Cars line Lincoln Boulevard. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

LINCOLN BLVD — Compared to the other boulevards in Santa Monica such as San Vincente and Wilshire, Lincoln’s concrete, gum-stained pavement, paucity of trees, lack of design and abundance of trash fail to represent Santa Monica as a desirable location.

When walking down the boulevard, one is bombarded by the clamorous sounds of traffic and is instantly made aware of the little attention Lincoln has received over the years.

Community members and business owners have recognized the need for improvement and are just beginning to take the next steps to rejuvenate Lincoln. Although the goal to “beautify” Lincoln is unanimous, the views on the specifics, such as what will become of the boulevard’s businesses and traffic regulation, vary.

A few devoted locals comprise the Lincoln Boulevard Task Force, a new organization committed to transforming Lincoln  to a roadway that is strictly “safe, clean, beautiful and green.” Although numerous members have been in contact with the City Council for as long as seven years, the task force officially formed in February of this year.

Good timing. Before June 4 of this year, the 1.21 mile stretch of Lincoln from Interstate 10 down to the southern city limit was operated by Caltrans, the state agency responsible for highway, bridge and rail transportation planning, construction  and maintenance.

Once this section of Lincoln was released to Santa Monica, the City Council, as well as organizations such as the task force, finally had a say in what would become of this widely-used and poorly-maintained boulevard.

“Releasing it to Santa Monica was a big deal in that now Santa Monica could actually do things to improve Lincoln,” said task force member Gloria Garvin. “Upgrade it, beautify it; whatever may be necessary to turn Lincoln into another wonderful street in Santa Monica.”

To start off their campaign, members of the task force got in contact with Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who too was concerned about Lincoln’s future.

“Lincoln has long been one of Santa Monica’s least attractive streets,” McKeown said. “I’ve long been interested in what we might do with Lincoln Boulevard, anticipating our getting control some day from Caltrans. To their credit, the community activists contacted me, so I know there’s going to be enthusiasm and creativity available.”

After notifying them about the developments with Caltrans, McKeown recommended that the task force combine efforts with the Ocean Park Association, Friends of Sunset Park, the Pico Neighborhood Association and the Borderline Neighborhood Group; the four community groups representing areas that interface with Lincoln.

“One of the really nice things about our joint community effort is that we really have a lot knowledgeable, professional people with experience that are involved, and have very positive, meaningful contributions,” Ocean Park Association board member Bob Taylor said. “We have the ability to really do an analysis of …  data and to be very rational in our actions.”

As of now the task force has evolved from four founding members to include five separate subgroups: code compliance, zoning, film/street scape, transportation and the survey committee.

“There are so many moving parts,” Ocean Park Association Vice President James Lawson said. “The subcommittees were developed to efficiently deal with all of them.”

Code compliance works to ensure that the buildings on Lincoln are in sync with the ordinances already in place, whereas the zoning committee is working according to the city-wide zoning ordinance update currently taking place in Santa Monica that will dictate building density, height and land use. As new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) standards are updated and released, the task force must abide by specific rules as to what is to be done with Lincoln. Above all, Garvin hopes that the new zoning policies will bode well with the task force’s goals and dreams and will allow for the type of Lincoln that the community would want.

The film/street scape committee has recently released “Envisioning Lincoln” an 8-and-a-half minute documentary about the possible changes in Lincoln’s future. Though the film suggests a few ideas, another committee has been crafting a survey to distribute to the residents of the surrounding communities, property and business owners. While the task force has its own ideas, the most important consideration is how the neighboring communities envision Lincoln’s potential.

“I think all interested parties in the city are aware of our involvement, and that we’re trying to express our concern and care,” Taylor said. “It’s a large group; half of the city is south of the freeway. We’d like to see the residents be heard and have influence rather than allowing only commercial influence to dictate.”

The task force hopes to promote diversity on Lincoln that has never been a priority. As of now, out of the 158 businesses on Lincoln, 33 percent of those are automobile related. While these businesses have great importance, Garvin hopes to see smaller, more intimate businesses such as art galleries, coffee shops and book stores have a greater influence on the boulevard as other businesses retire.

“We obviously don’t want to put anyone out of business,” Garvin said.

While the task force hopes to promote businesses that reflect the “diverse energy of Santa Monica,” some merchants south of Pico Boulevard are concerned about the potential threats to long-time businesses on the boulevard.

“I don’t see anything wrong. It has a pretty good mix right now. I’ve heard people say that we don’t need all those auto uses and dealerships, but where would they go?” asked Barrett’s Appliances president Pat Barrett. “In talking to some of the residents, they feel the same way about it as I do. We feel that there is enough development and enough traffic already. We don’t need a big influx of high-rises. We certainly don’t want to put the neighborhood-serving businesses … out of business in the name of progess.”

In addition, the task force wants to promote a safer, regulated traffic flow on Lincoln. In the future, members hope to potentially see more pedestrian crosswalks and stop signals, digital signs to show drivers their speed and a designated lane for buses only during certain hours of the day.

After Lincoln is repaved and crosswalks upgraded in November, the next steps will occur in phases. Due to the elimination of redevelopment funds, the process must work with a tight budget.

“This is an entirely new capital project,” City Manager Rod Gould told Garvin in an e-mail. “The demise of redevelopment puts a severe crimp in our ability to fund capital projects. Many very worthy projects had to be deferred this year as a result.”

Due to California’s budgetary constraints and the desire to take over Lincoln, both Caltrans and City Hall have agreed to defer actual receipt of relinquishment funds in the amount of $2,199,000 to the 2013-14 fiscal year. The current pavement rehabilitation is funded using a combination of federal entitlement transportation grant funds, Prop C Local Return funds and City Hall cash. In terms of further improvement, the city has also requested a grant from Caltrans for $300,000. As of now, the grant is still pending.

“Whether approved or not, the city won’t know before March of next year,” task force chairman Roger Swanson said. “One of the things that works effectively in communities like Santa Monica is to get the community engaged so that when the charrette process starts, the meetings will be filled with people who are interested in fixing things and their voices can be heard.”

In the meantime, city officials will be convening an interdepartmental committee to discuss the next steps. Gould said the committee will work directly with the task force to coordinate staff work, civic involvement and create a general plan.

 

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