Pico neighbors have been waiting since 1999 for City Hall to deliver on promises of landscaping for 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard between the I-10 Freeway and Pico Boulevard. After 11 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in staff and consultants time, nary a twig has been planted.

Years after neighbors requested greenscaping, preliminary designs were presented in a community meeting over two years ago. With the exception of the loss of parking spots on Cloverfield for planters, neighbors generally liked the concepts.

At the March 11, 2008 City Council meeting, the late Ken Genser wanted medians added on 20th, the late Herb Katz asked for traffic islands. Kevin McKeown and Bobby Shriver supported dedicated bicycle lanes which meant eliminating traffic lanes and altering traffic patterns on 20th.

Based on that input, a new series of designs were submitted to Pico neighbors for review. Proposals with traffic alterations were poorly received. But, at a Jan. 9, 2009 council meeting, Genser and others still felt that even more traffic mitigation was needed despite staff reservations and neighborhood opposition.

Another community meeting on the newest designs was held at Virginia Park this March. City planner Peter James told attendees this project resulted from requests to provide bike and pedestrian friendly enhancements on 20th and Cloverfield, soften the hardscape, provide traffic calming measures and adhere to the new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) principals still pending council approval. Huh?

Being the original request was just for trees, this revisionist take on neighborhood history was dismissed as more City Hall “hard sell” of its deeply flawed plans to “socialize the streets.” Nobody bought it.

Nevertheless, one proposal featured two dedicated bike lanes and only one northbound and two southbound traffic lanes on 20th. An alternate design retained the current dual north and southbound lanes but suggested that the two outer lanes be marked with graphics indicating bicycles share the lanes. The alternate design was favored because the current traffic patterns were kept in place, minimizing congestion and cut-through traffic.

City traffic planner Sam Morrissey disclosed that preliminary traffic studies (June of 2009) indicated that if just one traffic lane was removed from 20th, 800 cars during peak hour periods would divert onto adjacent neighborhoods streets including 17th Street and Cloverfield. On average, 20th between the I-10 and Pico Boulevard carries 16,664 vehicles daily. Cloverfield, where no traffic changes were proposed, currently carries 28,185 vehicles daily. Morrissey added that an Environmental Impact Report would have to be completed if a lane(s) were removed from 20th thus delaying the project further and adding even more cost.

After 11 years of micro-managing and agenda pushing, this project has come full circle — a monument to wasted staff time, cost run-ups and unfulfilled promises. It can all get the “green light” tomorrow night when the latest proposal will be reviewed and approved — hopefully without any other traffic modifications. City Council needs to “OK" this quickly and stop fooling around. It’s time to give Pico residents what they want: beautiful tree-lined streets.

Oh, no! Not another school parcel tax <p>

Your special Measure A ballot is in the mail.

The measure — the latest in a long series of school parcel tax schemes — calls for an additional tax of $198 per year for the next five years to make up for shortfalls in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s budget resulting, in part, from cuts in educational funding by the state of California.

School administrators, school board members and the usual school cheerleaders claim this “emergency” tax is desperately needed to avoid teacher layoffs, program cuts and permanent damage to our educational system. I’ll be writing more about this tax in the coming weeks and why you shouldn’t vote for it. But here’s something to think about in the meantime:

If Measure A passes, every property owner will pay a total annual school tax of $544 per parcel This will increase slightly each year because of the current parcel tax’s cost of living increase. A has exemptions for senior (over 65) property owners, but senior renters and low income persons receive no such exemption. Renters will pay the tax because landlords can pass it on. A’s cost will be divided by the total number of rental units on the property.

All properties will pay the same tax — whether they are a small one-bedroom condo or luxury hotel, office park or upscale regional shopping center. Aside from eliciting subsidies from the cities of Malibu and Santa Monica, no other plans for funding have been considered because, in the words of a high ranking school administrator, it’s easier to float a parcel tax because people in Santa Monica and Malibu support their schools.

Next time<p>

A 20 year history of parcel taxes and school bond measures, dealing with ongoing financial crises and how millions of dollars are wasted annually by the district.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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