CITY HALL — The 25,000 participants in the L.A. Marathon this year will be crossing the finish line on Ocean Avenue in Downtown Santa Monica — attracting a flood of spectators that City Hall officials said pose a range of logistical challenges but will give a boost to local businesses.
With the race set for this Sunday, City Hall officials are expecting the marathon to draw thousands of onlookers to the final stretch of the 26.2 mile route, which goes along San Vicente Avenue in Santa Monica before turning south on Ocean Avenue to the finish line at Santa Monica Boulevard.
The eastbound portion of San Vicente and all lanes of Ocean Avenue between San Vicente and Colorado Avenue will be closed to traffic during the race. The streets will re-open to traffic after the majority of race participants have passed through sometime in the late afternoon.
The marathon’s new “Stadium to the Sea” route marks the first time the race has come to town.
With plenty of experience hosting big events like the Santa Monica Pier centennial celebration and GLOW — not to mention crowded summer beach days — City Hall officials said they’re prepared for the crush of visitors.
The business community could stand to benefit the most.
Misti Kerns, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the marathon will bring an influx of customers to local businesses, hotels, restaurants and retailers.
“The new ‘Stadium to the Sea’ course has attracted many runners from near and far including runners from our top two markets, the United Kingdom and Australia as well as many other countries,” she said in a news release.
With the tourist dollars come the twin headaches of scarce parking and congested roads.
With only about 12,000 City Hall-owned parking spaces and 2,000 private spaces available in Downtown Santa Monica, parking on race day is expected to be extremely challenging. Several thousand spaces will be taken up by racers themselves, who will park their cars at the finish line between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday, taking shuttles to the starting point at Dodger Stadium.
Accordingly, City Hall is asking residents to avoid using their cars Sunday if they plan to come Downtown to witness the race and the Finish Line Beach Party, which will take place in a parking lot next to the pier.
“The city of Santa Monica encourages you to walk, bike or take public transportation to view the race,” an official release said.
Free bike valet will be available at two Downtown locations, and the Big Blue Bus is maintaining its schedule as close to normal as possible. The Tide Ride, though, will be out of service for the day. Santa Monica’s radio station, KRSM 1680AM, and CityTV channel 16 will be providing updated traffic and parking information.
Most of the participants in the race are expected to reach the finish line between about 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., when officials said they expect crowds to the largest.
In recent weeks City Hall officials have been meeting with neighborhood groups to discuss plans for the race and to get the word out about street closures.
Neighborhood leaders said they were pleased with plans and were looking forward to the race.
Jeanne Dodson, who chairs the neighborhood council, a coalition of community groups, said concern about potential inconveniences because of the race has been muted.
“Everybody thinks it might be a positive impact on our community with hopefully minimal disruption,” she said.
Elizabeth Riel, a board member of the North of Montana Association, which represents the neighborhood most affected by the route, also said residents mostly see the race as a welcome event.
“If people have been concerned, we haven’t heard about it so much,” she said, adding, “You should check in with me after the marathon.”
In approving the race this year the City Council gave no guarantees about the future. At its meeting March 23 City Hall officials will give the council a report on the race and its impacts.