hour or two” and come back when police are gone.

When tour operators do get a citation, Klug said it appears to him that they accept it as a cost of doing business.

“They couldn’t care less,” Klug said. “There’s really nothing [police] can do, but maybe that’s changing” with the new state law.

Patti Peck owns Beachwood Café in Beachwood Canyon, where overcrowding from tourism at the nearby Hollywood sign remains a major concern.

Peck said she thinks building a visitor’s center or other infrastructure to support Hollywood sign tourism would be a more effective solution than road restrictions on tour buses or vans hawking Hollywood up and down tiny, winding streets.

“There are vans that come up and people pile out, and they’re basically looking for a place to take a photograph,” she said. “So can’t we just give them that? People end up coming into the café or the [nearby] market trying to use the bathroom, and it’s like 50 people—and I can’t. It’s terrible and then my plumbing blows up.”

It is unclear which streets will be made off-limits to tour buses, or how laws will be posted and enforced.

According to Ryu’s office, those details will be finalized after the city’s Dept. of Transportation completes its analysis.

The City Attorney’s office is expected to draft the final ordinance to require headphones on tour buses and will be advising how council should implement route restrictions within the same time frame.

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