CITY HALL — Santa Monica bicyclists, rejoice — the wait is almost over.
The past week and a half has seen two workshops largely focused on pushing forward the “no new trips” agenda embodied in the general plan’s land use and circulation element, or LUCE, with great attention paid to prioritizing bike-friendly solutions to the age old problems of congestion and eco-awareness.
“It’s a dream come true,” said avid biker Barbara Filet. “We’ve been wanting to see a bicycle-friendly city for a couple of decades.”
Motion behind the concept comes from Tuesday night’s presentation to the City Council listing methods of connecting the east and west portions of the city given numerous projects planned there in upcoming years and the Bike Action Plan, a roadmap designed to prioritize improvements and programs set out in the LUCE, which will dictate development and impact traffic for the next 20 years or more.
Planning Director Eileen Fogarty noted that although staff has begun planning several developments recently — including the Colorado Esplanade, Civic Center and the Fifth and Arizona project — little has been done to connect the projects over what consultant Jeff Tumlin called “the trench of doom.”
The trench extends through the center of Downtown, following Interstate 10 .
“Not completely, but it’s somewhat of a no man’s land,” Fogarty said. “It’s an area where we have talked about how we are going to make connections, but we still have the freeway and a lot of the area is not served for bicycles, and is barely walkable for pedestrians.
“And, we have Expo coming into it,” she said.
Planners expect the arrival of the Expo light rail line to drop between 3,000 and 5,000 extra visitors into the heart of Downtown every day.
To maintain access to the various projects, planners touched briefly on the increased parking planned at Parking Structure 6 on Second Street and a series of pedestrian enhancements on busy streets, but focused primarily on creating an expanded bicycle network.
The slides of projects that followed were a laundry list of to-dos, ranging from increasing bicycle lanes to different connectors in the city, installing bicycle parking and creating ambitious bridge paths, including one over the freeway at Seventh Street.
Ideally, bike routes would be extended on Second, Sixth, and Seventh streets and there would be increased access to Broadway Downtown.
The completed grid presented Tuesday runs down almost every street in Downtown.
Bolstering the proposed paths and extensions would be two transit centers already planned for Parking Structures 7 and 8.
The individual projects are all needed, said Planner Francie Stefan, but not all can be completed at once.
“The first priority projects run within $20 million, and the longer term fall outside of that,” Stefan said.
Approximately $20 million in redevelopment funding has been set aside for these Downtown improvements.
Both at the City Council meeting and the previous Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting, staff were looking to the various boards — and the public — to tell them which projects to do first.
“We’re trying to get people to comment on something before it’s done,” said Transportation Planning Manager Lucy Dyke of the Bike Action Plan.
Parsing out the overall improvements project by project has dangers, said Recreation and Parks Commissioner Richard McKinnon.
“I’ll say it’s a good start, and I think there are things left to do,” McKinnon said. “It lacks a vision of what they want out of the plan. It’s like a folder of projects at the moment, projects all over the city, but no one will ever go to the mat fighting for a project.”
What McKinnon hopes to see is a plan thought out and prioritized by city staff — which has engaged two private consultants to help with the various plans affecting bicycle improvements — which can then be brought to the City Council.
Council member Bobby Shriver made a similar comment at Tuesday’s meeting, questioning how the council could make an informed decision on project priorities without knowing the cost of each project.
“The cost of things ought to be very specifically identified,” Shriver said. “There’s no summary page. There’s a list of things that all people think are cool, and a lot of people are behind cool things.”
The council, however, could not get behind a list of cool projects that held a potential to overrun its budget.
Tuesday’s presentation was preliminary. Staff will return with more detailed plans at future meetings.