A stop on the Expo Light Rail Line is expected to transform the Memorial Park area. (File photo)

A stop on the Expo Light Rail Line is expected to transform the Memorial Park area. (File photo)

The city planning staff has been busy developing schemes that may benefit a few select individuals, but will make life much less pleasant for the rest of us.

The Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan (MPNP) is a master plan for identifying neighborhood uses, open space elements, parking, circulation and infrastructure improvements and integration with the coming Expo Light Rail Line in and around Memorial Park.

You’re thinking, “Bill, this is about improving one of Santa Monica’s most heavily used parks. It’s a good thing, right?” Not entirely. This is really about development that will be permitted and encouraged in the Mid-City area along Colorado Avenue from Lincoln Boulevard to 20th Street.

There’s a potential for a lot of redevelopment including multi-story housing blocks with retail space on Olympic Boulevard, Broadway and numerous neighborhood cross streets. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is planning to move out of their current headquarters on 16th Street which will open up this large parcel to extensive redevelopment.

We’re talking about cookie-cutter, mixed-use, four- and five-floor buildings with apartments including the usual brace of low-income units. Santa Monica’s more prolific developers are actively searching for and acquiring properties in the area.

Plans are to make the new main entrance to Memorial Park near the Expo Light Rail stop on Colorado near 16th Street. Parents are concerned that transients and other undesirables riding Expo from Downtown Los Angeles will disembark at the stop and drift into the park where they could present a danger to children.

Other concerns center on traffic and a lack of parking for both park recreational users and light rail riders. A bicycle advocacy group wants a full-service bicycle service center either within the expanded park or on the park’s already inadequate parking lot.

A final plan will be coming to the Planning Commission and City Council in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

 

Ocean Ave. median isolates residents

 

City Hall will soon start construction on a 10-foot wide, landscaped median on Ocean Avenue adjacent to the Santa Monica Village at the Civic Center between Olympic Drive and Vicente Terrace.

The median will severely curtail vehicle access to homes and apartments in Seaview Terrace just west of Ocean Avenue. Turns in and out of the beachside neighborhood will be affected.

One Seaview Terrace resident called and said that she’ll be unable to make left-hand turns from northbound Ocean Avenue into the only vehicle alley available (Vicente Place North) — forcing her to drive many extra blocks.

I wonder if planners gave any thought about the inconvenience to folks living west of Ocean Avenue or whether they even care. Chalk up one more example of poor transportation management from planners who never saw a traffic jam they didn’t like.

 

Teens take planning priority

 

Talk about major screw-ups. How about the “Safe Routes to School” program? It’s described on the Planning Department’s website as “about health, safety and transportation improvements to get more students biking and walking.”

The Santa Monica High School project proposes to construct improvements that eliminate barriers to biking and walking to school.” In other words, traffic disasters ahead.

The planning and transportation management staff are now championing physical activity for teens? Forget about traffic, congestion and parking problems. They’re more concerned about creating opportunities for high-schoolers to exercise. It’s social engineering at its worst.

Many of Samohi’s entry/exit points, including the former main entrance on Pico Boulevard, have been closed — I assume for security reasons. Now, Samohi’s key access point is the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Seventh Street for all modes (foot traffic, cars and bikes) including drop-off/pick-up of an estimated 600 or more students who are driven to and from school.

Here is the nightmare the space cadets in City Hall have dreamed up:

• A new traffic signal at Seventh and Pico Boulevard including a crosswalk to improve access to Pico bus stops — some of which are now half a block away.

• Vehicle traffic on Seventh Street will be one-way, southbound. Cars will be able to turn left or right on Pico. This necessitates removing a portion of the existing Pico median. But, it gets worse.

• New, protected, bi-directional, green, bike lanes will be added on Michigan between Lincoln Boulevard and Seventh, along Seventh Street between Michigan and Pico and on one block of Pico between Sixth and Seventh streets. Oy vey!

With expected increases in school pedestrian and bicycle flow from Michigan east of Lincoln, increased congestion on Lincoln already jammed with 40,000 plus cars daily is inevitable.

Add dreaded curb extensions, enhanced crosswalks and “protected” turns for cars at Lincoln/Michigan and the Seventh/Pico intersections and it’s the perfect storm.

There’s no mention about how thousands of students on foot will mesh into this disaster. And, nothing about on-campus student parking. Even though City Hall is allowing parents to use the Civic Center parking lot as a drop-off/pick-up point, there’s apparently no plan to “officially” move it from congested Michigan/Seventh.

I’m hearing Samohi students don’t like crossing Fourth Street at Pico and walking up the hill to classes. Hummm. They won’t walk a block to school and City Hall’s rainbow chasers are going to get them to ride bicycles? Am I missing something? Who’s going to use all those new on-campus bike racks?

Traffic studies are due just two weeks before City Council votes on this — well after the public input period has closed. Look for this on the agenda in the coming weeks. You’ve been warned.

 

Bill can be reached at mr.blbau@gmail.com.

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