There were a number of community meetings last Monday night.
The “Chain Reaction” sculpture and the old Downtown post office building were on the Landmarks Commission’s agenda. The North of Montana Association (NOMA) neighborhood group hosted a presentation about development and traffic. City staff held an open house for residents to learn more about the repaving and other “enhancements” planned for Lincoln Boulevard between the I-10 Freeway and the Venice border.
I was torn between attending the NOMA meeting or the Lincoln Boulevard open house.
According to City Hall’s website, “Lincoln Boulevard was recently relinquished to Santa Monica by Caltrans and the city is undertaking a new project, funded by the Federal government, which will be implemented in late 2012 …” Included are rehabilitation of the roadway with new rubberized asphalt for a smoother and quieter street which I’m all for. Traffic light signal cameras will be installed to monitor both vehicles and bicycles. I’m all for this, too, as it should be a good tool to facilitate flow.
However, enhanced striping to include “better” crosswalk markings, left-turn lanes and/or pockets are another matter. Don’t kid yourself. This isn’t just about refreshing existing street markings.
You can bet your Prius this will result in a totally redesigned street layout and more vehicle impediments — as has happened everywhere else in the city where markings have been repainted. Expect even more congestion and short-cutting through adjacent residential neighborhoods. Can planted medians and curb bump-outs be far behind? Think Pico Boulevard streetscape on crack.
The big change will be rush hour, bicycle and bus-only lanes “to provide priority transit service during peak commuting periods.” Curb parking will be prohibited during peak commuting periods between Pico Boulevard and Ozone Avenue — between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. north-bound and between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. south-bound.
The City Council approved the lanes in September 2005 but they weren’t implemented pending installation of similar lanes in Venice and Marina del Rey which haven’t happened, yet. Still, transportation managers are chomping at the bit to “calm” and “beautify” Lincoln.
This is traffic planning Santa Monica style. Where most cities would convert curb parking lanes to traffic lanes during the rush to facilitate traffic movement, City Hall designates them for eight buses and a few bicyclists per hour while tens of thousands of cars jam remaining lanes.
Proponents say dedicated lanes will speed up bus service, making it more attractive to commuters. Unfortunately, a little more than a mile of bus/bike lanes will save a minute or two of travel time, at best. And, most buses will have to use traffic lanes to turn left onto Pico Boulevard.
I wasn’t in the mood to hear traffic mismanagers spin how their ill-conceived proposals were going to turn Lincoln into a more pleasant, traffic-efficient artery. I went to the NOMA meeting instead.
The highlight of NOMA’s get-together was a presentation from Diana Gordon who heads the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. She talked about the massive amount of new development in Santa Monica’s future.
Gordon described key developments and their impacts — mega-developments such as the 760,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village Center at the site of the defunct Paper Mate plant at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street and the Fairmont Miramar Hotel renovation and expansion. She mentioned the dozens of new smaller hotels and office/commercial/residential combo developments that will spread across town
Gordon mentioned that at least a half-dozen four- to eight-floor residential projects with 275 to 425 square foot, single and one bedroom apartments (with some retail space) are planned or under construction in the downtown area on and near Lincoln.
She disclosed that they’re all from just one major builder — NMS Properties. She wondered if thousands of tiny apartments with rents starting at $1,700 per month would be home to long-term residents who would be involved in the community or short-term tenants on the move. “Is this good urban planning,” she queried?
Another $100 million worth of nonprofit affordable housing projects are proposed or under construction as part of City Hall’s affordable housing initiative weren’t included in her presentation.
I think the packed house in the Main Library’s Martin Luther King Auditorium was stunned by the sheer volume of projects and their size. When she quoted City Hall’s favorite mantra, “They’ll generate no new net rush hour trips,” everyone had a big laugh.
She urged the public to get involved, early. She described the political process, in which developers and their cronies donate to campaigns of pro-development council incumbents and candidates who, when elected, return the favor by supporting these projects — all while ignoring their negative effects or lying about how there will be none or they’ll be fixed.
Council member and Metro transit board member Pam O’Connor was in the house. She said the coming Expo Light Rail will alleviate traffic because it’ll provide an alternative to driving private vehicles.
The assertion was greeted with hisses and boos. This crowd knows that Expo won’t negate the massive increase in traffic all these new developments will cause. O’Connor doesn’t get it. Lucky for her, she’s not up for re-election.
If this “slow development” movement gains community-wide traction (which it appears to be doing), how will it affect the campaigns of incumbents Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis, who’ve been consistent development supporters and who have also opposed public disclosure of developer largess to political campaigns?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org