OCEAN PARK BLVD — A project to revolutionize the design and functionality of Ocean Park Boulevard is nearing completion, much to the delight of residents of the nearby neighborhood.
It only took 20 years.
City Hall invested $4 million into Ocean Park Boulevard to make it a friendlier space for bicycles and pedestrians as well as cars while also helping to treat water flowing off the street.
According to a fact sheet for the project, that will bring over 100 new trees, landscaping, three marked crosswalks with overhead flashing lights for increased visibility and 75 light poles.
The project also includes street furniture, trash and recycling cans and a storm drain in Los Amigos Park.
The most striking improvement, however, is a bright green bike lane meant to bring increased visibility for bicyclists along the stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard between Neilson Way and Lincoln Boulevard.
“Once we get the lane markings in there, it’s going to be a pearl in the city,” said Cynthia Rose, of bicycle group Santa Monica Spoke.
The green paint is an experimental street treatment in California. Santa Monica is one of a limited number of cities including Los Angeles to test it out.
“It absolutely improves visibility,” said Francie Stefan, the community and strategic planning manager with City Hall. “It improves clarity for cyclists on the road of where they should be and an awareness of road users.”
Los Angeles got its green bicycle lanes several years ago, and it’s had a huge impact on bicycle ridership, said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director with the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition.
“It’s wide and visible, and the bike counts that we did showed that between 2009 and 2011 ridership more than doubled and within that doubling, female ridership quadrupled,” Bruins said. “It shows that it just works.”
The green paint in L.A. is looking a little ragged these days, something that Santa Monica officials believe they have solved with the six coats of paint applied to the stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard.
“We’re pretty confident that it will be a low maintenance, long-lasting treatment,” said Peter James, a senior strategic planner at City Hall.
The project was first conceived nearly 20 years ago, but fell by the wayside until the Ocean Park Association revived it under the auspices of former City Manager Lamont Ewell and former Planning Director Eileen Fogarty.
Bob Taylor, of the Ocean Park Association, has been with it from the beginning.
The street had been widened in the 1960s as a result of the general plan that anticipated high rise development all along the beach, Taylor said.
“What they didn’t do was any form of landscaping or any aesthetic or environmental amenities,” he said.
Taylor and others in the neighborhood submitted plans for the street to the Planning Department in the 1990s, but didn’t see much action until roughly six years ago. Officials broke ground on the project at the end of 2011.
“It was the right time,” James said. “It reemerged at a point in the city dialogue where we were beginning to recognize that the streets were places for gathering and to unify the neighborhood rather than divide it.”
Now that the Ocean Park Boulevard project is nearly complete, Rose hopes that City Hall will take the momentum and push forward with a series of other projects, including additional green streets.
Planners are working now to identify new streets for extra treatments.
“Streets as public spaces are things that we need to focus on,” Rose said. “There’s a huge amount of land allocated to roadways, and it’s something that really belongs to everyone.”
She just hopes that the green bike lane can be extended an additional block to connect with Barnard Way near the new Santa Monica beach bicycle training campus.
Still, Rose is happy to see the changes, calling the bike path Santa Monica’s “yellow brick road.”
That’s the kind of reaction planners are hoping for.
“I think that the true measure comes from the response coming from the community and the pride they’ve taken in seeing their project completed,” James said. “It’s really quite rewarding and it’s been a really positive experience through that partnership for both sides as an example of how we can do things together.”