OCEAN PARK BLVD — Plans to beautify and environmentally enhance a nine-block section of Ocean Park Boulevard got the City Council’s unanimous support last week, bringing a long-desired project a step closer to completion.

City Hall planners said they’re still about a year away from breaking ground on the project, which officials said will transform the boulevard’s western-most section, between Lincoln Boulevard and Neilson Way, into a “complete green street,” with extended curbs, wider bike lanes and medians with more green space. The plan also calls for new pedestrian crosswalks and more landscaping next to the sidewalks, which planners said will capture more stormwater runoff, reducing the amount of discharge into Santa Monica Bay.

About $2.2 million of the $4.5 million approved for the project comes from Measure V, the clean water parcel tax voters approved in 2006. The Measure V funds will be used for the urban runoff aspects of the project.

The project received enthusiastic support from Ocean Park residents on Tuesday, some of whom said the idea for the project has been discussed for the past 17 years.

Planning Director Eileen Fogarty called the plan a concrete example of how City Hall is working to make Santa Monica more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly while also implementing environmental sustainability policies.

“We talk about this kind of thing in a hypothetical sense in the LUCE all the time — well here it is in reality,” she told the City Council on Tuesday. (LUCE stands for the city’s long-term planning document, or Land Use and Circulation Element.) “The objectives for the project were really to take Ocean Park Boulevard and reclaim it for public open space.”

Members of the Ocean Park Association, including Jeff Jarow, also praised the concept. Despite added space for pedestrians and bicyclists, he said the plan won’t impede vehicular traffic on either the boulevard’s westbound or eastbound lane.

“It’s going to be a really nice street to drive through, to bike through, to walk through,” Jarow said.

“I’m so happy I’ll be able to cross the street and go to the dog park safely,” added OPA Board Member Pauline Bohannon.

The council on Tuesday also unanimously approved plans for a streetscape project on 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard that planning officials said would improve sidewalks and parkway areas while maintaining the existing street and parking configuration.

The improvements would be made mainly to the roads between the I-10 Freeway and Pico Boulevard.

The project calls for new pedestrian lighting and the addition of street markings called “sharrows” on 20th Street — an alternative to a dedicated bicycle lane that lets motorists know the street is to be shared with bike riders.

Adding a dedicated bike lane between Pico Boulevard and Michigan Avenue would have required eliminating one northbound lane, which would have diverted 800 peek hour vehicles onto neighborhood streets, a City Hall report said.

The project also calls for removing 36 bottlebrush trees and replacing them with 107 crape myrtle, evergreen madrona and firewheel trees “to provide a more substantial canopy,” according to the report.

Before the vote, Councilman Kevin McKeown said the plan to add Santa Monica’s first “sharrows” to the road is a step forward. Cities like Berkeley, Chicago and Long Beach already use the bike-friendly markings on shared streets.

“It sends the message, not just on this street, but to the whole community, that bicycles have the right to be on the road,” McKeown said.

The budget for the project is $5.2 million. On Tuesday, the council approved an additional $175,000 for the project’s designer, Ahbe Landscape Architects, bringing the firm’s total contract to $625,000.


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