Willie Brown, elected mayor of San Francisco for eight years, recently apologized in his column to the residents of the city for the mistakes he made while mayor.
He wrote: “Yes, we clearly need a lot more money for our public transit system, particularly since our clogged streets are making San Francisco almost unlivable.
“But I’d like to add a couple of practical yet politically incorrect thoughts that you won’t find in any City Hall report. For instance, the years-long campaign to make it nearly impossible to build garages is causing probably 30 percent of the traffic problem — those being all the drivers looking for a parking spot.
“And for all of you transit-first folks who pushed to ban parking in buildings so people would be ‘encouraged’ to take a bus, I say: Good luck finding a seat.”
Brown has lived to see the negative results and I take his words as a warning. There are several issues here: clogged streets making the city unlivable; not building enough parking has increased traffic as drivers drive around looking for parking; and buses being overloaded.
The idea of not building enough parking has become the new developer religion — not because it’s efficient, but because it saves huge sums of money. And since our town is gridlocked already, the “green” idea that “if you don’t build parking they won’t drive” sounds like a solution. Brown didn’t see it as a solution in San Francisco.
Here we’re charged with running the Santa Monica Pier for the benefit of the region. Some people take that seriously. There is not enough parking for the pier, but since there’s no light rail from West Covina, or Glendale, or Chatsworth or Pacoima or Eagle Rock to Santa Monica, they will continue to come by car, ending up in great frustration, helping cause summer and weekend gridlock as they look for parking for the pier.
The schizophrenia in Santa Monica politics is amazing. City Hall wants to attract people to Santa Monica, but not in cars, the preferred mode of transportation for many, especially families. City Hall and the developers will cram as much development into the city as possible, to maximize profit and tax revenues. But gridlock is a problem and cars are against the religion of the greens.
The Bergamot Area Plan was to create a self-contained neighborhood where people could live and work within a neighborhood where cars were unnecessary. The Hines project upsets that whole plan. It was supposed to be primarily housing, but because commercial is more profitable their focus on commercial and their high rents will destroy the whole rationale for the area.
The drive to save the planet by making it tough for cars is another problem. Brown didn’t find it working in San Francisco. The huge projects proposed in the Bergamot area and the greens’ wants cancel each other out. Unfortunately, neither group is in control of human behavior. People keep driving because they need to work and live and enjoy as they choose. They’ll take transit and walk and bike if it fits their lives. They’ll drive if it doesn’t.
Regarding attracting tourists to Santa Monica (to fill all the many new hotels that pay City Hall 14 percent of their gross): People who travel don’t usually travel to shop. They travel for pleasure, for experiencing something or some place that is unique and pleasurable. The City Council is allowing developers to cram the city full of the ordinary, the too big, too massive, and too traffic bearing, because both the developers and council want the money. Neither group is willing to hear the residents, who want a livable city. The people who win in the short term are the lawyers.
About standing room on buses, the Big Blue Line 3 has a standing-room-only problem south of Downtown on its way to LAX and back. So does the popular MTA 720 Rapid from Santa Monica down Wilshire to downtown Los Angeles. Although this is an articulated bus, and it runs often, all seats are usually filled by the time the bus reaches 26th Street and riders often stand for most of the trip — an hour-and-a-half ride. The light rail will not affect this. Their paths diverge.
The Los Angeles Department of Traffic (LADOT) wrote comments to the Bergamot Village Transit Center (Hines project) Draft Environmental Impact Report requesting mitigation action at nine traffic signals under the jurisdiction of L.A. and three under joint jurisdiction. Those intersections were: Walgrove at Rose and Venice; Centinela at Colorado/Idaho; Centinela (west) at Olympic; Centinela and Interstate 10 westbound ramp; Bundy at Olympic, Pico, Ocean Park, and National; Barrington at Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd., and Olympic.
The report stated that these locations are currently operating at or near capacity, and as development continues to unfold in Santa Monica, “additional approvals will continue to denigrate these intersections in a significant cumulative fashion.”
Its final recommendation is: “In the absence of appropriate redress to the stated probable significant traffic impacts within the city of Los Angeles, the project should be directed to remove these impacts through either a scaled reduction or land-use reconfiguration of this project.”
There has been no appropriate redress. Instead, City Hall informed LADOT that they had no jurisdiction. That might have addressed a legal problem, but it did nothing to reduce the traffic impact of the Hines project, which will make the area almost unlivable.
The developers don’t care. City Hall doesn’t care, but we residents do care, and we need to put a stop to this insanity.
Ellen Brennan, a former stockbroker and 19-year Santa Monica resident, authored this column, with input from resident Tricia Crane and members of the Our Town group, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.