On Aug. 13, the City Council is expected to discuss the proposed Bergamot Area Plan. Here’s what residents need to know.
According to the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), “While Santa Monica is generally blessed with a fine grid of inter-connected streets, the grid breaks down in several places, particularly in the north-south direction. In fact, there are only five corridors that traverse the whole city from north to south … . Some of these, particularly 26th Street and 23rd Street, were never designed to carry heavy vehicle volumes.”
Development agreements already in the pipeline or recently constructed in the Bergamot area (bordered by Colorado Avenue and Cloverfield, Centinela, and Exposition boulevards) are estimated to generate more than 20,000 additional daily car trips. Many of those cars will be traveling north and south.
The only north-south “through street” between Lincoln and Centinela from the Bergamot Area to the south city limit is the Cloverfield/23rd Street corridor, right through the center of the Pico and Sunset Park neighborhoods.
The densities in the proposed plan, as measured in “floor-area ratios” (FARs), will lead to increased traffic. For example, replacing 109 mobile homes at Village Trailer Park (VTP) with 377 apartments will increase daily trips from the current 200 to nearly 2,000. Planning staff claims that the 2.5 maximum FAR is being met by VTP and other projects, but only because developers are being allowed to include new streets in their FAR calculations, contrary to the Municipal Code and LEED certification regulations, which allow only buildable space to be included.
Planners now admit that the LUCE goal of “no new net trips” is only a citywide goal for the year 2030. Traffic consultant Jeff Tumlin tried to assure the Planning Commission that Bergamot area traffic will initially increase and then “flip,” but when will that happen?
What’s traffic like now around the Bergamot area? Here are 24-hour traffic counts, as of 2006, from the city’s Transportation Management Division:
20th Street, Wilshire to Pico – 25,427
26th Street, Wilshire to Olympic – 17,752 (mostly two-lane)
Cloverfield, Santa Monica Blvd. to Olympic – 42,937
Cloverfield, Olympic to 10 freeway – 29,458
Wilshire Blvd., 17th to Centinela – 39,806
Santa Monica Blvd., 17th to Centinela – 28,238
Colorado, 20th to Centinela – 17,749 (mostly 2-lane)
Olympic Blvd., 20th to 26th – 28,577
Olympic Blvd., 26th to Centinela – 33,880
Pico Blvd., 20th to Centinela – 26,663
Which intersections are most congested? Here are some of the intersections rated “UNACCEPTABLE” in the Bergamot Transit Village Center Final EIR (Environmental Impact Report):
Lincoln & Ocean Park Blvd.; 20th & Pico; 23rd & Ocean Park Blvd.; Cloverfield & Santa Monica Blvd.; Cloverfield & I-10 westbound off-ramp; Cloverfield & I-10 eastbound on-ramp; Cloverfield & Ocean Park Blvd.; Yale & Broadway; Stewart & Olympic; Centinela & Santa Monica Blvd.; Centinela & Colorado; Centinela & Ocean Park Blvd.
How much traffic will large Bergamot area development agreement projects add?
Village Trailer Park: 1,863 daily car trips; Roberts Center: 1,654 trips; Colorado Creative Studio Project: 2,092 trips; SMC Academy of Entertainment & Technology: 1,482 trips; Herb Alpert Educational Village: 2,500 trips (guesstimate); Paseo Nebraska: 4,000 trips (guesstimate); Bergamot Transit Village Center: 7,585 trips; Agensys, Inc.:1,395 trips.
How do developers propose to “mitigate” the traffic impacts from their projects? Two proposed Bergamot area projects plan to reduce the impact of their 1,866 new daily car trips traveling through the 23rd and Ocean Park (OPB) intersection by removing three parking spaces on eastbound OPB to create a right-turn-only lane. How much difference will that make to either 23rd (24,000 trips) or OPB (27,189 trips)?
Let’s look at the plan’s trip reduction scenarios. An older woman will sit alone reading a book in a (non-existent) Bergamot area park rather than driving to an exercise class at the YMCA. Rather than driving, a young woman will ride the Expo to work, attend an evening event at the Santa Monica College AET campus, then ride her bike home from the Farmdale Expo station (between La Brea and Crenshaw) late at night. A family of four will ride their bikes to shop for groceries rather than driving. Is this realistic?
Trip reduction strategies also rely on “local shopping for retail goods and services,” i.e., an assumption that neighborhood-serving cafes, grocers, pharmacies, and cleaners will spring up so residents can run errands on foot or by bike. However, existing mixed-use buildings on Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh streets have yielded no such businesses, and new mixed-use projects on Main Street seem to have resulted primarily in more nail salons. Will the Bergamot area be different?
What do residents think? Neighborhood groups have surveyed their members. Here’s a summary of about 400 of the comments on 2013 Friends of Sunset Park membership forms in response to the prompt, “My greatest concerns are:”
“Traffic; commuter traffic; horrible traffic; traffic gridlock on Ocean Park Blvd.; lane reductions with increased traffic gridlock; gridlocked traffic east after 3 p.m.; traffic congestion on 23rd; increased traffic on residential streets; traffic racing down alleys.
“Increasing density; rampant development in the pipeline; over-development generating greater traffic congestion; smart growth; out-of-control growth; overbuilding of Santa Monica and the loss of family businesses; we are losing the soul of Santa Monica.
“Parking problems; loss of parking; long-term planning and development; SMC construction, encroachment, endless expansion; parking sprawl; traffic which causes pollution and congestion; uprooting trailer parks.”
Do residents want more traffic, more gridlocked intersections, and more air pollution from cars idling on our streets? If not, they need to tell the City Council that they want the Bergamot Area Plan revised downward on Aug. 13.
Authored by Zina Josephs, a Sunset Park resident. She and other authors of Our Town can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org