The future Expo Light Rail terminal at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, Colorado streetscape, decking the Santa Monica Freeway, Civic Center open space and Downtown circulation element were all discussed at a Community Workshop last Monday evening.

I decided that “Animal Cops: Philadelphia” on my DirecTV service would be more interesting than the City Planning and Community Development’s workshop. However, it didn’t stop Expo activist Damien Goodman from e-mailing me mid-meeting that they were displaying “pictures of one-car, 90-foot long, trolley looking Expo trains and not the actual 270-foot long, 225 ton animals" to workshop attendees.

Goodman is smart enough to know why planning staff and Expo cheerleaders don’t want you to know that Expo trains will be nearly as long as a football field. Picture these behemoths rumbling down Colorado and blocking intersecting street traffic before making a left turn into the light rail terminal at Fourth Street. Better to surprise everyone when the trains start rolling six or seven years from now when it’s too late to make changes.

The Fourth and Colorado Expo terminal (currently Sears Automotive) is a focus point for much of the new development activity. With trains arriving at five minute intervals during peak hours and taking on and discharging up to 400 passengers per train, the potential for heavy foot and vehicular traffic at this intersection is very high.

Suggestions that the terminal should be a “gathering place” with a big plaza and food facilities may be optimistic. It’ll simply be a place to come to and go from. Many folks who hang around train/transit stations in cities I’ve visited in the States as well as in Europe and Asia are low-lifes and hookers.

Access to and from this critical junction needs extra careful planning. Metro’s Environmental Impact Report predicts the vast majority of Expo users will bus or walk to various Expo stations — a totally unrealistic prediction. However, city bureaucrats want to limit parking and make it expensive to boot. That’s one way to force Expo riders to not drive to and from stations and reduce ridership, too. One smart workshop idea was an elevated pedestrian walkway over Colorado Avenue to Santa Monica Place.

Last Tuesday, $205.1 million in funding to be financed by tax allocation and lease revenue bond sales was earmarked for “priority” capital projects over the next five years. City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, approved tentative funding levels for a Civic Center joint use project with Santa Monica High School ($56.19 million) Civic Center/HS shared parking ($25 million), Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square ($25 million), Civic Center “green” streets and pathways (20.9 million), Expo Light Rail Station ($10 million) and Civic Auditorium remodel ($25 million) among others. A new Pico branch library, Civic Center early childhood development center, Memorial Park expansion and other projects were also included.

Capping the Santa Monica Freeway from Ocean Avenue to the McClure Tunnel to Fourth Street for park space is pegged at $87 million in today’s dollars. So, it’ll probably never happen. Maybe all Civic Center non-park uses such as the proposed early childhood development center should be on a super-structure spanning the freeway, instead — as has been done in the United Kingdom with great success.

In other City Council action, the renewal of leases for three parcels of land on the beach seaward of the 1921 mean high tide line and adjacent to 850 Palisades Beach Road to the Jonathan Club was on the closed session agenda. This item generated a blizzard of e-mail from various neighborhood leaders last weekend questioning the continued leasing of public beach property to an elite, for profit, private club.

I e-mailed City Manager Lamont Ewell about the lack of open review. He replied the leases would be on the June 9 council agenda for public comment. This should generate heated discussion because all I’m hearing is that this arrangement can’t end soon enough.

Next year’s rent control general adjustment (the rent increase authorized for rent controlled units) being recommended by the Rent Control Board for the year beginning Sept. 1, 2009 is 1 percent. The recommended minimum increase is $8 per unit with the maximum increase (ceiling) set at $16.

Why is the RCB capping the increase at $16 for units renting above $1,650 per month — excluding pass along charges such as parcel taxes, school, college and clean water bond expense? It’s so the high rent tenants can thank the Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights (who control the RCB) by voting for SMRR candidates next election. A $16 (half percent) increase for tenants in $2,000 to $10,000 per month luxury apartments? Ridiculous.

Lastly, if you like city meetings on development issues, the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) draft environmental impact report scoping meeting is tonight in the Civic Auditorium East Wing at 7 p.m. Go and learn why more traffic and development will be good for you.

Bill Bauer can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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