DOWNTOWN — Nearly seven years after an 86-year-old man killed 10 people and injured 63 more by driving his car through a crowded Farmers’ Market in Downtown, City Hall officials are proposing a new road blockade system they say will make the markets safer.
The new proposal calls for City Hall to purchase 12 “Dragnet Vehicle Arresting Barriers” — reinforced nets capable of stopping cars without causing dangerous collisions — that would be used to block off roadways that lead to the pedestrian-only market.
The barriers are commonly used to shield construction workers from vehicle traffic but would be a novel innovation for an outdoor market, said Jennifer Taylor, a senior development analyst in City Hall’s Economic Development Department.
“Santa Monica will have the safest Farmers’ Market in the whole U.S., if not the world, with these dragnets,” Taylor said. “It’s by far the best type of system that keeps everyone safe without causing any kind of harm.”
The dragnets are made out of chain link material that is attached to posts embedded into the sidewalk. The nets are about 4 feet high and would span the width of the street. Each market entrance would be fortified with two dragnets, Taylor said, so that a smaller “clear zone” behind the nets would be needed for them to potentially stop a vehicle. She said the dragnets would not reduce the amount of space available at the markets or cause the markets to admit fewer vendors.
The barriers, Taylor said, can be covered with signs or public art, so they wouldn’t stand out as unattractive fortifications.
“It won’t be an eyesore, that was one thing that our Farmers’ Market staff was really concerned about,” she said.
Laura Avery, who supervises Santa Monica’s Farmers’ Markets, could not be reached Monday for comment.
Since the disaster in 2003, the Santa Monica Police Department has used patrol cars as barricades at the Downtown market’s entrances on Arizona Avenue and Second Street and sent additional staff to direct traffic during the twice-weekly event that attracts thousands.
While officials said that arrangement has provide adequate safety, they added the new dragnet system would bolster security and would save City Hall money in the long run.
With the dragnets in place, City Hall would be able to save the $172,000 per year it’s been spending to block off roads with patrol cars and pay for additional personnel for the Wednesday and Saturday Downtown markets, according to a report. After $42,500 in added Farmers’ Market staff costs and $5,200 for maintenance, the report said City Hall would save about $124,000 per year on operating costs.
Setting up the dragnet system is expected to cost $215,000, which the City Council would have to vote to include in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. If approved, Taylor said the dragnets could be in place by late summer or early fall.