There’s a big push for a city library branch in the Pico Neighborhood. The Fairview Branch in Sunset Park, two blocks south of Pico Boulevard on Ocean Park Boulevard at 21st Street, currently serves the Pico Neighborhood.

I was surprised to see un-named “community members felt that Pico Boulevard represents a cultural divide that keeps residents away from that branch” in the staff report prepared for the April 28 City Council meeting. Cultural divide? What unmitigated nonsense. Won’t a branch library north of Pico just help perpetuate that cultural divide?

Originally, it was thought the new library could be integrated into the remodeled Edison Language Academy, but school district officials were reluctant to have any portion of school property open to the public during school hours. So a great opportunity for a shared-use facility evaporated.

The new library in Virginia Avenue Park would cost an estimated $12.8 million and mean giving up precious park space, especially at the present Farmers’ Market location. For the record, Mayor Ken Genser and Councilmember Richard Bloom support a Virginia Avenue Park site while Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Gleam Davis say to look elsewhere such as purchasing private property somewhere on Pico Boulevard for the branch library.

This idea, backed by the Pico Improvement Organization, would lend itself to a three or four story, mixed-use facility with a ground floor post office, art gallery and retail space. The library would occupy most of the second floor and upper floors would contain two and three-bedroom, affordably-priced apartments. The facility would cost an estimated $30 million and hopes are it’ll revitalize Pico Boulevard and look like an Orange County office park.

Stay tuned, this saga will continue.

Tonight, city planners are hosting a community workshop to present “great opportunities” for remaking Downtown and the Civic Center. This is where city staff and its fanciful consultants will try to bamboozle us into buying their silk purses when they’re really only selling sow’s ears. 

I wrote about this pie-in-the-sky conceptual plan to integrate various urban design and circulation “improvements” in the downtown area in my March 30 column, “Hodge-podge in a world class city.”

Most of City Hall’s Downtown “improvements” will center around a proposed Expo Light Rail terminal at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue, currently Sears Automotive. The Expo board recently approved, at the city’s urging, a ground level train station for the site.

An elevated station, accessible via elevator and escalator over ground level retail, was originally envisioned, but this has been jettisoned for a mundane street level terminus that begs for a couple of floors of affordable rental housing above it. 

One major issue is the minimal parking proposed at this and other Expo stations. City planners and their pro-sustainable, multi-modal cheerleaders don’t want you to drive to these facilities. Conversely, the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, where common sense reigns, just announced a plan for upgrading its transit system in part by constructing more “park and ride” lots to encourage rail and bus ridership.  

Widened sidewalks, reduced traffic lanes and new bicycle and pedestrian amenities on Colorado Avenue from 19th Street to Ocean Avenue — a Grand Promenade — is promised. I fear it’ll be more like the laughable “transit mall” city planners implemented on Broadway and Santa Monica Boulevard Downtown a few years ago — only worse. This won’t be any Avenue des Champs-Elysees, it’ll be, “Watch out for the train, Ulysses.”

With its wide underutilized sidewalks, single lane traffic and dedicated bus lanes, the current “transit mall” is “Gridlock City” for blocks on evenings and weekends. The Colorado streetscape is a repeat of that “transit mall” experience and promises to exacerbate a major bottleneck.

City Hall wants to deck the Santa Monica Freeway to expand park space and better connect the current Civic Center, Samohi campus and the Colorado Promenade. Of course, specific plans or costs haven’t been presented.

Moving people and cars is also up for discussion. Based on previous efforts, reducing traffic capacity and reconfiguring streets in one of the already most congested parts of the city to implement a pedestrian and bicycling utopia is impractical and a recipe for disaster.

All this is being guided by “Green Mobility” principles that encourage motorists to ditch their cars by prioritizing non-motorized travel with walking and bicycling options. Pedestrian and bicycle lanes carved out of reconfigured streets and enhanced alternative transportation connections to the Santa Monica Pier, beach, Ocean Avenue and renovated Santa Monica Place are at the core of this redo. Bottom line: the city wants to degrade (instead of upgrade) accessibility to do it — and near a major Downtown freeway on and off ramps, too!

The big sell begins tonight in the East Wing of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium beginning at 6:30 p.m. Be there or be silent! 


Bill Bauer can be reached at

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